Monthly Archive: March 2015

Active Participation at SXSW

I’m at SXSW in Exhibit Hall 5, waiting for a presentation. I’m sitting in the second section of seats, next to an aisle and near enough to a door for easy exit, if I’m not enjoying myself at any point. I have a great view of the speaker podium and the big-screen TV where the speaker will be projected in larger-than-life. I’m thinking about the fact that I always choose this seat.

It has a great view of all the action, but it’s not really in the mix. Not pressed by crowds, not irretrievably committed to the event. It’s a perfect snapshot of my old life — the one I left behind. I’ve spent much of my career in the background, reluctant to take the spotlight or make a no-going-back move. I like to leave my options open. This seat perfectly reflects that.

In the last nine months, I’ve done the opposite: left my job, left my lease, left my stuff and committed to a major change. I’m creating things and pursuing them to their logical end. I’ve abandoned the easy-out approach to life and decided to give this period of time all I’ve got, so I’ll never feel like I didn’t try. So far I’ve done a lot and learned a lot, and I can feel this accelerating. I’m hitting the gas pedal harder, not the brake.

But I’m still sitting in this seat. Why? I promise myself, for the rest of the conference, that I will sit in the center, in the mix, and make myself part of the event instead of observing quietly. I intend to get the most out of this, too.

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Drop-Ship. Pack. Pray. SXSW.

I’m waiting to board my flight for SXSW. I’m excited and plan to have fun — I’m also presenting my Plain English Programming project at a breakfast event and hope to have fun doing that too!

I feel like a mobile shipping and delivery hub. I have no printer and three small bags with me while traveling, so I sent my (thankfully simple) print order to a FedEx Kinko’s. I’ve ordered more business cards, plus project cards for my demo and coupon cards for my basic-programming-concepts course, which should be hand-delivered Friday while I’m roaming the conference. I ordered a kiosk’s worth of DIY setup items from Amazon, heading to where I’m staying and hopefully arriving while I’m home, and identified a nearby Staples that I’m using as a pickup hub for anything I forget/forgot. I’ll be surprised if everything works as intended, but if enough pieces come together — or I know soon enough which pieces won’t come together — I’ll be good to go.

This is actually kind of fun, in a shipping- and conference-logistics-hub kind of way. Not what I planned when I initially registered for SXSW, but infinitely better in its own way. If this all works out, I’ll post a DIY kiosk how-to on this blog.

Boarding soon, more later.

San Francisco in the Prehistoric Age

I found this ancient essay I wrote for Derek Powazek’s site about visiting San Francisco in 2001, just after the recession devastated the city’s economy. I’d spent a summer there five years earlier, so I wandered around for the weekend noting contrasts and taking notes.

SF Stories (my post is the long one at the top)
http://sfstories.com/post/general/index.010.shtml

I find I can’t conjure that depth of feeling for the ways L.A. has changed in the past decade. It’s different, and I could write about it, but not with so much melodrama.

What I’ve Been Doing

I spent February doing several things that are fun and also a first step toward fulfilling my Phase Two mission: Make useful things. (My Phase One mission was: Travel and learn.)

Programming in Plain English

I’m creating stand-alone software to let you program in plain English. I have a basic plugin version of the software working, which I’ll present at a SXSW TechBreakfast. If the fancier, fuzzier stand-alone software is also working well enough by then, I’ll demo that as well. It’s an iOS app and will also be a Mac app initially. Here’s a beta website for the project: Plain English Programming.

Short and Sweet Courses

I created a Udemy course called “Short and Sweet: Basic Programming Concepts in 2 Hours.” It was fun, frustrating and rewarding to create a two-hour course that presents the essential ideas of programming in real-world language, using pseudocode. The goal is to make it easier for students to learn any programming language after taking the course, and to understand good practices around program structure and refactoring. I’m happy with the end result (for now), I’m loving the ability to communicate instantly with my students and help them get past roadblocks and succeed, and I’ve made my first online revenue, which is exciting. The course is here, if you’re curious, and I’m including a coupon for blog readers: Short and Sweet: Basic Programming Concepts in 2 Hours

I’ve drafted an eBook to pair with the course and am planning my next courses in the Short and Sweet series. Initial feedback is that the concept is good: A Short and Sweet course will be the best, fastest, easiest intro to a topic — no oxymorons! I’ll be testing this premise some more and then launching my own course platform. Now that I have a course recording process down, it shouldn’t take me long to produce content.

Flashcard App Final Phase

I’ve hammered out many of the bugs in my flashcard app, which I plan to tailor as a study aid for each course I release. I’ll also release some stand-alone flashcard apps to help people study for various exams, starting with the NASM personal trainer exam, simply because it was the first test database I created for the app.

I have several other ideas swimming around in my head, mainly around how to help people learn and do more, better, faster. I’m really enjoying this phase of my sabbatical and will send updates. Apologies for the bat-cave moment on this blog, I know it was quiet here for a few weeks. I wasn’t sleeping :-)