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Articles by Josh Niederer...

React Hour One

If you’ve read anything about web frameworks this year, I’m sure you’ve seen that React is the trendiest tool out there. With all the JavaScript web-frontend tools that come out seemingly every week, it’s rare for one to receive as much positive press as React has. Though I tend not to put too much weight in tools, I’d rather be spending time on timeless concepts like math or algorithms, React seems like it is a framework worth spending a some time with. I plan to put in on average about one hour a day on learning and using the framework. As I dig deeper into React I will chronicle my experiences here. I will post links and sources to all of the sites and tutorials used and attempt to summarize the key concepts I’ve picked up.

My journey through the world of React began at the framework’s homepage. The demos and sample code on the homepage sell React as a modular, reactive, view abstraction that can be used to build web applications and even mobile apps. React’s primary goal is to solve the problem of “building large applications with data that changes over time” [1]. That’s a tall order, I’ll have to find out if it fits the bill on to the ]tutorial.

The tutorial lets us build the comments box below. Since one of the main reasons to use React is to take advantage of its modular nature, the application makes heavy use of components. The app consists of the following components: CommentBox, CommentList, CommentForm, and Comment. The key component is the CommentForm. It is built up from the CommentList and the CommentBox below. The CommentList is made up of each of Comment components. The CommentBox is used to post comments. The solution relies on ajax to fetch and write records to a json file used to store the comments. The mechanics of using React seem fairly straight forward. React builds the ReactDOM from JavaScript classes. I’ll definitely have to examine the code further as I learn more and more but it seems like I could be decently productive using this tutorial, along with heavy use of Google and consultation of the docs [3].


For my efforts towards learning React, I’m going to be using Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code text editor. It’s a great light-weight Atom based editor and it works on all platforms.

Notes on the Server

I used Node.js to run the server. I have to admit, it’s been a while since I touched Node.js and I had to do some searching to get http://localhost:3000/ displaying index.html. If anyone ever gets to this point, here are the commands that I used to get everything up and running. Assuming you have Node.js installed and have downloaded and extracted the zipped tutorial file, cd to the tutorial folder you’re your shell. Once you’re there, issue the following four commands:

npm init
npm install express –save
npm install body-parser –save
node server.js

Now you should be able to navigate to http://localhost:3000/ from within your browser.

Where I’m At and What Next?

Reading through and typing out the tutorial by hand took about 30 minutes. Reading through some of the material and relooking over the source code took another half an hour. So on direct React material I’d be about at an hour or so. It took me another 15 minute to setup and decide the platform I wanted to run the application on. My next step is to go through this free course. I saw it recommended on Hacker News with a lot of positive feedback so it should be a great resource. Until next time!


[1] - Why React?
[2] - Official Tutorial
[3] - Official Docs

Published on 4/6/2016 6:49:48 PM

Goals and Starting Points

Today’s goals are the starting points for tomorrow.

One Tuesday morning in March, I was getting ready for the day when I thought about the idea above. Once one goal is achieved, there is no turning back. The new reality of the world is one where that goal is done. With this reality comes the realization that it’s time to start again. To continue building on the reality that started when the last goal was achieved.

Very few, if any goals should be terminal. Consider this analogy. When you finish most non-fiction books, one of the last sections is a list of recommended books or sources that may have contributed material found within the text. The book contained the information it set out to convey, but there are many more places to look for further enlightenment. It’s the same way with goals. One goal leads to another and the process never completes.

After thinking of the sentence that starts this post, I googled it to see if anyone else had written or said something similar. Sure enough someone already had. The great 20th century philosopher, John Dewey is quoted as coming up with an idea very similar. Dewey’s version is, “Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” I had never read any of Dewey’s work before seeing his quote, but his philosophical writings look like good future reading.

Published on 4/5/2016 6:09:53 AM

Do Something Remarkable

When was the last time you did something remarkable? Maybe you recently graduated from school, or you happened to do exceptionally well on a project at work, or you may have even wrote 30 articles in 30 days. Whatever it is you’ve done in the past, the world is full of new opportunities to do something amazing. Every day, people are doing truly remarkable things. It is an active decision whether we want to participate or not.

Doing things that are remarkable takes effort. The more things we do, the greater the chance we do something noteworthy. Since effort is one of the few things we can control, we have direct control over our remarkability. By effort here, I’m talking about deliberate practice in one area. Through effort we improve our ability. As an example, by the 100th time I’ve written an article, it’s probably going to be better than the 10th one because those 89 entries in between were all opportunities to improve. So roughly, through quantity comes quality.

With this in mind, my goal in 2016 is to do as many remarkable things as possible. From learning new concepts or tools, like machine learning and React, to building new software, there are so many possibilities in technology alone. Any single idea has the potential to be life changing. Just a simple program can potentially be used to save countless hours of productivity. Therefore, I’m going to learn and create as much as (sanely) possible. As long as it’s enjoyable, there is no reason not to. Perhaps I’ll do something remarkable.

