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(Intro music: Electro swing)
0:00:12.9 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Hello and welcome to BookBytes, a book club podcast for developers. This time we’re doing something a little different and going over a picture book called “Ara the Star Engineer” by Komal Singh and illustrated by Ipek Konak. And I hope I got those names right. I’m Adam Garrett-Harris.
0:00:31.6 **Jen Luker** I’m Jen Luker.
0:00:32.9 **Safia Abdalla** I’m Safia Abdalla.
0:00:34.5 **Jason Staten** And I’m Jason Staten.
0:00:35.9 **Adam Garrett-Harris** All right. Jen, do you want to introduce the book since you suggested it?
0:00:39.3 **Jen Luker** Yeah! So Ara the Star Engineer is written by a woman who works at Google and when she was talking to her daughter about what she wanted to be the idea of an engineer not only didn’t occur to her daughter, she thought it was only for boys. So she decided to combat that philosophy by writing a children’s book where a girl is the protagonist and she actually goes through and talks to a bunch of other women engineers to solve a problem.
0:01:10.4 What’s really awesome about this is the women engineers that she talks to throughout the book are real people that work at Google.
0:01:18.2 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah, that was one of the bits that surprised me until I got to the very last page where they have all of the bios of the characters what were in the book and you realize they’re actually all senior technical women at Google and it was very awesome to read about.
0:01:33.0 **Jen Luker** Super inspiring and I read it to my daughter.
0:01:35.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah! Yeah, I want to get into that more later if y’all read it to your daughters. Yeah, I thought it was a really cool idea. Even for boys I think it’s a really cool picture book.
0:01:45.5 So it starts off where she has like a little robot which is pretty cool. I think there’s a lot of… a lot of things kids have these days that they could actually program that maybe they don’t realize they could write programs for.
0:02:00.8 **Jason Staten** That’s actually one of the things that Ara goes through the discovery process of as well through the book, was “How can I teach my robot something else rather than just its simple task that it knows?” And being able to talk to some of the women engineers about it and learn how to program it through creating an algorithm and I guess, I’m skipping over steps on it but uh-
0:02:24.1 **Jen Luker** You are.
0:02:24.9 **Jason Staten** (laughs) Yes.
0:02:25.8 **Jen Luker** Something that’s on the very first page that I really loved was the fact that she introduces her robot whose name is DeeDee however it’s called a googol. They both love big numbers and she’s telling him about a number that exists that has how many zeros? 100 zeros, and it’s called a googol which was named by another 9-year-old kid.
0:02:46.4 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:02:47.0 **Safia Abdalla** That was a fun fact I did not know that the numerical concept was named by a kid.
0:02:53.2 **Jen Luker** Which I think is awesome, too.
0:02:54.4 **Safia Abdalla** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:02:55.2 **Jen Luker** And then she goes to describe the fact that her name is Ara which is also a constellation which has seven stars and she kinda chuckles and says there’s a lot of stars and she wonders how many stars there are. And that’s kind of the beginning of our story.
0:03:11.9 **Safia Abdalla** So this was kind of reiterated at the end of the book but one of the consistent themes throughout the book were these four main topics which were courage, creativity, code, and collaboration; and the whole book was kind of talking about how being an engineer requires patience, it requires good communication skills, it requires the ability to like, troubleshoot and like, the plot of the story is that she goes through all of these adversities and she like, keeps going and she recruits people to help her out and she figures things out and I was like, “Wow. There are some adult engineers I know who could use this picture book.” Just ‘cause I think those themes of, like, collaboration or communication are things that people in senior roles and positions don’t necessarily grasp about the field.
0:03:58.4 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah, I totally agree. We’ve pretended that you have to be some sort of genius that works on your own to be an engineer. And I was a little worried about it at first when the title of it was called “...the Star Engineer” because that’s actually probably been some people’s titles. Like, “Ninja Engineer” or “Superstar Engineer” and I didn’t realize it until five minutes before we started recording why it’s called “Star Engineer.”
0:04:23.1 **Jen Luker & Adam Garrett-Harris** Because she’s counting stars!
0:04:25.7 **Jason Staten** But, Adam, you’re the master of those kind of puns, I-
0:04:29.4 **Safia Abdalla** (laughs)
0:04:29.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** I know! (laughs)
0:04:31.0 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:04:32.7 **Jen Luker** So attached to my version of the book on the very, very back is Ara’s notebook where she goes through and keeps her notes that includes things like algorithms and examples of an algorithm to figure out how to brush your teeth. She goes through coding and marks things like Ruby, Python, and Java, and draws little photos for them and-
0:04:53.8 **Safia Abdalla** So yeah, what struck you about that little notebook section? Was it just kind of like… I feel like if I were a kid and I saw something like that it would just make it a little bit more, like, personal and real to me. I am not a child and do not have children so I clearly am not the expert that should be talking about this, but I thought that was a really neat addition to the end of the picture book.
