Sometimes it's no fun to be right.

I promised a lot of people that I would let them know how Hacker School is. It’s difficult for me to answer this question (although Julia Evans, a previous batch process, has done a fantastic job), both because it feels so early in the batch and because Hacker School is a lot of things. I also promised a lot of people that I would let them know how New York is, and that’s a little easier, so I’ll start there and then move on.

Cycling in Brooklyn has been absolutely wonderful. I have about a five-mile commute over the Manhattan Bridge to Hacker School’s digs over in Chinatown, and it’s pretty stellar; most of it is on marked lanes, and the ride over the bridge is on a path separate from motorists and pedestrians. I haven’t ridden every day, but every day that I’ve ridden it’s been a fabulous experience. As the bike lanes emerge from all the hardpacked ice and other cyclists emerge from their hibernation dens, I’m hoping the experience gets better rather than worse. I saw more cyclists on the way home today than I think I’ve seen the entire rest of the time I’ve been here. Best of all, my bicycle hasn’t even been a little bit stolen yet (touch wood).

The author wearing a black balaclava under a helmet, standing before a view of the East River from the Manhattan Bridge.

Bridge selfie on a nice day.

It’s loud here, and very crowded, and very friendly. My friends and cats from home aren’t here, but there are different friends and different cats. The Brooklyn Public Library is shaped like a book. There is a lot of beauty in a lot of places. The volume of new experiences, waiting to be had, is difficult to contemplate. Experiences I have had include:

  • being asked for directions 10 minutes after arriving in Manhattan
  • getting lost (repeatedly)
  • riding my bicycle in the snow
  • having to detour around a film shoot
  • purchasing pants
  • marveling at the marble of the New York Public Library
  • eating too many banh mi sandwiches for someone with a carrot allergy to eat
  • drinkin’ beers you can’t get at home
  • extraordinarily warm welcomes from fandom friends, programming friends, and Hacker Schoolers past and present
  • having a cat commandeer my laptop
A calico cat sits on a laptop keyboard.  The laptop is, luckily, displaying a login password prompt instead of important controls.

I have a really good helper here.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve really struggled with the social aspects of Hacker School. My goals, coming here, were to learn to work better with other people; to get new ideas, and new tools, and learn to do a better job of asking computers to solve problems. I don’t think I can really say, yet, that I’ve done any of that. I think choosing to do all of this in a language that’s new to me, and dramatically different from one I’ve used seriously before, is making it very difficult to feel confident enough to work with other people; it takes a lot more willingness to look stupid to talk with other people about Haskell, at my current skill level, than it does to talk about C. I have only finite reserves of willingness to look stupid, although I’m trying to increase them. In short, I was depressingly prescient in my last entry.

I have felt very stupid, very consistently, over the past couple of weeks. I’m realizing how much I rely on my friends to combat the level of insecurity I feel all of the time (“I can’t be all that terrible! $FRIEND likes me, and they’ve got great judgment!”), being in this difficult environment without them. Friends, I love you; I miss you; I love you; thank you.

Things that I have made while feeling extremely stupid include:

  • A buggy tic-tac-toe implementation in Haskell, basically written just to write an entire program, and the subject of my first-ever code review
  • a fortune server which dispenses helpful advice, some cribbed from Hacker School User’s Manual section on advice, and including items such as “be as kind to yourself as you attempt to be to others”; basically just an exercise in extremely simple network programming in Haskell
  • a Robot Finds Kitten implementation in Elm, demo and details forthcoming
  • several pages of angsty boring prose about how I can’t get out of my own head and work with other humans, usually followed by exhortations to give myself a break for once, for heavens’ sake; see fortune advice above

In conclusion, Hacker School is a land of contrasts.