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AuthorI'm Al Sweigart, author of Automate the Boring Stuff with Python and other Creative Commons-licensed books that teach beginners to code. AMA!

Jan 25th 2018 by AlSweigart • 24 Questions • 86 Points

Hi this is me Harley Flanagan, some of you know a little about me and my past, you may or may not have read my book and possibly know of my music, this is your chance to ask me what you want ;)

 

From Amazon author description: Harley Flanagan provides a fascinating memoir: a child prodigy and family friend of Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg, at a young age he became close to many stars of the early punk rock scene like Joe Strummer of The Clash and was taught to play bass by members of the famed black punk band Bad Brains. He started playing drums for the New York punk band the Stimulators when he was 11 years old; playing at places like Max's Kansas City with some of the most notable names of the punk scene. He then went on to start the notorious hardcore band Cro-Mags.

 

From the memoir's introduction by American Hardcore's Steven Blush: "Harley Flanagan is not like you or me. Most of us grew up in relative safety and security. Harley came up like a feral animal, fending for himself in the '70s Lower East Side jungle of crime, drugs, abuse and poverty. By age 10 he was a downtown star at Max's Kansas City and CBGB, drumming in his aunt's punk band The Stimulators, and socializing with Blondie's Debbie Harry and Cleveland's Dead Boys. Everyone thought it was so cute, but it wasn't."

Of his much anticipated memoir, famed author and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain explains: "Don't even pretend to talk about New York... if you don't read this." "This book is the punch in the face you want and need."

 

Proof: https://www.instagram.com/p/BeLsr0JgJSF/

 

Social:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/harleyfflanagan

IG: https://www.instagram.com/harleyfflanagan/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/harley.flanagan

 

EDIT: Ok, I'm gonna wrap this up now. It was a pleasure talking with you. I'll be playing some shows in the NY area and Maryland. Dates posted on Facebook and IG.

Check out the book, Hardcore: Life of my Own on Amazon: http://a.co/fMbxRSS

Q:

Hey Al, Automate the Boring Stuff is a great book and I'm very excited about the sequel. Any tentative date?

PS: Al, you are awesome!

A:

Any chance Alexandra York comes back and gives Dana Brooke some pointers?


Q:

I work in Physical Therapy, and as a caregiver, I was wondering if you could give some tips to caregivers as to how you would like to be treated? Any good or bad examples I could learn from?

I did one of my inservices on MG while going through school, but did not learn about your type until I read your AMA today. Thanks so much for sharing so we can all learn!

A:

Do you think John Joseph secretly eats White Castle sliders?


Q:

Probably sometime in early 2019. I wish I had started earlier on it, but I wasn't quite sure what should go into a sequel. I knew I wanted to create an intermediate level book, given that there's tons of content out there for complete beginners and experienced developers, but it's hard to pin down what "intermediate" is.

Fluent Python and Effective Python are great books for mastering the Python language, and Clean Code is a great book on good software development practices in general. I didn't want to create a poor imitation of those books, but I did want similar aspects to them.

Currently, the idea is that the reader is someone who knows basic programming concepts and syntax (not even necessarily Python) and has written some one-off scripts, but wants to put together complete applications for their niche needs.

I'm making a risky, experimental approach where I use the browser for the applications' GUI. GUI frameworks like Qt and wxWidgets are great, but I didn't want to get married to a particular framework. Then I thought, a lot of people know HTML & CSS, or at least those would be generally useful skills if the book taught them. So I'd use Flask to create "offline web apps", which are really just applications that use the browser & HTML for the user interface. These would be applications meant to run on localhost and not accessible by the internet. It's cross-platform, easy to expand upon later if they do want to learn more.

I kind of feel a sort of George RR Martin-syndrome where I want to write as fast as possible to get this book out as soon as possible, but it's looking like it'll be a lot of work that will take up my entire 2018 for the writing and editing. No Starch is really good about not rushing their writers, in my experience, and producing quality books because of it.

