How I learned computing Part I

These days it’s not too hot and humid and I’ve even felt like working several days in a week. It’s been a pretty amazing summer.

Today I wanted to tell you about how I got into computing. I’m a technical founder, even though my work is so enmeshed in design as well that the days and nights I spend awake figuring out the mobile-friendly code for minku.com don’t seem like they count. They do, as there would be a difference if I had to outsource the programming work. As someone who doesn’t even sketch designs before she starts sewing, imagine having to tell someone how to design something exactly as it’s in my head. Ok, partly kidding – when I worked in consulting, this was precisely my job, via something called wireframes, which I could generate at high speeds and with great efficacy. However, the architecturing of information and site interactions took a front seat to design in that scenario, whereas on minku.com, with its fewer pages and lesser focus on arranging tons of vital information for a varied set of users, I can really let the design aspect shine. For this type of task, I enjoy getting down and dirty with no maintenance mode and no prior sketches/wireframes. Craziness, you may call it. I call it living on the edge :)

When I was 7, my mum enrolled my sister and me in a computer programming course (sister was 9 or had just turned 10). I was below the minimum age for the class, but I was also at that tag-along stage where I just go with my sister where she goes so mum has some hours to not be driving us somewhere, and can focus on her work, or having a summer (this was Lagos, where December is almost as hot as June, but work with me). Well, so we learned a language called BASIC, Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. I loved counting in tens, which I had to do for each line of code, and I loved for statements and GO TO commands, and drawing flow diagrams, gosh did I love drawing flow diagrams! We had a class test and I remember scoring 7 or 7-and-a-half out of 10 and the teacher praising me to high heavens because everyone had assumed I had just come there to play Pacman and Prince of Persia and Space Invaders while I waited for my sister to learn stuff. Yet there I was, learning.

So that was my first experience with programming, well, besides playing around with some punch cards my dad had lying around the house for whatever reason. Fast forward to when I was 14 or 15, and my dad, who along with my mum likes to buy us all the best things, got us an iMac G3 for the house. The mini living room at the top of the stairs suddenly became the place to be in our house — whether to watch my sisters be Ryu and E. Honda at a very early version of Street Fighter, or to try my hands at yet another web site design using FrontPage. Our internet connection was still choppy at best, you’d literally read two pages of a novel while waiting for one light page to load. But it was the late 1990s and there was this beautiful new world of motion and interactivity, and beyond Solitaire and Microsoft Word’s Marching Ants text effect, we were a real part of it.

2001, I was spending a year at home to retake the SATs so I could get a good scholarship. Our good family friend asked what I would like him to bring me from the States. At that specific time in history, Manolo Blahnik X Timberland heeled boots were new and in, and every Nigerian high-school girl wanted a pair. As did I. Yet I said I wanted a programming book. Let’s pause here to absorb the painful asceticism inherent in this decision. I had it in mind to study computer science at university, and I had been learning JavaScript at Aptech, a local computing school, but still. Disciplina pura y sencilla.

First year of University, I moved countries, I was on scholarship for tuition, room, and board with an allowance for books added in. America is filled with selflessly kind and generous people, whose giving goal is the pure improvement of humanity; and for me, this was the beginning of that lesson in giving. I was also learning assembly language, which was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. When I was 7, I had read in my sister’s France Afrique textbook, a short story of a girl who goes to Paris, and I had decided to myself then that I wanted to learn French, possibly with dreams of going to Paris. Learning a core computing language was like preparing to go to the Paris of computers; I just didn’t know then how long and fulfilling a journey I was embarking on.

“The car was grippy” and other F1 comments

Formula 1 is amazing and I’m so happy the season has kicked off. I was watching the driver comments at the end of today’s Sochi GP Q3 (qualifying round 3) and it’s just so cool to see what relationship each has with their car, their team, their teammmate, and with winning/victory.

Oh, and I’ve watched Esteban Ocon of Force India race for all the seasons he’s been in F1, only to realise via watching this interview clip that he has a face beneath the helmet! Same thing McLaren’s Vandoorne, though this is only his first or his second season. We’ll probably see more of Force India’s drivers; besides having just an amazingly pink livery, their car also seems to be delivering its drivers into the points quite a few times this season.

Kvyat sounds like he should have auditioned for the role of Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot. So awesome is the roboticness or the roboticity or the sputnikified quality of his commentary on his performance. He is a strong driver and I wish he was still driving for Red Bull, not Toro Rosso; I think he could do interesting things with a stronger car (and his pre-F1 records point to this as well).

My fave commentary was Alonso’s. No one is hyping the McLaren-Honda collab as something that will prove magical a la Ayrton Senna days (of McLaren-Honda), and that is a relief because the whole heritage thing seemed kind of forced without a strong car to back up the hype. But it seems the guy who says things like “it was like driving a truck” seems to like his car’s performance this weekend. He said the car was “grippy” – an anglicization similar to “trippy” (hallucinative)? I’m at a loss for words. Ok, he meant it felt balanced and grounded including in corners, and that the tyres had good grip and the car didn’t vibrate more than is usual for an F1 car. But still, seeing him come up with his own vocab is pretty fun. Also, he said “my performance right now is quite ok and I feel very competitive.” I just really like the quite ok bit :)

Vandoorne said we’ll try to do our best from the back tomorrow, I think, you know, we can only do better from there…” You don’t say. I do wish McLaren Honda the best.

When Vettel is happy, he’s just bursting with it, can’t hide it. It’s exciting that Ferrari is challenging Mercedes, and look at all that visibility that Kaspersky is getting…

Valterri Bottas is still getting the hang of this whole interview and visibility shindig. Like, what, I have to stand and answer questions about my performance and the car and how easy/hard it was to qualify third? Ok, well. I guess. I’m not in Kansas (Williams, where you can go season-in-season-out without ever seeing an interviewer’s microphone) anymore.

Lewis gives the best interviews in my opinion. When he does well, he thanks and acknowledges the team publicly. When his performance isn’t great, he splits the blame between himself and the car. Today in the interview it was mostly blame for himself. I hope he’s in top tip shape tomorrow.

All in all, I’m pretty hyped for Sochi GP. I think despite the fewer chances for overtaking that the Sochi circuit presents, this could be a good race.

Minku is six this month; to celebrate, I’m taking the week off

Minku is six this month and to celebrate, I’m taking the week off. Last year, when this being that has brought so much joy to people’s lives turned five, I celebrated in a different way: a pop-up event in Lagos showing the new collection, flanked by friends, and stuffing myself with Minku-branded red-velvet cupcakes.

This year, in the weeks leading up to today, I’ve been working quite a bit — photoshoot in Lagos; planning Minku’s future direction (hint in picture below :)), and now, I just want to take a break.

So just as Spanish schools have this week off leading to Easter, I am going to take the week off, too. We will watch the Chinese GP on Sunday morning and go running along the beach. We will catch up on movies (Trainspotting, I haven’t seen, can you believe? :)) I will try to do nothing during the week while my <3 works towards his lurking deadline. Well, maybe I will write about music.

Thank you to everyone spurring Minku along on this journey. People are so proud to associate with it, to wear Minku; I keep getting happy emails; I’ve always wanted to do work where I could delight people, and not be too far-removed from sharing in their delight. Through Minku, I feel fortunate to do that. This blog is another unexpected hit, where knowledge I share on lean startups, judging leather quality, hot-stamping leather, etc, helps thousands of entrepreneurs, leather goods consumers, and hobbyists respectively make informed business and buying decisions.

I don’t know what ideas I’ll return with on the 17th of April when I get back to work. I know I’ll be excited and ready to keep going.

Love,

Minku

A different photo shoot than the ones I usually do.

This has been a pretty amazing week, with trips to get fabric for work, attendance of social media week lagos events, and a photo shoot that I had been conceiving in my mind’s eye for months.

It’s hard to know how everything would come together: this top, those pants, that hairstyle, those ad-hoc aso-oke earrings, that backdrop, this camera lens versus that one… until you’re there, on set, just click-click-clicking.


Akor, the model brought it. This was a different photo shoot than the ones I usually do, because it was as much about the clothes as the bags. A Minku bag and clothing collection. I can’t wait to present the full lookbook. These are some grainy shots of the camera viewer, because I couldn’t really wait to say, “here, dear Minku loyalist, is a sneak peek before everyone else gets to know, of what you can expect to see on the Minku social media pages, web site, and hopefully some press, in the time to come.” So I hope you’re liking it all as much as I am.

Model: Akor
Photographer: Kunmi

Listening to the Cut the Rope mobile game soundtrack.


Getting some much-deserved yoghurt (Akor) and vanilla ice-cream (me) on our return from the photo shoot site. When I was a kid, the best part of church was after-church when my parents would buy my siblings and I these ice-creams from the ice-cream bicycle man. It was always a bummer when our favorite flavor was sold out. Still is.

 

This is me wishing for snow.

