Book Review of “HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites” by Jon Duckett

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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I hope that you are all well! Since I stared to learn how to code, in many blogs, community boards and interviews with coders, this week’s book has been mentioned as one of the best books to learn HTML and CSS for newbies and seasoned professionals alike. In this week’s review, I decided to dive in and see for myself what all the fuss was about…

The Review

First things first, when you get a hold of the book, it’s absolutely beautiful – the cover has a smooth vinyl sheen to it and although the book is not cheap, the book’s actual build is solid and makes you feel that it’s worth every penny.

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If you open the book just to flick through, one thing that will strike you is the layout and the presentation of the content in the book – it looks more like a magazine and wouldn’t be out place on your coffee table! With a combination of snazzy graphics, colourful diagrams and great typography, Duckett manages to bring HTML and CSS to life. Visually this is one of the best educational books that I have ever read, hands down and is a joy to read.

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A Tale of Two Languages

Content wise, Duckett has split the book into 2 sections: The first section covers Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) and Duckett skillfully and confidently explains how HTML forms the structure or ‘skeleton’ of our websites.

In the second section of the book, Duckeyy then explains about Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and how it forms the presentation layer of our websites. What I love about Duckett’s book is that the sections are colour coded (HTML = blue, CSS = pink) and this is incredibly helpful especially as the examples and they contain both markup languages, which makes it dead easy to see how both languages interact with each other.

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Also another neat feature is that Duckett supplies readers with a website that acts as a companion to the book which has expanded examples and more detailed explanations.

But despite all the good stuff that the book does, I feel that this book acts more like a reference book rather than book that I can pick up and learn to code from. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, practice and repetition are vital to learning to program and although it explains all the terms and concepts beautifully, I feel that the book could have done more to provide exercises that help you put your new knowledge into practice.

The Verdict

The book (at the time of writing) retails at roughly £25 – which can seem like a lot for a book but it’s worth every penny. The build quality, design and layout are worth the price of the book alone but were the book really shines is at breaking down complex ideas in a way that newbies like myself would understand easily.

I feel that where the book can really help you is as a reference book that you can look to in times where you may feel stuck or where you can quickly find additional info about a new concept that you are learning. I wouldn’t personally use it as my only source to learn programing – there’s loads of great online courses that can help with that.

Overall, this is an absolute must have in your coding library and a beautiful reference to help fill gaps in your knowledge. Go buy it!

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Score – 9 out of 10

Thank you for reading guys! As always feel free to comment and tweet me @karlwebdev. See you next Thursday!

 

 

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It’s Good To Dream…

Reading time: 4 minutes

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When I was just 8 years old in Primary School, I remember feeling like the world was such a wonderful place. Everything seemed so fresh and so new and every person was so warm & friendly.

I grew up in the outskirts of East London. The late 80’s saw a massive wave of immigration in the area with people from all around the world. I was friends with kids from all around the globe: From Nigeria to France – but we were innocent, never judging someone on the race or skin colour but their football skills and who had the coolest sneakers.

One day while I was playing football in the playground with my white friend Paul, Danny the school bully, who was also white, decided to ‘join in’. Danny pushed Paul to the ground, cutting open his shin. Seeing my friend hurt, I charged at Danny and with fists balled up, screamed at Danny, “C’mon then if you think you’re hard!”. The next words that came out of his mouth have been tattooed on my mind ever since.

“Shut up you nigger! Paul shouldn’t be playing with you anyway.”

Whoa. Seeing red, I charged into Danny & although I tried my best, he absolutely destroyed me. Paul although injured himself, managed to get help me up & take me to the Welfare Room, thanking me for sticking up for him. But 2 things forever stuck into my mind that day:

1) That was first time someone called me ‘nigger’

2) That was first time that I felt different to other people and for things I had no power over…

If my world was a balloon, it was someone let the air out and for next 25 years, I’ve been desperately trying to fill it up again.

