Week 0, Day 1

The titles of these posts seem like scores. Days are winning so far.

Click here for the cast of characters

A non-fiction six word story I omitted from yesterday: “We’re at the same airport, right?”

Note to self: If you are going to put off writing until the end of the day, get home earlier.

I’m staying in a pretty safe neighborhood. I judge this by the walk I took this morning. First, people in Chicago, at least this section, are awake fairly early. There were many people out exercising at 6:15 am. Of course, this could just be because this is a city, and there are simply a lot of people.

Back to safety. I often judge the safety of an unfamiliar neighborhood by the number of people who look more vulnerable than I am to an attack. If there are a lot of people who look like easier pickings than I am, I feel safe. I walked today to Palmisano Park which shares a corner with the Chinatown section of Chicago (it feels uncomfortable to say Chinatown, it’s almost like saying Chinaman and I wouldn’t use that term to describe any person). There were quite a few people out for their morning walks – many in their seventies and eighties, so I felt safe. OK, there was that seventy-something year old guy who was vigorously kicking his leg as high as his chest. He could probably take me, so don’t count him. Then there was that Asian woman who was walking about twice as fast as me. Don’t count her either. And that woman who was walking about ninety miles an hour backwards. Don’t count her. Other than those three, I think I was OK. Oh, wait, there was a twenty-something runner who looked like she could kick my butt. Actually, two of them. Don’t count them either. See? Safe.

In the neighborhood surrounding the park, many people had put in these teeny-tiny vegetable gardens. There was one that was in the fifteen inches between the sidewalk and the street – full of lettuce, peas and broccoli, freshly weeded and watered.

The whole area is interesting from a civil engineering point of view (Hi, Dad!), too. Many of the houses have entrances eight to ten feet below street level. Some have bridges to second story entryways. It turns out that well after the houses were established, Chicago needed to put in sewers, so they raised all the streets by about ten feet, letting gravity make the sewage flow. This was no small project – so far, I know it to be about a mile and a half square, and I haven’t headed in the other direction yet. I can’t even imagine the cost and red tape a project like that would take now.

I met with my teaching team this morning. Unfortunately, the wifi at the cafe we were at was excruciatingly slow. Still, we got a bunch of stuff done and got to know each other a bit. We divvied (there’s a good Words With Friends word when you are stuck with vees) up the material for the first week, and to my genuine surprise, both TAs volunteered for large chunks of the activities. I would not have expected a high school student to volunteer for a half hour lecture/activity on coding conditionals, but there you go.

In the evening, I took myself downtown to explore the Millennium Park/Navy Pier area a bit. I met a few interesting people. One was a woman who was taking pictures near Buckingham Fountain in the park holding a Chelsea (Barbie’s little sister – I just did a heck of a lot of research to figure that out, so you’re welcome) up in front of every picture. I figured that there had to be a good story behind it, so I asked. It turns out that she writes books to help people to know about places, and the doll is the guide. I should’ve asked if I could take the doll’s picture too, so you could see it, but I only thought of it ten minutes later.

Also at the fountain, I discovered that even if you know EXACTLY how rainbows are formed, they are still comforting and wonderful, AND you know how to position yourself with respect to the water and light to see the best ones.

I’ll leave you with this: Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

Day Zero

Click here for the cast of characters

Click, click click, the roller-coaster starts its inexorable climb to the top. In a few minutes, it’ll be a literal climb as my flight to Chicago takes off.

For those who don’t know yet, I’ll be in Chicago for the next nine weeks teaching in the Girls Who Code (GWC) Summer Immersion Program (SIP). I’ll post more about this excellent  program as the summer goes on, but if you subscribe to the premise of instant gratification, here’s what it’s about: SIP.

First, I’m going to publicly commit to writing every day until I get back. This is the longest continuous writing challenge I’ve ever done. My previous writing record is about 30 days. Don’t expect Shakespeare here – expect more a melange of Shakespeare (I’ll probably make up words), Faulkner (I tend towards the run-ons), P.D. Eastman (short, easy sentences), and the worst copy editing you ever seen, and none of any of these more than two or three words in a row. Plus, I use a lot of parentheses, so it may look like fingernail clippings if you squint a bit.

It’s a curious thing, leaving home for so long. It’s almost like vacation in reverse. The other day, I found myself filling my travel pill organizer to use at home, and packing my medicine bottles. Normally, you’d think about putting your gardens to bed at the end of vacation, but I put mine to bed for the summer – I’m trying yellow wax beans as a cover crop.

I’m looking forward to the adventure, but also a bit nervous. Here’s a list of things on my mind:

Things I’m looking forward to Things I’m nervous about
Getting to know my students, TAs, and others in the program and forming relationships with them Getting to know my students, TAs, and others in the program and forming relationships with them
Teaching programming for the first time Teaching programming for the first time
Living in a big city (any city, really) Living in a big city (any city, really)
The freedom of so much time outside of the program to do what I want The freedom of so much time outside of the program to do what I want

I think you can see where this is going.

I’ve peeked at the calendar and seen that there are several neat events ahead: field trips, speakers, program events, all in addition to the coding the students will be doing. There is at least one speaker who I’ve googled (is that a lower case verb now?) and am very excited to hear speak. Cool stuff. A lot of it is intended to be surprises for the students, so I’ll tell you what’s what when I can.

I plan to explore this city during my down time, so sometimes I’ll write about what I find. Of all the people I’ve spoken with, no one has said ANYTHING negative about this city, so I am looking forward to it.

Later the same day: I made it so the Windy City (it was just breezy today) and am settling in.

Why Day Zero?

In the SIP program, tomorrow starts week zero – a week of preparation for the teaching teams. The students start on week 1. Since work starts for me tomorrow, that will be Day 1. Hence, today is Day Zero.

Cast of characters in Chicago

I’ll keep updating this as the summer goes on

Me – well, of course there’s me. Most of you know me, but for those who don’t, here’s the synopsis: I’ve been a husband for almost twenty-five years and counting, I am a father to two adult daughters, I have been a high school chemistry teacher for nine years, I have been a professional coder for thirty five years, though not always full time. I am a closeted, guerrilla English teacher – I have to keep my head low, because I am not certified. Don’t tell anyone.

Camilla – my laptop. She is certainly going to be put through her paces this summer. She is a dual boot Lenovo T400, and her tab key is nonfunctional and her 1 key is flaky.

Charles – my Airbnb host.

Shanzeh – a college aged TA in my Girls Who Code classroom. She just finished her sophomore year at a prestigious traditional woman’s college as a computer science major.

Courtney – a rising high school senior who will be my alumni TA. She was a student in GWC last year, and will be the only who knows what’s going on. Her art form is dance.