Sunset poncho and other crochet projects 

I ran out of a particular yellow yarn for my ripple blanket and I’ve been having a hard time teaching it down, so I had to set that project aside for a little while and work on other things. 

 First up, we needed coasters. The purl bee felt fruit coasters that I made back when my arms were broken are now falling apart after so much use. I was make a crochet hat and liked the starting 3 rows so much that I decided to make coasters out of them using my yarn scraps. Here they are:

 


 

Next is the actual slouchy hat that inspired those coasters. I got this pattern from ravelry and it was easy to follow. 

Lastly, is the sunset poncho. It’s made up of three double -crochets followed by a chain 1 space around and around and around. The two corners are 3 double-crochets into the same space, chain 2, then 3 more double-crochets into that same space. If you can do a granny square then you can easily do this pattern.

I used the yarn originally planned for a knit gradient shawl that never got off the ground, so the colors are brown, red, orange, yellow and beige.

Apartment Hunting

Our lease is just about up at our tiny studio apartment, and starting April 1st we’re going month to month on the rent.

Now begins the horrible, draining, soulless process that is searching for a new apartment in San Francisco. Except this time we’re not even looking in San Francisco, because we can’t afford this damn city any more, so we’re looking in the East Bay. The problem is, so is everyone else. Apartment prices in Oakland and Berkeley are skyrocketing as everyone who doesn’t own a successful startup runs far far away from the $3000+ studio apartments located in the Tenderloin.

We are looking in Alameda, because it’s a small beachy island with low crime rate close to Oakland. It’s a little inconvenient when it comes to public transportation (the 2 tunnels leading to Oakland are close to bart stops, but it’s difficult to get across them without a car), but right now the apartment prices are affordable.

nuclear_wessels

Alameda – it’s where they keep the nuclear wessels.

 

Last weekend we visited one place, a duplex in the south/western area of Alameda near the pinball museum and the dog park. Unfortunately they must have gone with someone else, because we never even got the application for that place, but it still felt good to start looking and to get a lay of the land.

 

I took a few panoramic photos of the kitchen, the main room and one of the two bedrooms so that we can compare them with the next place.

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When we finished at the open house we took a walk around the neighborhood and found a book store, a little Italian sandwich shop and a main street with other restaurants and fro-yo (good lord, San Francisco seriously loves their fro-yo). All in all, it’s a cute little town and I don’t think I’ll mind the long and winding bus rides to and from BART or the idea of owning a car if it comes to that.

 

Check out our previous adventures in apartment hunting, although I didn’t go into much detail back then what with being in the midst of Dev Bootcamp and all.

Current Reading List: San Francisco and Mars

season_of_the_witch Season of the Witch by David Talbot

This might be a little narcissistic, but ever since I moved to San Francisco I want to read and watch all of the books and movies set in/about San Francisco! Season of the Witch is about the turmoil in the city during the 70’s. I moved here just as the tech companies began to really blow up and take over the place, changing the culture and the feel of different parts of the city in their wake. I’m interested to hear about how things were in the past, as a beacon of counter-culture and an incubator for artists instead of apps. I’ve only just started this book, but its bohemian voice mixed with a little train-of-consciousness flow has me hooked already!

 

 

martian

 

The Martian by Andy Weir – This is my book club’s pick of the month and ever since they announced their pick I’ve been hearing about this book everywhere. It seems like most of the people I follow on Twitter have read it, or are planning to read it.

After seeing “Star Talk” with Bill Nye the Science Guy just a few weeks ago, and talking with my husband about Mars and the future of humanity on other planets/asteroids, I feel like this book is coming to me at exactly the right time. I’m excited to sink my teeth into it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Reading List: Punching and hiking

throat People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann You need to stop what you are doing and read this book right now. It’s hilarious to the point of making me actually laugh out loud and also made me shout “Oh my god, YES! Seriously!” multiple times! I love Pinterest but I will never be a Pinterest-Mom. I’m just way too lazy. I am also totally unapologetic about wearing sweatpants in public and I would rather eat muffins than take Ritalin. I’m perfectly okay with not “doing it all” and just enjoying myself. :)

wildWild by Cheryl Strayed Spoiler alert: The entire first chapter, and much of Cheryl’s motivation, comes from her mother dying in a hospital from lung cancer. I did not know this, I thought it was an adventure book about Cheryl’s time of the Pacific Crest Trail, so I started reading it in a restaurant on my lunch break. Bad move on my part. I didn’t openly cry, but my eyes watered a lot and I needed to put the book down after the first chapter and read some cartoons and comics before going back to work. Kinda wish there had been a warning or something. Now I’m well into the book now and it’s pretty good. Cheryl is not meant to be a relatable character. You start out thinking that you’ll identify with her, but she quickly reveals parts of herself that make you wonder if you’re even supposed to like her. The book is a balance of external adventure and internal turmoil. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Edit: This book is brutal! If you don’t want to read about shooting horses and dying mothers, put this book down!