A:

Hmmmm...very interesting...you and everyone else will have to wait and see! I think she is doing a great job as is! :)


Q:

With patience. MG is a snow flake disease so we are all so so different but we are all trying. I once had a PT tell me she didn't think I could have MG cause of the schedule I take my meds on and cause I don't look sick........... I won't go see a PT again.. it hurts when people assume you are faking it.... I know I don't look physically ill but I am very very sick. Last night I had to be carried to my car to go home from an event because my legs did not work. It was humiliating. ( And why I decided to do this AMA). We just want to be normal and treated as such.

A:

Lol


Q:

Hi Al, I have read and learn a lot from the automate the boring stuff with python book :)

My question is: what would you say is the next step for someone trying to learn to program ?

A:

Thanks for taking the time to respond, it's sad that it's a common thing in entertaining industry. Have a nice day!


Q:

OMG. I'm so sorry this PT said that. It was way out of line and wrong and rude and does NOT reflect how PT thinks of MG. You are definitely not "faking it".

I am cautious not to be an "ableist" a term I was recently introduced to. I always try to treat people with respect and compassion without making them feel less than or small because of their illness--because they are neither!

I have an invisible illness myself so I can relate to professionals acting as if there is nothing wrong...grr!

Thank you so much for answering my question!

A:

Yo Harley,

Huge fan, and I didn’t fully appreciate until recently the incredible life you’ve lead. Here’s my question though: what is more important for the future of punk rock - stylistically following what has been happening or keeping the attitude and ethos while exploring whatever sound you want?

No Harley No Cro Mags


Q:

The common answer for this is "work on programming projects" which... is true but kind of unhelpful. Maybe you have ideas for putting together a project, but if you don't you're back to wondering what to do.

I wrote a blog post about simple video games you could clone, but if you aren't into making games, you could google for "programming project ideas".

The most important thing to keep in mind is keep the project simple. It's better to have one completed small project than half a dozen large but never finished projects. I usually make a list of features I want the project to have, but also a list of features the project won't have. This prevents feature creep and "hey, it'd be cool if the program did..."

Practice programming problems are good too. I'd recommend /r/dailyprogrammer and http://exercism.io/. Project Euler is recommended a lot, but the problems tend to be very mathy (which is fine if you're into it.)

A:

Guys if you want to Tweet me a missed question thats fine but please give me time to get to your question. No need to be rude.


Q:

Thanks, but it's not your fault. You seem like a lovely person!! I even do things like that myself and I know how handicapped I am. I think it's ingrained into our brains that everyone around us lies to get what they want. And that's a difficult thing to break. Still it's hurtful and all of us need to be mindful of how we treat each other

A:

I think attitude is everything, no matter what genre of music. Hardcore is a way of being, it's not just a style of music or a look. It's the kind of person you are.


Q:

Hi Al, how good is your touch typing? I've been trying to learn to touch type alongside learning to code so I don't end up looking at the keyboard and instead be looking at the code only.

Much like coding, getting the basics down is pretty easy but getting proficient is taking me ages (in both).

No way can i keep up with you on Udemy. Are you hitting all the right numbers and special characters with the right fingers? Does it help?

A:

With more Female Wrestlers having submission finishing moves these days, I wonder what would be your submission finisher if you had one and what would you call it?


Q:

My grandmother is 75/just had a myasthenia crisis after a mild heart attack. Is she gonna be ok? :,(

A:

Hey Harley, big fan. I know in the '80s you got a swastika tattoo on your inner wrist. I also know you got it covered up. What did you get it covered up with? Why did you get a swastika? What does the cover-up tattoo mean to you?


Q:

On a good day I can hit 90 or 100 wpm, and while I'd definitely learn to type (including practicing with typing software) I remember a post recently where someone claimed that bad typers can't be good programmers, which I completely disagree with.

I sometimes look down at the keyboard but mostly don't.

Typing is really the least important part of programming, though it helps to be able to output your coding ideas at the same rate you have them.

A:

Hmmmmmm, let me think about that one for a bit! Feel free to ask it again in a bit, if I don't answer!


Q:

I honestly don't know how to answer that.

Hopefully! I certainly always hope so with everyone. Medicine is getting better, a new medication was just FDA approved for MG a few months ago, the first one in more than 50 years. Is she seeing a neurologist? If you want to message me I will get you links to our FB support groups.

