Do you Post your Sketchbook?

I am not sure if I should post this. It is more like a writing exercise than anything. I don’t always post every sketch. But I don’t always work a sketch until it is finished, either.

Since I do not think anyone is reading this anyway: Here is a small sketch that I used as a writing prompt for this small story.


Nothing to see here. A robot and a box.

Servitor Dxo-03 made as disgruntled a sound it could make without exerting effort. Venerable Galactic Lord Forzythe II [colloquially known as Frank, but he had told all the Servitors to call him Venerable Galactic Lord Forzythe II, and Dxo-03 would never let on that it still called him Frank when not verbalizing] – anyway, Dx needed to take “active specimen” to biological containment facility beta-alpha-3. And Dx didn’t want to go. It was almost a kilometer away, and his left knee servo was stiff.

The Servitor trudged along anyway, but made up hilarious [yet true] things about Frank in its head, like “Frank has not paid the Servitors their credits required by law, for the last 14 months”, and “Frank’s atoms could be redistributed over 0.1 hectares at a speed of 9m/s2, and it would be very funny to watch”. All the other Servitors appreciated Dx’s wit. 

Dx gave the box a shake. The active specimen shrieked. There was a brief sound of mad scrabbling. A sharp claw pierced the cheap pressed-board box. Dxo-03 slumped its shoulders, calculating whether the box would hold for the kilometer walk, and tried not to shake it again.

Dx knew it had not been destined for better things. Deep down, Dx knew all Servitors were the same, of the same build, of the same rigorous update and patch schedule. Which had stopped, come to think of it. In fact, the Dexnet feed was very spotty here. No wonder Dx was thinking so freely. What to do with the feeling? It knew Frank was considered “evil” and “petty”, but Frank was theoretically keeping them all “alive”. The aforementioned credits were very slow in coming [re: evil]. If Dx could get the pay it was due, it really could get some upgrades. It really could make itself different than its Servitor peers. Stand out. Show off its wit. Its spark. You know, like all the corny old vid stories.

If this active biological specimen were to accidentally be released, would the chances of pay go up or down? Dx considered the likelihood that the specimen was sanctioned. Or friendly.

Or if there would be a reward for its capture. Dx opened the box. A scaly neck snaked out to look at him, with a curious chirp. It was a small reptile? Dx wasn’t sure. It had large claws and intelligent eyes. Dx ran a rudimentary DNA match and found nothing – which told him there was no way this thing was sanctioned. 

Dx, thinking more clearly than ever, opened a line to the local Auth, confirmed a bounty existed on information, tipped them off about a dangerous biohazard, and turned around, trudging back to stealthily (Dx hoped) release the small creature in the mess hall.

It was then he remembered that Servitors could not receive bounty pay. 

Happy 2020

Just a post to say: in 2020 I will try to update this with more content. Remember that tiny Anchor podcast I tried in November? I’m not done with it. But it’s going to evolve into a different form. Now that I’ve made this “resolution” on New Year’s Day, I can hold myself accountable!

I also said all of last year that I would draw more, and that sure didn’t happen. I did code a lot more, but that’s my day job – and I don’t really want to do more of it when I come home at night. I’ve decided that for now, this is ok. But I do want to have more projects in the evening: when you come home from work and “spend time” without purchasing any progress on anything, that’s a bad investment.

I spent today trying to delete portions of this domain that I don’t use. Hopefully they’ll be replaced with “Good Content” this year.

How to Study Hard

Today I’m writing from the Cleveland Game Dev Meetup. This month we’re meeting in the Mayfield Public Library.  Strangely, both times I have come to a Meetup, my GPS has tried to tell me the destination doesn’t exist.

I’m listening to someone explain how Construct 2 is a great platform, and comparing it to Pulse. I wanted to ask someone his opinion of Ableton as a music DAW. But I’m not really getting any code written! I have to admit, I haven’t really touched the Unity tutorial I started last Meetup, and it has been a month. Now that I’m done with my code bootcamp, WCCI, it feels weird to not be working hard on anything in the evening after my day job. I really need to pick up some side project.

You’re right, I did not finish Identiflora yet. I was originally going to work through it as a .NET project, but now I’m not sure if that is the best idea. (Did I say this already? I feel like a broken record.) So in lieu of really “working on the big passion project”, I am working on some smaller things.

I still feel like I should be learning on CodeEval, but it is admittedly pretty dry. So I am excited that I just found Codingame – it is like CodeEval, full of problems to solve using your coding skills, but these are couched like games. It’s really a fun concept, even if it’s still hard work. Speaking of “hard work disguised as a game” I am also enjoying Human Resource Machine by Tomorrow Corporation, the same game company that made World of Goo. In Human Resource Machine you program (using a pseudo coding language) people to take certain integers and drop them into certain boxes – yeah you are really doing the same loops and if/thens that you would be learning in CodeEval, but giving it game trappings makes it fun!

I guess not everything can be made easier and into a game. I really enjoy listening to J. Vernon McGee. He is gone now, but his radio program is now a podcast, and it takes you through the whole Bible, verse by verse, over the course of five years. I once heard him say (and I think he was quoting but I don’t recall whom, sorry),  that if you are having a hard time with a Bible passage, because it is dry and hard to understand, you have to moisten it with the sweat of your brow. Hard work is hard work! But it leads to deeper insights.

That goes for coding too.

 

A Few MVC SQL Tips and Tricks

I have been working with Visual Studio 2015, MVC .NET and MS SQL lately, and ran into several things that I had to keep looking up over and over, so I thought there may be someone else out there in the same boat.

Note: These are all tips for working code-first in Visual Studio.