How do you practice self-care?

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I wish I was one of those people who spend an hour a day doing yoga or meditating, and who eat raw kale for lunch, and who don’t feel guilty or selfish for blowing off a party in favor of spending the evening watching Netflix in their underwear.

I have no idea how to properly practice self-care besides the occasional “at-home spa day” (which includes an amateur pedicure and a Queen Helene mint julep facial) that I’ve been doing since I was in Middle School.

I’m not even sure what is considered “self-care.” I recently started getting a massage every month (my poor neck and shoulders are so much happier since I made that decision!) but that’s not really a self care thing as much as a “paying someone else $57 a month to care for me” thing, right?

I’m taking a class called “Improving Your Sleep” to help me battle my chronic insomnia (my goal is to one day get a full night’s sleep without using any kind of medication) but does that count as self-care if I’m just sitting in a room listening to someone else talk?

It is self-care when I schedule specific “do nothing” evenings during the week so that I don’t get burnt out from work and socializing? I’m not really taking care of myself, I’m just preemptively escaping from the world so that I don’t need to escape later when it’s less convenient (like when I’m at a work meeting or trying to be there for a friend).

I guess it’s self-care when I mix my regular coffee with decaf in an attempt to dial back the caffeine shakes and the post-lunch drop in energy. It’s probably self-care when I turn on music in the morning to drown out my upstairs neighbor’s stomping and put myself in a good mood. It’s definitely self-care when I go to the YMCA and go swimming instead of laying around doing nothing on Saturday mornings.

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How do you practice self-care? Do you do something (or avoid doing something) in particular? Are you one of those magical unicorns who finds it easy to focus on your body and mind? How do I become a magical unicorn, too?

New Year Resolution: 30 books in 2015

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I know that New Year’s Eve was 2 weeks ago but I couldn’t decide on any goals or resolutions for this year, until now. Last year I made a list of craft projects to do, and my usual resolutions involve improving myself physically (exercise more, stop complaining about having to eating salad, magically become a morning person, etc) which never last long, so this year I wanted to try something new.

I love to read and I’m a member of 2 book clubs (one is for fiction, one is for YA fiction). I have a ton of sample books on my Kindle (downloading samples is my way of bookmarking something to read later). I enjoy reading, I just need to make time to do it, rather than wasting so much of my time on social media.

I’m not going to list 30 books to read, I’m just going to aim for that number (2-3 books per month seems reasonable) and choose the books as I go.

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Erin has
read 1 book toward her goal of 30 books.
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Books for January:

  1. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – I just finished this one last week, and I loved it! I might recommend this to my fiction book club in the future so that I can read it again with a more analytical eye. It was a sweet story following an Indian family living in America. It explores the immigrant story between the traditional Bengali parents and their American children, but it also goes deeper. The characters are multi-dimensional, well-fleshed-out people who I could easily connect with (despite cultural differences) and care about. I cried a few times for Gogol and his parents.
  2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – This was a recent book club pick and I really enjoyed it! It’s an exploration of race relations as seen through the eyes of two African twenty-somethings (the woman in America, the man in England) first, and a love story second. I absolutely love the character Ifemelu and the addition of her clever blog posts throughout the book. Much of it was eye-opening (being a caucasian woman and an American, I don’t share anything with the main character). Race can be a difficult thing to discuss, but the author made it enjoyable and easy to read.
  3. I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron – I haven’t finished this book of short essays yet, and I’m not sure if I will. I don’t know if I should count books that I didn’t finish 100% toward my goal. I like Nora Ephron, but it feels like there’s a generation gap that makes her sense of humor seem a little bland to me. GenerationXer’s and the tail end of the ‘Boomer’s would love this book.
  4. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith – This is the YA book club pick for January. I haven’t started it yet, but I have the feeling it will be a quick read. I plan to get into it this week!
  5. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – This is the next fiction book club pick for next month. Also one that I haven’t started yet, but it’s on my list.

So far, so good! What’s on your 2015 reading list?

30 Before 30 List: The Results

Last year I decided to write down 30 crafts that I would like to try this year before my 30th birthday, on my version of a 30 Before 30 List.

As of yesterday, January 9th, I am now 30 years old so let’s take a look at what I’ve finished over this year!

