Tag: hope (page 1 of 3)

Brian Kung: Under Construction

I’ve never felt more like I’m under construction than I do now. Not in school, not when I was learning Ruby on Rails, not when I was teaching myself tricking in my backyard.

In no particular order:

  • Getting attacked in Toronto (whole nother story there) taught me how bad my situational awareness is and how ill-prepared I am, psychologically, for an attack.
  • Leaving my first job showed me that I wouldn’t be happy in a corporate environment.
  • Failing as a consultant taught me that I needed to do my time and be professional.
  • Being jobless taught me that freedom is awesome because I can do  whatever I want and terrible because I mostly want to bum around and eat things.
  • Failing at programming job interviews made me realize that I have a long way to go as a programmer.
  • Failing to execute on my own projects made me realize that I am not as driven as I thought I was.
  • Visiting places for a week or so at a time made me realize the benefits that come from putting down roots.
  • Struggling with creative works made me realize that I am not creative in the purest sense that I do not create things.
  • My history with anything that truly challenged me showed me that I don’t commit and I don’t tackle hard problems. Music, programming, even tricking.
  • My last encounter with love crushed whatever hope I had in “being true to myself” and “waiting for the right girl,” and my experiences with online dating have left me with little hope for any alternatives.
  • It’s been amply demonstrated to me that money is a huge differentiating factor in quality of life. Unfortunately, I seem to have little to no interest in acquiring it.

I feel like I am struggling to redefine myself in the face of monumental failures, and only luck has managed to get me to where I am, today. I doubt the very instincts that got me to this point, and so I feel hobbled in being able to use those instincts to evaluate my options for moving forward. So I don’t make any moves.

The only saving graces I have are my family and commitment to learning “fundamentals.” For me, the latter has taken shape in two ways: a rekindled interest in old hobbies (Chinese, guitar, mathematics, computer science, and tricking) and a newfound fascination with martial arts. Specifically Krav Maga and everything they offer at Krav Maga Illinois. What differentiates my interest now from my interest in the past are commitment and humility.

I hope, anyway.

Krav Maga is interesting, in particular. It took a very specific set of circumstances for me to actually take it up. Had any of those factors been missing, I don’t think I would have actually signed up. Thankfully, a friend was already going, there was a Groupon, it’s highly practical with a focus on situational awareness (see bullet point on Toronto), the people there are great, and it was also just minutes away from my house.  Whew, that’s a lot of stuff.

For a long time after my last stint at Eight Bit Studios, I was listless. I gradually rediscovered the fact that I had no interest in finding a career in programming. It’s funny how long that took. After all, I’d known shortly after graduating from Code Academy that I wasn’t interested in this “acquiring money” bullshit, much less working on other people’s applications. However, a year of professional software development will do that to you, I suppose. I think I am more interested in the mechanics of an industry job than I was before, simply due to exposure, but a little bit more than zero is still not very much.

I’m half tempted to add a “just kidding, please hire me!” clause, but I am sick of kowtowing to employability. I am more than an employee. In fact, I am primarily not an employee. My one concession to employability is that I haven’t lost the skills I’ve already gained.

I feel like I’ve regained a little vitality thanks to Krav Maga. I’ve made new friends and I am learning skills. Everything boils down to survival and dealing with an attacker, so the answers are obvious – there’s no need to doubt my instincts here. And if I get it wrong, feedback from the instructors is immediate. The path of progression is obvious. Exercise is also no doubt a mood-lifter by itself. Besides, punching, kicking, and kneeing things are immensely satisfying activities in and of themselves.

I was lost. I distrusted my decision making processes. I still do, in fact. But now there’s a tiny flame in my life, one I can navigate by in the darkness, one step at a time. And for that, I am extremely grateful to everyone at Krav Maga Illinois, especially my friend who has been very supportive of my new interest. It may be too soon to tell, but I hope Krav will be an instrumental piece of whatever future I manage to cobble together.

Digital Hunter Gatherer

My days go a lot like this:

  1. Wake up
  2. Open laptop
  3. Open browser and type, rapid fire:
    cmd+l, “f”, enter
    cmd+t, “re”, enter
    cmd+t, “new”, enter
  4. Consume content via link aggregators
  5. Repeat steps 3-4, interspersed with eating and bathroom breaks
  6. Wonder what happened my day between 10am and 2am.

