Today is the 11th official day of my summer at Hacker School.  It. is. awesome.  By day, I get to surround myself with great people and work on whatever project I want.  Seriously, no rules.  It’s been so easy to get in the zone: I start coding and lose track of time, in the best way.  And if I get sick of coding, there are other great things to do, like help other people with their code, go to little student-organized working groups, get a book from the Hacker School library and do some reading, or pair with another person on his or her project.  Or I can take my code to one of the eight gazillion experts here and have them review it - I’ve done this a couple of times and I already feel like I know how to write neater code than I wrote a month ago.  I really love it here - it’s so awesome to go to “work” in the morning and be able to work on whatever whims and fancies occur to me, as long as they are sort of programming-related.  (And honestly, a lot of my whims and fancies are programming-related.  Nerd alert.)

And by night, I get to explore New York City!!!!!!  More on that later.

For these first few weeks, I’ve been having a blast coding up my favorite game, 500, in both R and python, which is a surprisingly great exercise.  It lends itself well to object-oriented stuff, and the logic is totally sensible but complex enough to make the implementation a fun project.  I’ve also been working through the Matasano Crypto Challenges, because cryptography is awesome, and because it’s nice to have little self-contained problems to work on, and because it’s another fun way to improve my python skillz.  Also, they’re based on real-world security problems, so the application is interesting and relevant.  I’m almost through number 6 (of 48…).

I’m storing all of my Hacker School code and notes in my hackerschool github repo.  You can source and play my 500 game, but sadly I can’t post my solutions to the crypto challenges (it’s against their rules).  To make up for it, I’ve been keeping a little journal of sorts about my experiences with them in the file :) 

It’s already day 11 and I don’t have a Big Summer Project With A Deliverable that I’m working on at the moment.  However, I think I would like to study a bit of web development - I’m excited about making software that non-programmers/non-statisticians can use, and that definitely involves making some kind of user interface.  I’ve dipped my pinky toe in these waters with things like shiny (for R) and d3 (for JavaScript, which I don’t know), but I’ve never actually jumped in and made anything with these, and I’d like to figure out how to make things that aren’t necessarily focused on data analysis.  To be clear, I think data analysis is awesome and I want to be some kind of data scientist someday, but there are so many other cool tools to be made.  People casually throw out software ideas all the time:  ”I wish I could block certain websites during my study times”, “I wish there were a better to-do-list app than Google Tasks, I want to categorize my to-do list”,  ”I wish I could automate the process of checking whether my dissertation committee follows the school’s rules”, “I wish there were software that would turn people’s crappy slides into good slides”, “I wish there were a bot that would to search Craigslist for me and email me with promising ads” – people have mentioned all these ideas to me in the past few months.  The thing about being at Hacker School is that you start to believe anything’s possible…all I’d need is a little bit of ______, and I could definitely make that with a [language I already know] backbone.  I’ve been feeling like “all I’d need is some practice doing web development, and I could definitely make some of this software wtih R/python/HTML/CSS.”  So we’ll see what happens!  Stay tuned for Alyssa’s Awesome Web App.  (Now I’m accountable.)

Also, New York.  NEW YORK IS SO COOL.  For reference, I’m living in central Brooklyn and working in lower Manhattan.  I’ve been here for just under 3 weeks, and I haven’t been above 34th Street (!) so I have a LOT left to explore.  But based on these three weeks, here are my New York thoughts.


  • amazing food
  • bagel sandwiches
  • parks everywhere
  • you can totally eat on the subway
  • sublime coffee and espresso
  • I can ride a subway “home” from “work” that goes over the East River (above ground) and watch Manhattan twinkle in the twilight
  • sweet concerts/events/secret science club meetings happen all the time
  • you can get vanilla malted ice cream in a pretzel cone.  no biggie.
  • etc. (to be continued)


  • the Yankees
  • smells vaguely of trash sometimes
  • a guy looked me in the eye and threw his nasty garbage in my shopping bag in the subway station last week.  what is that about?!

And finally, some pictures! 

One time we went to Washington Square Park after work to eat ice cream, and it looked like this:


Another time, my friend Mandy came to visit - it was a beautiful day, and we went to the Hudson River Park!



The tallest shiniest building in that last picture is the new World Trade Center - one of four planned.

Mandy and I also went to the High Line, which we really enjoyed - the High Line is this park that’s built on an old railroad track that runs about a story above the streets of NYC, over neighborhoods like Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.  She insisted on taking this picture of me while we were having dinner there:


And here is a picture of the street I live on.  I don’t live in one of these (I’m a few blocks over, where the brownstones are less brown), but I enjoyed the picturesque-ness of this area.  Plus it was a great opportunity to use instagram’s vintage-y filters.  So artsy ;) 


stay tuned for updates!