30-Before-30

  • checkbox First item on the list: A crocheted eyelet shawl in royal blue. It turned out beautifully! It desperately needs to be shaped and blocked, but I don’t have enough room in the tiny apartment to lay the entire thing out flat, so for now it’s a bit lumpy. It’s okay because at some point we will live in a larger place and I will be able to block my crochet and knit projects!

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  • 2014 Project Life scrapbook – Unfortunately I never seem to start my scrapbook until January of the following year. Maybe it’s because I wait until the Christmas sales to print out all of my photos. Either way, I started this project but have not finished it.
  • checkboxMake my own vanilla and hazelnut coffee syrup – This one was quick and easy! I eventually went with cinnamon instead of hazelnut because it’s easier to find cinnamon sticks in the grocery store.

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  • Knitted gradient shawl in red and brown yarn – I started it, but did not get far. It’s not that I’m bad at knitting, it’s that I’m bad at making mistakes when I knit. I have never been able to successfully rip out a dropped stitch without creating 3 more dropped stitches in my work. That’s why I usually stick to crochet – it’s so much easier to fix a mistake!

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  • Create a cork board with all of my saved wine corks – I tried to do this, but it didn’t work out at all. I had an old picture frame that I wasn’t using anymore, so I started hot-gluing wine corks to it. Unfortunately not all of my corks are the same size or even the same material (some were natural cork, some were synthetic) so it got really messy really quickly. In the end, the project resembled a kindergartener’s macaroni picture with hot glue strings all over the place, so I tossed it.

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  • Crocheted cardigan in forest green yarn – I didn’t even start this one. Maybe I’ll add it to a list for next year?
  • Knit my very first pair of socks – See #4 and the reason why my knitting projects never take off.
  • checkboxSecret scrapbook for a friend’s birthday – I gathered a year’s worth of Instagram photos of my friend’s daughter and make a book called “Cora’s First Year” which she totally loved. That was a really fun project :)
  • Design and screen print a shirt – Didn’t happen.
  • Make my own scented candles – I bought like, 4 or 5 scented candles this year. Does that count?
  • Embroider tea towels with cute little coffee mugs, honeycombs and other designs from Wild Olive – I haven’t started this yet, but I do plan on doing it. Adding to next year’s list!
  • checkboxMake my own bourbon vanilla extract – Did it, and I’ve been using it in most of my baking!

Bourbon Vanilla Extract

  • checkbox Sew a wool skirt for myself – I just need to finish hemming it, and it’s done!

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  • Cross-stitch my favorite fandoms (Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Star Trek TNG) onto a sampler – Another one that I really wanted to do, but just never got around to. Adding to next year’s list.
  • checkboxCrochet a queen-sized granny square blanket for my bedroom – It’s still a work in progress, and it’s a ripple-stitch instead of a granny square, but it is coming along quite nicely!

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  • checkboxSew a chevron baby quilt for my friend Steph’s son Joel – I just finished it last week! I started it earlier this year, but then my sewing machine broke and I had to take a break from the project. I put the last few stitches into the yellow satin binding last weekend and it’s ready to be packed up and put into the mail!

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  • Crochet a little Cthulu for Kevin – I didn’t get to this one, but it’s another project that I plan to take on in the following year. Maybe it’ll be a Christmas present for next year?
  • Sew a little bow collar for Pepper – I set aside some cute plaid fabric specifically for this, but haven’t started it yet.
  • Tiny crochet undies – I thought this was cute, but pretty pointless. What the hell would I do with a pile of tiny underpants? Maybe I’ll start this project someday, but for now it’s frogged.
  • Sew a sunburst wall quilt – I’m going to prioritize some of the other quilts and blankets first, but I do want to make this quilt sometime this year. We’ll see if I have time.
  • Add proper front pockets to every pair of jeans that I own – I’d still like to do this, but I go through jeans so quickly! I just bought a new pair to replace some holey ones, and I have exactly 2 pairs of jeans in my dresser. I guess if I do decide to take on this project it will be quick enough.
  • checkboxSew at least one cute and functional clutch purse – I am absolutely in love with this clutch! I’m going to take it with me tonight when we celebrate my birthday! :)

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  • Sew a queen-sized duvet cover for my bed – I reaaaaally need to do this one. my current duvet cover is from Ikea and has random bleach spots and other marks all over it. Bleh!
  • checkboxJournal teas and coffees from local shops – I did this, but I haven’t yet printed out any of the photos I took while at the coffee shops. It feels incomplete. Maybe I’ll give myself half-credit.