Published on 4/4/2016 6:03:37 AM

Cubs Predictions 2016

With the Cubs 2016 season kicking off tomorrow night in Anaheim, it feels appropriate to post some predictions for the new season. As a lifelong Cubs fan, I don’t think my optimism for a season has ever been higher. Do I think this could be the season they finally win it all? It’s possible, but so could any team. Well, maybe not any team. I’d be surprised if the 2016 Atlanta Braves win 70 games. On paper, the Cubs have vastly improved a team that won 97 games in 2015. 97 games! It’ll be awfully hard to top that. The Cubs definitely do have a chance to win the World Series, but a lot of things will need to go their way.

Best Position Player

Adding Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward to the fold makes it a lot more difficult to pick who will carry the Cubs this season. Both are great players and add a lot to the mix, but I believe the best player on the team will be the same guy who was their best player last season: Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo will be great too, he’s a top-5 First Baseman in all of baseball, but he won’t put up the kind of all-around numbers that Bryant will. Bryant will bring his contact rate up this year, hit for more power, improve his skills at Third Base, and continue to run the bases at an elite level. In terms of great young players, now the whole country is represented. The people on the West coast have Mike Trout. The people on the East coast have Bryce Harper. The people in the Midwest have Kris Bryant.

Best Pitcher

Jake Arrieta is the easy answer here. In addition to being my favorite player to watch in the game right now, he also has the best stuff of any pitcher in the game not named Clayton Kershaw. Everything came together for Arrieta in 2015 as he had the most dominant second half of any pitcher ever, and took home the Cy Young Award for his efforts. The season he had was mind-blowing. Jake Arrieta will be the Cubs best pitcher in 2016. Jon Lester, much like Anthony Rizzo on the offensive side, will continue to quietly put up the great numbers. Outside of those two, lookout for Kyle Hendricks to continue to progress into one of the best pitchers in the National League. Hendricks has proven that he can get by successfully on intelligence and less than average stuff. He should only improve as he gets wiser and gains more experience in the league.

Offense Summary

  1. Jason Heyward CF
  2. Ben Zobrist 2B
  3. Kris Bryant 3B
  4. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  5. Kyle Schwarber LF
  6. Jorge Soler RF
  7. Addison Russell SS
  8. Miguel Montero C
  9. Pitcher

I must’ve wrote down or thought about this lineup at least a hundred times since Heyward signed in December 2015. Then Dexter Fowler resigned in February and threw a wrench in dream lineup. Now there are too many great lineups to even list. Before Fowler decided to come back, Javier Baez, a player with the talent to start on any team in the league, Cubs included, was already sitting on the bench most days. Now Soler, another player with immense skills, will also be starting most of his summer nights on the bench. Baez and Soler will be joined by the capable Tommy LaStella and Lester’s personal caddy David “Grandpa” Ross.

From a statistical standpoint, this team should put up some gaudy numbers. There are 10 better than league average bats to choose from. Russell, the every day shortstop, is set up for potential 25 homer season. He has hit the ball harder and farther than anyone this spring and is primed for a breakout season. A full season of Schwarber should be fun to see, he should easily eclipse 30 home runs. Overall, strikeouts will still be an issue from this group but the contact skills from Rizzo, Zobrist, and Heyward should keep the Cubs in the game against power arms. Hopefully this can solve some of the difficulties the team had against the Mets last October.

Pitching Summary

The bullpen filled with super utility pitchers will prove to be a moderate success. Adam Warren and Trevor Cahill will both throw around 100 innings, starting several games each. Travis Wood and Clayton Richard will throw above 80 innings and at times fill the lefty specialist role, the long reliever role, late inning support, and maybe even spot start from time to time. The backend of the pen will scuffle at times causing a lot of people to be uneasy, but they will get the job done. Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop have proven to have great stuff and they will continue to put up similar number to last year, but people will definitely question if they’re good enough for a championship caliber team. Justin Grimm, if he can stay healthy, will be the most valuable pitcher in the bullpen. His stuff is too good not be getting a few saves.

Any rotation fronted by Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester would be able to hold their own. Throw in two quality three-level-starters in John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks, a solid four in Jason Hammel, and you have a top five rotation. As with any starting staff, if the Cubs arms can stay healthy they will be exceptional. Hendricks is one of the most underrated starters in the game. Hammel looks rejuvenated as he worked hard to improve in the offseason. Adding the toughness of Lackey will help the staff even when he isn’t on the mound. Each starter should have more than 10 wins by the end of the year.

Final Record

103 Wins 59 Losses

The Cubs will have their first 100-win season since 1935 when they went 100-54. That season they lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers. This team is too deep not to improve on the record they had last year. From the on the field talent to the front office, everyone seems to be in sync and solely focused on winning the World Series. In addition to that, they have the perfect manager to guide them through all the situations they’ll encounter along the way in reigning Manager of the Year, Joe Maddon. The Cubs will win the NL Central and make the playoffs. As good as they’ll be, I don’t think they’ll win the series this year. As the 100-plus year championship drought on the Northside of the Chicago shows, it’s hard to win the World Series. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out in October, I can’t wait.

Published on 4/3/2016 6:06:20 AM