‘The American Dream’

Back in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States, I like many people around the world thought that we were living a new era – Martin Luther King’s Dream had finally been achieved – where ‘a man would not be judged by the colour of his skin but the content of his character’. Some commentators said that we live in a ‘Post-Racial Society’ saying that because Obama became President, there would be no barriers for People of Colour & other minorities and discrimination had finally been pushed out of our civilization – and we all believed it too. 

But with the Brexit decision and the coverage of the 2016 US Elections, I saw that racism, discrimination and hate did not ‘die’ but crept off silently into the shadows, hiding and waiting in the fringes. Like a good horror flick, just when we thought it was safe, the monster was came back, grabbing & taking us into the darkness.

Tired

I’m not going to write about the reasons why I think that racism & discrimination are still with us and offer up solutions: Many great women/men, a million times smarter than me have been doing this for centuries & have been crusading for change. I’m just an ordinary joe. I don’t want to point fingers at white people, black people, Arab people or any other race because frankly from what I have seen in human history, one thing that our species are experts in, is finding new & inventive ways to suppress & kill each other – over something as dumb as the type of pigment in our skin.

So why am I writing this at all?

Because I’m tired. 

All I can talk about is what I have seen in my world and on my journey.

I’m tired of working of walking into the workplace and being the only Person of Colour, feeling like I have to the expert & ambassador of my entire race.

I’m tired of seeing politicians and other leaders openly discriminate and bully other groups to get votes or increase their poll ratings.

I’m tired of arguing about slavery/colonialism and who’s fault it is.

I’m tired of seeing people who look like me get brutalised/murdered just because.

I’m tired of people who blame society and the system for everything that has gone wrong in their lives, but refuse to do anything to change it or at least change themselves.

I’m tired of feeling that if I talk a certain way to one race, I’m not ‘good enough’ and if I talk a certain way to another race I’m not ‘smart enough’.

I’m tired of when walking behind someone in the street, when they person sees me, they walk faster or clutch their bag tighter.

I’m tired of people telling me not to trust a ______ person because of ‘the way they are’.

I’m tired of being told my ‘face don’t fit.’

I’m tired of people forcing me to justify the harmful acts of a misguided person that may look like me and blame the ‘system’ when it was their own stupid actions that got them there.

I’m tired of people who take religions which are built on love & respect and use them to spread hatred and oppression – really?

I’m tired of struggling with my own internal prejudices & the daily battle to choose love & understanding.

I’m tired of being tired.

As a teacher, I feel like I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to teach kids before society/culture/life starts putting these poisonous ideas in their head. The fact that 90% of these kids can look past their differences & work/play together never ceases to amaze me. But my heart also breaks for them – outside the soft bubble of school, the ‘real world’ has a habit smashing the hopes of the most idealistic of us.

I Still Have A Dream

Dr King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech is commonly voted as one of the greatest speeches of all time. It’s so beautiful, inspiring and heavenly and full of hope… But sometimes I do wonder, in the darkest and most lonely times of Dr King’s life, did he still believe that his dream could become a reality?

Talking to people & looking at things at home and abroad, all I know is:

Many people are angry.

Many people are hurting.

Many people are afraid.

Many people around the world feel like how we all feel when we have a beautiful dream in the night only to wake up – desperately trying to get back to sleep to run back to our dreamland but knowing that we will never enjoy it again.

But… because a dream is not real doesn’t mean that they are any less beautiful. Down the ages, it has been those who dreamed of a better world that have led to greatest changes to human kind.  

As the world seems to be pulling apart rather than coming together, it’s the beauty of that dream, no matter how far away it seems that gives me hope. Hope that we may never kill the monster, we can imprison it & go forward together.

It’s good to dream. It keeps the hope alive. I will keep dreaming… And I hope that you can too.

Thank you for reading guys! These are the  most raw & honest thoughts on everything that has happened over the last couple of weeks! Please let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.

As always thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev 

The Simple Exercise That Busted My Stress & Boosted My Happiness

Reading time: 5 minutes

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D’oh!