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  • Make decorative origami paper cranes – Nope, never got around to it.
  • Embellish bobby pins – Maybe I’ll start this once my hair grows out again?
  • Bind a book – Adding to this year’s list!
  • Sew a bunch of cute headbands – Another case where I bought the materials but never actually got started on the project. I’m the queen of unfinished crafts!
  • Make a beaded necklace – Dude, I live one block from Chinatown. I can buy cheap beaded necklaces on any corner.
  • Finish hand-quilting my mother’s blue & white quilt – I’m sad to say I didn’t get to this one. It’s been a rough year filled with First _____ Without Mom moments. I still plan on completing her quilt, it’s just that sometimes I still feel very raw about my mom’s death and I just can’t. Everyone says it gets easier with time. We’ll see.

And this item wasn’t on the list, but I’m proud of it. I used this pattern from “Hammers and High Heels” to make a cute wool poncho! Keep in mind that her measurements are all for 60″ wide fabric, whereas most of the wool at my fabric store is about 43″ wide.

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So I only finished 9 out of my 30 projects, but that’s not too bad. I consider that an overall win for the year! And next year hopefully I’ll have 9 more projects finished.

Kateri posted this on my Facebook wall. It's the greatest thing I've ever seen.

Kateri posted this on my Facebook wall. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. Happy Birthday to me!

WTF is The Cloud, SaaS and AWS?

First of all, I really hope you are using cloud-to-butt right now (available on Chrome or Firefox). It makes the Internet a sillier place and will make this post much more fun to read.

Second of all, I tend to be a literal person and I understand things better when I can touch them and take them apart. Whenever I try to learn abstract concepts, I have to relate them to physical objects so that I can understand them better. When my friend Namrata did a lightning talk on JavaScript libraries at DBC, it didn’t click for me until she explained that the performance cost of using a library is like a human being who speaks a different language from you having to physically run to a library and look up words every time you speak to them. That’s why I try to think of physical or well-known examples to help me understand concepts. They’re not always perfect, but they help.

So with that, here is my understanding of The Cloud:

The cloud is not your computer’s hard drive. It’s not an external hard drive. The cloud is a server or a computer or something that exists somewhere else that you have to use the Internet to access. You can store stuff on the cloud. You pay for space.

This is totally how I imagined The Cloud, as millions of servers floating on actual clouds in the sky!

This is totally how I imagined The Cloud, as millions of servers floating on actual clouds in the sky!

It’s sort of like having a storage unit. If you only need a small amount of space you can rent a locker and use it to store small items. If you have something large like a jet ski that you need to store, you need to rent a larger space. There are security issues with storing your stuff elsewhere. If someone breaks into your storage unit and steals your jet ski, the storage unit company is usually not liable. You need to have insurance on that jet ski. If someone hacks into the cloud and steals your information, the company hosting the cloud is not liable.

The problem is, sometimes you don’t even realize that you are using the cloud. Apple’s default iCloud settings automatically back up copies of any picture taken with an iPhone to remote servers. It’s not like you buy a jet ski and bring it home, meanwhile your storage unit automatically stores a copy of the jet ski to provide you with a backup.

Google Drive is an example of cloud computing. It allows you to create and store documents that you can access from anywhere via the Internet. Compare this to an MS Word doc that you have saved to your computer’s hard drive. It’s more easily accessible, you can share access with other people, but (in most cases) you compromise some level of security.

There are other issues too, like ownership of the materials you are storing on the cloud. When you upload a photo to Instagram, according to their Terms of Service, you retain ownership of that photo. This is different for every single service and in order to find out if you’re about to give away your rights to your content, you need to actually read the ToS instead of just clicking the checkbox that says you’ve read it.

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So that’s my understanding of the cloud. Next on the list is SaaS or Software as a Service.

SaaS is software that is in the cloud, that you access via the Internet instead of installing it on your computer. Usually you buy a subscription to the software and that gives you access. As a user, you don’t need to worry about upgrading or maintaining the software, and as a developer you don’t need to worry about whether your customers are using an outdated version of your product.

It’s kind of like buying a subscription to Netflix (streaming not discs) instead of buying a bunch of DVDs. You pay a monthly fee for the ability to watch a movie and you don’t need to worry about owning a DVD or Blu-Ray player or storing all of the discs. The downside is that you rely on the SaaS provider to not disrupt service (and in the case of my Netflix example, you rely on your Internet provider to not throttle your bandwidth).

Imagine Homer as Comcast or Verizon and Bart as Netflix or any video streaming service.

Imagine Homer as Comcast or Verizon and Bart as Netflix or any video streaming service.