Even now, as I wait for my thoughts to percolate down through the grey matter between my temples and into my fingertips, I find myself idly opening a new tab to look at my options. There, in the top left hand corner, is Facebook, followed by reddit, and then hackernews. Twitter is now relegated to its own honest-to-goodness desktop application.

I have a problem.

The only reason I haven’t repeated these steps three or more times since I started writing this blog post is because I blocked the offending sites using the SelfControl app. Even so, my fingers have instinctively opened new tabs, automatically typed the characters that would lead to sites that I hold in equal parts favor and hatred.

Unable to connect.

I am both relieved and resigned. I won’t pretend that this is an issue unique to myself, but I also won’t try to extrapolate on any larger trends as many an author would, eager to simplify and trivialize millennials by describing them en masse. Instead, I can only describe a problem that I’ve been experiencing – perhaps the symptom of a greater problem, but a problem nonetheless.

Hello. My name is Brian. And I am a digital hunter gatherer; an information addict.

I suspect it started with curiosity, a defining characteristic of humanity. There has always been curiosity, and dead cats to go along with it. It was curiosity that pushed us forward, because there was always something to explore and something to be gained by knowing what was over the next hill.

But more concretely, it was curiosity that led a young boy to computers, to using them, breaking them, fixing them, and eventually building them. It was curiosity that kept the computer monitor humming as he explored the world through tight lines of text, software menus, and the audacity of 16 million colors.

It must have been the satiation of curiosity that drove the development of the internet. It exploded like the big bang in every direction, accelerating outward. Search engines gradually tamed the chaos, and suddenly your curiosity about specific questions could be put to rest. If it was on the internet, it could (generally) be found. But what if you couldn’t formulate the question, or didn’t have a question in the first place? Well, the internet arose to this challenge, as well, by telling us what our peers thought – fellow internet users, friends, and family – or what they were consuming. But still, the internet is not satisfied. The next frontier is knowing us better than we know ourselves. Now not only do we have our answers provided and our questions preempted, but the very act of exploration itself is being automated. We don’t need to sample music, trade recommendations for books, or take a guess on a movie – those are things that a computer can do for us.

Granted, it’s efficient and becomes more accurate everyday. As a species, we are becoming more and more efficient at consuming media we didn’t even know we wanted. And I, the dutiful hunter gatherer that I am, I return to my tribe with the prime choices of data products, the delicious fruit lying out of reach of the casual internet user. I survey the internet with a practiced eye, easily picking out the links ripe with upvotes as well as the hidden gems. And when push comes to shove, I am as adept a hunter as I am a gatherer, with a well trained search engine at my heel. The land of the internet is fertile and sustenance can be found as easily as air.

But sometimes I load those three websites without a conscious thought and wonder to myself – is this all that I am?

When I turn my eye inward, I find a much different landscape. What was once the curiosity in me lies on a worn mat, an old dog with a few tricks and no passion. It knows it will be fed. Cabinets and cabinets full of meaningless conquests litter a creaky house whose foundation had begun to go without my realizing or, perhaps, acknowledging it. Outside, the plants have withered in a drought, and all is a dull, reddish orange color.

I am a hunter-gatherer when what my soul requires is a gardener.

Recently I’ve become convinced that there are some problems that we must live through in order to truly come to terms with. Even if one can fully grasp the logical ins and outs of the predicament, there are no magic bullets. There is no article you can read on the internet that will cure depression, no cat video that will make you happy for all time. There is no forum that will grant you reprieve from your past mistakes. Yes, the solutions are out there, but they are not berries to be gathered or game to be hunted. They are nothing but seeds, a frighteningly small handful of them, and months to come before harvest, acres to be tilled before tasting freedom.

That old dog doesn’t know where to go, now that I’ve blocked its way. Maybe it will stay with me awhile to breathe in the smell of newly turned dirt. In the soft darkness, we will wait for the seeds to grow, as companions once again.