Have you guys ever had a Homer Simpson ‘Doh!’ moment? Where you were looking at the answer to a particular question and you were racking your brain to figure it out? Only for a friend/colleague to come along and in literally 5 seconds, points out the solution that has been staring you in the face all along? All you can do is slap your head in disgust & laugh it off-feeling silly for not being able to figure it out…

As I mentioned in my previous blog post as I have been learning to code, I’ve hit what Seth Godin called ‘The Dip’, the slump between being a beginner and becoming a master when learning a new skill and I had to develop a number of new strategies to help me power through.

As well as being in my current profession as a teacher, learning to code and (trying to) have a personal life, everything has been… overwhelming. I’ve been feeling a little stressed as a result. Realising that stress and anxiety are not only a danger to effective learning but can harm my mental health, I started googling looking for solutions. There had to be a better way…

The ‘Don’t’ List

Eventually I came across the videos and books of craniosacral therapist and author Julian Cowan Hill who in his writings spoke about the ‘better/worse list’. In the following weeks, I found that Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey used a similar method he called the ‘Daily Note’. For simplicity, I call it the ‘Don’t List’.

It’s incredibly simple. All you do is grab a blank sheet of paper (or use the an ‘note’ feature in your smartphone) and create 2 columns: DO & DON’T. Now over the course of a week when you are at home or work, study the things that you do over the course of the day and add it to the list.

The items that you would add to the DO column would be things like:

  • Whenever you do things that you find enjoyable 
  • Things that put you in a ‘flow’ state (aka ‘the zone’ – doing a task where you are so engrossed in the task that everything around you fades away and you lose track of time)
  • When you do things that make you feel energised
  • When you speak to people that make you feel good
  • Anything that puts you in a positive state of mind.

The items that you would add to the DON’T column would be things like:

  • Things that stress you out or make you anxious
  • Things that are repetitive and boring
  • Things that are mentally or physical draining
  • Whenever you talk to people that make you feel negative etc.

Here’s a sample of my list (names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Do (Positive)

  • Computer Games
  • Tai Chi
  • Writing my blog
  • Taking a walk & listening to music
  • Talking to good friends
  • Thinking about business ideas
  • Teaching
  • Planning lessons
  • Coding
  • Organising debates for the class
  • Being present in the moment
  • Working with Sam/Michelle/Jamie

Don’t (negative)

  • Hearing gossip/office politics
  • Lacking sleep
  • Over doing things
  • Hearing bad news
  • Having a cold
  • Dealing with Sarah
  • Marking
  • Information overload/over-complicated tasks for no reason
  • Pointless meetings
  • Rushing around
  • Coffee
  • Eating a heavy lunch (makes me drowsy)

When I first saw the exercise, I thought “yeah right buddy – that’s not going to help me!” But I didn’t have anything to lose and tried it for a week… then 2 weeks… then 3… and over 2 months later I’m still adding to it! There’s a 4 interesting patterns that came out of this exercise 

1) The DO column showed me where my strengths were

I love teaching and communicating so it didn’t surprise me that teaching and writing this came up as one of the things I enjoyed the most. Writing this blog is something that I love to do & I have loved to write since I was a wee lad.

2) The DO column taught me things that I didn’t know about myself

But there things that did surprise me that kept appearing: planning lessons and discussing ideas for the college are almost the opposite of talking to a group of rowdy kids but I found it fascinating & enjoyed brainstorming with others.

3) The DON’T column showed me that effect of dealing with negative people 

I hate mind games & office one-upsmanship with an absolute passion. At work, there were people who because of gossip and their passive aggressive movements that left me feeling frustrated and drained. Don’t get me wrong, no one is perfect and we all have rough days, but when you are dealing with people that are always negative they tend to put you in a negative headspace.

