nerdygirl.com http://www.nerdygirl.com Nerdygirl.com. Utterly ridiculous. en-US One of my favorite typos http://www.nerdygirl.com/archive.aspx?id=1452 We should defiantly get that message out to our customers. Kind of changes things up, no? ]]> Rebecca Campbell 2014-01-24T08:28:00-08:00 To programmers everywhere http://www.nerdygirl.com/archive.aspx?id=453 Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace is widely believed to be the world's first computer programmer. As in every history lesson, there's some debate about what really happened, but I figure it this way: either she was the first computer programmer, or she was one of few women in history who received credit for a man's work instead of the other way around. Both of those scenarios are pretty interesting.

Ada Lovelace ]]>
Rebecca Campbell 2013-10-15T18:10:00-08:00
A short poem http://www.nerdygirl.com/archive.aspx?id=452 Your eyes are the mystery,
with thousands of lives living in the edges.

Your hair full of forgetfulness,
your face pure praise.

So clarity is decorated with mistakes.

--Rumi ]]>
Rebecca Campbell 2013-10-14T09:40:00-08:00
Word fad: Ambivalent http://www.nerdygirl.com/archive.aspx?id=451 ambivalent:  having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone
Neat trick: start your Google search with "define:" to get a definition, usage graph, etc. for any word.

In school, we learned that ambivalent essentially means "undecided" and doesn't imply a value judgement. But I feel like many of the uses I've heard and seen lately have a decidedly negative connotation, like in this NY Times article:

"She was ambivalent about new condominiums, soon realizing she disliked the typical condo layout, with a rectangle for a living room and a square for a bedroom."

If you parse that sentence carefully, you can read this as a short history of the subject's feelings on condos: she was ambivalent, but now she doesn't like them. But if you were just using context clues to piece together a definition, you might think that the fact that she was ambivalent meant that she didn't like them.

However, I've done some Googling and have searched NYTimes.com and NPR.org, and can't find more examples to back up this feeling I have. Mostly what I found is that Americans are ambivalent about a lot of things, from flu shots to privacy. President Obama is ambivalent about everything, according to the internets. He's the flip-floppingest waffle ever to zig a zag.

So most likely this negative connotation I've been picking up isn't due to misuse of the word, but to the implication that ambivalence itself is a bad thing. These headlines seem to suggest that we Americans should have opinions about privacy and flu shots; Obama should be decided on everything and never change his mind. In other words, the one thing about which we are unambivalent is our ambivalence.

]]>
Rebecca Campbell 2013-10-09T06:59:00-08:00
A dog by many other names http://www.nerdygirl.com/archive.aspx?id=450

From the beginning, Miss Ada has been collecting nicknames. Her full name is Ada Tumbleweed Norton. Ada after Ada Lovelace, Tumbleweed because of the fur piles she creates, and Norton because she had kennel cough when we first got her, which made Jesse say, "Nort!" every time she sneezed. Her nicknames include:

  • Time Bomb (because she was too anxious to relieve herself when we first got her)
  • Stormageddon (because of Dr. Who, and because 44 hours later, she couldn't hold it anymore)
  • Dogtown (she is a whole town of dog)
  • Chèvre (she has a tendency to graze on the neighborhood grasses)
  • Dogatron
  • Miss Mutt
  • Ada, Ada Pumpkin Pie
  • Sweetpea
  • Tiniest Luck Dragon / Tiniest Polar Bear
  • Crazy Face
  • The Nose

Of these, Dogtown is her most-used nickname, followed by Sweetpea.

]]>
Rebecca Campbell 2013-10-04T07:17:00-08:00
Programming on principle http://www.nerdygirl.com/archive.aspx?id=449 I have worked on projects where the directive was all about quantity and speed. There were some good things about this: we had a major project that gave us a very clear sense of focus, and new development that was more or less fun to work on. The downside, of course, was that the constant pressure to move forward resulted in some less-than-optimal tradeoffs.

It was a tough mindset to get away from, at least for me. But these days, I enjoy taking the time to really dig into a problem and think of multiple ways to solve it. The freedom to write code and then delete it if it's not working out is pretty great. It's a much better way to move forward, learn new technologies, and use more creativity in solving problems. As a manager, I try to make sure that my team has this freedom and flexibility as much as possible, though I'm not sure I've put it into solid words before. At an Agile PDX meeting recently, Ward Cunningham did that on a single slide.

On the left are some of the guidelines for using an agile approach to programming. You're moving at a steady pace, keeping your customer in mind, and writing automated tests to increase your confidence in any changes you might make. These are generally good things. On the right of the slide is what happens when you're coding just for the fun of it. You're actively engaged, indulging your own curiosity. You have a sense of wonder—you might try things without even knowing if they'll work, just to find out. I think it's this pure joy of discovery that got most of us into programming to begin with, and it's something I've been thinking about recently, so this talk really struck a chord.

The challenge is how to strike the balance between the two. The practical reality is that bugs need to be fixed and not all development can be new or exciting. I'm not sure how well this will translate, but I always think about having the right amount of space around any given task. If you are in too big of a hurry to move on or if there are too many interruptions, you will likely miss something, forget what you've done instantly, and therefore learn nothing from it. But if there's no pressure to move on, focus decreases and boredom can set in, so that's no good either.

I've been talking about this all in terms of software development, but these ideas can be applied to just about anything. What it really boils down to is the difference between mastery craftsmanship and assembly line production. Both are great sometimes; the trick is to know which is appropriate when.

]]>
Rebecca Campbell 2013-09-29T10:37:00-08:00
Awesome socks make folding laundry fun http://www.nerdygirl.com/archive.aspx?id=447 Rainbow of socks

Look good and save time: it's a win-win!

]]>
Rebecca Campbell 2013-09-24T06:26:00-08:00