0:05:13.7 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah, I really did, too.
0:05:15.0 **Jason Staten** I also agree that it’s just kind of another approach for understanding the book. Or it’s kind of like a, almost, behind-the-scenes sort of viewpoint of it, too. So, I mean, when you’re reading through the book you are being told the story from Ara’s perspective, but in her notes it’s kind of how she’s thinking through it and how she’s processing which is often different than the way we explain something to somebody else, and so to be able to have the two viewpoints of it is really cool. It’s a nice little addition, for sure.
0:05:50.2 **Adam Garrett-Harris** I love the part at the end in that little notebook that has “Superheroes in Computer Science” and it highlights three women who were amazing engineers, or mathematicians and that kind of thing. So, Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson.
0:06:04.4 **Jen Luker** Talk about some awesome heroes.
0:06:06.4 **Safia Abdalla** Another thing I really liked about this book was a picture that they had, and it was early on in the gbook when she first goes to visit the innovation plex and there’s kind of this wide panorama photo of everyone who works at the innovation plex and all of the, like, different things they are saying and thinking. And what I really like about this picture is that you had images of people of different races, of different genders, of different physical abilities, and it just, like, they were all just collaborating and doing things together and it actually surprised me when I saw it ‘cause I was like, “Whoa! I’ve never actually seen this in real life, which is unfortunate.” But I think this book is working to change that.
0:06:46.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah. I love that photo, it’s probably the best, best one in the book, I think.
0:06:51.0 **Safia Abdalla** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:06:51.7 **Adam Garrett-Harris** So much going on.
0:06:53.0 **Jason Staten** Yeah, it’s one that I”ve come back to several different times because you can find something different in each of the pictures. Like, each time you kind of progress through it, like, seeing the space elevator sort of thing and I didn’t actually catch that, like, the first couple of times going through because there’s so much more color from all of the different people and things going on that I missed kind of the-
0:07:15.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Oh!
0:07:15.2 **Jason Staten** Gray in the background.
0:07:16.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah. I just noticed that.
0:07:17.9 **Jason Staten** Yeah! But like, the depth of it and I mean, I guess is kind of a deeper reflection on it. Like, often there are big things going on that we don’t necessarily notice. I mean, things that may not be on at the immediate forefront right now that are pretty critical to us that don’t necessarily catch your eye right out front. Like, we gotta keep our eye out for those things, too.
0:07:40.0 **Jen Luker** But I mean, it’s not just the fact that there’s a space elevator, there’s also, like, the first plane, and hot air balloons, and a rocket ship, and, you know, a car run by wind power it looks like, and bicycles, and robots, and there’s a woolly mammoth skeleton, and there’s, like, a planetarium on the top of the building and there’s a giant brain. There’s a water faucet that’s pouring water into the fountain. There’s just so many things.
0:08:08.0 And something else is that you can see that there’s kind of different professions that are running through here and different cultures described not just in hair, and skin color, and physical ability, but also in, like, clothing that they wear. It’s amazing.
0:08:23.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:08:24.4 **Safia Abdalla** So, have any of you read this book to a child in your life?
0:08:29.6 **Jen Luker** Yes!
0:08:30.4 **Jason Staten** Yes.
0:08:31.0 **Safia Abdalla** How did that go?
0:08:32.6 **Jen Luker** My child is 4, she was excited about things like color and stars, and she wasn’t too excited about counting the stars. (laughs) She kind of ended up making up her own story to go with each photo.
0:08:45.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs)
0:08:45.1 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:08:46.4 **Jen Luker** Like, there’s the room with, basically, walls of whiteboards and there's lot of drawings and there’s pictures of things on the floor, and there’s toys that are on the tables, like rubiks cubes and stackable pieces and a... abacus and there’s a slide! And so she’s like, “Look, honey, it’s the school!”
0:09:03.7 **Safia Abdalla** Ooh. (laughs)
0:09:04.4 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:09:04.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:09:05.5 **Jen Luker** She was also really excited about things like cupcakes and did you notice that as you’re going through the book each woman is actually wearing a piece of jewelry that they end up giving to her?
0:09:16.3 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:09:16.9 **Jason Staten** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:09:16.9 **Jen Luker** And that they mimic. So like, a hair barrette, a robot hair barrette, and a bracelet-
0:09:23.3 **Safia Abdalla** (gasp)
0:09:23.5 **Jen Luker** And later on-
0:09:24.9 **Safia Abdalla** I just noticed that!