2014: From Toronto, With Love

I had been looking to leave the country, or at least the greater Chicagoland area, for a variety of reasons. My grandmother recently asked me to move out of her house, for reasons unknown, as she won’t even be back until February. And, in retrospect, I realize that even being in Chicago itself was causing me undue stress. I think it came down to having too much control over my schedule. I was ultimately responsible for everything I did as a result of living alone. I was also responsible for taking care of my grandmother’s house, my aunt’s tenant, and other things.

The end of the year is a weird time for me. I become at once withdrawn, waiting for various events to occur, and outgoing, captured by the idea that I should do something for my birthday. It’s an anxious sort of back and forth. I generally tell myself that I’ll let my birthday slide right up until the night before, and then do something impulsive to try to get people together, with mixed results. This year, I gave myself a trip to Toronto as a birthday present. It was my friend’s post in his Facebook event page that finally got me to leave the country. “Snowboarding in Toronto a week from now? I can do that.” I invited myself and booked a flight.

The week passed by in a whirlwind of food and lobsters and talk about dicks (Thanks, Alex. Alright, it was all of us). The theme for every meal was, “Tonight, we FEAST!” and trust me, we did. I had also been primed for night life. Moving back to my parents’ home in the suburbs meant having a reliable broadband internet connection and random, eons-old stashes of booze. I became a night owl and, for the first time in my life, I had an active urge to consume alcohol. Finally, moving to Toronto meant being able to stay up later due to the timezone differences.

I noticed this the first couple of times I visited Toronto, but people seem genuinely more content. Whether it’s the fact that people my age can actually find jobs, or just a facet of Canadian lifestyle, everyone actually seems at peace with where they are, career wise. There’s less neurotic tension in Toronto than I encounter in Chicago, on average.

At first, I dismissed this as weakness. They seemed less ambitious, on the whole. Now, I see it as a strength. My sister recently made a realization that in order to take big risks, people have to be very secure in certain aspects of their lives. I feel like Torontonians must have a kind of security, whether social or financial, that we lack here in Chicago. Toronto recently overtook Chicago in population. I feel like there’s a vitality to the city that is missing from Chicago.

Oh, also, a preponderance of middle/upper class people of color. Wow, so many different kinds of people to look at in your average mall!

Putting distance between myself and Chicago also let me examine myself. While I understand that traveling in order to solve your problems is an American habit and hardly a universal psychological tendency, it worked wonders for me! I realized that I didn’t have any strong ties to Chicago, other than the fact that rent was free, and now that I’d been evicted, that tie was gone. If I was going to pay rent to stay in a major metropolitan area, it might as well be somewhere else. One thing that particularly attracts me to Toronto is my good friends who are dedicated to their respective arts. There’s nothing I want more than to be able to work side by side with friends, on our own projects or as a team…

Anyway, this post has rambled on for long enough. It’s been a promising start to 2014. Here’s to keeping up the momentum!

Entering the Flame

The more I wrestle with being in love, the more I realize I have no control. Like a moth to the flame, I am burned and I retreat, but it remains integral to what I am to be drawn to the light.

Last night, I was talking to a friend of mine, explaining my various neuroses, my fears and the illusions I had painted to explain the decisions I was – or wasn’t – making. What I wasn’t doing was living. I had believed I was living a thousand lives in my imagination of the future or alternate realities in which I had chosen differently. What I wasn’t doing was living my actual life. Somehow during our conversation, I remembered what it was like to love courageously. It was less like dancing around the flame out of fear and more like choosing to enter it.

During one skiing trip, I remember standing at the top of my first black diamond slope, the hardest category of routes. It swiftly disappeared into what seemed like a sheer cliff. I was terrified. But I convinced myself that the first few feet of the course didn’t look that bad. Even then, knowing what that first step would lead to, I had to acknowledge that I was doing something potentially suicidal.

Relationships scare me far more than any ski slope. The potential for pain, the questions that inevitably arise to pierce to the very heart of my identity (and my partner’s), have always kept me from any sort of relationship, really. In this, I am as cautious as my Chinese zodiac animal, the rabbit. In the past, I had only been in relationships in which I was chased, more or less. I have very little experience with, or inclination toward, chasing a romantic partner. But I’ve never felt so attracted to someone before, never so pulled to chase, regardless of the circumstances. Hence my conflict. I dash back and forth, afraid of uncertainty, but called to the flame. I guess in this metaphor, it’s crossing the road without being squashed flat by a passing truck.

