Gangnam/Klingon Style + Kim Jong Un?

Since I don’t have cable TV, I’m forever behind on pop culture. This weekend my sister Lynn tweeted me:

Hey, @agahran ! The perfect blend of Korean pop and Star Trek! http://t.co/bi4uM4EL

That link took me to a HuffPo story about a Star Trek-themed parody of a smash Korean Pop (K-pop) dance rap hit, “Gangnam Style.” I’d never heard of or seen the original by K-Pop rapper PSY, so I decided to check it out — because you can’t appreciate a parody until you see the original. Here it is:

And here it is again, in Klingon!

It struck me when I watched the original: Doesn’t PSY bear a suspicious resemblance to the new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un? Hmmmm…

…See what I mean? I sense a coup coming across the DMZ. Perhaps they’re attempting to emulate this Coup, from Oakland?

My pop-culture education for the day is now complete. I can return to unraveling the mysteries of the Box Model now….

Coding lesson 1: The tiniest things will drive you batty

comfort zone shirt

First off: As I writing this it’s about 5:30 am. I’ve been up since about 1:30 am. Welcome to Codeville.

Wednesday I attended my first Da Vinci Coders class in web front-end development skills. I started a little behind; I missed the real first class on Monday because I was away giving a presentation in Chicago.

Right away I was in over my head. But I expected that. Hence, the motivational t-shirt.

Our instructor, Richard Jones, did a pretty good job of catching me up on what was covered in the first class. I like his approach — he sets the context with the higher-level concepts so we first learn to think like developers, to think very carefully about the nature and purpose of content on a page, and make our decisions about how to use HTML5 and CSS based on that assessment.

For our first assignment he gave us a PDF file exported from a webpage that was a very textbook-like discussion of the Pacific Temperate Rainforest. The topic doesn’t really matter, though. I was really only paying attention to the structure of the content. I do a lot of writing and editing work, so it was somewhat of a relief not to have to consider whether the content made any sense. I only had to pay attention to the structure of the content — what sections, figures, and other major elements it comprised.

That relief didn’t last long….

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Learning to code: My next adventure

It’s been a very busy summer since I moved back to Boulder, which is why I haven’t posted here in a while. (All my writing energy has gone to client projects.) But I’m excited to announce that I’m about to embark on a new adventure that I will be blogging on Contentious.com:

I’m learning to code.

Took me long enough to get around to it, I know.

Specifically, starting next week I’m taking an intensive 3-month full immersion course offered by the Da Vinci Institute in nearby Louisville, CO in front-end development skills: HTML5, cascading stylesheets, and Javascript. It’s part of their Da Vinci Coders program, aimed at bringing beginners quickly up to speed with useful, in-demand tech skills. (They also offer Ruby on Rails training.)

The training isn’t cheap. But serendipity struck: Local tech startup Callisto.fm offered two full scholarships for women, to encourage more diversity in the Front Range tech scene. And I won!

I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity, since (because my move from CA back to CO this year ate the lion’s share of my discretionary budget for Major Life Changes) I otherwise would’ve had to wait until next year to do this course. And I feel like I’ve put off learning to code long enough.

Financing is also available for Da Vinci Coders. Had I not won this scholarship, I would have gone that route next year. But this time I got lucky.

Admittedly this adventure involves seriously stepping outside my comfort zone. While I know a lot about technology and know many coders, I’ve no prior programming experience. But I’m sick of getting tech ideas that require coding, and then having to either let them go or else beg a developer to help me even start to test out my idea. Both of those options frustrate me.

My goal is to learn enough front-end technology to be able to build simple, functional mobile web apps — that is, interactive app-like functionality delivered through the web browser on a phone or tablet.

Why mobile web apps? Because I’m passionate about mobile technology and what it can do for people’s lives. But I think the current overwhelming focus on platform-specific “native” apps (which users must find in an app market, download and install, and remember to run) is complete overkill for many of the interactive things people want to do on their phones and tablets. To back this up, research shows one in four mobile apps never get opened more than once, and 75% never get used more than 10 times.

Since mobile users are so fickle (and, let’s be honest, most mobile interactive features are things you’d only want to use a handful of times anyway), why not deliver more of this functionality via the mobile web? It’s low-overhead, inherently cross-platform, cheaper to develop, and — thanks to newer browsers and the growing penetration of smartphones (by the end of this year, half of all cell phones in use in the US will be smartphones) — pretty damn nifty.

My goal is not to become a full-time programmer. I’m a good journalist, writer, and editor, and I think that will always be my mainstay. But I realize that coding has become a key literacy skill, and I’m sick of being illiterate. I don’t expect to do anything fancy or impressive with coding, but I think it will give me more options and allow me to work on even more cool projects.

Plus, when I go to hackathons, I’ll be able to really pitch in and help. I hate standing on the sidelines.

And if Lisa Williams can learn to code, I can do it too. Seriously, she’s one of my best friends and mentors, and I’m inspired by her example.

Wish me luck! And watch Contentious.com for my observations, frustrations, and triumphs from this project.