4) The DON’T column showed me how food and lack of exercise had a major effect on my mood

I used to be a massive coffee head, especially when facing a rough Monday morning. But after the initial ‘high’, the ‘caffeine crash’ would leave me feeling stressed, irritable and anxious. So what did I do to combat this effect? Drink more coffee and the cycle would repeat. Eating a heavy lunch made me sleepy and sluggish which hurt my work performance

 I found that the opposite was true when I practiced Tai Chi and had  Green Tea – doing Tai Chi and going for a walk made me feel more grounded & in control and gave me the a ‘high’ that did not send my energy crashing to the ground.

Although the main reason why I started this list was to ease work stress, I found the results so revelatory that I applied to every area of my life. Here’s 2 things you do once you got a good block of stuff on your list.

Do more in the DO list

One of the things that I realised that made the positive difference to my life was talking to my close friends. But because of my hectic life I let that fall by the wayside and although I was getting more done professionally, I felt empty and generally unhappy.

After noticing this on my DON’T list I made a deliberate effort to put in a call at least once a week and all the positive energy and clarity I got spilled into every area in my life. I used to think that all the different parts of my life were separate & they had no real effect on the others – how wrong I was. Make sure you try to do things that enrich & fulfill you. This will give you the energy to face the speed-bumps of life.

Minimise the things in the DON’T column

I know this list is not perfect. If you have a nightmare boss or an annoying colleague, you can’t exactly just tell them to throw themselves in the ocean. But you have a lot more power than you think. For example, I realised that certain people and situations made me unhappy so I tried to minimise my time with them as I could, stopped the gossiping and complaining & this generally made me feel happier at work. 

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If this is your boss, good luck trying to get away from them…

Another thing that kept on cropping up was a colleague would send me over complicated reports that I didn’t understand & I had to muddle through to get the info that will let me complete my work. From my list, I realised that I could do 2 things:

  • I asked for her to send me a brief summary highlighting the main parts of the report 
  • If she sent them over & when they were vital to complete my daily tasks, I would politely tell her that I couldn’t complete it then and schedule a better time to do it.

This immediately freed up my time & I felt less frustrated – what a relief!

To-Do lists are not complete

When I initially started this list, part of me thought that it wouldn’t work because it was too simple and too obvious to make a real change in my life. But that’s the beauty of it. What I starting to realise that the simpler the method is, the less likely that it can go wrong.

The problem I found with a lot Personal Development books is that most of them talk about doing more: working harder, stronger, faster, longer – but I realised doing more doesn’t mean that you getting the important stuff done. The beauty of this list is that it brings a mindfulness to your life and from there you can make better decisions.

I double/triple/quadruple dare you to try this – what have you got to lose? Try it for a week & I put my life savings on it you will be shocked at what you see!

Let me know how you get on in the comments below or tweet at me @karlwebdev – I would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading & see you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev

Are You a Secret Agent Or A Gardener?

Reading time: 4 minutes

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Alan Titchmarsh would beat up Jason Bourne any day of the week…

My Old Man

My Old Man (my father) liked gardening. After a hard day of crunching numbers as an accountant in the City, he would come home and put on his battered jeans and tatty shirt and potter around the garden. For a hyperactive 9 year old, gardening was… boring. I mean, The Old Man would stroll up and down, turning over the soil, watering the plants and removing the weeds. As a man from The Old Country (Africa), Dad had a special appreciation to the Earth that I, the London city dweller never appreciated. After a couple of months (sometimes years) of work, Dad would proudly put the greens, fruits, tomatoes and onions on the table and with a weary grin say “there is no better taste than food planted by your own hand”. Boring. Boring. Boring.

But as I have grown older, I think that The Old Man was into something…

Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist

During the journey of changing my career, I decided to blog for 3 reasons:

1) It would be an online ‘diary’ to show myself and others how far I have come in learning to code

2) To help other people who want to change their career path especially in Tech

3) To become a multi-millionaire blogger who is best friends with Kanye West, Mark Zuckerberg & Richard Branson*

(*OK, I’m only kidding but if it did happen, I wouldn’t say no!)

