Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant


MOOC Updates

My first instinct was to include the code for each course with my weekly update, but I’ve seen a lot of comments in the forums of most of these classes requesting that we not publish answers. So I’m just gonna go over what gets covered each week and my observations on MOOCs and the differences in each course.

Computing for Data Analysis:

Dropping this for now. I know R is very useful for data analysis, but I’ve made it 3/4 through the course without really learning ANYTHING, even though I’m getting perfect scores on the quizzes and assignments. The class is just going too fast for me to grasp the concepts without devoting a lot more time than I have now. Note to self: Come back to R at some point.

Learn to Program: The Fundamentals:

This week was all about string operations: comparisons, substrings, len(), string methods, dir(str), indexing, slicing, and for loops over str. Also covered accumulators and IDLE’s debugger. Quiz was fairly easy, run things in IDLE, play with str.find. The assignment was fun and just hard enough to be interesting.

An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python:

Really good lectures. And the RPSLS exercise was fun. But I still don’t understand modulo. Especially with negative numbers.

Introduction to Statistics:

Although the accent is sometimes hard to understand, I’m really enjoying this one. Slow enough that I can follow, interesting examples.

The Mechanical MOOC: A Gentle Introduction to Python:

Got an email containing the first week’s worth of work on Monday. This MOOC is different from the others; instead of a self-contained curriculum, they have chosen parts of existing platforms. For example, this week we needed to read some sections from How to Think Like a Computer Scientist, watch a lecture from MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science, do some exercises in Codecademy’s Python course, and work through exercises from MIT’s A Gentle Introduction to Computer Science.

Some info about the platforms:

I’ll be honest: I did the reading and watched the lectures and I did the Codecademy units, but I only looked over the other exercises. I’ve been working on learning Python for over a year, starting with Learn Python the Hard Way, and I’m taking two other Python classes, so I don’t feel the need to go through types and operators all over again this week.

October 19, 2012 | Comments Off on MOOC Updates | Categories: Posts | Permalink


NOTICE: RSS feed changing

I don’t know how I failed to deal with this at the appropriate time, but basically Google bought FeedBurner, I didn’t take care of business, and now I can’t access my FeedBurner account.

So I’m turning off the FeedBurner plugin, which will break everyone’s RSS subscriptions. Good news! You can resubscribe using this feed:

My apologies for the inconvenience.

October 19, 2012 | Comments Off on NOTICE: RSS feed changing | Categories: Posts | Permalink


Learn All the Things!

Teaching myself how to do something has always come from a desire to make, from building rudimentary websites in middle school, to building my own computers in college. Lots of trial and error, lots of searching the webs for bits and pieces of what I wanted to do.

There are advantages to this: I’m not afraid to try to make things I have no idea how to make. My Google-fu is strong. But there are disadvantages too: Almost everything I know how to do is a mish-mash-hodge-podge collection of things that I learned how to glue together in the right way.

So when I noticed the sudden surge in free online classes over the last couple of years, I jumped right on that crazy train. I took an Introduction to Databases class. I started working my way through CodeYear. Right now, in my copious free time, I’m working on five classes in 3 different programming languages:

I have another list of classes I want to take, but haven’t started yet or I don’t have time for now.

This process I’m going through, of filling in the gaps in what I know, reminds me of this story:

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks right to the top, rocks about 2″ diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them in to the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed.

He asked his students again if the jar was full? They agreed that yes, it was.

The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed.

“The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your house, your car.

“The sand is everything else. The small stuff.

“If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing

“There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first — the things that really matter.

“Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.”

I started out with sand. Now I have to go back and put the rocks and pebbles in. Good thing my mind isn’t a jar.

Sidenote: I haven’t been posting my notes/ideas/experiences from this recent batch of classes the way I did with Learn Python the Hard Way and the Intro to Databases course. I might (or might not) go back and write about the past few months’ worth of learning. But I will definitely be posting about these classes from here on out.

October 13, 2012 | Comments Off on Learn All the Things! | Categories: Posts | Permalink


Why won’t he shut the hell up?

He has food. He has water. His litter box is relatively clean. And yet, he sits there, staring at me. Squeaking.

This has been going on for months. There are spray bottles everywhere. Mornings are particularly bad. C’mon man, my alarm hasn’t even gone off for the third time yet!!


Shut up. Don’t make that cute face at me. I don’t understand what you want.

Did I spoil you too much? Did I create the expectation of attention every time you make a sound? Perhaps. But the honeymoon is over, baby. Right now I need you to find a comfortable spot and sit quietly. Please.


Really? This is how you repay the woman who dotes on you, who cares for your every need? Who buys expensive prescription food to cater to your delicate digestion? Such is gratitude.