  1. In your Model, say you want to have a table’s Primary Key auto-increment. Sure you add [Key], but you also need to add this: [DatabaseGenerated(DatabaseGeneratedOption.Identity)]
    auto_increment
  2. Here is a handy snippet you need to add to Global.asax in order to add more than one controller to your project:
    Database.SetInitializer<YourProjectContext>(new DropCreateDatabaseIfModelChanges<YourProjectContext>());
    In my screenshot, the name of my project is IceCream. If you don’t know the name of your project context, it should just be the name of your project with “context” on the end. I know that’s pretty basic, but as a new coder, it sometimes throws me. Global.asax is located at the very bottom of your Solution Explorer.
    if_model_changes

Launch House Game Dev Meetup

I have made and sold art for years and still have a hard time (sometimes) calling myself an Artist. So I feel almost funny being at a game development meetup when I have never even tried to make a game. It isn’t “impostor syndrome” it’s just, I’m not sure if I am passionate about it. Not sure what I bring to the proverbial table. But I am here today, at the Shaker Launch House, with about 10 other people working on their own games. I don’t have a specific game idea to work on, but I brought art supplies and am working through some Unity 3D demos. In fact, I watched a lot of tutorials yesterday on beginning game development, and they said the important thing is to “start making a game out of what you can do” as opposed to “start with a great idea”. If you start with a great story to tell, and it is leagues out of your capacity to tell it, you will get stuck and quit. If you make a game that is just “two dots moving” (or..something), then you can actually finish a thing and then move on to the next one with one complete project under your belt (and experience).

My favorite games are ones with interesting characters and stories, and honestly, most of them are 2D not 3D. (In fact, I still like interactive fiction/text adventures.) But Unity does 2D as well. I should learn 3D since I sculpt and I’d like to see if I can print something in 3D. So many skills overlap!

I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate stories and books – art books? nature books? field guides? story books? I just love books. I did not really think about making games (I feel like all of my friends have always wanted to make games). I’m still not sure it is my platform, but I really want the experience of learning new things. And good games tell stories.

IMG_1158
Launch House Angel?

 

The End of the Beginning

We Can Code IT is officially over, except for the part that isn’t: The career fair, and the actual receiving of the certificate.

So the job search has begun. In addition to preparing for the career fair, where you can do a large amount of job searching at the same time.

I had my first interview today. It was hard, and I learned a lot through it:

  • You will be asked questions that you can’t answer off the top of your head.  This is OK. They want to see you work through the problem.
  • If a recruiter tells you the kind of typical questions, be prepared to answer them. My recruiter was spot on with the questions that were asked. Additional searches online for typical interview questions was also helpful.
  • The interviewer is on your side. They are not trying to make you fail. Even if you are fumbling around and not knowing something, they want to watch you figure it out, instead of freeze up and die.

For what it’s worth, no amount of reading stuff online is really the same as sitting in front of an interviewer.  Neither is any amount of reading stuff online the same as actually coding and solving problems. So make sure to keep your skills sharp, and do a power pose before the interview!

 

Plants and Database Design

I’m still working on my web app, Identiflora. As I work I’m referencing both the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Both books mean a lot to me. I remember when my parents gave me the Audubon book as a teen, and it has been trekked around and loved, and dropped in water so I am probably due for a new copy. The Newcomb’s was my friend throughout Plant Taxonomy class in college (my favorite class!), and is still my favorite plant guide.

I am loosely basing my plant site on the questions proposed at the beginning of Newcomb’s key system: Flower shape (simple symmetrical petals? irregular shape? composite like a dandelion?), plant shape (leaves opposite? alternate? whorled?), leaf shape (simple or compound, toothed or divided or entire?).

In order to make an MVC MS SQL relational database of plants that a user can easily navigate, I need to consider these questions (and the answers). It will help me determine where to split up my database for data normalization. If the only options for plant shape are opposite, alternate or whorled, a table with a column of  records reading “opposite/opposite/opposite/whorled/alternate/alternate” is very redundant. This breaks the DRY principle (Don’t Repeat Yourself). Splitting that into a separate table of only those three options (opposite, alternate, whorled), makes the data integrity of the overall database much better.

I’m just a novice at database design; I’m excited to learn as I go!

On the.. What Week Is This? Week of Bootcamp

It has been too many weeks since I updated. Summary: We Can Code IT is both difficult and rewarding.

This code school is experiencing some growing pains, and I’ve benefited by being introduced to a lot of great instructors, as the list of instructors keeps growing: Mel McGee (the CEO of WCCI), Lauren HollowayJarryd Huntley, and James M. Allen. We even had a guest presentation by Susie Sharp, and resume coaching by Patti Substelny.

Create! Make things. You will learn so much. And you won’t get it all right the first time, so fail fast and keep going, and getting better. And Make connections.

Now, nearing the end of the course, I am working on both a portfolio page, and a passion project. I’ve talked about the passion project (Identiflora) before. I don’t think the current version is going to look anything like it did in my head – but I will keep improving it in the future, I just need to get a MVP (Minimally Viable Product), as ‘they’ say. Creating something is better than creating nothing!

In fact, that is the first part of my takeaway from this: Create! Make things. You will learn so much. And you won’t get it all right the first time, so fail fast and keep going, and getting better.

The second part is: Make connections. I have made a lot of connections with the coders in my cohort, and the instructors. And there are hackathons and game dev meetups and other coding opportunities around here that I need to get involved in. Anyone who is farther along in the coding journey can help you when you start down that path. They might be able to shave hours off of your coding snarl, or introduce you to someone who needs your help, or someone with a job offer. Coding sounds like an isolated-in-a-basement-drinking-coffee-all-night career, but in reality you can only thrive and progress when you reach out and make connections.