UoPeople Learning Journal: Term 1 Week 2 2016

Week 2 went by way too fast. As you’ll see in this week’s LJ I’m struggling quite a bit to keep up with this course while working full-time and all of the driving I’ve been doing lately. Good thing is, I work remotely two days a week now, so as long as my ISP doesn’t fail me like it did on Monday (grimacing) I think it’s going to make the balance a lot easier to maintain.

Week 2 Learning Journal: Comparative Programming Languages (CS4402)

Sept 8/2016:

Starting this week out pretty strong. It was a long day for me, but once I finally sat down at the PC and got focused I managed to get more done than I thought I would. Currently just working through this weeks exercises. The first exercise is a couple experiments to help understand  static versus dynamic type checking and strong versus weak typing. So first off I got introduced to a handy service: http://ideone.com/

Pretty slick for running quick scripts in multiple languages. Don’t know yet if it’s a full fledged IDE like c9.io but for the purposes of the exercise it’s perfect. The next thing is a reminder as to why I hate PHP. Well, it’s a love hate relationship – it does pay my bills and put food on my table, so I can’t harp on it too much. But look at this code!

<?php
   $num = 5;
   $num = 5.5;
   echo $num;
   print "\n";

   $num2 = 5;
   echo $num+$num2;
   print "\n";
   $num3 = 'five'; 
   echo $num+$num3; 
   print "\n";

That last echo statement outputs the integer 5! Why?? I know why, but it drives me nuts. Maybe it’s just because I’m still getting used to PHP, but to me, if $num3 is a string and $num is a number, then trying to add the two should result in a string. But it doesn’t! PHP just throws what it doesn’t like away and just outputs the result of $num instead. Such a frustrating language. Vent over.

No It’s not.

<?php
  $num = 5;
  echo $num;
  print "\n";
  $num2= '5a';
  echo $num+$num2;

That outputs the integer 10. What is that? These aren’t things that I even attempt in PHP so it never occurred to me that it behaved this way in these circumstances. The more I learn about PHP the more I get this taste in the back of my mouth like I just licked the bottom of a garbage bin where the software community throws all of their terrible ideas and some desperate scavenger comes along and recycles them. No offense to Rasmus Lerdorf; what an amazing personal accomplishment. I just really feel like PHP shouldn’t have gotten to be so widely used like it is. The web would be a better place 😉 But I’m just a kindergardener in the world of software/web development so what do I know?

OK, vent actually done.

 Sept 11/16:

So much for the strong start. Didn’t accomplish too much this weekend aside from watching some of the video lectures. My first year at UoPeople the most I worked in a week was 20 hours, and I was working from home which saved me a ton of time in a week. Now I work 40-45 hours/week plus my commute is about an hour and 20 min (more now that school is back and I get stuck behind every school bus possible). This has made my motivation to do school at night and on the weekend plummet. I’m just trying to remind myself of all the reasons I’m doing this.

I think the first reason is love. I really love working with computers and technology in every way. Sure I’m a web developer for now, which I’m very happy doing and proud of myself for achieving this position. However I see myself doing something much more meaningful one day (likely requiring web experience and knowledge) and I feel the obtainment of a CS degree is a necessary milestone if not for the qualification, the knowledge gained. With every course I take I gain new insights, perspectives, understandings and a new level of confidence and character.

This isn’t always fun, and as passionate as I am about learning new things, it can be excruciatingly painful for me to focus on what I’m told to, rather than what I want to. I just have to continue to remember what I’m here for, and understand that the journey in and of itself will provide me with the grit and endurance required to pursue a long lasting, fulfilling career. And that’s exactly one of the core reasons to all of this; life fulfillment. Job security is a major one of course, but if it was only money that I was after, I’d have given up by now.

What I think matters more to me than money and security is a healthy balance of enjoyment, challenges, and importance in what I do on a day to day basis. This course and it’s assignments are just pebbles on a much grander path. It’s time to pick up my feet and walk over them in a stride of purpose and self-determination.

  • Self motivating journal entry – check
  • Coffee  – check
  • On-ear headphones – check
  • Orchestral Dubstep playlist – check
  • Immovable focus… … flipping double check

Sept 14/16:

Wow – the last time I wrote in here was a super productive night. And then the next day happened :/

The following day, which was a Monday, I worked remotely from home. Which I was hoping would make finishing everything else for school easier… but nope! My ISP crapped out on me, and I had no internet on Tuesday until noon, which meant that I wasn’t able to get to my school until 9pm. By that time I was simply not in a state to switch from work to school so quickly, knowing I still had to get up and make it to the gym and work the next day. So I tried to take a small break by making a tea and watching some YouTube with my wife. I ended passing out.

Tuesday, ended up being swell too 🙂 Left the house at 6:45am so I could make it to the gym for 8am (I feel crazy just saying that) which went well. But at work I’m building a website that is bigger and far more complicated than anything I’ve ever done, so there is a LOT of learning and reading documentation in my work day right now. So not only was my brain overwhelmed at the end of the day, I also got stuck in traffic, so I didn’t make it home until 7pm, and then had to drive my wife into town to the pharmacy, so really I wasn’t off of my feet until our son was in bed around 8.

Somehow after all of that I managed to finish my discussion post, but I was (and still am) way behind on my reading assignments. This has been a very rough start to a course I was really excited about taking.

As I’m typing this it’s Wednesday night less than 2 hours before everything is due. Just finished my ratings in the DF and now the learning journal is the last thing to finish up. Tonight I’m basically using this to vent my frustrations about life the last couple days, but I guess I should quickly touch on the actual points needed to be covered in one of these things… here we go:

  • What surprised me or caused me to wonder?

Honestly there is a lot in this course that surprises me or causes me to wonder, but since the main topic of this unit is the compilation process, mostly I was trying to relate what I was reading about to a project I attempted back in December of 2015. I was attempting to add a syntax error to an HTML/CSS parser called “slowparse” written in JavaScript. It was a modification for Khan Academy’s HTML/CSS coding challenges. I wasn’t able to quite wrap my head around it enough to make the change I wanted though, so as I read the material for this week, I’m constantly relating this back to that failure, and contemplating how I’ll apply these newfound shards of knowledge to that same project.

  • What happened that felt particularly challenging? Why was it challenging to me?

My rant above pretty much answers this. The challenge this week was handling a couple untimely curve balls in the forms of travel delays and loss of an internet connection.

  • What skills and knowledge do I recognize that I am gaining?

I don’t know – is that an acceptable answer for this one? I guess the knowledge I’m gaining is just a better understanding of how a language gets broken down, analysed, parsed and turned into executable code. The parsing bits are the most interesting to me right now, since it most immediately applies to something I can work on in the real world.

  • Describe your feelings and attitudes.

I think this point has been covered. If it wasn’t clear, I’m tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, but oddly, still feeling generally optimistic about the next 7 weeks 🙂

  • In what ways am I able to apply the ideas and concepts gained to my own experience?

Like I said above – slowparse!

And that’s it.

LJ done.

Now I have to wind my brain down somehow, get my gym bag ready, and do this all over again tomorrow; the first day of week 3. Woot!

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