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    March 10th, 2013adminAmerica, Hackbright, San Francisco, Technology

    The Hackbright ladies on International Women’s Day


    How do I feel? The short answer is very, very excited.

    Am I nervous? Do I feel intimidated by all there is to learn?

    Of course.

    But I also feel such joy about the learning that is now my life.

    Before I left Istanbul, my friend, Ilkay, gave me an interesting definition of time. He said, “Look, when I was in school, and I was studying law and languages, I was learning so many things. Now, I work all the time. Everything is fast, and everything passes.” He said, “When you’re in San Francisco, and you’re studying, you’ll have a different sense of time. You will live time in the right way.”

    And he’s right. This past week was undoubtedly challenging, and I have only begun to make sense of many of the concepts. Just today, I sat down, pen and paper in hand, and went back to the basics. I asked myself, What do I understand? What do I think I understand (but perhaps need to further clarify?). And I went through my code, line by line, forcing myself to articulate the logical progress.

    But I have felt such pride in my use of time.

    Me, week 2?

    Me, Week 2?

    Right now, I especially want to focus on retraining my brain. As a writer, I’ve rarely looked at my work as something defined by logic, by things like loops or if-else statements. And I know that, even if I weren’t a writer, I would still struggle with the gap between the way our brains vs. our computers register commands. One of my classmates said, “This stuff is is not intuitive.” And, for many of us, that’s probably true. So, now, I’m interested in slowly training myself — going through my work, and the work of others, and understanding the story behind the results, one line at a time.

    Meanwhile, I’ll learn alongside amazing classmates and instructors. I can’t complain about that. Okay, it’s going to be a lot of work — that’s one thing I know for sure. But it will definitely, and without a doubt, be worth it.

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    March 5th, 2013adminHackbright, San Francisco, Technology

    After a very extended vacation from blogging, I am back! But now I am in a new city (or maybe an old one?), San Francisco, for an exciting reason: I’m learning how to code at Hackbright Academy. Yup, after nearly three years in Istanbul, I came to the end of my strange and wonderful journey. I already miss the street cats and the minarets and the Bosphorous. I especially crave the Turkish breakfasts, with the varied cheeses, laced around tomatoes and cucumber, as well as the menemen and infinite cups of piping hot tea. But, most of all, I miss my friends. It can be an incredibly challenging (though rewarding) experience to be a foreigner, and it makes all of one’s personal relationships all the deeper. So, it was admittedly very difficult for me to say goodbye, and it’s brought me to truly appreciate this next step in my life.

    Yesterday was my first day at Hackbright, which I will blog about later. But, in brief: The group of women is a fantastically varied and interesting bunch, and I was happy to learn about some of them over lunch at Shalimar. We spent the second half of the day reviewing the Command Line Crash Course, followed by some fun maze games on Blockly. The mazes challenged us to “think like a programmer” — in other words, to logically determine how to find a solution, based on creating rules/statements that a frustratingly stubborn man would follow across the maze. My partner, Meggie, and I got to the tenth exercise, which left us (and the whole class, it seemed) rather confused. And this was where we left off — knowing that Exercise 10 presented where we would like to be — with the mental and programming tools to look at the problems presented at Number 10 — to ask the right questions and determine the proper steps to taking apart the issue and, ultimately, finding the answer.

    Now, off to my bus for another day at Hackbright!

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    Grandpa reading the paper

    My 92 year old grandfather engaging in an arcane hobby: Reading a newspaper.

    I’m surrounded by technology fetishists. Why? I live in San Francisco — ground zero for Google-level geekery. Just take any bus Downtown, and you’ll be inundated with popular technology. And I mean the whole spectrum of trendy gadgets, glorified like holy grails on tech blogs. So, on the bus, you’ve got the clean-shaven “suit,” faithfully reading Thomas Friedman on his Kindle. And the admirably on-top-of-his-shit dude, fiddling with his iPad. And the PR girls, wrapped in Marc Jacobs wools, doing *something* on their iPhones. And I’m sure there’s some Japanese or German innovation, which I’m too inattentive to notice. And it’s an eerie sight, sitting on the bus. Everybody is so “plugged in.” They’re typing, talking — so seemingly “involved.” But, in the process, they seem “tuned out.” Distracted. Distanced. Out of it.

    And I wonder …is this making us more stupid? Okay, I’m not a Luddite. I support machines. Seriously, where would I be without the polio vaccine, birth control pill or Gutenberg’s printing press? And I’m immersed,  too! Really, look: 1) I’ve worked for multiple online companies 2) I know basic web design 3) I own tech items 4) I ‘m good friends with professional techies  & I often respect their work (it is definitely more useful than 90% of the garbage coming out of the movie, music and finance industries).

    But I don’t think we need all this digitalization. Or, I’ll get off my soapbox and say that, personally, I don’t need it. So, how will I feel living in a place, like Istanbul, where people don’t just SAY that tech can be “stupid”? Instead, they actually DO live outside a 24/7 tech bubble. How will I socially interact, living in a place, like Istanbul, where tech doesn’t dominate the public sphere? Will I feel better about things? About our future? Will I miss how “accessible” everybody seems? Ideally, I’ll spend more time on the “good stuff,” like web design and digital photography, and less on the junk. But we’ll see.

    As much as I love technology, I think we’re using it incorrectly. It should enhance our lives. But it shouldn’t become a detached human organ, serving as our universal portals, enveloping and overwhelming  us. And, ironically, the more tech-savvy I become, the more strongly I feel this way. That’s because I see the beauty of technology. I’ve gained the power to actually MAKE what I have passively viewed for years (i.e. web pages). That’s massively empowering. But I also see the limitations of the Internet. It is an infinite network, probably the most tangible way for me to understand the expansion of the universe — and that’s pretty deep stuff. But, due to its infinitude, it is a void. There is no end and there is no control. Somehow, we fall in deep. We’re victims of its immensity.

    Scientists think black holes are created by TOO MUCH.  They occur when an object can’t resist its own gravity. So, it collapses under its own weight. Now, apologies, if I sound apocalyptic. But, in a small way, this is how I perceive the “Information Age.” We’re not miraculously enlightened. The world seems just as impoverished, hardened and cruel as it was 25 years ago. But, now, the privileged countries are infected with something new: an onslaught of information. It bewilders us. In turn, we can’t help but succumb — or, to hammer home the analogy (sorry!), we “collapse” under the weight.

    There’s a reason, after all, why the Luddites raged through England, smashing stocking frames. They perceived a real threat to their livelihoods. They foresaw the incredible industrialization of the 19th century. And they didn’t like it. But the machines came, one after another. And they were powerful. And influential. And undeniable.


    Related stuff to check out:

    Frontline Report: Digital Nation — Who doesn’t love Frontline?

    Neo-Luddites — As the name implies, they’re Luddites for the 21st century.

    Transhumanism — They’re all about machines & technology …kinda  like the anti-Luddites.

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