Social media has really opened my eyes to a whole new world. It has allowed me to talk to incredible people from all around the world. But I’ve also noticed another interesting pattern…

Sometimes, I will be contacted by an ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ who will bombard with direct messages telling me “How To Be A Billionaire in 10 Minutes” or “How To Be A Property Magnate in 2 Weeks”.

That always give a great chuckle.

If Direct Messages were weapons, Mr ‘Expert’ would be whacking me on the head screaming BUY! BUY! BUY! while I sent my money to his email address propertygurumillionaireexpert@gmail.com. But why do people fall for these scammers time & time again. Because we view success like a Secret Agent…

007: You Only Succeed Once

Hollywood has messed us up. Anything worth having in life is meant to be sexy, fast, fun, exciting & you’re meant to look good while doing it. I feel that our relationship with life change has gone the same way as James Bond on his latest mission: whether it losing weight or changing our careers, we are told to “follow our dreams” and go “all out”. Like a James Bond film, we expect every single moment to be exciting, meaningful and to have a happy ending. We want it and we want it NOW, damnmit!

But it’s not like that. Most of the time it’s… Boring. On this road, many of us won’t be jumping out of planes like Mr Bond but our journey is slow and steady – It’s a process and not an event. 

2 Life Lessons From Gardening

When I first started to learn to code, I was informed by the bright neon coloured advert that I would be I would be “job ready within 6 months”.

Yeah right.

A year and a bit in, I still don’t know what I’m doing. Learning to code for me has been a bit like watching ‘Inception’ – just when I thought that I understood the movie, my mate came along and told me something about that 10 second scene that gave the film a whole new meaning to me. But… I am making progress. I’m in a state of “comfortable confusion” – I still don’t know what I’m doing but I am having fun doing it. In honour of Papa WebDev here’s 2 things I picked up that has helped me in my journey.

1) Be Patient 

In our garden we had an apple tree that produced the most sour apples that you could ever taste. It’s like an apple tree had a secret affair with a lemon tree and our tree was the lovechild. I recently discovered that from being planted to producing fruit, an apple tree takes 6 years to mature. Yet The Old Man was patient and stuck to his schedule. Everyday from 6pm to 7pm, he tended to that tree and the garden, trusting that it will produce crop.

Sometimes I get impatient with coding and I want to throw a hadoken at the computer screen but I remind myself that there is always a lagtime between planting and harvest.

2) Weed and Protect

Patience doesn’t mean being passive. it’s not like you plant things in the ground and you forget all about it. My Old Man, when the shoots started to come up, would regularly, walk around the garden, pulling out weeds, repairing holes in our fence and put special barriers around certain plants. The Old Man explained that when plants are young, they are weak and insects and animals can quickly gobble them up. Weeds can grow next to them and suck up all the nutrients from the soil, starving them before they mature – you have to “protect the garden, or you lose the garden”.

Likewise whenever I have tried to make a positive change in my life, certain ‘weeds’ like bad habits, people and circumstances seem to come up that stops me hitting my goals. It takes daily effort to keep on doing the positive actions that will make my life better and not to be sidetracked.

Not Shaken But Stirred

I’m not patient person. give me the Hollywood version of life any day of the week. But an entire life doesn’t fit well into 3 hours.

I read an article where the current Head of MI6 said if James Bond was a real person, he would never make it as a Secret Agent because he known for taking ‘moral shortcuts’. Even in the real world, the ‘James Bond Way’ wouldn’t work.

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James didn’t take it too well that he was going to be made redundant…

As much as I would like to be Mark Zuckerberg in the 180 minutes it takes for Daniel Craig to complete his mission, I know that deep down my Old Man was bang on the money with his approach. I’m hitting the Dip in learning to code but rather than giving me a shaken Martini, Bond Girl and PP7 pistol, give me the battered jeans and tatty shirt and one day, I too can taste the crop that was planted by my hand.

I think I get it now Pops. Thank you Old Man.

As always thank you for reading! Which one are you: A Secret Agent or a Gardener? Leave your comments below and/or tweet at me @karlwebdev.

See you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev