Thank You….

So… standing at the bus stop, waiting and waiting and waiting. Phantom buses keep passing me by. People queuing up and ignoring that i’m in line by just changing the direction of the line. I give up after 30 minutes, walk down to another bus stop with a much shorter line – maybe 6 people total.

After 20 minutes and our bus rolling by with a “No Service” sign on, a guy asks me if I’m interested in splitting a Lyft up to St. Johns. One bad part about the modern economy (and not having a Lyft account) – “No cash…,” I say. He gets two others to go along. As the Lyft driver shows up, he turns to me and tells me that I can ride along if I pay the Karma forward some day. Dealio!

Say what you want about Lyft or Uber, but the sharing economy haters seem to miss these little things – like four strangers splitting a ride home having a decent conversation about anything and everything. A somewhat apropos throwback:


Epicodus – Intro to Programming – Week 2 & 3 Recap

I’m bundling weeks two and three together in this recap due to the course structure – both weeks focus on Javascript and jQuery. The structure felt a bit odd in week 2 initially because the content focused on just enough javascript to get into jQuery. Having done a little bit of javascript in the past, it felt odd running headlong into jQuery because you can accomplish quite a bit with vanilla jQuery.  But by the end of the week, you had the basics of form handling down and manipulating the DOM with jQuery enough to make something a bit interesting.

Week 3 brought in looping and arrays along with more Javascript and jQuery. It was just enough that there were tantalizing subjects I desperately wanted but not covered by the content. Again – difficulties with pairing abounded – especially when wanting to implement some of these uncovered topics (objects) and paired with someone fairly new to javascript. But most of these difficulties were solely those of my own creation. So there’s an area where I need to continue to work on.

The final project for week 3 was a fairly simple algorithm (that used to be popular among recruiters for filtering out a lot of applicants :hint:hint:).

One thing of note is that between weeks two and three, student/teacher interaction has increased as feedback sessions were introduced for our projects. The feedback for my projects has been decent with some great pointers provided by my teacher.

Altogether, it is hard to believe we’re moving into week 4 already. Time is flying by!

Epicodus – Intro to Programming – Week 1 Recap

The first week covers HTML, CSS and Bootstrap. If you have a modicum of experience with any or all of those topics, the first week can feel painfully slow at first. You may not feel like you are learning a lot and to top it off, you’re paired with someone who may know far less about the subject matter. If this is you – take the first week as an exercise in teamwork and getting the workflow down. If you do follow the course materials, you will find things you don’t know and many things you may have needed a refresher on.

One thing of note that I was caught a bit off-guard by was how hands-off the teachers are. In the entire week, I spoke to our teachers for less than 10 minutes – and on topics related to either hardware/software or getting an access card to the building. You, your pair, and your peers are who you will be learning the most from. It is hands-on, from the start of the day to the finish.

It is best to think of your teachers as a guide – a last resort to get to a destination if you have already exhausted all other options. Otherwise, the path is laid out before you – you just need to keep moving.


First – find a pair. Doesn’t matter who it is. If you’re early to the first class, grab the first student in the door for the Intro class and ask them to be your pair.  Do this every day of the week. No judgments – just ask, “Hey, would you like to pair up.”

Initially, no one knows each other and everyone is in the exact same position. They don’t know you or your prior experience, the quality of your work, etc.

The course content has several questions pairs can ask each other. I leaned towards asking experience questions so that I knew what my pair knows and what their comfort level was. For me, CSS makes me want to vomit when it comes to layout and I think I was pretty clear with my partner that the box model scared me a bit (skittish from pre-framework experience circa 2007ish).

Find your fit with different pairs and take the time during your code reviews to really check out other pairs’ work for ideas you might use later down the road. Also – other students will pick up things you miss or don’t quite understand (like some of the Bootstrap features) and you have a chance to see how they arrived at a solution.

Hell – you may find yourself having to question your own actions. Mine came on the second day where I was a bit embarrassed to present our daily project to others as it didn’t come out how I had idealized it – or it wasn’t the quality that I wanted to deliver. I wanted to drop something that looked like we’d been professionally designing websites for years. But the lesson wasn’t on design – it was on learning the fundamentals of CSS.  Thanks Terri for pointing that out. I wanted to run before I could walk. I overestimated my own abilities.



Your intro to HTML is straightforward and to the point. To some degree, I found this basic and you don’t really cover all of the tags that can be used.  However, you learn exactly what you need to know to accomplish your subsequent goals with CSS and Bootstrap.


You learn the fundamentals of CSS including the box model, using classes and identities, etc. Pretty straight-forward, bare-bones stuff.


Hopefully after you come out of CSS, you will see how Bootstrap makes your life a little bit easier by providing many creature comforts as well as making layouts a breeze.  Plus, with the built-in styling, your sites start to resemble something cira 2012+ instead of a turn of the century site.