This back and forth has been killing me. I did something that made logical sense at the time, according to what my brain said was the right and proper course of action. It made sense, and still does. But my heart has punished me unforgivingly for it. I’ve never been in this much pain for making a rational decision that I still agree with. Even now, it will catch up to me and force me to face my inadequacies, and in response I will just shut down and go to sleep.

But realizing my neuroses and remembering courage lets me move forward, even if it is into a less than perfect world. That’s the nature of the world, and of relationships. Remembering courage lets me take the next step, even if it is a painful one. I may be entering the flame, but it is a transformative flame, nonetheless. I will survive and become something else; I will not die in a stasis of a million different possibilities and alternative realities. I will open myself to reality and dance with fate, knowing that nothing is for certain. I must still live my life.

I must enter the flame.

Rest Well

My grandfather (外公) passed away yesterday at 9:56AM. It was a hard fought battle with cancer, one in which he only grudgingly gave ground. I have been staying at his house these past few months, but it has been a while since we started worrying about him. I think the first sign that he was anything other than indestructible were the stairs. They became difficult for him to go up and down. But that was just age, I thought. It happens. Then it was the stroke. And then the cancer. And from there his health kept on tumbling.

It wasn’t until I reached the top of the stairs myself that I broke down. His smiling face beamed out of the photos in the alcove, from across the years. There was a photo from his wedding to my grandmother (外婆), to a family photo with his children, and then all the way to a photo of himself and my grandmother surrounded by his grandchildren – all of them at the time! It is so shocking that we all fit into one 4×6 photo at some point.

I fell to my knees, tears welling in my eyes, and suddenly he was there. He was climbing the stairs, clutching the guard rail my father and I had installed for him after the stroke, with my grandmother’s ever-present aid. He was sitting on the couch watching Chinese TV. He was on the computer, searching Yahoo for “chinese music youtube” to get to the songs he loved to sing along with.

I had heard the phrase before, but I never knew what it meant when people said, “I keep thinking he’s going to be there.” For me, it’s not that I rationally thought that he was going to be there. It’s not a matter of thinking, really. It’s a matter of remembering so strongly that he was there that time coiled itself over and over in that moment until I felt the weight of his presence throughout the years, etched into the fabric of my history. He didn’t need to physically be there for me. He always had been, and so he still was, and so will he remain.

I’ve been thinking about death lately, because, after all, I have been living with my grandfather in his last moments. And I’ve come to realize that, in many ways, people are collections of stories. Not literally, of course – we are blood and bones, carbonoxygenhydrogennitrogen – but to each other. The fabric of cultures, the transference of tradition, the knowledge that let us survive and thrive from generation to generation – all stories. Data, if you wish to feel cold and analytical, but data alone is not enough. No, we need to tell stories with that data. We need to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, even if we don’t know that ending. We guess and attempt to change the outcome.

Who is your lover to you when you’re not with them but a series of stories? Is he faithful? Then he remains true to you even when tempted. Is he smart? Perhaps you tell yourself that he is the smartest in the room. Is he beautiful? Then maybe he turns heads wherever he goes. These are stories that you tell yourself about his traits. And sometimes, your lover doesn’t even need to be gone to be nothing but a story. Perhaps it’s the story of the unfaithful lover. The story that he is thinking of someone else. In this sense, people can draw near each other and grow distant simply through the stories they tell themselves about their relationships, whether or not it’s true.

And when we die, all that’s left are stories. Stories that hurt, stories that heal, stories that sing and stories that laugh.

I stepped back into the my grandfather’s real estate magnum opus tonight, his house on Quinn, after the sun had fallen. I was immediately chilled. Being in a dead man’s house brings about dark thoughts. How can it not? I once again reached the top of the steps and fell to my knees. This time I felt fear, not the space and time bending truth of his presence. Thoughts of a ghost dissatisfied with his grandson fluttered about. How was I supposed to spend the night here? But then I remembered the picture of my grandfather, surrounded by his grandchildren. I couldn’t remember seeing him beam a smile that wide before. But he loved us. His love, his ingenuity, and his hard work had propelled us to the privileged position that we occupied today. To remember him as a hateful, dissatisfied wraith would be a disservice to the reality that he had lived and tried to teach me even up until the day that he died, telling me what to look for in a piece of property.

