Learning to Code – Mountain Climbers, Marathons and JavaScript

I’ve been baffled, marveled, confused and confounded by climbers, specifically people who climb mountains. The more “free” the climb, the more baffling. By more “free” I mean the climbers who scale a very difficult, what they refer to as “technical” climb with steep, sheer rocks with little to grab on to and no place to sit down and rest. It just looks scary and painful.

I recognize this might sound strange coming from a runner who has completed nine marathons and is about to attempt a 50K race in July, in Mississippi. It is hard to make a comparison between technical mountain climbing and distance running, probably because there is very little in common, but it’s also hard to explain why I run.

Lately one of my goals has been to learn how to code. Frustration has set in more than once as I have felt like I have not made much progress, but the progress is there, I just have to remind myself sometimes what progress starts out looking like when I am learning something new. I am not really new to code. Back in the late 80’s in college I took a BASIC course and learned Fortran as part of a mechanical design class. At that time I did not see coding as a major or a discipline of it’s own. It just felt like a tool that you learn if you need it do complete some other task. It felt like learning a language and my experience from taking four years of German in high school was that if you did not have a chance to use the language, it would always just be this thing that felt partially done, checked off the to do list but somehow always reappearing like a cold or allergies; a nuisance that you had to do something about. So I decided to not learn how to code.

Coding for me has started out with just getting comfortable with the “Why code?” question. At first I started poking around some nerdy coder blogs which I really liked. I’ve read about Unix shell and Emacs. Then I got excited and decided to go for it which is when I switched from just being excited about learning to trying to figure out what to do. This is when the frustration returns. So after several weeks of deciding that I had decided and nothing happening next, I switched back to just reading nerdy coder blogs and enjoying learning for the sake of learning.

That means the code I will learn will be the one that is most accessible to learn. Right now I am working through a JavaScript tutorial on http://www.learningstreet.com because I stumbled on it while I was reading blogs and it was easy to get started. I’ve learned some commands and strings, doing basic stuff like assigning variables, concatenating them and some operations like charAt, .length and +=. Not sure where this will lead, but I’ll do it while its there.

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