Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Susan Orlean on Defining Class

I think it's so much more about profession and aspiration:  Do you aspire to have a big house in the suburbs?  It's not a question of whether you have one or can afford one.  I think you can sort people out according to their goals, not whether they have the means to achieve them.  That, to me, is a more interesting way of looking at class -- rather than income.

From an interview with writer Susan Orlean by Manjula Martin in Scratch.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Thoughts on Uniforms for ARS

My eldest daughter goes to the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.  I shared our experiences and thoughts on uniforms with some friends, and thought I'd publish it here, too, for anyone else who is looking for information.

So the only thing we bought through Parker was the skirt.  They are sized based on waist measurement.  We bought 2 -- on "today's" size and one one size up.  The skirt is good for 7 years, uniform-wise, so it's worth buying.  When you go for orientation, PTA will have a uniform sale -- I'd go there first thing (get there slightly early, it was in the small gym last year) if you want to try to buy a 2nd hand one.  Skirts are by far the most popular uniform item.  The girls wear them with bike shorts or athletic shorts underneath, so they are definitely a multi-wear-before-wash.  I think you could get away with just 1.

I also bought 5 white polos from Gap during their July uniform sale.  They were around $8 each, and cuter than a lot of the other brands (peter pan collars, slim fit).  Target, H&M, etc all sell white uniform polos, so they are easy to find when back-to-school starts ramping up.  You'll want enough to last a full laundry cycle.  I expect to replace the shirts annually -- the white gets dingy. 
They have jeans days about once a month, which you have to wear with a Ann Richards T-Shirt of some kind.  (So it's worth buying one when given the option.  Savannah has a super cute grey one that says "Richards" across the front -- I'm not sure where/when she got it.)  J. managed to lose/have stolen the only t-shirt she had.  (You can also use the ARS Ts for gym class, which is where J.'s disappeared -- perhaps locking her gym locker would have helped.) 
Shoes need to be solid white athletic lace up shoes, but any kind will do.  Just be careful how much branding/bling they have on them -- "Keds" on the heel is fine, large green "Keds" on the tongue not to so fine (although it's unclear if you can get away with the 2nd -- J. is very conservative).  They wear them every day, so finding a good pair makes sense.  I ordered a bunch from Zappos and sent back all but one.  If J. hadn't of liked this pair of very lightweight "old lady tourist" shoes, we would have gone with leather Keds -- leather is easy to keep clean and the style is classic.
Socks need to be white (or possibly black?) and visible when wearing shoes.  The knee high ones are popular with the skirt, but I'd get a mix of shorter ones as well.  Target for the shorter ones; I had to order the knee high ones (J. got them for Christmas.).  I bet Parker has knee high ones.
J. has 2 pair of black pants we found at thrift stores.  (Not hard to do, and they are more comfortable than the Parker ones.)  They must have belt loops, and you must wear a black belt with them.  We found a "slightly interesting" belt at Target.  She wears pants maybe once a month, so not that popular, but good for the cold.  She also has to wear them for choir concerts.
J. has 2 pair of black shorts, but I'm not sure she's ever worn them.   She prefers skirts when it gets warm.  I ordered from Target, but they are chino/twill fabric and don't have any stretch which might be part of their unpopularity.
They'll need black gym shorts (that "wind breaker" sort of fabric).  A little bit of color is OK.  J. managed to lose 2 pair so far this year.
They'll also need a black jacket/sweater/coat/pull over.  J.'s favorites are hoodies (I found a cashmere one at a thrift store that was popular) or leather(look) jackets (very popular).  Easily found 2nd hand.

Hair ornaments need to be black or blue or blend with your hair.  Parker has some cute bows and headbands (not sure if I've ever seen anyone wearing them, though).  Cut hair things in black are popular (kitty cat headbands, "Friday" bobby pins), but J. for the most part just wears a ponytail or silver clips or a headband.
That's all they have to have.  I have 2 things on my list for "nice to have" for next year, but I haven't asked J. if she wants them.  There's a ARS black v-neck pullover at Parker that looks super sharp over the polos in the winter.  (I think a non-ARS pullover would work as well.)  There's also a white button up at Parker that has princess seams and the ARS logo that's a cute option. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Blank? in Ruby On Rails

The blank? method (a clever Rails extension for those of us too lazy to figure out what type of object we are testing is) is some very smart code:

[7] pry(#<#>)> nil.blank?
=> true
[8] pry(#<#>)> "".blank?
=> true
[9] pry(#<#>)> [].blank?
=> true
[10] pry(#<#>)> {}.blank?
=> true
[11] pry(#<#>)> find-method blank?
[12] pry(#<#>)> show-source blank?