My Mg is not controlled well, but this is a relatively rare thing. Today I had trouble walking and had to be carried to my car.

I know people with MG who are in their late 80's, but this month alone 13 people have died because they got sick and then had MG complications. My dad died this time last year from MG complications. Sadly with this disorder, we just never know.

I wish I had better news... What do her doctors say?

A:

In the 80's, all of the Puerto Rican gangs in my neighborhood were covered in Swastikas, all the black gangs wore them as well as the Hells angels on 3rd st So I didnt think much of it, when I was a kid in the 70's, Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols wore Swastikas. When I got it it was a symbol of shock and I was just a dumb kid, it was not about National Socialism or killing jews, it was just a symbol that got a reaction. I covered it when I got older because I realized how wrong it was to have a symbol that was so hateful to so many people. Thats the long and short of it


Q:

Hi Al. First I'd like to thank you for your books. I took your Udemy course and it was great.

I am from Brazil and education is not a priority right here. I want to help people get comfortable with science and programming, especially kids. I have a little bit of experience teaching to undergrad students while in college, but they already had a good basis of knowledge.

How do you approach teaching people with little experience/knowledge? Do you have some sort of flow you take in order to build confidence in the learning process?

Thank you so much!

A:

[deleted]


Q:

She just had a tracheotomy yesterday. She’s hospitalized and looked really good today. She hasn’t walked since her heart attack.

A:

Hey Harley!

My question is about the music industry.

Currently we are struggling indie artists. Do you think it’s better to stay independent and grind it out DIY style or to sign with a major label and lose some of your publishing and other things to get some capital to kick things off?

I know with the Cro-Mags you guys went through hell with labels.

Much Respect!

Mike


Q:

My teaching experience has been limited to a Saturday morning Scratch programming class I did for a few years at Oakland, CA's video game museum, The MADE. These were one-off classes (since we didn't know if students would return the next Saturday or how long they'd stick with it) so we concentrated on making small projects with Scratch.

These were 9 to 13 year olds, and our aim wasn't to teach them programming concepts per se, but make them think that programming was 1) cool and 2) something they were capable of.

I'd focus on small projects, and video games are a common gateway to programming as well. It's kind of tricky to do with Python, because "video game" makes kids think of 3D games like CoD or Minecraft, or at least colorful mobile games, and you won't make anything like that in a single 90 minute class.

But focus on small, accomplish-able results. Also, the lecture format is terrible for guiding a class through a programming project since you can only go as fast as the slowest student. I experimented with creating tutorials that were a series of animated GIFs, and this worked better than videos (which are a pain to constantly rewind) and lectures. This way teachers could float around and help kids at whatever point they were at, and kids could go at their own pace.

Oh yeah, and it will ALWAYS take longer than you think to explain and make students understand concepts. We easily forget how unnatural programming is to complete beginners.

A:

Two females fighting to be on top...constantly.


Q:

I would make sure she see's a neuro who knows about MG and also that they check her for a thymoma or thymic hyperplasia. Where is she located? I may be able to suggest some docs.

A:

There are certain benefits to working with big organizations. So, in that respect, giving something up to gain something can be a plus. But, the game has changed a lot and with all the social media and all of the things that are available to the artist, you can definitely be successful on your own if you play your cards right. Whats best is what works for you.


Q:

Hi, Al.

How long did you, personally, curse when "print 'foo'" no longer worked in Py3?

A:

When were you asked to come back for the Raw 25th anniversary?


Q:

I have no idea .-.

A:

Harley, you're the man!

What's your favorite memory of training at Renzos? Have you ever seen Renzo or Ralph get really angry? Both great guys, but definitely not anyone I would ever want to piss off...

Also, just wanted to say thank you, you gave me my introduction class at Renzos during a really bad time in my life about 3-4 years ago. Since than I've had to move, but train at Serras now and try to drop in at the NYC/Brooklyn location when possible. It's helped me out immensely during trying times these past 4 years. Never really got to thank you enough.


Q:

Heh, nah, that was easy to stop doing. I actually made the switch to Python 3 early on, and really encourage others to do the same. The "modules don't support Python 3" really hasn't been true for years at this point, so unless you're working with a large existing code base, there's no point in sticking with Python 2.

And Python 3 at this point has a lot of great features, but I've always maintained that having proper Unicode strings makes Python 3 worth it. Before then, it's really easy to write code that just falls apart if someone adds a letter with an accent mark in it. Ned Batchelder has an absolutely amazing and accessible talk on Unicode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgHbC6udIqc

A:

Recently...last few weeks.


Q:

That's okay. It's all new. Feel free to reach out if I can help.

A:

First of all, I'm glad I was able to introduce you to this life-changing art. You have become part of a bigger family by training with Henzo and, now, Matt. My best memories are Renzo and Ryan training together at the old academy, when guys like Matt Serra and John Danaher and all those legends of the sport were all just blue belts. Those are the days I will never forget. It's been a great journey so far and I'm looking forward to what the future of BJJ is going to be like.


Q:

Hi Al, thanks for taking the time to do this. I have a pretty basic question.

I have no knowledge in coding, at all. For someone like me who could devote say 10hrs a week to learning - how long do you think it could take someone who is a rather quick learner to learn a more basic coding language?

Thanks!

A:

what is the most underrated independent league that you follow? which country has the most underrated wrestling talent?


Q:

What would you say had been the biggest challenge about living your life with GRMG?

A:

Harley,

Do you recall ever practicing with the band 108 with you playing drums? What do you remember about the experience?


Q:

I think you'd be able to start solving basic practice programming problems with in a few weeks or a couple of months at that rate. It'd still be at least a year or so to get to the point of getting a junior position as a software developer though. Also, remember that the ten-thousand hours is kind of a myth: it's not so much practice but choosing to practice difficult things instead of the same familiar thing over and over.

I kind of compare it to becoming fluent in a foreign language or learning a musical instrument: It'd probably only take a few months to carry on a basic conversation or not be bad enough to busk at a subway station. But you won't get hired as a translator or create a hit album any time soon.

Developer boot camps usually soak up your entire life to get job ready in about 14 or 16 weeks, which doesn't really work if you need to continue working or you have kids to raise. Even then, you're still green and might have some difficulty getting hired. But you'd definitely be on the right track.

As the Chinese proverb goes, "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today."

A:

Overdrive Pro Wrestling out of Nashville, TN As for the last question...I cannot answer that question honestly because I haven't watched as much independent promotions in the last little while.


Q:

Umm, there are actually quite a few things... 1. I have had to have open heart ( for lack of a better term its pretty much the same procedure) surgery twice now to get of a MG related tumor called a thymoma... That was extremely difficult. 2. Feeling the loss of independence I have felt over the past three years since being diagnosed. 3. I think the most heartbreaking and difficult thing is/was the only person who really understood what I was going through die from RgMG ( my dad also had MG and died at 46, a year and a week ago). Even though they say it's not supposed to be hereditary. It was in my case.

A:

I have no recollection of practicing with them. I've heard about this before.


Q:

How difficult was it to teach Zophie to code? ;-)

Seriously, IYO what's the worst part of coding interviews? I've always hated how some HR drone expects me to create a fully functional script to solve their critical business problem in 5 minutes on a whiteboard.

A:

What was the shift into more mature programming like for the performers?


Q:

Weird, seems like some text books need to be re-written if both you and your dad had an ultra rare "non-heriditary" disease

A:

Alright- one more!!

Do you still have all your records and tshirts? Is there anything you wish you still had?


Q:

She still struggles to type. And she thinks significant indentation is weird, but most beginners get over that pretty quickly.

A:

There was never a moment in which I remember anyone saying "Hey, we are gonna push the proverbial envelope!" What I DO remember was them coming to us and saying "We have to tone this down, advertisers are not happy!"


Q:

There are a few families I know of with MG through my support groups. Not many but a few

A:

I have a good amount of them. Of course, some things got stolen and lost along the way.


Q:

Can you do one for Android?

A:

What was your favorite costume you saw or wore?


Q:

If it's your immune system that's causing problems, wouldn't giving yourself AIDS cure it?

A:

Were you a trouble kidd? Judging by the tattoos taken in a young age and punk lifestyle. (Not judging. A punk myself)


Q:

Maybe in 2019. I took a look at Kotlin a few months ago and got excited about it's potential to unseat Java, particularly for Android development. Also, I like using video games to get kids into coding, and today that means mobile games more than BASIC-era text adventures.

I've been meaning to take a look at Kivy though, which uses Python to produce mobile and desktop apps.

A:

Definitely Wrestlemania #12...unfortunately because of the type of match it was...that dress never got a proper viewing!!! :(


Q:

Ummmmm. No lol

A:

Yes, I guess you could say that. Read my book, all the answers are there. I started young.


Q:

I agree, the current "hello world" of android is usually creating some static page with an image background and some text. I feel like kids would get bored with that very soon

A:

What is the most important life lesson you have ever learned? Thanks for doing this AMA!


Q:

How would you rate your pain on a 1-10 scale, and how much does it vary day by day?

A:

Who are the hardest dudes in hardcore besides (alongside?) you and why??? Let’s get some raw stories!!


Q:

And not just that, it takes like ten million steps and XML files to just get to that point. I can see why the toolchain is like that, but I keep thinking "There's gotta be a better way."

A:

Rambonenix...THANKS so much for this question and for the kind words!!! I was taught by my mother to always be kind and gracious to others unless they were unkind or nasty to me...and if they were unkind or nasty...to simply walk away and not allow their negativity to invade my mind or heart. Another one is "Pretty is skin deep but ugly is to the bone!" One more and it is sometimes hard to think about this when someone is doing something dastardly to us...but "Hurting people hurt people!" Thanks again for this question! :)


Q:

I have lupus as well so physical pain tends to be from that. MG itself does not cause physical pain in most cases. Emotional pain varies from day to day.

A:

The hardest people I know fight in cages for a living or are deployed serving their country.


Q:

Hi Al, as an aspiring programmer getting back into Python after having taken a class in college, your book has been extremely helpful in teaching popular libraries to get up to speed with what one can currently do with the language. In addition, I heard about the book, but it was really the course that has pushed me farther so I really want to thank you for making that! Although I am still learning, I have also come across javascript and have been impressed (maybe naively?) with the cross-platform nature of javascript i.e you can write a program to use the phones tilt sensors to put a ball in a hole or write really beautiful/elegant visualizations, something I have kind of envied because I don't really know how that is best implemented in python. Yet it's a bit confusing at this point how to break in given the rapidly changing landscape of javascript and the dependencies, so without saying a book like yours for javascript would be awesome. But doubt, that that's your focus, so do you know any similar style books to yours that can get a beginner who knows no javascript, or little html/css to building cool cross platform apps? Also, what are your thoughts about making cool tutorials with what I heard is a promising app builder: toga from pybeeware?

A:

Who were your favorite and least favorite talents to work with?


Q:

What about the older BHC; SSD, Gang Green, Slapshot?

A:

Oh man, I love PyBeeware's projects, and Russ is a really great guy. I've been meaning to get more involved in their projects but I haven't had the time.

Unfortunately I don't really know of books like Automate for other languages, though it'd be nice if someone wrote some.


Q:

I of course loved working with the father of Dakota! That was usually FUN! The Hardys were fun, Perry was great as I always felt safe with him...and Big Bossman Ray Traylor was my nearest and dearest friend after Dustin left WWF. Ray and I worked together a few times bust he was always my BESTIE on the road and when we were at home! Thanks Angie and Girls, for always being so gracious and allowing RayRay to ride with me and be my traveling partner! :) My love and appreciation will never go away!!! :)

A:

I wasn't a huge fan but I appreciate what they contributed to Hardcore, musically. I do, however, think that those bands had a lot to do with the divisions that started to happen to the scenes on the East Coast and that was a definite downside to it. I talk about it in my book.


