Recurse Center: The Laundry List

If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to at the Recurse Center, here’s a list of my weekly updates! I wrote each update immediately after the week ended, so my progress was fresh on my mind. Lightly edited from the version posted on the Recurse Center messaging interface.


  • Pair-programmed with 20 people
  • Wrote 20 modules and 12 additional test modules
  • Contributed to 8 repositories
  • Visited 8 churches, 10 parks/memorials, and 5 museums
  • Wrote 7 blog posts
  • Watched 17 PyCon talks
  • Gave 3 “lightning presentations” (5 min)
  • Posted 127 tweets
  • Finished reading 5 books
  • Started reading another 5 books
  • Made 3 batches of ice cream


Week 1 (Aug 14-20)

  • Built a (super duper) toy recommender system. It doesn’t work yet. But it’s getting there πŸ˜€
  • Made my first HTTP request and started to read about data APIs
  • Looked into the data API for Charity Navigator, which (I think?) will be a good data set for my project
  • Watched some Dave Beazley and Raymond Hettinger Python talks
  • Set up a statistics/ML study group with Karen Ellenberger and Jayant Jain
  • Talked about testing with Nathan Weeks Shane and Kate Ray
  • Paired on a computer vision project with Wesley Aptekar-Cassels
  • Ate delicious salad with Kate Murphy and Kate Ray
  • Threw off my sleep schedule by staying up way too late reading a book
  • Found a church I really like (yay!)
  • Planned out a few projects/goals (in no particular order)
    • Building the charity recommender system
    • Completing the Mode Analytics SQL tutorials
    • Learning about Python generators
    • Reviewing basic statistics and ML concepts
    • Building Verbal Infusions, a TwitterBot that generates herbal tea copy
    • Reading/contributing to Python’s scikit-learn and scikit-image libraries
    • Pair with at least one person every day


Week 2 (Aug 21-27)

  • Watched James Powell’s PyData talk about generators. SO GOOD. It made me think about how to structure code for reproducibility.
  • Got my API code up and running, and now I can make HTTP requests to the Charity Navigator database.
  • Refactored my API code so that it uses generators to handle pagination in the CN data API.
  • Reminded my very rusty brain how classes work in Python.
  • Refactored my recommender system code so that it’s better-structured for reproducibility.
  • Started studying up on divide-and-conquer algorithms (yay mergesort)
  • Started studying intermediate/advanced Python concepts with Brennan Holt Chesley, Dan Luu, and Michael Noronha
  • Paired on a Pandas project with Kate Ray
  • Talked with Jake Hickey about image processing
  • Attended the ACT-W conference in Boston and got way too excited about writing a stock market predictor πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€


Week 3 (Aug 28-Sep 3)

  • Watched a bunch of talks
    • Andrew Knight’s talk on testing in Python was a super-helpful overview of testing frameworks in Python and how people think about testing
    • Dan Crosta’s talk on testing helped me make sense of some of the contradictory advice about testing I’ve encountered
    • Colton Myers’s talk on decorators was helpful in starting to learn…what decorators are
  • Built some (very tiny) test suites for my recommender system in unittest, doctest, pytest, and hypothesis
  • Continued the intermediate/advanced Python study group, learned about Python’s package structure
  • Paired on a Pandas problem with Parker Higgins
  • Continued stats study with Jayant Jain
  • Paired with Jake Hickey on diffusion algorithms in image analysis and learned SO MUCH about vim, C++, and system memory
  • Went to the generative testing talk given by Brennan Holt Chesley
  • Did a bunch of algorithms study and tried to figure out how quicksort works


Week 4 (Sep 4-10)

  • Figured out how quicksort works! And learned about a related randomized selection algorithm.
  • Blogged about my testing experience, with many cat pictures.
  • Continued the intermediate/advanced Python study group, learned about profilers and a little about parsing/context-free grammars
  • Continued stats study with Jayant Jain, paired on building probability distribution simulators
  • Paired with Jake Hickey on diffusion algorithms in image analysis, talked about floating-point arithmetic
  • Bought an emotional support plant :palm_tree: πŸ˜€


Week 5 (Sep 11-17)

  • Read up on a lot about statistics (regression, classification) and floating-point arithmetic.
  • Spent a bunch of time looking over the recommender system, and blogged about it (yay cat pictures!)
  • Built some more probability distributions with Jayant Jain
    • We modeled a bunch of major discrete probability distributions
    • We discussed how continuous distributions are built in scipy.stats and came up with real-world continuous distribution examples
  • Presented about generators at the Thursday evening activities
  • Did practice interviewing with Kenneth Alexander Durril and Abraham Hmiel
  • Weekend shenanigans! Commentated Movie Night, walking in Prospect Park with Allie Crevier, made ice cream with Brennan Holt Chesley and then ate it at Sundae, Sundae, Sunday!