0:09:25.7 **Jen Luker** See? Yeah! So as she’s going through and learning each piece she’s actually gaining a new item. And-
0:09:32.5 **Safia Abdalla** Oh!
0:09:33.9 **Jen Luker** It becomes-
0:09:34.4 **Safia Abdalla** Oh my goodness.
0:09:34.5 **Jen Luker** -part of her skillset and her tool set, and so by the time she’s done, she’s developed and gained each of these tools in order to be able to solve problems in the future, as well.
0:09:46.1 **Safia Abdalla** Oh my goodness! That is so cool. I just noticed that. (laughs) There are so many interesting things in this book.
0:09:53.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah, I noticed one of them giving her bracelet and then I was like, “Wait a second…”
0:09:56.7 **Safia Abdalla** (laughs)
0:09:57.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** “...Did she have all those bracelets to start off with?” And she actually did have the android barrette, or the robot barrette, to start off with, but she gets a bracelet from everyone.
0:10:04.0 **Jen Luker** Yeah, she did start out with it.
0:10:05.5 **Safia Abdalla** One of the things I liked about the book that kind of goes along with the gaining skill sets thing, is whenever she met a new person and asked them, you know, “What makes you an innovator?” or “What makes you a troubleshooter?” The things they described as the reason for being in their role were not gendered. It was just like, “I do this and that.” Or, “I’m good at this or that.” It was such a refreshing twist from the narrative that’s usually presented on like, who’s an innovator, and who’s a troubleshooter, and who’s a problem solver that do often tend to be gendered and usually tend to associate being a problem solver or an innovator with having the loudest voice or other machoistic traits. And it was just cool to see, like, an innovator is just somebody who makes new solutions and that’s something that’s universal and accessible to everyone and not at all gendered.
0:10:57.3 **Jen Luker** You know, for instance, the Prolific Problem Solver, there’s a line that says, “Her team in panicking, but she is calm.”
0:11:04.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:11:04.3 **Safia Abdalla** Hmm.
0:11:04.8 **Jason Staten** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:11:05.2 **Jen Luker** And she comes back and asks, “How do you figure out how to solve and keep thousands of computers running?”
And she’s just like, “Well, we break it down into little, itty-bitty, teeny-tiny pieces and we solve each, one at a time.”
0:11:15.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:11:15.8 **Safia Abdalla** Which is like, monitoring for production systems explained to 4-year olds (laughs).
0:11:22.3 **Jason Staten** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:11:24.0 **Safia Abdalla** (laughs) Um, but yeah, that was great.
0:11:26.2 **Jen Luker** Yeah, and then the innovator, the Intrepid Innovator, says, “I create new solutions that make computers solve big problems.” So, but I liked the fact that it’s, like, courage to be able to handle all of the large problems that are happening, and then it’s the creativity to come up with the solution to that problem and then the Code Commander (that’s me, but not really me)-
0:11:49.5 **Safia Abdalla** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:11:50.0 **Jen Luker** Essentially says she’s a linguist. She can communicate with computers, that’s what makes her special.
0:11:55.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Hmm.
0:11:55.8 **Jen Luker** And, you know, with that it goes with communication, (laughs) and then when you look at the last problem which was the Tenacious Troubleshooter… My fingers need to be wetter for this, flipping through pages and I keep getting stuck on all the pretty pictures.
0:12:14.7 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:12:15.7 **Jen Luker** Her answer is, essentially, “Let’s improve.” And it just goes down to another situation of working together to find a solution.
0:12:25.5 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah.
0:12:26.3 **Adam Garrett-Harris** So I like the part right before the Tenacious Troubleshooter where her program was working and then it, the computer kind of just fell over with a memory error.
0:12:38.8 **Safia Abdalla** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:12:39.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** And she just slumps down and she’s just so disappointed. And she’s like, “Engineering something new is so tough. I don’t think I can do it.” So it doesn’t present it as something that’s easy, but it presents it as something that you can do if you learn how to solve problems and not to give up.
0:12:58.0 **Jen Luker** But what I also loved is the encouragement for her is, in fact, DeeDee where DeeDee says, “Don’t give up. Don’t quit.”
0:13:04.2 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah! Yeah.
0:13:05.0 **Safia Abdalla** If only computers actually did that.
0:13:07.8 **Jen Luker** I know, right?
0:13:09.7 **Safia Abdalla** That would make my job- (laughs)
0:13:11.1 **Jason Staten** You get a compiler failure and it’s like, “You can do it!” (laughs)
0:13:13.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs) Yeah.
0:13:14.6 **Safia Abdalla** That would be so wonderful! I need that in my stack traces.