Winter is here for real and like many in the Mediterranean, I’m in full-on denial about how cold it can get on a January afternoon in these parts. So for instance, today I ran work errands in a thin jacket over just two clothing layers. A thin down jacket it was, yes — albeit one of those featherweight ones made with ultralight backpackers in mind. I should reach back for the proper one I stashed away last week, thinking the worst of the cold was over. It isn’t.

48°F (9°C) is cold, no? This is me wishing for snow. I’d go to the park, lay facing the skies, make snow angels. Be competitive about it because I have the longest arms of my friends, designated human selfie-stick. Maybe we’ll have enough snow that we can make balls, snowballs, and throw them at one another before they sublimate in our gloved palms. It hasn’t  happened in all my winters in this city, but a girl can dream.

There’s a lot of activity in the now, including preparations for 080 Barcelona Fashion Week’s Fall/Winter 2017 edition that starts at month’s end. My favorite designer isn’t showing, again, but I’m determined to find new designers to root for, photograph ouevre of, write about. I’ll also be doing a press round of Barcelona Fashion Summit 2017. So, similar to my joint coverage of Lagos Fashion & Design Week’s Fashion Business Series and fashion shows in the February/March 2016 issue of Yonderland, you can look forward to a concise report of both events.

YonderlandFebMar2014-pg5

YonderlandAugSept2014_pg5

Pictured: Barcelona Fashion Week coverage in past Yonderland issues. To read either report, tap on the image.

Things have been pretty amazing here, and work has been interspersed with not-work. I’ve been waiting for La-La Land to be released in Barcelona, and we’re (finally!) going to see it this weekend. This la-la-lady can’t wait.

MinkuAt080_2014-15b Pictured: An old poster (2014) announcing our participation in the Fashion Week pop-up section.

Mastering Mobile

It’s 3:30am. The team  I’m a member of, The Blue Shakamakas, just won a quiz. I came up with the Shakamakas part of the name: it reminded me of when I was eight or nine, and my younger siblings and I would invent random tunes, infuse them with meaningless words, then belt them out like rockstars using a stick or a doll for a microphone and jumping on dining furniture for rockstar effect.

So yeah, Shakamakas.

We really felt like champs tonight, a productive winning energy that I channeled into tackling the challenge of getting minku.com to look good on mobile (you should know, I’m the Minku web designer and developer). It so happened that I broke the code a while ago while trying to achieve this very goal. Not prepared to upgrade my desktop design knowledge with some responsive web design skills, I switched back to the safe desktop version, something that resulted in a dreadful user experience for mobile: expanding text; dealing with increased cognitive load; horizontal scrolling!!!

I know, I know, I apologize.

At university, I learned several programming languages. Still, we were more likely to do a project in Prolog (to understand the structure of artificial intelligence programming languages) than we were to build a site. The latter was something you did in your spare time, or learned at a technical institute.

I had a lot of self-developed web development experience, because I was drawn to the immediate rewards it offered vis-a-vis, say, C++. So I had picked it up on my own in the late 90s… it also helped that we had a computer at home as early as 1998/1999, an Apple iMac G3 — one of those green, curved and translucent-backed beauties.

One thing that caught us millennial programmers by surprise was the advent of web for mobile. I remember even Facebook struggling with a mobile strategy as late as 2014 [article]. All my programming to date has been for desktop. Yes, the company I worked for as early as 2009 was already starting to develop mobile-friendly sites for our clients, but those were the cool kids brandishing the fine steel of their cutting-edge government projects, while most of us did conventional desktop web enhancement and expansion.

minkuonmobile2016

I don’t approach things thinking they are hard. Well, except reading maps, a task that’s easy to delegate, and at which I’m even getting better. So I knew I would upgrade my webdev skills; I just hadn’t dedicated time to it yet.

Coding always takes time: you do, you undo, you save versions, you redo, you keep trying until it’s how you want it. Now the mobile version of minku.com is up and running. I still need to make some tweaks, which you will notice when you visit the site. Nonetheless, @media query is fast becoming my bff, and the site on a mobile device is fast looking how I want it. Thanks for your patience, and I hope you like the mobile-friendly site :-)

Verstappen and other quirks at F1’s Spa-Francorchamps

Where does one start in reviewing a race that felt like those season premieres that give you two episodes of your favorite show in one sitting? Belgian GP, with its two starts including one brought on by an epic (safe) crash that triggered a red flag, a safety car, and a 17-minute mid-race recess to repair a guardrail, was just that.