Week 6 (Sep 18-24)

  • I made a WHOLE BUNCH OF PROGRESS on the herbal tea parody Twitter Bot!
    • Built a recursive breadth-first web crawler/scraper to obtain a bunch of herbal tea descriptions. (Parker Higgins helped a bunch.)
    • Cleaned the HTML data with Beautiful Soup and Kenneth Alexander Durril, creating a text corpus for the Twitter Bot.
    • Refactored my code a bunch so now it’s pretty and readable.
    • Tried out a profiler and found out that my web scraper really needs some concurrency because wow network requests take a lot of time.
  • Speaking of refactoring, I watched two great PyCon videos about refactoring!
  • Wrote a blog post about HTTP requests.
  • Learned about some basics of linked lists during interview practice with Christian Ternus and Brennan Holt Chesley (among others)
  • Had a meeting with Nancy Thomas about my jobs profile and setting up job interviews.
  • Visited Coney Island with Kimberly Michelle McCarty and Justyna (JJ) Janczyszyn
  • Visited the Cloisters with Natalia Rodriguez and ate some DELICIOUS Venezuelan sandwiches!


Week 7 (Sep 25-Oct 1)

  • Finished the herbal tea parody Twitter Bot, at least enough that I’m ready to put it down and prioritize other projects.
    • Read through the tweepy source code and wrote the Twitter Bot infrastructure.
    • Wrote the code to make the Markov-generated tweets, and then refactored and improved everything.
    • Set up a cron job so the Twitter Bot posts new herbal tea description parodies daily.
  • Learned that debuggers are the greatest – I wrote a blog post about that and gave a presentation.
  • Paired with Jake Hickey to implement Cascading Fast Explicit Diffusion
    • And learned a ton about writing for the GPU in the process!
    • Also I wrote more or less my first C++ code and I think I’m in love. SO MANY DETAILS. SO PRECISE.
  • Spent a day practicing Git basics with, I highly recommend.
  • Visited a friend in Philly and saw lots of historical things. Fun fact: did you know that one dude once held 95% of the US government’s loans to wage the War of 1812?


Week 8 (Oct 2-8)

  • Fixed my algorithms code, which was immensely satisfying.
  • Paired with Omar Bohsali to read an articles about asyncio, and play around with concurrency ideas a bit.
  • Read a bunch about tail call optimization, probability, coroutines, and asyncio.
  • Refactored my web scraping/crawling code to make it more generalizable, and then started making it asynchronous.
  • Did more thorough study of graphs, including BFS and DFS.
  • Wrote most of a blog post about generators.
  • Worked with Abraham Hmiel to read through referee comments on an astrophysics paper I’m trying to publish.
  • Had a much-needed visit to MA, during which I got to hang out with family and go apple-picking and watch the cranberry harvest (yay) and re-injured my wrist (boo).


Week 9 (Oct 9-15)

  • Watched some helpful PyCon videos:
    • Dave Beazley on Python concurrency
    • Dave Beazley on understanding the Python GIL
    • Miguel Grinbert on async Python (SO HELPFUL)
    • Yury Selivanov on async/await and asyncio
  • Wrote my asynchronous web scraper, and it appears to work! Paired with Kimberly Michelle McCarty, Laura White-Avian, and Anja Boskovic in the process πŸ™‚
  • Practiced my vim skillz with Anja Boskovic
  • Worked some practice interview questions.
  • Practiced BFS and DFS
  • Went to the resume-writing/code review workshops with Emil Sit and got some very helpful advice on both.
  • Talked to folks at the job fair.


Week 10 (Oct 16-22)

  • Refactored and tested the asynchronous web scraper – it works now! Glory be!
  • Learned about a bunch of features of pytest (fixtures, mocks/patching, pytest.raises, parametrization, why you want to use CI). Turns out I really like testing, a lot.
  • Finished some practice interview questions, which gave me a much better sense of what data science interviews are like and which Pandas commands to have at my fingertips.
  • Updated my resume and jobs profile, and talked to lots of people at the RC jobs fair.
  • Compiled a list of places I might want to apply for jobs, and did a practice interview (during which I learned what a trie is! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ )
  • Had a really nice weekend showing my mom around New York City and playing games with Brian Glusman et al.
  • Agreed to an ill-advised incentive scheme for applying to jobs.


Week 11 (Oct 23-29)

  • Started scraping data for the charity recommender project, now I have an ugly mess of HTML to go through. (Yay! πŸ˜€ )
  • Paired with Julian Squires on fixie tries.
  • Finished my blog post about generators and a blog post about how I respond when I don’t want to code.
  • Worked more on practice-interviewing and algorithms (BFS/DFS and Dijkstra’s algorithm).
  • Paired with Jake Hickey on…mostly just installing stuff for the CFED project. And ate yummy food and talked about block chains (Kimberly Michelle McCarty) and Karatsuba multiplication (Kadeem Nibbs).
  • Finished the paper comment review I started with Abraham Hmiel.
  • Followed up with folks I met at the job fair, as well as a few connections in San Francisco.
  • Cleaned up my resume/LinkedIn/GitHub/Recurse Center jobs profile, so I’m all ready for job applications.


Week 12 (Oct 30-Nov 5)

  • Did some significant HTML parsing for the Charity Navigator project with Elly Kuhlman.
  • Paired on building tries withΒ Julian Squires andΒ Kadeem Nibbs.
  • Started to write a blog post listing everything I’ve accomplished at RC.
  • Paired with Jake Hickey on image compression.
  • Made and ate ice cream (White Russian flavored! Alcoholic and yummy!)
  • Nevergraduated!

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