The only person you are competing against is yourself. Sure, you will be comparing your stuff with other students, but really take the time to soak up everything you see other pairs doing as a learning experience. Even if your site isn’t the idealized representation of what you wanted,  you will find that you probably did something that other students didn’t or couldn’t figure out how to do.  At the same time, look for aspects of other people’s projects for areas where you want to improve your own project. Look at their code and soak it up.

Personal Project

Your personal project is a summation of all of the content you’ve learned over the past week. The project requirements were posted at 5:00PM on Thursday. We were given permission to start any time after that and it had to be turned in by 5:00PM the following day. The other requirement is that we had to sign-in on time and we could not leave early.

If you are given a jump start – use it! I was able to knock out a primitive layout of how I envisioned my project Thursday evening. The following day I finished putting in the content and then had a lot of time to tweak the layout to get the overall product structured just as I wanted it to appear. I could have been done by noon. I was able to keep myself busy just by experimenting with the layout, the content and bootstrap features .

While you are not allowed to work with other people or get help on your project – at the tail end of the day, some of us did check out each others work just to see how others approached the project. It was an eye-opener. The guy next to me had a beautiful layout that looked 100% better than mine – and it was far more practical. After a bit of reflection, I found some significant shortcomings in my layout decision that I didn’t think about.

Relocating to Portland – An Epicodus Student’s Perspective

Warning: Some of this may not be relevant to people who live in large, urban areas as it deals with my experience coming from a smaller metropolitan area in the midwest.


If you are considering relocating to Portland to attend Epicodus, you need to do a lot of footwork before showing up. I was coming from Omaha which has a relatively low cost of living. The low cost in Omaha is equivalent to Portland 3-5 years ago where you could still fetch a 1 bedroom apartment at a reasonable price in a decent neighborhood. However Portland is booming and so are the rents. Rents have been increasing significantly over the past couple of years so budget on the idea that if you lease month-to-month or even 6 months and plan on staying in Portland – there’s a good chance your rent will increase when your lease comes up for renewal.

Start your housing search early – as soon as you accept, you should be looking for a place to rest your head. If you need a cheaper option and don’t mind having roommates, head to the Epicodus forums when you are accepted and put up a post if one does not already exist for your class. Also – check some of the older housing posts as current students and alumni may also be looking for roommates as well. And there’s always craigslist.

It may take a little bit of extra effort to connect to someone when you are not there yet – but keep at it. My efforts were a mixed bag. Half of the people I contacted did not reply – however I did find my roommate/landlord via Craigslist in the area I wanted and at a reasonable price. It will take some perseverance. I was lucky in the sense that I already have family here that graciously allowed me to take up residence in their extra space while continuing to search for a place.

Parking & Transport

If you plan on living somewhere popular, like the ‘inner’ areas of NW, NE, SE, and have a vehicle, make parking a consideration. Epicodus is not joking that driving downtown daily is unfeasible for most students given the cost of parking: $15+ per day if you are lucky enough to find a spot. Monthly downtown parking can be had but you may need to get on a wait-list first. Even at that – check out some of the reviews on Yelp first to see how highly regarded many of the pay lots are (they aren’t).

You must also consider the area you want to live in and how much parking is available. There have been a lot of new urban apartments popping up but one complaint I’ve heard from locals is that these do not always pop up with sufficient parking for their own tenants.  For example – I toured a 4-plex of 2-3 bedroom townhomes wedged into a neighborhood (build on a single residential lot) that only had street parking. Shoebox-sized rooms aside – where there may have previously been one household with vehicles on that lot previously, there were now 3 additional households to contend with. At ~6:00PM there were approximately 3 spaces on the street to park.


Traffic is awesome – until it isn’t… From my current location in Beaverton, I can reach downtown in 15-20 minutes if there isn’t much going on (I’m near the Sunset Max station). If there is an event, or even rush hour, Portland roadways start to look like giant parking lots. If you do decide to bring a vehicle – consider using public transportation regardless. It is reasonably fast and you don’t have to deal with the frustration of driving.

While I have no experience, sentiments from other Epicodus students says Vancouver is a no-go do to the lack of adequate capacity to get across the river during rush hours (plus the parking thing…)

Public Transport

And while on the topic of transportation – however you feel about public transport, it is far easier to got with it than to fight it. If you live far enough out, there are many Park-and-Ride stations around the city where you can park (for free) and hop on the light rail. The cost isn’t too bad $2.50 for an adult fare for 2.5 hours or $5.00 for the whole day. Monthly passes are $100 and they also have annual passes for $1,100 (save $100 off of the monthly). Just remember that you will need to arrive at the station early enough to snag a spot.