0:13:18.6 **Jen Luker** Right, but what was really awesome is on the next page she’s like, “You’re right, DeeDee. I’m a problem solver, I won’t give up.” And then she goes and asks for help.
0:13:26.9 **Safia Abdalla** Another lesson that most adults can take from this.
0:13:29.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** There’s no shame in that.
0:13:30.8 **Safia Abdalla** Yep.
0:13:31.4 **Jason Staten** No. That’s, that’s the way you do it. And like you said, Adam, I also really like that it’s not portrayed as programming or development is easy so much as, like, it is a challenge to overcome and I think that’s also an important thing that we need to watch ourselves when we’re talking to somebody else or teaching somebody new, to say, “Oh, well programming’s easy!” because that can be degrading to them if they are struggling with it, and saying that “You can’t do something easy.” So rather, like, to show Ara actually struggling with this problem and then pushing through it is a good example of what you do have to deal with when you’re solving problems.
0:14:11.9 **Jen Luker** I know that people are going to look at this and go, “Well she’s a child and of course she’s going to have trouble, but I’m an adult and I won’t.” But that’s…
0:14:18.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs)
0:14:18.9 **Jen Luker** I mean, when was… I don’t know about you but I’ve never really grown up. I can’t really believe I’m this old.
0:14:24.8 **Safia Abdalla & Jason Staten & Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughing)
0:14:25.3 **Jen Luker** I still remember being 10 and going, “Oh my god, do you realize how old I’m going to be when I graduate?
0:14:30.3 **Safia Abdalla & Jason Staten & Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughing)
0:14:32.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:14:33.0 **Safia Abdalla** I can’t relate to this part of the conversation yet. (laughs)
0:14:36.0 **Jen Luker** You’ve graduated! You remember when you were 10.
0:14:38.6 **Safia Abdalla** I’m a terrible person to use as an example for this because I’ve always been like a very old soul and mature-minded person. So I’ve never, like, I’ve always felt like a grownup, I’ve never aspired to it.
0:14:49.8 **Jen Luker** I kind of went both ways. I felt like I was older than people treated me, but younger than people expected me to be.
0:14:59.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Hmm.
0:14:59.8 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah, I was pretty much the same. So, Jen, you mentioned reading this book to your daughter. I’m curious to know if anyone here read it to a… I want to say “boy child” but that sounds so weird. (laughs)
0:15:12.6 **Jen Luker** Son?
0:15:13.3 **Adam Garrett-Harris** A bo- (laughs)
0:15:13.8 **Safia Abdalla** Like, a son, or-
0:15:14.2 **Jen Luker** Nephew?
0:15:14.8 **Safia Abdalla** A child who does not identify as female and, like, what was their reaction to seeing a girl represented as an engineer and seeing all of the characters in this book as women?
0:15:25.4 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah, I tried to read it to my foster son who’s 8, and... I think, actually I think Rebecca read to him the first couple of pages. I think he lost interest and I’m not sure if that was because it was a girl or what.
0:15:37.6 **Safia Abdalla** Hmm.
0:15:38.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** But he wasn’t super interested in it.
0:15:40.1 **Jen Luker** It takes a few times to really gain interest in, really, anything. So I mean if it takes eight times before they’re willing or, what? Like, at least eight if it’s not, like-
0:15:49.4 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:15:49.6 **Jen Luker** 32 times for them to, like, learn to like a vegetable, then I think it’s okay to read them a book a few times until they start to identify with the story.
0:15:59.9 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah, yeah.
0:16:00.8 **Jen Luker** Something else that we were talking about before, the aspects of “it was hard” and, you know, all of these things are not easy problems? What I appreciated about this is that it had no ego involved. It’s not about Ara solving it by herself from start to finish. It’s about Ara finding the solution. So it doesn’t matter that she’s asking for help throughout this as she reaches roadblock after roadblock. It’s about finding the solution.
0:16:29.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah, there’s no point where it’s like, “I am amazing! I am so awesome because I did this!” It’s like, “Wow, this is cool that it works!” Or whatever. And there’s the part where DeeDee is like, “Troubleshooting is fun!” I think that’s a great message because you’re not going to have successes all the time. You’re going to be troubleshooting a lot.
0:16:46.2 **Jen Luker** Pretty sure most of our time is spent troubleshooting.
