Month: April 2016

The Right Way isn’t Easy

software_architecture

I don’t know how often I’ve come across this comic. But, stumbling about the internet teaching myself to code in what is probably the worst was possible (figuring out how to fix one problem at a time) I’ve come across it several times. I believe it’s from here.

Not long ago, I was writing to my nephew about how I wrote a text-based game for him. In it, I was honest about the fact that I did things the ‘wrong’ way, and that I was certain the ‘right’ way was easier.

Now I know: it’s certainly different, but it might not be easier. At least, not at first.

Recently, I’ve been inspired to re-visit a project to automate a part of my work (whenever I find myself thinking “this is monkey-work!” I begin developing an algorithm by which it could be done — I’ve never successfully done it) I thought that, since I was starting over from scratch, this would be the right time to do start learning to do it right.

You know from the title where this is heading: it’s not easy.

I’ve generated so many pages of text, describing how I want using the program to be, how the XML it uses should be structured. I’ve followed the advice of a programmer I know and, where possible, did the GUI first and the ‘guts’ second.

And it’s exhausted me. So far, I’m not super far into the project, and I have a much better idea of what I’m doing and where it’s going… But it’s not easy.

I made myself hold off on any coding until I had a pretty solid skeleton sketched out in prose. Then, once I started coding, what I think I should have done is only coded as much as felt needed to keep fleshing the skeleton in, not the other way around. It’s pretty typical for me to — as I work on code to add tags to XML elements — realize that I’ll need to organize things in a different way but not to update the planning documents.

It’s reached the point now where, instead of having all the planning done and being able to ‘mindlessly’ code as another friend described his approach to coding, I’ll need to find the energy and concetration necessary to get the planning documents back in harmony with what’s actually happening in the code.

Of course, this is my first rodeo, so to speak, and I wanted to begin trying this in oder to get the learning curve behind me. Nonetheless, the learning curve does not feel good.

Advertisements

First Latin Progress Update

So, it’s been a little over a month since I sat down and filled out my own copy of the ‘motivation worksheet‘ here on the blog, and I thought it was time for a brief update.

First things first: Latin is still going, but not always going strong. I’ve noticed that it’s a good bit of concentration to do some Latin exercises, requiring a bit of prep (get everything out, clean up a workspace) and time with few interruptions. I don’t think my motivation has waned, but the newness certainly has. And, with it, the number of days per week I invest in Latin.

That said, I’m still going. Something that’s really worked well for me has been the rule that I have to do my exercises on Memrise before I look at Facebook. That gives me a decent ‘bare minimum’ so that I know that I’m not wasting the day, and I’ve done okay at that.

However, Memrise is not enough to actually make progress. Something that’s helped me — and this shouldn’t surprise anyone — is invented (and expensive) social pressure. I selected Chegg almost at random from the sites that offered online tutoring and started making appointments with a woman in England who’s studying classics. She corrects the exercises I do during the day and answers my questions, giving me little lessons and pointers. (She, however, also thinks I’m crazy for wanting to speak Latin. Apparently I’m a decade or two too late for that craze.)

What has not worked is the idea of getting up early to start my day with Latin. It’s a long-term goal, but when I get up early, it’s to prepare myself in a state of panic for the coming day. I’d like to make that part of my routine, and that seems like the part of the day that I can best set aside for myself, but, I don’t know.

I don’t know if I have a takeaway from all this for my language students. First, obviously, it’s hard. I’m a professional and I know how important the ‘a little every day’ aspect is, but I just find it insanely difficult to make the time. Second, bundling works: the only thing that I’ve been able to stick to consistently is combining Memrise with Facebook.

But, on the other hand, I think that I’m convinced that the method I set out for myself does work: experiment, but set reminders to go back and reflect upon how it’s going. I’ll be setting another reminder for in a month. We’ll see.