From a cat.



August 9, 2012 | Comments Off on Why won’t he shut the hell up? | Categories: Posts | Permalink


Counting Tweets to Trigger an Email to Write a Blog Post

Like the old lady who swallowed a fly…

I’ve been feeling restless lately. Not enough coding getting done. Summer lull. Whatever. So when That Guy I Married said he wanted to be blogging more frequently, and had thought of a way to remind himself to do it, I perked up.

The concept: If you’re tweeting a lot during a short time period, chances are there is a blog post buried in there somewhere. So if there were a way to check the frequency of tweets in a certain time period, and trigger an alert if the frequency went over some limit, a blog post might get written.

The result: A little PHP script that can be run as a cron job. It uses the Twitter API to count how many tweets there have been since the previous date. (I would have liked to do it as number of tweets over the course of a few hours, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without using a database to store the status ids.) Once the number of tweets has been calculated, it checks to see if that number meets the conditions for triggering an email. (In this case, 10 or more tweets since yesterday would trigger an email.) If the condition is met, That Guy I Married gets an email reminding him to write a blog post.

The code:

I’m setting up the cron job tonight, and I guess we’ll see how effective this is. As always, suggestions for improvement are appreciated.

August 1, 2012 | Comments Off on Counting Tweets to Trigger an Email to Write a Blog Post | Categories: Posts | Permalink


Install Adobe AIR and TweetDeck 0.38.2 in Ubuntu

Just because I keep forgetting:

Twitter’s version of TweetDeck is le suck.

Get AIR for Linux here.

Get TweetDeck 0.38.2 here.

To install AIR, make executable in permissions and run ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin in Terminal.

To install TweetDeck, make executable and double-click.

February 28, 2012 | Comments Off on Install Adobe AIR and TweetDeck 0.38.2 in Ubuntu | Categories: Posts | Permalink


IKEA Hack: LACK coffee tables with TROFAST drawers and SIGNUM cable management

That Guy I Married and I recently replaced an old, tiny sofa with the IKEA KARLSTAD corner sofa. It’s huge. So huge, that we realized there was a hidden cost: We had to replace our old coffee table as well.

We decided to get two of the ~30″ square LACK coffee tables. The couch is also our dining area, so really, the more table space, the better. These tables have a shelf about halfway down the legs, but we have two active cats. Anything we left on that shelf would be identified as not bolted down, and therefore a cat toy.

So we needed drawers on rails that would hold from the top, instead of the side or bottom.

Based on another hack I’d seen around, I knew the TROFAST drawers had a lip that made them pretty much perfect for this use. My husband picked up the STRECKET rails from the kitchen department, and after testing that the rail and lip were a match, we took them home with us.

One of the tables also has the SIGNUM cable management rack attached for wrangling laptop cords since we work on the couch a lot. At some point, we might spraypaint those bright green drawers. :)

January 4, 2012 | Comments Off on IKEA Hack: LACK coffee tables with TROFAST drawers and SIGNUM cable management | Categories: Posts | Permalink


Daily Summary

I read:

Got halfway through Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout today.

Adaptive Design, Fixed Widths and Tablets

Move Your Story Right Along: The Elements of Style Rap

The output element

Taxonomies don’t matter anymore

The Internet Gets Physical

Why Is the N.Y.P.D. After Me?

Book Pickings

You knew the old Mozilla, meet the new Mozilla

RIAA: Someone Else Is Pirating Through Our IP-Addresses

December 21, 2011 | Comments Off on Daily Summary | Categories: Posts | Permalink


Daily Summary

I did:

Got all my boundary service code ready to go: made changes to finder.js,, and Added shapefiles. Didn’t have to look up git commands! John Keefe got an EC2 instance running for me, using Chicago Tribune’s GeoDjango image. I should be able to get the app up pretty quickly from here!

Baked another couple hundred cookies. Wrapped said cookies up for mailing to family and friends. Spent an hour at the post office. Hey y’all, you’ve got cookies!

I learned:

Installing GeoDjango is STILL a bitch.

I need to start a notebook on all my project stuff as I do it; I keep forgetting passwords and filenames and commands. (Been meaning to do this for a long time, have never managed to implement it.) Have notebook, will fill.

EC2 isn’t as easy to work with as it should be. Why is this prep stuff so hard?

I read:

The Defense Bill Passed. So What Does It Do?

In Which We Teach You How To Be A Woman In Any Boys’ Club

Building Social Software for the Anti-Social

Dear Internet: It’s No Longer OK to Not Know How Congress Works

December 19, 2011 | Comments Off on Daily Summary | Categories: Posts | Permalink