0:16:48.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:16:49.0 **Jason Staten** Yeah. Yeah, a significant portion of it and enjoying the process of rolling up your sleeves and, like, finding out... especially when you go and dig in and you find something that you didn’t quite expect and that’s why it’s... something’s behaving rather oddly? I mean, I actually had a thing related to that today where finding out that network requests coming in out of order were causing dom updates at the wrong time causing JavaScript layout measurements to show up wrong. Like, it was a very, like, detached problem from the original issue where stuff wasn’t showing up correctly and-
0:17:25.4 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs)
0:17:25.4 **Jason Staten** Walking it all the way back to that? Like, it took a good chunk of time but it was not, like, a frustrating thing but rather it was a, “Oh, well we kind of peeled back this layer and we found out this was not really the root cause here. We’re seeing a race condition, but why is there this race condition?” And, like, picking it apart to find it and yeah, it’s fun and exciting. Like, you should enjoy it. I mean, it can be frustrating, but at the same time it’s awesome, like, when you reach the bottom of it, for sure.
0:17:53.4 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah. It allows me to indulge my childhood dream of being Nancy Drew, that kind of investigation and that’s how I tend to refer to it as, like, solving a mystery.
0:18:03.6 **Jason Staten** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:18:04.0 **Safia Abdalla** So, that might be an appealing narrative to a child in your life who is into mysteries or things like that. That programming, in a way, is kind of like being a detective.
0:18:12.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Heh.
0:18:13.1 **Safia Abdalla** Except you don’t have to walk around a lot. (laughs)
0:18:14.9 **Jen Luker** That all depends, your fingers do a whole lot of walking.
0:18:17.4 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah!
0:18:17.9 **Safia Abdalla** Oh. That’s true.
0:18:18.7 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:18:20.1 **Jen Luker** On the next page they have semantic versioning, launch version 2.
0:18:25.4 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs) Yes.
0:18:26.9 **Jen Luker** I’ve actually run into a few companies that have really avoided, like, having to release a second or a third version of something is seen as, I don’t know, a failure that you didn’t do it right the first time and you have to release it to fix things. So…
0:18:41.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Right? Yeah, like, if you’re up at version 70, like, what’s… what’s wrong?
0:18:46.9 **Jason Staten** I know that in some cases it can be perceived, like, if you are shipping version 3.0 to somebody versus 2, then it may, there may be concern that, “Oh, this was, like, a big overhaul so it’s going to be buggy as all get out.” And so sometimes there is that concern of, “We don’t want to drop a big version number because people might be scared of it.”
0:19:10.9 **Jen Luker** I’d rather you drop a big version number than me have to fight through version number 70 to try to find which one of these minor versions actually broke my code.
0:19:20.8 **Jason Staten** (laughs) There’s some truth to that. I mean, as a developer, like, bring on the new versions is, like, semantically version correctly, but I guess with, like, official product releases, like, that can be a little, I don’t know, off-putting to people. Maybe because they’ve been burned in the past.
0:19:37.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah, it’s- I was actually a little disappointed in this book that this version 2.0 worked the first try.
0:19:42.9 **Safia Abdalla** (laughs)
0:19:44.2 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:19:46.5 **Safia Abdalla** That’s funny.
0:19:46.7 **Adam Garrett-Harris** I don’t know, I thought-
0:19:47.4 **Jason Staten** There’s no patch level? (laughs)
0:19:48.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** ‘Cause they had to put in more RAM, and that fixed it. So…
0:19:52.8 **Safia Abdalla** Although...
0:19:53.7 **Adam Garrett-Harris** I guess it wasn’t really version- wasn’t really version 2 of the code, was it?
0:19:56.6 **Safia Abdalla** It was just upgrading the compute resources on your V- (laughs)
0:20:03.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:20:03.0 **Jen Luker** Well, I mean, but it was the second run of, like, the second major test of the program and I realize that we go through a lot more than that, but it took three steps to get to something that could run at all. So-
0:20:14.1 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah.
0:20:14.7 **Jen Luker** They came to a minimum viable product and then launched it and it failed, so then they had to solve the problem, too.
0:20:20.6 **Safia Abdalla** That’s totally true, we’re being such pedants on a children’s picture book which-
0:20:25.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yep, yeah. I was thinking that as I was reading it. I’m like, “Oh I am such a developer that I-”
0:20:30.3 **Safia Abdalla** (laughs) Yes!
0:20:30.8 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:20:31.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** “Am critiquing that.”
0:20:31.1 **Safia Abdalla** I thought the same thing!
0:20:32.8 **Jen Luker** Version 2?
0:20:32.8 **Safia Abdalla** I was like, “Oh gosh!”
0:20:33.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** And, but also, like-
0:20:34.4 **Jen Luker** That’d never happen!
0:20:35.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** I was critiquing the problem, too. I was like, you can’t see all the stars, the Earth is blocking at least half of them and then…
0:20:41.4 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:20:42.2 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah, I was like-
0:20:43.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Can you even, you might be able to see a galaxy, but can you even see the stars within that galaxy? I was getting way deep into this as I was reading it.