For those who have forsaken motorized transport, Portland is bike friendly…. very, very bike friendly. There are bike lanes everywhere. And depending on the time of day, bike traffic can be a bit comical if you’re not used to it. My first week here, I saw a lot of people on bikes but nothing out of the ordinary for some place like Chicago or New York. Then, while apartment shopping, I ran up to the NE after classes at Epicodus were done and laughed at the obscene volume of cyclists everywhere. At first I thought there may have been a large group ride going on, or some kind of cycling event… no, just downtown workers riding home. The local grocery store, New Seasons, had bike racks packed with people picking up food after getting off of work. That’s when I realized how serious Portlanders are about cycling.

Initial Impressions – Culture/People

If you are landing from a red state: you will have entered the Twilight Zone.

If you are from a blue state: the people here are liberal, but oddly conservative about some things – like immigrants. Not race-based immigration – like interstate immigrants. If Donald Trump were running for governor and talking about building a wall on the southern border with California, he’d probably get elected. Not from California? No problem. I’m exaggerating a slight bit.

If you think you are weird or or have some out-there quirks – someone has already topped your proclivities and is light-years ahead of you. You’ll fit right in but may need to work hard to out-weird the current populace.

If you’re from the South… they ain’t got no Luzianne tea here (that I’ve found). You best git yerself on Amazon or in touch with the folks back home and have a care package sent.

If you’re from the Midwest (Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, etc.)… There are no Runzas and I haven’t found a bierock food truck yet. But I’m hopeful… or maybe going into a different business eventually.


Epicodus – An Ongoing Review

After 5 years with a company supporting file transmissions, I came to the realization that I needed a change… and a place to live. Given the option of staying in Omaha or looking elsewhere, I happened to be researching code schools (or bootcamps) as a means to get back to the part of the IT industry I have been missing since my prior work at a dot com. I stumbled upon Epicodus and it seemed as if destiny was calling:

epicodus logo

  • Epicodus has a Portland (OR) campus – a city that I really liked from prior travels, in a state that I loved visiting and have wanted to move to for quite a while
  • Low-cost – the upfront cost, if paid in advance, is under $5k (as of 5/28/2016)
  • A legitimate internship as the capstone
  • No job placement guarantee

If you are wondering why I placed “No job placement guarantee” as a positive, consider this: many bootcamps have been extolling a guarantee that you will land a job after attending their courses. In many cases, this can be an honest offer. But as I’ve come to learn: there are no guarantees in life. That and the classic Tommy Boy exchange:

Tommy: Here’s the way I see it, Ted. Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box ’cause he wants you to feel all warm and toasty inside.
Ted Nelson: Yeah, makes a man feel good.
Tommy: ‘Course it does. Why shouldn’t it? Ya figure you put that little box under your pillow at night, the Guarantee Fairy might come by and leave a quarter, am I right, Ted?
Ted Nelson: What’s your point?
Tommy: The point is, how do you know the fairy isn’t a crazy glue sniffer? “Buildin’ model airplanes!” says the little fairy, well, we’re not buying it. He sneaks into your house once, that’s all it takes. The next thing you know, there’s money missing off your dresser and your daughter’s knocked up, I’ve seen it a hundred times.
Ted Nelson: But why do they put a guarantee on the box?
Tommy: Because they know all they sold ya was a guaranteed piece of shit. That’s all it is, isn’t it? Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I’ve got spare time. But for now, for your customer’s sake, for your daughter’s sake, ya might wanna think about buying a quality product from me.

The problem with job guarantees is that the qualifications associated with a guarantee are often left unspoken when selling students on plunking down good money for an education. On top of that, the expectations on each party’s behalf are often different. What constitutes a job legitimate job offer? What if you receive an offer but the job isn’t necessarily the best fit? Epicodus was very up-front about job prospects – they provide an education, let you put it to use in the real-world via internship and offer a helping hand in finding a job afterwards.

I submitted my app and was contacted quickly by Debbie and we set up an interview. The interview was brief and casual covering:

  • What experience I had with web technology?
  • How do I feel about pair coding?
  • How do I deal with conflict in a situation where I am working with a pair?
  • Any questions about the handbook?
  • Any questions I had about Epicodus, the curriculum or policies?

It was a brief, 30+ minute conversation to which I was offered an informal acceptance. This gave me a few days to consider taking the plunge. A few days later I received a formal offer. From the point of receipt of the formal offer – you are time limited in how long you have to make a final decision. I would suggest using that time just to do a quick double-take to make sure you feel confident in accpeting, ensuring you have a rough budget lined up and otherwise mull it over with friends or family to get some feedback.

I reviewed the information in the offer email and payment instructions and accepted! Payment can be made by ACH (bank) transfer or by Credit Card. However, be warned that there is a surcharge for credit card payments of 2.9% + $.30.  You have to make an initial payment withing a limited time after acceptance to guarantee your spot.

Overall, the process was simple – straightforward and there was nothing that jumped out at me in terms of red flags. If you’ve read through the Epicodus site, everything you really need to know is right there.

Stay tuned as I’ll be posting more as time goes on to give you some additional insights into my experiences – both from a review perspective and as a student (re)learning web development.

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