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5 Best Sites for Staying Calm

The past week has been a little hectic. School is ramping up again, and spring is a busy time on campus. Many events happen during the bright and warm spring days here in California. Sometimes, through all this hustle and bustle, it’s a little difficult to stay focused and just take a few moments to calm down. Not doing anything for two minutes can really go a long way and centering back your mind. So here are a few of my favorite sites that help me de-stress in the middle of the night when all I want to do is finish my homework and go to bed!

calm1. Calm.com – this is undoubtedly my favorite site in helping keep my inner peace. You can set a meditation timer, or just take a moment to look at the tranquil scenes that loop to gentle music. Choose from a variety of scenes, from sunsets to beaches to abstract falling glitter.

rainymood2. Rainymood.com – Simple but effective. Rainymood plays rain, thunder and other nature noises. It’s something I listen to from time to time remind me of the Seattle rain that I miss here in dry California. Great for reading, writing or settling down before bed.

pinterest3. Pinterest – I’m not going to lie, scrolling aimlessly for a few minutes through Pinterest is often enough to help distract me from any stress I’m experiencing. Your mind relaxes, absorbing all kinds of random media content without searching for something in particular. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be inspired by something that catches your eye?

naturesounds4. naturesoundsfor.me – This site lets you mix your own nature sounds, to listen to while you work. Mixes of white noise, animal sounds and low beats may be all you need to de-stress and get you in a centered state of mind.

thoughtsroom5. The Thoughts Room (The Quiet Place Project) – This site lets you type in all your worries and fears into a little status bar. Once you type, the words fall off the screen, fading into nothingness. Something as simple as typing your frustrations and watching them melt away can be really satisfying.

Tech Trends for 2015

It’s a few weeks into 2015, and some amazing things have already started to happen the technology sphere. The Detroit auto show unveiled some of the coolest new cars and concepts. Supercars such as the Acura NSX and Ford GT are faster than ever before. Electric and hybrid models were present as well, as many auto companies seek to improve their standing with customers and offer “green” options. CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2015 also introduced the biggest and brightest upcoming technical innovations. Realistic robots, new TV models and loads of wearable tech were showcased in Vegas to give the nation a glimpse of what the industry has in store. In this post, I’ll do my best to summarize what I think the top trends for 2015 might be.

Wearables

Continuing from 2014, wearables will continue to dominate the tech market. Especially with Apple’s new smart watch premiering later this year; their market influence will surely have an impact on wearable sales. And with new sensor technology that will be able to more accurately read and collect data, people may be willing to spend the money in order to obtain quality data.

Internet of Things

With more devices flooding the market, from watches to cars to home automation, I think in 2015 we can expect to see more and more of our devices connected and talking to each other. It’s all in the name of being able to see and control all the data we have wherever we are. We want to be able to monitor our homes when we drive off to work or catch our email on our wrists. The internet of things offers a more streamlined future for the enormous amount of tech we have. Expect more companies to talk to each other and open up cross platform/device communications.

Virtual Reality

Will 2015 finally be the year of virtual reality? I hope so. Oculus Rift has been teasing us with its virtual reality headset for years, but it seems like 2015 could be the year where it finally hits the market. Other companies are also in the virtual reality game, such as Samsung, and are poised to splash into the market as well. Developers have had enough time to create some amazing simulations, and consumers are ready to give VR a try.

Better Voice Integration

Sure we have Siri, Cortana and Google Voice. Our phones have some limited voice integration, but I think the rest of the tech world will soon aim to include voice activation in their products. For example, there are rumors that Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system will include Cortana (Microsoft’s digital assistant) built into the platform. Talking to our laptops, cars and maybe even our wrists could soon be commonplace.

Cybersecurity

Perhaps not for the reason we want, cybersecurity will continue to be a big issue in 2015. With the hacks in 2014, the tech world needs to invest more into its security efforts. It’s not just an issue of personal security, but national security as well. If you have experience in cybersecurity, expect a ton of job openings, because no one wants a repeat of the North Korea Hacks.

These are just a few examples of possible tech trends in 2015. These may come into fruition, or may not. 2015 could be the year of awesome tech, but it could easily just end up being a year of half-baked ideas. We’ll have to wait and see.

How to Get Started in Programming

helloworldSo, do you want to learn how to program? Don’t be afraid to say yes! In a world full of revolutionary technology, learning a programming language is almost an important part of being a global citizen. If we know how to read and write, why can’t we learn how to program? Catching fire with Code.org’s Hour of Code initiative that launched a year ago, the revolution to teach programming to kids at an early age has spread rapidly. More and more schools are implementing computer science classes so their kids can learn a valuable skill and stay ahead of the curve. But even as an adult, it’s not too late to learn how to program! I didn’t even know how to write code until my first year of college, so anyone can learn if they have enough motivation and passion. Personally, learning to code has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve learned in my entire life. I’ve made some really cool projects that I spent a lot of time on, but am quite proud of. It’s amazing to see how abstract concepts can be realized into a full-fledged, interactive program that you thought of.

Now, where to start? There are a variety of online resources to help you learn a programming language of your choice. I’ve listed my personal top websites below. Remember, when learning a new programming language, make sure to practice a little bit each day to keep your skills fresh. And don’t worry about memorizing all the syntax or rules needed for each language; not even professional programmers have the entire Java/C++/Python/any programming language’s syntax memorized, especially if they know more than one language. So if it seems hard at first, just remember to keep at it and think of all the amazing things you can do with programming.

Online Resources

  • Code Academy (codeacademy.com) – has many courses designed for beginners to help teach you a language as well as the fundamentals of programming. Their tutorials are a lot of fun too! Definitely a first stop on my list.
  • Khan Academy (khanacademy.org) – has a series of web videos to help you learn JavaScript, a fundamental language for web design and app programming. Make animations, simulate games and discover the logic behind programming.
  • Scratch Programming (scratch.mit.edu/) – learn programming through a visual drag and drop interface. Great for total beginners to play around with, and you can see direct results as you program. Also has a large community to share your projects with online.
  • Microsoft Virtual Academy (microsoftvirtualacademy.com) – Pick up a programming language through Microsoft’s Virtual Academy, with a variety of topics for beginners to advanced programmers.
  • TouchDevelop (by Microsoft) (touchdevelop.com) – make Windows 8 apps straight from your phone or computer! With a mobile optimized website, TouchDevelop makes it easy for users to make apps while playing around on their phones. Has some starter files for inspiration, as well as a community to share your apps with or ask questions. Check out the getting started page if you’re new to programming.
  • CodeHS (codehs.com) – learn simple programming with Karel the Dog and move on to a curriculum step by step tutorials, videos and exercises. CodeHS also provides online tutors if you get stuck.
  • KidsRuby (kidsruby.com) – learn Ruby programming through an environment made for kids. Enjoy adorable graphics as you learn this powerful programming language which is often used for web development.
  • Udacity (udacity.com/course/cs101) – study CS101 at your own pace and discover the magic of programming.
  • Learn Python the Hard Way (learnpythonthehardway.org/book) – don’t let the name fool you. Learning Python can be fun, and this online book takes you through multiple exercises to teach you the language.

Those are my top online resources. There are some great books out there too, if digital just isn’t your thing. And if you have any questions, or want some more advice on how to get started in programming, feel free to email me at nscrimshaw (at) stanford (dot) edu. I spent my whole summer encouraging and teaching kids and teens how to program, and know that anyone can pick up programming if they can get excited by it!