0:20:48.7 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:20:49.2 **Safia Abdalla** It was a very dark reminder that I was no longer a child. (laughs)
0:20:51.9 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:20:52.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:20:54.2 **Jason Staten** I mean, I guess she did get one solid answer, too, that it’s way more than a googol. I mean, maybe even that was some of her threshold was like, finding that mark? Just like when we are solving problems, a lot of times, we go and solve, like, the smaller problem. Or even, like, doing something to a level where we can actually answer, like, what the true estimate of it will be.
0:21:19.5 ‘Cause I know sometimes I’ve been asked to go and build something and then I can’t give a real answer to it because I’m like, “ I don’t know how difficult it would be to implement this specific thing.” And then have to do just, like, a small, almost prototype type thing to say confidently, “Okay, this is what it's going to take.” Or maybe that’s just too-
0:21:39.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yeah.
0:21:39.1 **Jason Staten** In-depth on it, I don’t… (laughs)
0:21:40.5 **Jen Luker** Thus the perk of picture books.
0:21:42.0 **Jason Staten** Yeah. I was going to ask the rest of you, reading through this it kind of brings back some memories of the first experiences that you kind of went through this flow where you were faced with a problem that you had to solve, maybe you had to work with other people and ultimately get to an outcome that led you to where you are now. And I know that that kind of puts you on the spot but does anybody have any thoughts about, like, early problems that they solved in this same fashion?
0:22:13.9 **Adam Garrett-Harris** I did have a problem that was solved by adding more RAM. (laughs) I think I may have mentioned it before but I don’t know if I was collaborating ‘cause not a lot of people I knew coded, but I coded Pong on the TI-83 Plus, too slow. I put it on the silver edition and then it worked.
0:22:33.3 **Jason Staten** Nice.
0:22:34.4 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah, I think I can relate to that in the sense that when I first started to code it was a very, like, solitary experience for me, at least compared to some of the experiences that I see kids having now with after-school clubs and classes and things like that. So I was mostly just going at it alone but I think the one thing I can relate to is just, like, the message of perseverance and to, like, keep going and not get frustrated, especially when I was, like, much younger I tended to be, like, really impatient and not willing to work through things and that was one thing that programming helped me learn, was the patience and trying again.
0:23:13.7 **Jason Staten** So what’s an example of one of the problems that you were even going at it alone with?
0:23:18.2 **Safia Abdalla** Hmm, so a lot of the first things, I’m trying to remember this is like a decade ago now, which-
0:23:23.5 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:23:24.2 **Safia Abdalla** Granted, I was like 10 years old or something. I think, so at that time my first experiences were like, with HTML and CSS- Ooh! Yes, I remember one. So I was working on writing up some, like, HTML and CSS code for my Neopets profile page and like, the thing I wanted to do-
0:23:43.1 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:23:43.8 **Safia Abdalla** Was, I think what it was is like, I wanted to make, like, a photo gallery and I wanted all of the pictures to be centered, which front-end developers everywhere just shuddered when I said I wanted things to be perfectly centered. (laughs)
0:23:55.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs)
0:23:56.3 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:23:56.5 **Safia Abdalla** And I recall struggling to, like, get these photos or these, like, pictures arranged in the way that I wanted it. And I think that I ended up, like, looking online and using, like, a table which, you know, it worked.
0:24:10.4 **Jen Luker** It works!
0:24:11.3 **Adam Garrett-Harris** That was the way to do it.
0:24:12.2 **Jason Staten** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:24:12.9 **Safia Abdalla** That was the way to do it. But yeah, that was, like, a situation where I was, like, I had this vision of what I wanted which was I wanted all of the pictures on my Neopets page to lined up in the center, perfectly, and then I just, like, had to keep trying a lot of things to get it working. But I did, eventually.
0:24:28.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Nice.
0:24:30.2 **Jason Staten** Neopets.
0:24:31.8 **Safia Abdalla** That was, I am in that generation.
0:24:33.4 **Jason Staten** Yeah.
0:24:33.7 **Jen Luker** You’d be shocked! A lot of women developers came from things like MySpace and Tumblr and Neopets and there’s even more developers that don’t even think that they’re developers because all they did was code new versions of Tumblr or completely modify how Neopets functioned or something. And because of the fact-
0:24:54.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Wow.
0:24:55.1 **Jen Luker** That it was kind of a “girly” sort of thing it was completely degraded to “not engineering” as much as it was “making things pretty.”
0:25:03.6 **Jason Staten** I totally had a neopet.
