Introduction to REST architecture

This article is a brief introduction to the REpresentational State Transfer (REST) architecture. It is intended for aspiring/junior software developers and other technical professionals who would like to have a better understanding of REST.

Representational State Transfer is a system architectural style enabling the creation and utilization of web services. Services compatible with REST are referred to as “RESTful.” This is common among microservices, which allows for compatibility between multiple systems. It is a stateless protocol, meaning that requests and responses do not rely on prior messages.

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Agile & Scrum for Newbies

Agile is a framework for methodologies that follow the Agile manifesto.

One of the most common Agile methodologies in use is Scrum. It’s a really effective and flexible approach that focuses on building fully functional things within a short amount of time. It really shortens the feedback loop! I ended up adapting it for my own life management because of how well it meshes with my ADHD brain.

Scrum is a way of taking tasks and fitting them into a sprint, which is just an arbitrarily defined period of time – usually 2 weeks, but it could be shorter or longer.

During each sprint, there are a few rituals performed:

  • Standup or Huddle
  • Backlog Grooming
  • Sprint Planning
  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Retro

Stand-ups or huddles are a daily meeting (ideally no longer than 15 minutes) for each team member to share updates with the rest of the team, generally describing:

  • What I did yesterday
  • What I plan on doing today
  • What, if anything, is blocking my progress or requires someone else’s participation

To understand backlog grooming, you need to understand the backlog. A backlog is basically a huge to-do list. It is often on a “Kanban” board which is comprised of 3-4 columns:

Product Backlog (Long Term)Sprint Backlog (This Sprint)Work In ProgressDone
An example of Kanban columns used for backlog management

Backlog grooming involves looking at the product backlog (the long-term goals & projects) and writing down new tasks, (re-)defining existing tasks, and prioritizing them. This also involves estimating the amount of effort a given task might take using a point system. These points are used to determine both the effort of a task as well as a team’s working capacity/velocity (i.e., how much work can actually be completed in two weeks).

Sprint planning is a meeting where the next sprint’s action items are determined.

Sprint review involves bringing in the business team to review the completed work as a way of getting feedback on the development’s trajectory.

Sprint retro is a debriefing session. It involves looking at what the team did well, could do better, and actions to take moving forward.

As I mentioned before, I adopted Agile/Scrum to utilize for my own life management. This was especially useful to keep track of everything due when I went back to college a few years ago.

If you’d like to learn by doing, consider implementing a system similar to my own. Start by using Trello to create a Kanban board with the columns listed above. The Product Backlog column will be your long-term projects that need to be completed. The Sprint Backlog column will be tasks that you feel reasonably confident you can complete within the sprint. Try to keep no more than 3 tasks In Progress so you can stay focused.

To keep things simple, use a 1-week sprint (Sunday thru Saturday). Every Friday, sit down for Sprint Planning to consider the work you’ll accomplish next week, creating new cards as necessary to break down larger projects. On Saturday, you can have a quick combined Sprint Review and Sprint Retro to answer three questions before starting again on Sunday morning:

  • What did I do well?
  • What could I improve on?
  • What are the actions I need to take next sprint to improve?

There’s obviously a lot more to Scrum, but if you’re new to Agile I hope this helped to provide a solid overview.

Using GillesPy2 to simulate inhalation anthrax

While working on my Computer Science degree, I was invited to participate in an undergraduate research project that allowed me to combine my interest in programming and biology. I converted a predictable, but simplified, model of inhalation anthrax to a model that accounts for the probabilistic nature of biological systems (i.e., deterministic to stochastic). The project was a collaboration between two UNC Asheville professors: Dr. Brian Drawert, Computer Science and Dr. Megan Powell, Mathematics.

Dr. Drawert is a researcher within systems biology, a field that attempts to model and analyze complex biological systems using computational algorithms. He is also the author of GillesPy2, an open-source software project designed to allow scientists to easily create those models and use stochastic simulations to study outcomes.

Dr. Powell specializes in infectious disease dynamics. Her primary research focus is inhalation anthrax, a disease caused by the Bacillus Anthracis bacteria, the same bacteria that was used in several high-profile acts of terrorism in the early 2000s.

By translating Dr. Powell’s deterministic model of inhalation anthrax into the stochastic form used by GillesPy2, we were able to deliver new insights on the model and make improvements to software quality & usability.

The following abstract is from a research paper I wrote for the UNC Asheville Computer Science department detailing the results of our joint research & development project.

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Privilege and the Pursuit of Financial Independence

I’ve noticed a serious lack of privilege awareness in certain financial independence groups, so it’s an important topic I want to address.