I’ll back-pat myself for calling that Alonso and Hamilton’s teams would take advantage of their back-of-grid starts, to place them on medium tyres for the start of the race. Track temperatures were 40 degrees celsius, afterall, and since they didn’t qualify in top ten at Saturday’s Q2, they could choose their starting tyres for Sunday’s race.

TyrePredictionsBelgianGP

So 2pm and the race starts — start 1 of 2, though we don’t know this by then. Don’t know what opening-lap strategy Vettel was pulling off in the starting seconds, but it somehow put his Ferrari teammate Kimi in Verstappen’s way early in the race, something I’ll rather not see happen at all because, well, Kimi is a nice guy. After Kubica, he was racing’s best poker face. And I don’t like to see him angry, but Verstappen seems to bring it out in him all the time. He was so angry during this race that the swear-filter was too slow to catch the stream of expletives he directed at li’l Max via team radio. I saw a commenter refer to Max as Vercrashen, by the way. I’m trying to be nice, but he needs to be schooled on F1 racing etiquette. However I don’t expect Red Bull to take the bull by the horns, unfortunately. Let’s hold that thought…

SAINZ BUILDZ BRITZ
In the 90s we had cable TV and thus it was that I got a catchy Heinz baked beans ad stuck in my head, one that ended with “Heinz Buildz Britz.” Sainz had one of the best race starts of his F1 career today, but his car began to disintegrate following a puncture… tyre, then rear wing, till he had to retire. Jenson Button had to retire too. So did Wehrlein of Manor Racing, a driver whose style I’ve started to warm up to. F1 is like a TV series in yet another way: gradual character development. You start the season just seeing the new drivers’ names and teams; and admiring their cars’ livery. Especially drivers of cars that usually don’t finish in the points. Then as the season progresses, you catch a rare interview, see the driver walk disappointedly to the pits after a crash or celebrate an uncharacteristic podium win, and suddenly there’s a personality beneath the helmet and livery. Wehrlein will still have some great races ahead of him despite today’s disappointment, I’m sure. It sucks that he took out Button’s McLaren too.

On the sixth lap, Magnussen’s Renault spun from 180mph to a smoky high-impact halt in a tyre barrier. Besides being a long circuit (4.35 miles; most of the season’s other circuits are a bit under three miles), Spa is also a hilly circuit, undulating in places and giving less-experienced drivers a run for their Petrobras fuel.  It was in one such spot, by Eau Rouge corner, that Kevin’s yellow R.S. 2016 rammed dramatically into a tyre barrier, sealing how the Renault team would be spending the half-fortnight before Monza GP: rebuilding his chassis. Formula 1 is such a beautiful sport in how safe it is today. Kevin immediately moved to signal that he was conscious, and then nimbly jumped out of his cockpit, as he was approached by race stewards coming to check the extent of the damage. I recently tried to watch clips of some road cycling championships and if Formula 1 is a thriller to watch these days, road cycling is a horror movie.

Guardrail repair followed on lap 10, with teams taking advantage of the 17-minute recess to get their cars in tip-top shape. Hamilton, whose mediums had served him so well in his ascent from back-of-grid to fifth place, now switched to softs as track temperatures cooled. Verstappen was having a bad day, having started on supersofts (teammate Ricciardo got the lucky softs in this split-choice tyre strategy), and having picked up some front-wing damage in that opening sandwich in which he was preventable top bread (what this time, Max, your brakes didn’t work? or you need a tutorial on how to time their use?). He’d be a cantankerous old man, but chap’s only nineteen. Either way, an angry Max on the track is to be avoided, for the whimsical damage he might do to your  rear wing or tyres or self esteem.

Am I player hatin’ on Verstappen too much? Ok, I’ll stop. See, I was screaming into my screen circa 2009 when Schumacher, on his comeback to F1, squeezed Rubens Barrichello into a wall before backing off. Damon Hill can tell you a few stories too, though their rivalry was before I became an F1-er. The teams and maybe even the FIA are saying nothing, possibly because rivalry is “good for the sport.” Rivalry, yes, but not reckless racing, which is what Verstappen is building his young brand to be known for.

All in all, with its two race starts, red flag, scenic setting, and the temperature at Spa throwing in an unknown variable that meant the guys in the back who were smart enough to see it got some little starting advantage, this was a beautiful race. Why do I love F1? Let me count the ways. Listed near the top will be the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps.

Winners:
3rd place: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes
2nd place: Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing
1st place: Nico Rosberg of Mercedes

F1 Racing’s Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton