Week 1: I Feel Like I’ve Been Here Before

First week of work is over and it felt a lot like a less intense week of Hack Reactor. I still can’t believe this is what I’m actually doing with my life. I still definitely have lots and lots of impostor syndrome but I also deployed live things my first week! And learned a few of my coworkers names! And did a two minute all staff demonstration on how to knit!

I also got exactly what I wanted. I’m working full stack in JavaScript and Python in non startup-y startup (e.g., we’re not out to make lots and lots of money or making a product we don’t believe in for the money) doing things that I feel are making a tangibly good contribution. We have a gong that gets rung when a person graduates a class. That small bit right there proved that I was exactly where I wanted to be.

And yes, I’m still terrified some days that I’m too slow or too newb or just not cut out for this, but here’s a secret, I don’t think that will ever go away. Maybe it’s a good thing or maybe it’s just human nature, but I just need to learn to live in my own skin I think and take the impostor syndrome as a mark of being human, of caring about my work and wanting to always get better.

And a minor update: Selma is no longer in the house, I got the balls to move her outside finally.

Custom APIs and Web Scraping for Science

So my team’s most recent application, Helix, involved genome visualization. We integrated it with the 23andme API, but still needed a way to find out interesting information about specific RSIDs (used by researchers and databases to refer to specific base pairs of DNA). By far the most useful and open source repository of genetic information is SNPedia, but I needed access to lots of information and to integrate calls to specific SNPs. Basically I needed an API. So being ever resourceful, I decided to make my own.

Tools for the task were an easy choice. I needed a small fast server that I could implement a web scrapper on. I have always wanted a reason to use BeautifulSoup, but it’s a Python library so I knew it would be easier to build a Python server to run the API endpoints. I chose Flask because of its lightweight nature and how much it reminds me of a Node/Express server at times.

Thankfully there are some really good tutorials for both Flask and BeautifulSoup, my favorites (and the ones I referenced when I hit weirdness) were Designing a RESTful API and Website Scraping with BeautifulSoup. Both of these tutorials said a lot of things better than I could have myself.

For access to my SNPedia API and information on how to use it, check out my project on GitHub.

Week 9: Highs and Lows and… WTF I only have three weeks left??

My week started out fairly average. We were all rolling along on our projects and then I noticed an event on the Hack Reactor Senior calendar. Tuesday, three weeks from this past Tuesday, is Hiring Day. Three weeks?? Not even now, more like two?? Oh, god. And yet, as much of a whirlwind as this has been and as often as I have impostor syndrome, I’m a little excited. I want to see what’s out there for me and find a job and learn and grow and do my instructors proud.

One slight stumbling block for me this week: Hacker in Residence positions. I applied and think I would have been accepted, but I had to bow out. After I sat down and thought about it, I just couldn’t justify being out of work that much longer (even on a stipend). It would have been fun to learn how to teach and spend some more time hacking on personal ideas, but that’s what weekends are for, right?

We also got to demo Helix for the first time. Helix is a gene visualization app that shows you your SNPs (base pairs) from 23andme that have traits attached to them (according to SNPedia.com). You can search traits or just browse your chromosomes for interesting info. It was built using a private beta framework (called Famo.us) that my team was lucky enough to get to be involved with. We have *fingers crossed* two more opportunities to demo Helix, one more run through at Hack Reactor and if all goes well, a private party/meetup for Famous.

Another fun thing that came out of Helix was that I got to dust off my Python knowledge. I had wanted to try BeautifulSoup (a Python web scraper) for a while now and I needed an easy way to pull rsid information from SNPedia so I created my own API wrapper! The code is available (including instructions on how to run it on your own) on my github account. It’s a tiny Python/Flask server that only has a couple of endpoints (the ones I really needed) but I’m thinking about expanding eventually.

And then I got sick. I came down with a cold on Friday and haven’t been to HackReactor since. I’ve been working from home, but mostly just trying to sleep, having weird dreams, and sounding pitiful. I’m getting better though and I will definitely be on-point on Monday to work out the last-minute details of Helix before all the demos come crashing around us.

Three more weeks until I graduate! My gift to myself – I’m attending the LAUNCH hackathon with two other women from HackReactor the weekend after it’s all over. I just don’t want to get lazy!

#Hashtag Redundancy

I couldn’t even finish the first Coursera course without starting another one. This time it’s Data Science. Yummy, yummy data that I get to program into submission. We are starting off with a trip through the Twitter API and I finally learned that JSON isn’t as scary as I thought it was when I didn’t know anything about it! Go me! We did a number of things with Twitter and some Python programming. The last part of the assignment was my favorite, the most popular hashtags. Some of my code (for a different section on finding tweet locations):

And my hashtag results from a 10 minute snapshot of new tweets to Twitter:

In theory I understand hashtags. In practice they bug me, especially the ones like the above “#YouWillNotBeTakenSeriouslyIf”. Ugh. Anyway, I actually went wild and crazy and Googled some of the hashtags, because most of them mean nothing to me. I even learned some Spanish! Seamos sinceros = “let’s be honest” which sounds just like another of the type of hashtags that bother me.

I Are Learned

Whoohoo. The Interactive Python class over at Coursera just opened up. I decided to sign up for with a friend of mine who has much less programming experience than I do. Mostly for the lulz and because I’ve discovered I love teaching other people about my (limited) knowledge. I started her off just building websites then started her on JavaScript and I finally showed her the prettiness of Python and she wanted to learn it too.

Also I’m messing around with the layout of this website. So it will probably be a bit messy for the next few weeks (I say weeks because I’m down with a cold and my brain is having a hard time focusing for long periods).

The Circus Waits to Takeoff

About a year ago for giggles I tried the Rails for Zombies class at Code School. I mean, it’s zombies. I am a huge zombie fangirl and I was getting back into Java programming at the time but wanted to learn something more web develop-y. Anyway, I got frustrated with Ruby/Rails. There were parts of it that just bugged me. So I stopped.

Then a few weeks ago I discovered Python. It was an immediate love. I started with Learn Python the Hard Way mixed in with Codecademy‘s Python lessons. Also I’m in love with the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Python. I’ve been reading it like a novel.

Then I wandered around looking for things to do with my newfound love. Django just seemed too big for my very newb hackings. I can’t remember where but a blog somewhere out there in my searchings mentioned Flask. So I plugged that little baby into my cobbled together Python studio (i.e. my newly reformatted Windows 7 laptop) and felt a little overwhelmed. Undeterred I searched out tutorials and decided to start with this one which just creates some static pages (I’m moving on to more dynamic things as I post this).

Pic spam!!

My first Flask generated page. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Added some pretty pretty CSS (I missed web design, it’s been awhile):

And ta-da:

And then I added navigation and a second page:

And just because I find it pretty, my recolored PowerShell: