Boy, what a week.
With everything going on nationally and globally, I suspect I’m not alone when I say it’s been really challenging to stay focused. I would expect that to be the case for the next several weeks as more of us stay home and learn how to adapt to a remote lifestyle. In hindsight, my decision to seek new opportunities couldn’t possibly have come at a worse time, but I am extremely thankful that I was able to move at a slower pace and work on my own personal growth during what was undoubtedly one of the most uncertain weeks in recent U.S. history.
With all of that said, I wanted to take a moment to discuss some of the things I worked on this past week, and document additional areas of focus for this week, as well.
Between keeping up with the news and taking some well-needed time off, most of my attention has been focused on learning Python. During the weekend of March 7th & 8th, I visited my local library, and examined their computer programming collection. Sadly, the amount books they have on hand are few, and most of them are 5+ years old, but one book that I thought would be useful to help solidify the basics was Automate the Boring Stuff With Python by Al Sweigart. Thankfully, I was right! Sweigart’s book covers all of the basic data structures in Python – strings, lists, tuples, dictionaries, and objects, then spends the bulk of the rest of the book showing the reader how to write some basic scripts to accomplish a series of tasks, such as parsing and modifying spreadsheets, scraping web content, scheduling tasks and opening programs, and more. He very clearly indicates that the examples are intentionally not the cleanest, least complex way to structure one’s code to accomplish the task, which works fine for me, because that’s where my past programming experience comes into play.
While reading Sweigart’s book, I started a repository for studying Python, but quickly came to realize that simply copying some of the examples wasn’t going to be sufficient for me. More on that later.
The finest benefit offered by my local library, which I also just learned about that same weekend, is that one’s library card grants them free access to all of the instructional videos on Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning)! I highly recommend checking to see if your own library offers this benefit, as it has quickly become my go-to resource for learning Python basics. Thus far, I have completed two tutorials: Python Essential Training by Bill Weinman and Python: Design Patterns by Jungwoo Ryoo. These two courses, along with the aforementioned Sweigart book, and my college textbook, Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science, Second Edition by John Zelle, have given me enough foundational knowledge to begin tinkering.
Toward that end, one project I started last week and will continue to explore this week is a custom Slack bot written in Python that will integrate with the BoardGameGeek API. If you’re interested, you can follow along with this project on GitHub.
While I’m aiming to learn as much as possible while I seek out my next gig, it wouldn’t be a proper break if I didn’t take a little time for myself, too. In addition to learning a new language, I also played the role of homemaker, which also served as a nice diversion from the news. I went shopping for supplies. I cleaned the whole house, and checked off some seasonal cleaning tasks of the list. On Friday, I baked a lasagna, which we got to enjoy for the remainder of the weekend. And I dug back into a couple of games on the Switch that I hadn’t played in awhile: Celeste, which is absolutely breath-takingly amazing, and Stardew Valley, which I think I’m finally ready for given the slower pace we’ll all be living at in the coming months.
At the library, I also digitally rented Bob Odenkirk’s book of short stories, A Load of Hooey. My partner and I took a nice walk around Lake Phalen. We invited a friend over to play board games on Saturday, and though it was just the three of us, I realized it should be the last time we have anyone over for a bit.
What’s In Store For This Week?
This week, I’m going to continue familiarizing myself with Python via the aforementioned Slack bot project. I’m also looking to do some work on this website, and am planning on exploring some front-end technologies that have come out in the past few years, particularly CSS grid. Also, because much of the U.S. is starting to work remotely for the first time, and/or they’re already remote and are dealing with our new isolated social contract, I’ll be publishing a Zoom link on my Twitter account at 6pm CDT each weekday in the forseeable future so my friends and acquaintances can have a place to connect and socialize.
It’s a strange time, but I’m making the most of it, and I hope anyone who is reading this is, too.