All I have of my Gong Gong are stories. I wasn’t going to make myself the victim of his death by imagining him as a vengeful ghost. I wasn’t going to make his story about me. For my Gong Gong, the story was about how to help his family thrive. And he did. This is the story I am proud to honor him with: He loved us, and his love for us drove him to use all of his ingenuity and a lot of hard work to help us get to where we are today, from taking my mother to the United States of America (and helping a lot of others do it as well, including my father’s side) to hugging little Bailey, his great grandson and my sister’s firstborn. He didn’t just make do. He made great. This, too, is a story I am proud to make my own: Love, smarts, and hard work.

There are no true stories but the ones you decide are true. Whether they hurt or help mean the difference between being haunted or heaven-touched. My grandfather gifted us with his presence for so long. He worked miracles with little resources. And he fought hard, through the cancer, through the pneumonia, through the pain and the weakness. “Take me off chemo! I can last a few more weeks.” He was true to himself to the end.

I hope my stories will be as full. But now it’s my turn. Now I know I need to fight to make my stories worth hearing.

Gong Gong, I love you. I miss you. I wish I could have lived more of my life with you. But I am so thankful to have had you. And I’m proud to be your grandson. I hope I can make you proud.

Rest well.



“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
-Nelson Mandela

I spent a week in Toronto teaching the fundamentals of Rails – routes, controllers and actions, views, models, and the drilling that you won’t find anywhere but in person. It was a stretch, both for myself and for my students, but it was a good time.

I taught mostly designers, the kinds of people who were used to being able to create what they wanted. But, on the web, they were stymied – there are too many barriers to entry, no explanation of foundation. Where do you even begin?

So we built a blog, going through the seven standard routes – index, show, new, edit, update, create, and destroy – over the course of a week. Ninety percent of interactions with any resource, whether it’s blog posts, users, flickr images, tags, etc., will be covered by these routes.

My goal was to teach them, but hanging out with the crew ended up changing my perspective. I had never been around so many creative people. During my short stay in Toronto, I visited a pop-up shop, saw a sketch comedy play, and met an up and coming jazz artist.

I’d never been exposed so rapid-fire, to artists with such a strong sense of purpose. And they were only a few degrees of separation from me. So, returning to Chicago was a bit of a downer. I miss the creative atmosphere and the people, especially the little group of rising web developers. I wanted to stick around, see what they learned, and learn with them.

But I did take away something invaluable – I am an artist, and I feel most alive when I am surrounded by other artists. Now that I’m back in Chicago, I need to connect to the creative communities around me (shout outs to the movement artists of Windy City Trickers!) or create the communities that I need.

To George, Alex, Ko, Teresa, Jason, Aaron, Zoro, and Wil – thanks for coming day after day and working so hard. I’m working to write down what we’ve gone over, so expect something soon. You guys are web developers now – keep learning, keep working together, and I’ll do the same. You guys are an inspiration.

George and Alex – thank you for being fantastic hosts and friends. We’re going to see each other a lot in the future.

Thank you, Toronto, for teaching me what was missing in my life.

Now to find it in Chicago.

You should date me. Here’s why.

“[Companies] just want to know why they should date you.”
-Don Bora (follow him on twitter!)

I’m not into self-aggrandizement, so I don’t think about why anyone should “date” me. But after meeting up with Don Bora and Dave Levine for lunch on Thursday, they managed to convince me that answering, “Why should we hire you?” with “Nur, I dunno,” was probably a bad idea.

I needed a better answer, so I wrote one. It may not be the best, but it is, in fact, better than, “herp derp.”

If job hunting was like putting up a personal ad, mine would look like this:


You’re passionate about helping people achieve their dreams. You’re dedicated to honest communication. You believe that life is an art, and that character is a requirement, not a benefit. You promote compassion for all people.