Even when pursuing Financial Independence through a socially conscious lens, we have to admit to ourselves that FI is rooted in privilege. Personally, my motive is to secure my own freedom & independence from a system that is not inclusive.

But it can be impossible to get ahead of economic oppression. There are a variety of reasons this is true – whether it’s race, gender or neurotype, all of which fundamentally come down to a simple lack of access to resources.

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A Trans Woman’s Thoughts on Being a Former Freemason

Ten years ago, I joined a fraternal organization known as Freemasonry. One of its primary missions, outside of public charity, is to provide an environment where men are meant to support each other on a path of personal and spiritual growth. There is a focus on providing a ritual framework that guides its members through life’s changes & challenges. There’s an abundance of symbolism, ritualism, allegory, and philosophy. Many members also study the arcane and the occult. These, along with seeking friendship, were my reasons for joining. The tag line so often quoted is “freemasonry makes good men better” and so, I thought, it would help me to be a better man.

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Analysis of 007: James Bond Films

The James Bond films are the longest running series in cinematic history, with a total of 24 films since Sean Connery’s debut as James Bond in 1962’s Dr. No. It is one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time with an estimated worth of approximately $15 billion USD.

This is a data analysis project that I’ve considered doing for a while. In 2006, when Daniel Craig took the reigns in Casino Royale, I was curious whether the movie had been more financially successful than its predecessors, despite the outcry of viewers who expressed uncertainty about the first “blonde Bond.” With the latest installment of 007 arriving in theaters this Fall, I thought it would be a great time to dig into the films’ data to see what additional insights I could discover.

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MTF vs AMAB – How I perceive my gender identity

Admittedly, there was a time in my life that I literally tried to study how to be a good man. I even wrote a paper in college about what I thought defined a good man. I took the stance that I couldn’t relate to manhood because I had my own definition of what being a man meant. I felt entirely separated from the way men experience the world. In hindsight, I was trying to describe my gender identity within the confines of the one I was constantly told that I was.

As it turns out, once I realized that I was not stuck trying to define my own manhood, but that I could in fact define and describe my own gender identity, I also realized that my internal sense of who I am is a lot closer to being a woman than I would’ve ever imagined.

I don’t feel like I’m “male to female,” I just feel trans because my gender identity goes beyond (transcends) what I was assigned.

Religious adherents aren’t defined by their past beliefs. Nobody ever describes converts as “Atheist to Christian” or “Christian to Deist.” Their past beliefs may influence their present understanding of religion or spirit, but their understanding of who they are has changed.

I prefer to describe my “old gender” as AMAB – assigned male at birth – because maleness was a role and identity that was assigned/thrust upon my unsuspecting tabula rasa, but it’s not one that was authentically me.

An analogy for verbal difficulty & audio processing disorder

You’re on an interview via Zoom and trying to put your best foot forward so you’re already a little nervous. The interviewer asks you a question, but their audio keeps dipping out randomly. “Hi! It’s ni-[unintelligible] meet [unintelligible] -re you?”

You smile and nod, not entirely sure what they said at first until you realize, due to context, that they are asking how you are.

The smile, nod, and generic responses while trying to mentally catch up is masking. This kind of masking works well for short periods of time when there are plenty of context clues and the content isn’t crucial. The longer it goes on, the more prone it is to breaking down.

Later, they begin giving some prerequisite information for a scenario they want you to work through, but this time their audio drops out entirely, part way through the explanation.

Now, it’s no longer possible to mask because there is crucial information missing. You try to ask the interviewer to repeat the question, but it turns out the audio issue is on your end and now they can’t hear you either, only that you’re trying to speak. They are trying to let you know they can’t hear you, but of course you can’t hear them.

This brief moment of confusion as you finally realize what’s happening and the panicked attempts to fix the audio issue is what it’s like to have verbal difficulties and audio processing disorder.

Exploring a Science Fiction Utopia

The year was 2048 A.D. when scientists made a huge breakthrough in observational astronomy. Astrophysicists had been skeptical for decades, but a naked singularity had finally been discovered as part of the Alpha Centauri system. A singularity such as this could house a wormhole allowing us to travel through hyperspace and into the far reaches of the universe. It was close enough to visit, and being a naked singularity there was no event horizon to be sucked into. The possibility for a major scientific breakthrough was huge! After a decade of intensive efforts by Earth’s leading physicists and aerospace engineers to build a craft to visit Sigma Centauri – as it was now being called – a successful launch finally happened in the year 2060 CE. A crew of 3 scientist-astronauts volunteered for a “Return Improbable” mission. It took 40 years for the Seeker I probe and the Seekers to reach ∑ Centauri. Initial telemetry data indicated the singularity was approximately 50 billion solar masses!

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