Learning to Code

I haven’t been posting much in recent weeks, but that’s only because I’ve been working hard at learning some new tech skills. As I mentioned some time last year, starting this blog really piqued my interest in learning how to customize websites, as the templates offered through WordPress are great but often limited and restrictive.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for an online course with Skillcrush, a new company focused on introducing more women to coding and technology (men are also welcome). It was such a positive experience, and I highly recommend the site to anyone interested in learning the basics of how to build a website. In a short amount of time, I learned so much that I was able to code this website from scratch!

But the best thing I got from this experience was discovering how much fun coding can be. I enjoyed learning so much that I’m all signed up to take a Intro class in PHP (language that powers Facebook and WordPress) starting Monday with Girl Develop It. I’ve also become really excited about this movement to get more women into tech, and I decided that I definitely want to be a part of it. So it seems that after years of searching for the right career, somehow it found me.

Not a Morning Person

As a kid, my mom would wake me and my younger siblings up for school by cranking up some Spanish-language AM radio station. We were forced to sit through breakfast with the news and weather blasting at us. In addition to this torture tactic, my mom would cheerily remind us every day that it was time for school, as if she were describing a trip to Disneyworld. I think it took everything in us kids to contain our displeasure. We just sat there in silence seething, not even making eye contact.

The only positive association I have with mornings is sleeping in on Saturdays and watching cartoons. My favorite was Garfield and Friends. Garfield was my kind of cat. He was cynical, hated Mondays, loved to eat, and sleep was his favorite hobby. Needless to say, I’m not a morning person. I never wake up bursting with energy, and I consider it a good morning when I manage to leave the house without snapping at David. Nowadays, I wake up to his alarm, which happens to be set to National Public Radio. Clearly, he doesn’t believe I’ve suffered enough….

Despite the morning crabbiness and my generally cynical nature (which I truly believe I was born with), I consider myself a happy, positive person. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and accept these traits as part of who I am–only human. Life is so much easier this way. Some days (usually when David’s alarm is turned off), I even wake up in a good mood–thankful and full of love. That actually happened yesterday, but I later needed all the joy I could muster, because I had the commute from hell and was late for work. I still get kudos for managing to get through a good three quarters of it without rolling my eyes.

Clichés

Daily Prompt: Cliché

Clichés become clichés for a reason. Tell us about the last time a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush for you.

I have a hard time with clichés and idioms, because I tend to be very literal. When I try to use them, I end up mixing them up, and I get them completely wrong and embarrass myself. David uses them often, and my response is usually, “That doesn’t make any sense!” or “Why don’t you just say what you mean?!”

I’ll admit that I had to look this one up, because I wasn’t 100% sure of the meaning. Once it became clear, I wasn’t exactly sure that I agreed with it–not at this point in my life. I’d much rather focus on possibilities than take comfort in something lesser but safer. Settling is not an option (That’s not a cliché, is it?).

An Alternative to Reality

Daily Prompt: If you could un-invent something, what would it be? Discuss why, potential repercussions, or a possible alternative.

The cast of the Real World San Francisco

It all started with MTV’s Real World in 1994. The premise: gather some young people from different walks of life, force them to live together for a few months, and follow them around with cameras to see what happens. It was a sort of social experiment–pretty brilliant, really. The result: honest TV programming. The first season, set in San Francisco, featured people who were educated, interesting, and relatable. They had discussions about race, sexuality, socioeconomic issues, politics. Sure, there were arguments, and one member was even evicted from the house, but you got the sense that these people shared a one-of-a-kind experience and developed a strong bond that would last much longer than the season.

Fast forward to today, the world of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, The Jersey Shore, Hillbilly Handfishing, The Bad Girls Club and that one about the guy who likes to gnaw on his own flesh. (Yes, I made that last one up, but it’s only a matter of time.) There is no limit on how far people are willing to go to be on TV, nor on the amount of money that networks are willing to pay them to make complete asses of themselves. And yet, the so-called “Reality TV” phenomenon is bigger than ever. In fact, it’s so popular that it’s spilled over into other genres. Think of all the sitcoms that use a “mockumentary” style: Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, The Office, to name a few. And let’s not forget the news programs, which have no qualms about exploiting drug addicts and otherwise mentally disturbed people to improve their ratings. As hard as you try, you cannot escape America’s fascination with shameless exhibitionism.

Agent 86, Maxwell Smart

But I ask, has reality TV improved our lives or even contributed to it in any positive way? Are we better people, a better society, a better nation because of it? My answer is no, and I’d go even further to say that it’s done quite the opposite.

I grew up watching a lot of Nick at Nite programming, along with plenty of Looney Tunes cartoons, and I have such great memories of these shows. They were clever, funny, sometimes even a little risque, and they are still so much fun to watch. I wonder if 20 or 30 years down the line people will say the same about Honey Boo Boo. I sure hope not. If I could undo any invention, Reality TV would be it. It would open up more opportunities for talented writers, actors, directors, and for programming that is inspired, imaginative, and not entirely about shock value. At least that’s what I’d hope would be the result. As for repercussions, I’d never know about Puck’s nasty habit of eating his roommates’ peanut butter from the jar with dirty hands, or the way Kim Kardashian whines about, oh, pretty much everything, or how much butter Honey Boo Boo consumes in a single day. But I think I could live with that.

Let’s Meetup!

About a month ago I started a Meetup group for women. Before I go any further, I should explain that Meetup.com is a website that allows you to join or create local members-only groups based on interests, and to schedule group events called “meetups.” There are Meetup groups for just about any topic you can think of, and they are oddly specific. There are groups for Raw Vegan Singles, Jewish Cyclists, and Michael Jackson Fans. I belong to a group for Brooklyn girls and one for Paleo enthusiasts. More recently, I discovered a group that offers classes in web development for women. I’ve been to a few meetups and have always had a good time and learned something new.

When I created my own group, my goal was to gather women in their 20’s and 30’s who are not afraid to use the f-word (feminist), but who are not necessarily defined by it. I had no idea what to expect, but so far, the group has 12 members. I’ve organized two meetups, and there are others coming up in the next month. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few of my members, and I have to say, it’s been an uplifting experience. We’ve had a lot of fun and laughs, as well as conversations about family, education, and career goals, which is exactly what I had hoped.

I would highly recommend checking out Meetup and giving it a shot. You’re not obligated to join any groups or attend any events, but you may be surprised to find that there are plenty of groups in your area that may be of interest to you–whether you want to make new friends, network with people in your line of work, play a sport, or just try something new.

Have you tried Meetup? What has been your experience with it?