I strive for mastery. I love helping people. I am passionate about what I do.

I try to work smarter, harder, and longer, in that order. I push myself to find my limits and redefine them. I value people with wisdom and experience, and I go out of my way to learn from them. I strive for mastery.

I love enabling people to do what they could not before. For me, teaching is the natural extension of learning. I am fiercely loyal to my values and to the communities and individuals who share them. I give back by connecting, by organizing, and by evangelizing. I love helping people.

I believe in our ability to change ourselves and the world around us, and I believe in living life to its fullest. I believe in the quest for truth in a subjective world. I believe in humanity, compassion, and kindness. I am passionate about many things (programming, tricking, writing, and dance, among others) because they have been the paths by which I have come to my beliefs. I will pursue them as long as I continue to learn – as long as I live. I am passionate about what I do.

Finally, I try not to take anything too seriously. Life is a game, after all, and there’s something to laugh about in everything.

You can get my resume and my writing samples or you can audition me, but, ultimately, this is why we should date.

Many, many thanks to Don for talking me out of shooting myself in the foot whenever I open my mouth.

Start by Accepting

When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

-Ruby Koans

My dad has been going through a lot lately. While I may have spent three months at the Merchandise Mart, my dad had worked there for over thirty years before being laid off just weeks before I started Code Academy. Then there was the biking accident.

My dad was in a biking accident today and suffered a concussion. Thankfully, he is still insured despite having been laid off months ago. My dad has worked so hard for us over the past thirty years. I can’t help but feel that the shit that has been happening to him is not fair.


After the accident, he was up and moving immediately, but mentally confused. He couldn’t answer questions about the world correctly and he was worried about missing work the next day. After thirty years, work was the one thing he did remember.

Dad spent four days in the hospital, slowly recovering. Thankfully, I was able to see him leave the hospital in charge of his mental facilities, but he left full of bruises and hobbled by his injuries. At 56, my dad doesn’t bounce back the way he used to.

A photo of my dad as he got discharged.

My dad as we left the hospital. Dazed and in pain, but doing much better.

During his ordeal, I spent a lot of time worrying that he would never be the same. I worried that the traumatic blow to the head would alter him forever, whether from physiological damage or just a change in behavior. My dad has always been my hero – the adventurer, the troublemaker, the Monkey King on a Journey to the West from the far off rainforests of Burma. If he were to lose that sense of adventure, I would be heartbroken.

We still don’t know what long term effects the accident will have, if any. But what happens if there are? What happens if my dad starts staying inside instead of remaining his normal, active self? What happens if he doesn’t find a new job? What happens if my mom’s business goes through another bad spell? Why does this happen to my dad? Why aren’t we more prepared? Why can’t I provide any support for my parents in their times of need?

I’ve been stressing out pretty bad lately.

Surprisingly, I gained a little respite through a programming exercise. Immediately after Code Academy ended, I started doing Ruby Koans to brush up on my skills. The Ruby Koans are a series of 280 short tests of your Ruby programming knowledge. Each one is intended to be failed, reevaluated, and then passed as a means of learning the Ruby language. Error messages are key to understanding both the test and Ruby itself.

This is what running the tests on Ruby Koans looks like.

I quickly discovered aspects about Ruby that I didn’t understand. Just as the koans intended, I had to meditate upon the meaning of the the error messages before I could pass each test. I also discovered that I spent an inordinate amount of time asking myself “why” this was happening. But it wasn’t a curious “why,” nor was it an exploratory “why.” It was an indignant, frustrated “why”. It was an angry “why” that robbed me of clarity and peace of mind.

Asking “why” was a distraction, an unnecessary indulgence. I had to accept the facts. Jeff, the instructor at Code Academy, liked to say that whenever he and the computer got into an argument, it was always the computer who won. It was pointless to contest this, because the computer is nothing but a machine, reacting the same way to the same inputs. Asking “why” before accepting the facts simply confused me.

After realizing this, I was able to see the test with new eyes and pass it. I began to realize that it accepting the facts was a lesson that applied to more than just programming. The facts of life are that my dad will change, regardless. He will age, become less able to explore mountains and rivers with us, and so will I. And if he has been changed by the accident, there is nothing I can do about it. But one thing will remain true; I will continue to love him, anyway.

Like the Ruby programming language, life is consistent, even though I may not comprehend it immediately. When something goes wrong in life and I’m trying to understand what it means, it pays to take a deep breath, look at the facts, and start by accepting.

The Last Stretch

Despite the fact that we’ve got one week left of classes and a whole lot of preparation to do for Demo Day, I am serene. I know that my job for this week is to make the most of my time with my classmates and instructors while we’re all still in Chicago. As for what comes after Code Academy, I may not know the course, but I know if I follow the river, it will take me in the right direction. Whatever happens next, I still need to learn and apply myself.

Before I recap what happened since the last Code Academy update, it has come to my attention that some people don’t know what Code Academy is. It is an 11 week intensive web development course, designed for absolute programming beginners. What, then, is web development? Web development is the menagerie of skills necessary to create a website that is also a tool, to borrow my friend Don Mach’s turn of phrase. Basically, Code Academy teaches you how to create websites that you can interact with – Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are all examples of sites that need a software developer in order to create.

TL;DR – Code Academy is a great way to get free food, and you should apply now if you’re reading this.

The last few weeks have been a blur of classes. Jeff has this way of making the material second nature to us in a single class, yet implementing what we’ve learned is always the hardest. I always find myself unable to continue whenever I start personal projects, and I think it’s a matter of not being able to break down my vision into easily digestible chunks. To be honest, I think class almost gets in the way at this point – if I could really sit down and dedicate a week straight to hammering my head against something in the mornings at Code and Coffee, I’d be able to learn more through doing.

Which is another thing – I almost wish I had moved hundreds of miles to take part in Code Academy. Having a strong social base and being comfortable being in the city has reduced the time I spend actually hacking at Code Academy homework, exercises, and projects. Bad Brian! Basically, you get what you put into Code Academy, and I think I would have put more into it had I not been so distracted by Life. Or I am just perpetually distracted by Life and would be hopeless, anyway.

Meanwhile, our second hackathon was this weekend, and my teammates Vageesh Kumar and David Hahn have been absolutely awesome to work with. Unfortunately, we were not able to meet up on the last day, but Saturday was a perfect example of team work. David created the look of the site, or the frontend, and Vageesh handled the programming necessary to achieve our app’s goal – to grab price data from other websites. Meanwhile, I managed the models and database required for storing the data, or the backend.

We’re still working on the application and the presentation for Demo Day throughout this last stretch of Code Academy, so click this link and sign up to see us present at Demo Day!

Life: Red, Green, Refactor

Breaking in my Creative Recreations a month ago.

 I’ll build my life around it.

-Brian Kung, Code Academy Interview

I have a lot of things going on in my life at the moment – dance, tricking, software craftsmanship, entrepreneurship. My intent upon entering the Spring class of Code Academy students was to focus entirely on Code Academy. This, though admirable, was complicated by the fact that Code Academy has a dual focus: learning software development as well as entrepreneurship. The former is mostly studying, the latter is mostly networking. Both can take up all of my time.

Furthermore, it was far too tempting for me to start dancing, as Chicago has many more opportunities than the suburbs for that. Dancing with EVO was actually the first thing I did after moving into the city, and now I am dancing with Troy Darnell. Meanwhile, tricking and growing the Chicago tricking community are inseparable parts of my life.

Long story short: I’m a little frazzled by these multiple pursuits.

My life needs some Single Responsibility Principle, which I see as an expression of Curly’s Law for Success (read: Do One Thing). But, barring that, I could really use a refactoring of the existing codebase to make my life leaner, meaner, and more organized. Most importantly, I need to be able to get a grasp on what’s going on in life immediately (Clear Intention, anybody?). So I went to the drawing board…literally.

Refactoring life: Capturing current pursuits and to-dos. Having visual targets is a must.

I have a chunk of the board dedicated to the single most important thing I can do out of all of these targets. It’s useful in orienting myself toward a task that I know will have an important impact on one of the four aspects of my life.

The Long Road

I still have a Long Road ahead of me, but at least the landmarks ahead are clearer.

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