OK, last but not least, what the hell are AWS (Amazon Web Services)?

Amazon provides things like storage, databases, email clients, search clients and lots of other little pieces that you need to build software. Similar to how SaaS is convenient to your customers because they don’t have to install or maintain your software, using AWS for your databases means that you don’t have to build a server farm to host them (maintenance becomes somebody else’s problem) and you can scale up or down as needed. You can buy access to as many virtual servers (which are different from virtual machines) as needed, so you don’t actually have to own any of the hardware. I think I signed up for the free trial at some point? I’m not sure. I’ve never actually used it.

So that’s what I learned today. I also got a basic understanding of Elastic Search, but I need to do some more research before I can write a blog post on it.

Helpful Links:

 

As always, if you see something that is inaccurate PLEASE let me know in the comment section! I’m still a beginner and I can’t continue to grow if no one ever corrects my mistakes. Thank you!

WTF is Continuous Delivery?

One of the products that I am learning how to support at work is an advanced Continuous Integration and Release Management system. For starters, those are very big words (worthy of capitalization) and I don’t know what the hell any of it means!

Some of the instructors at Dev Bootcamp attempted to teach us how Agile Development works…but not really. None of us actually practiced agile except for having daily stand-ups where we talked about blockers and successes.

standup

Fast-forward to now, and my job is to support several tools for Agile Development. I really needed to learn this stuff. I figured out most of it on my own just from watching, but today I decided to sit down and patch some of the holes in my knowledge. Here it is, laid out for you:

First up, how does software even get made?

When you’re in school or bootcamp, here is your process:

  1. Someone tells you to write some code.
  2. You write the code.
  3. You run some tests to see if the code works.
  4. If it doesn’t work, you try to fix it.
  5. Sometimes the code works. No one knows why.*
  6. You submit your code for review by your instructor, possibly by pushing it to GitHub, or by deploying to Heroku, or something.
  7. You’re done. Go have a cookie!

* Magic. That’s why. magic

In a workplace that practices Agile Development, here is your process:

  1. Identify a need (aka, what am I building and why am I building it?)
  2. Flesh out the idea (what are the specifics? create a blueprint.)
  3. Design the thing (what features should it have? what user stories?)
  4. Code the thing (allocate tasks to designers, developers, etc)
  5. Test the thing
  6. Integrate the thing into existing code base and test that too
  7. Deploy the thing to production (OMG it’s live and everyone can see it!)
  8. Maintain the thing (bug fixes, documentation, etc)
  9. Repeat

What does continuous delivery do?

Some of the above steps can be automated to make the whole process faster. The faster you push a bug fix or a new feature, the happier your customers will be.

When you use continuous delivery software, here is your process:

  1. Think up the idea
  2. Flesh out the idea
  3. Design it
  4. Code it
  5. Each time you make a commit, it triggers a build server to package the code and send it off for testing. You should treat any commit as if it could cause your code to be deployed to production and released to your customers.
    • You could manage this with Feature Toggle, which allows you to manually toggle something on when you’re ready for it to be deployed. That way you don’t have a panic attack every time you write a commit.
  6. Code is automatically deployed to different environments and tested there (unit tests, functional tests, integration tests, etc) and if any of them fail the process stops and you are alerted.
    • Your code is deployed to a bunch of performance machines which triggers a suite of performance tests
    • Your code is deployed to a user acceptance server for beta testing
    • Your code is deployed to production and released to your customers
  7. Maintain your code, fix some bugs and write some documentation to help your friendly support people troubleshoot the thing.
  8. Repeat

Ok that’s great, but how does it work?

First you need Continuous Delivery software. I’m not going to turn this blog post into an advertisement for Go, but I am going to mention it because it’s the only software that I’m even remotely familiar with.

Here’s what the automated build-test-release cycle looks like:

First you need to link your software to a version control system, like git. Remember how every time you make a commit, the software triggers a build server that packages the code and sends it off for testing? In order to make that happen you need to connect git (or svn, or whatever you use).

Next you set up a pipeline. What do you want the CD software to do? Run a testing suite? Deploy to a server? Then set up some environments like production, testing and development. Do you want Feature Toggle? Set that up! Do you want a fart noise to play when there’s a failed test alert? Set that up! Every product will be configured different, but some things are universal.

Here’s a good blog post on Continuous Deployment by Eric Ries on what CD software can do.

Helpful links:

 

Just like before, if you see something wrong or not-quite-correct in this blog post, speak up! Leave me a comment explaining what parts I got wrong so that I can continue to learn from them!