0:25:04.8 **Safia Abdalla** It was my jam. I recall, I think, I do remember several friends from middle school who were guys and they had Neopets accounts, but I always recall, like, the whole, like, getting into HTML and CSS and theming your profile and stuff as like, something that most of the girls in the class did.
0:25:27.3 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Hmm.
0:25:28.0 **Safia Abdalla** I don’t know if that’s a completely accurate assessment, I might just have been in my little bubble of friends, but yeah. Neopets was definitely, like, not just a girl thing. But, it seems like there’s a lot of women who tell stories as that being their, like, origin for getting into tech.
0:25:46.9 **Jason Staten** Well that’s something that I never knew that was, like, a vector for bringing women in. That’s awesome side effect of that product.
0:25:55.3 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah, I think around the same time I got into Neopets the big thing for me was realizing that the computer was a machine that I could control and that I didn’t have to just, like, go with the default Neopets theme. Or, you know, if I wanted to, like, beat this flash game I had to, like, do this specific thing there was, like, no hack for it. Or if I wanted to, this was another thing I experimented with, extend the license on my photoshop trial way past the 30 days. (laughs)
0:26:26.0 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:26:26.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs)
0:26:28.0 **Safia Abdalla** Like, understanding that, like, a machine was this thing, like, you can control and break into was, like, a very empowering thing for me as a young girl and, like, gave me a sense of control and agency in the world when I didn’t feel like I had any at that time ‘cause I was a moody preteen.
0:26:45.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Hmm.
0:26:46.5 **Jason Staten** What about you, Jen?
0:26:47.5 **Jen Luker** I’m really nerdy, I’m not sure you want to ask me that.
0:26:50.3 **Safia Abdalla** (laughs)
0:26:50.6 **Jason Staten** Oh, I definitely want to ask you that now.
0:26:51.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs)
0:26:53.2 **Jen Luker** However, did you realize that on the XSpace page she gets a couple bandaids on her knees?
0:26:58.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** No!
0:26:59.7 **Jen Luker** Yeah, starting on that page she has bandaids on her knees.
0:27:02.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs) Nice!
0:27:04.2 **Jen Luker** So something happened between before that and after that and she starts getting bandaids, and then she only has one bandaid.
0:27:10.8 **Safia Abdalla** Oh, I think it’s the fall. Is it?
0:27:14.7 **Adam Garrett-Harris** I love that ‘cause kids get bandaids all the time.
0:27:17.4 **Jen Luker** Like, there’s “I’m a problem solver” where she’s disappointed, there’s no bandaids but then “I’m a problem solver” and there are bandaids.
0:27:24.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Heh.
0:27:25.1 **Safia Abdalla** Hmm.
0:27:25.5 **Jen Luker** And I just like the fact that, you know, bandaids come and go and it’s just kind of life, the whole getting injured or having problems and stumbling and, you know, issues happen but it’s not even something to mention. It’s just life continues and you keep working at it.
0:27:42.9 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Hmm.
0:27:43.4 **Jen Luker** Tiny little subliminal messages. Like-
0:27:46.3 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:27:47.0 **Jen Luker** The binary in the back and the flow charts on the screens and on the whiteboards, or the space elevator in the background! Or… (laughs)
0:27:59.9 **Jason Staten** Mm-hmm (affirmative).
0:28:00.6 **Jen Luker** You know, the 404 on pages. (laughs)
0:28:03.2 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Well, I loved the very last page where she realizes she’s learned all throughout this book an amazing algorithm to solve any problem. So it’s a way to solve any problem is the four things you mentioned, Safia: courage, creativity, code, and collaboration. And I love that code is just one tiny part of that.
0:28:26.1 **Safia Abdalla** And that is, I think, the universal lesson that anyone, young and old, can take from this. So I’m going to assume that most of our listeners are probably not children, although if you are listening and a child, welcome! I’m sorry for all of the bad words I’ve said throughout the past couple episodes! (laughs)
0:28:43.9 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs)
0:28:45.2 **Safia Abdalla** But, no. In an all seriousness what kind of advice or tips would you give to somebody who, like, wants to buy this book and read it with a child in their life, based on your experiences doing that?
0:28:56.2 **Jen Luker** A great time to read this book is when they’re trying to solve a problem themselves, even a small one, just to show them that it’s possible and ways in which they can. If they’re very young I recommend reading it in, like, small portions at a time that apply a little bit better to what they’re doing, and as they get older you can start going through it and actually using it as conversation pieces to discuss things like, “Look at all the people in the pictures.” Or, you know, “These are actually the steps to solving any problem.” So I think that it’s more about tailoring the experience to the child.