From: /home/saracarl/.rvm/gems/ruby-2.2.0-preview2/gems/activesupport-4.1.2/lib/active_support/core_ext/object/blank.rb @ line 16:
Owner: Object
Visibility: public
Number of lines: 3

def blank?
  respond_to?(:empty?) ? !!empty? : !self

Let's break it down
respond_to?(:empty?) ?
  if the object has a method called empty?
  return the results of empty?, "not"-ed twice.  This means if the response to emtpy? is "true" it will return true (!(!true)).  If the response is false it will return false (!(!false))  If the response is "nil" it will return false (!(!nil)).  It covers the case where empty? returns nil instead of true or false -- if the object.empty? is nil, then the object.blank? is false
: !self
Else return !self -- if self is nil, return true, otherwise return false.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Theory of Four Things

When you get to a certain tenure in the high tech industry, you've probably worked in a number of programming languages.  My education started with hobbyist BASIC, continued with high school Pascal, and finished with Scheme and C in college.  My professional life until this year included Java, perl, and bash, and I picked up Ruby for fun side projects.  Those transitions and additions happened over years.  In the last 4 months, however, I've done projects in both javascript (node.js) and Python.  That's  a lot to learn in a short period of time, and I'm by no means an expert yet.  However, I've seen enough patterns in modern web programming languages to state the following -- we'll call it The Theory of Four Things:

To be productive in a new web programming language, you only need to understand four things.


How do to find, install and load the languages libraries; how to reference the library’s methods.

String Manipulation.

How do you print an output message?  How do you take a substring?  (related:  master regular expressions because most modern programming languages use them for string matching.)

Accessing and creating JSON documents.  

Most server-to-server communication is done with JSON documents these days.  Make sure you know how to put things into JSON format and get things out of a JSON object (or as Stack Overflow will probably tell you “a string that just happens to be a JSON object”).

HTTP requests.  

Those aforementioned JSON documents flow via REST API requests, all bundled up into HTTP requests.  Know how to create them, and how to troubleshoot them (this is where knowledge of networks and security comes in useful).

Monday, July 06, 2015

Letter to Camp #2

My 10 year old is away at sleep over camp -- a RenFair camp, since that's what's compelling enough to spend 6 nights away from home if you are the child of two geeks.  Here's the second letter I wrote to her.

Dear J --

I hope you are learning how to defend our castle in case of attack.  It's very important job and you know that your dad and I are too busy writing software to learn the intricacies of archery or jousting.  It's all in your hands.

Similarly, when you return your responsibilities will include the care and maintenance of all of our leatherwork.  That will make my life even more easier than when you learned to clean out the dishwasher!

Have your magic skills increased to the point you can make broccoli disappear, yet?  If that's the case, this camp is worth every cent!  (Heck, I'd even be satisfied if you could only make green beans disappear.)

So there is supposed to be swimming every day at this camp, but there were no swimming pools in renaissance England that I'm aware of.  I assume, therefore, that you are swimming in the moat to the castle.  Do be careful, J.  Those moats often have sea monsters in them imported from the Far East.

I expect that you haven't brushed your hair once since arriving -- don't worry, I think the classic short "page boy" haircuit you'll have after we cut the snarls and tangles out will suit your new knowledge of chivalry very well.

One thing I am looking forward to after your return is increased bravery -- surely taking hot dishes out of the oven will be a piece of cake after blacksmithing!

Love you lots!


Letter to Camp #1

My 10 year old is away at sleep over camp -- a RenFair camp, since that's what's compelling enough to spend 6 nights away from home if you are the child of two geeks.  Here's the first letter I wrote to her.

Dear J,

I hope you are having a wonderful time at camp.

Things I hope you are enjoying:
meeting new people who think renfair camp is as cool as you do
fighting with swords
living in the forest
bug bites
enough food to keep you going
a good night's rest after a busy day
living away from your parents
pretending to live in the 15th century
sleeping in a castle
figuring out just a little bit of life on your own

What we are enjoying without you here:
swim lessons with T
earlier bedtimes
fewer drop offs in the morning
missing you
ice cream
(in other words: you are not  missing much, except for the ice cream!)

Be Brave.  Try something that scares you every day.



p.s. I hope you are getting ice cream, too.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Favorite STEM Books: Psst!

With the help of a young tomboy, a group of zoo animals gather parts to engineer their escape.  Illustrator & writer Adam Rex includes plenty of clever visual jokes that parents appreciate in his intricately designed zooscape.  Both girls like this book -- so it's appropriate for at least ages 4 through 9.

A gift from one of my best friends, who happens to be Ph. D. in Electrical Engineering and work at Google.  She's one of my girls' biggest fans when it comes to achievement in math and science -- when the eldest brought her math grade up from a B (gasp) to an A+, she sent one of the most amazing wooden puzzles for her good work.)