0:29:30.1 **Safia Abdalla** Nice
0:29:31.1 **Jason Staten** Yeah, definitely stopping and discussing things, too. I mean, they do a great job in the book of making nice breakpoints for you, but if you need to stop early you can certainly do that as well and discuss things. Like, when it talks about code and taking that to say that coding is another language. “We speak English. Other people speak German, but computers? They speak in code. And so it’s just another way to communicate with them that we can learn how to do and tell them exactly what we want them to do and they will… (laughs) do their best to run we tell them to.”
0:30:13.2 Or with recipes, stopping and talking about a recipe. Like, “What is a recipe that you know? Or what is something that we’ve made before?” And bringing that back around and making it relatable, too, is a really good way to step through this book for some children.
0:30:30.9 **Jen Luker** Even the simple example of brushing your teeth which they included in the back is a really nice intro to things like algorithms and problem solving and breaking the steps down to smaller and smaller pieces. Cleaning your room, that’s a great one.
0:30:45.7 **Safia Abdalla** Nice tips.
0:30:46.7 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:30:47.7 **Safia Abdalla** Do you have anything to share, Adam?
0:30:49.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** No. I… I don’t. I was just thinking I like the little bit of pseudocode there. You could go through that and say, “Okay, what happens next?” ‘Cause there’s a part where you might have to jump back up to step 3, and I love how it’s written, the algorithm where it says, “Okay, DeeDee!” And then gives the command because it’s a lot like these um, voice assistants that kids are used to today.
0:31:15.4 **Safia Abdalla** Oh, yeah!
0:31:16.2 **Jen Luker** Oh! Speaking of which, Little Miss actually was able to activate Alexa yesterday. She asked for the wrong thing but it was still super cool!
0:31:24.2 **Adam Garrett-Harris** (laughs)
0:31:24.9 **Safia Abdalla** Was it like a-
0:31:25.5 **Jason Staten** Nice!
0:31:26.0 **Safia Abdalla** “Hi Awexa!” Type thing or a…?
0:31:28.9 **Jen Luker** Yeah, it was. No, she actually asked Alexa to turn on the fish tank light that’s supposed turn on at 8, and turn off at 8, but it didn’t-
0:31:38.3 **Safia Abdalla** Oh my god.
0:31:38.2 **Jen Luker** Because Daylight Savings’ Time has messed it up. So she was trying-
0:31:40.5 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:31:40.7 **Jen Luker** -to be a good little fish owner and-
0:31:42.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Ah.
0:31:43.3 **Jen Luker** -try to turn on the fish tank light! (laughs)
0:31:44.3 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Now-
0:31:45.5 **Safia Abdalla** That’s adorable.
0:31:46.2 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Now be prepared to listen to her favorite song a million times.
0:31:48.6 **Safia Abdalla** (laughs)
0:31:49.0 **Jen Luker** I know, right?
0:31:50.0 **Jason Staten** (laughs)
0:31:50.2 **Jen Luker** Oh! Did you notice that in the front flap of the book is a green page, essentially, with alternating 1s and 0s that looks, ironically, just like our BookBytes logo?
0:32:04.5 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Yes!
0:32:05.5 **Safia Abdalla** Whoa.
0:32:05.8 **Adam Garrett-Harris** I love it!
0:32:06.4 **Safia Abdalla** I see it on the digital version, I don’t know if it looks the same on the print version.
0:32:11.4 **Jen Luker** It does. Book’s in front of me.
0:32:13.4 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Nice.
0:32:13.9 **Jason Staten** Did they include the little handbook in the back of the digital?
0:32:17.5 **Safia Abdalla** Like, her notebook?
0:32:19.3 **Jason Staten** Yeah!
0:32:20.2 **Safia Abdalla** Yeah, they did.
0:32:21.1 **Jason Staten** That’s great.
0:32:22.0 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Apparently you can also visit AraStarEngineer.com for activities and more!
0:32:26.8 **Safia Abdalla** I love activities.
0:32:28.2 **Jen Luker** I know what I’m doing after this!
0:32:29.2 **ALL** (laughs)
0:32:30.2 **Jason Staten** Yeah!
0:32:31.1 **Adam Garrett-Harris** All right. Well with that I guess we’d better go and check out that site.
0:32:34.4 **Safia Abdalla** We sure better.
0:32:35.6 **Adam Garrett-Harris** Thanks so much for listening. If you want to support the show please give us a rating in iTunes and you can follow us on Twitter @BookBytesFM and subscribe in your favorite podcast player. See you next time!
0:32:47.6 **Safia Abdalla** Bye, folks!
0:32:48.5 **Jason Staten** Bye.
(Exit music: Electro swing)
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