Q:

Hi Mr. Sweigart. I have tried over and over again to learn how to program, and every single time I lost interest. I like the idea of programming but I don't think I actually like the act of programming. I can't seem to find any projects that excite me, or hold my interest for very long. How can I find a way to enjoy programming and find and make, or contribute to, a project I will enjoy?

Also I have browsed r/learn programming and I am immediately hit with choice paralysis. I just want one or two books instead of a bazillion options. If I could only buy one book to learn how to program what should I buy?

Finally, I have learned that learning how to program is like learning how to scissor or how to glue. I want to develop this skill but I don't have anything I really want to make. How can I find a reason to want to program?

A:

I’m ordering it today. Thanks for doing this. What kind of music do you listen to currently? Like, if you’re driving around, what’s playing on the radio?


Q:

I don't think this is necessarily a programming thing, but a general motivation thing. /r/motivation has great tips, but in general: Pomodoro technique for working on something, getting a "gym buddy" to learn coding with, etc.

But also, if you choose a programming project to work on, make sure it's small. It's better to finish a small project than have several half-complete ones.

A:

I have such a wide range of musical taste. I could go on and on and on. Before we started this, I was listening to Black Uhuru and Marvin Gaye, but I could've just as easily been listening to Type O Negative, Sex Pistols or Bad Brains. I listen to different things all day.


Q:

You will coming back to Europe this year?

A:

We will be there this summer, probably July and August.


Q:

What do you feel is most fake? JJ’s PMA bullshit or his hair? Him calling his cover band “Cro-Mags “ is insulting to everyone who has been a fan of your music

A:

That's more than one question lol...if the PMA was real, we'd all be discussing a reunion right now instead of fighting. That's all I've got to say about that.


Q:

Hey there, Harley! Have you ever tried Marmite?

A:

Nasty shit lol.


Q:

My understanding of the "Near Death Experience" record is that it's a bunch of tracks leftover from the "Alpha Omega" recording sessions, so the lineups on both records are the same. However, I spoke with Gabby recently and he mentioned that JJ had got AJ Novello to re-record guitars for "Near Death Experience", so it wasn't really Gabby playing on the "Near Death Experience" record we all heard. Can you shed any light on the personnel and general situation around the "Near Death Experience" record? Thanks!

A:

It seems like you got a lot of that right. AJ also played some of the bass tracks on NDE but, again, I wasn't involved with any of that. Once John got involved with Alpha Omega, all kinds of things started going on behind the scenes that I wasn't aware of.


Q:

Much respect Harley. Have been a Cro Mags fan for a long time and know you’re the sole reason the band ever existed. Also just read your book and it was fucking great. You couldn’t make up a crazier life. I recommend it to all my boys. Couple questions. Are you still vegetarian and do you drink at all? And do you still live in NYC?

A:

I am still a vegetarian. I did eat chicken when I was briefly in Rikers, I do what I have to in order to survive. I do drink from time to time, I think anything in excess is a bad idea but I will have a drink with a friend once in a while. And yes, I do still live in the city.


Q:

Have you ever been to Forest Hills?

A:

If you mean Queens, hell yeah! My aunts went to high school with The Ramones.


Q:

Why don't you mention in your book that you got a swastika tattoo?

A:

There's a lot of things I don't mention in my book. I could write a whole 'nother book on what I didn't talk about in this one. It wasn't a political statement.


Q:

Would also like to know if you have the copyright for the Cro Mags name, why can't you take JJ or Mackie to court for performance / merchandise royalties?

A:

It's all a little too complicated to get into the details in this forum but things are happening as we speak.


Q:

What's the deal with Rick ta Life? I only recently found out he's really despised in hardcore scene. I loved the music but never got into the inner politics. Any insight on why?

A:

I don't know anything about the scenes, drama and soap operas. As far as I know, they all used to be friends with him and now they're not. I can't say why. I don't give a fuck about scenes or the dramas that play out on them. I'm an adult and shit like that doesn't mean anything to me.


Q:

What would you say has been more lethal to your health; drugs or crazy women?

A:

Nothing has been lethal since I am still alive and kicking lol. Whatever mistakes I made in the past; however bad they were, somehow got me where I am now, which is a great place.


Q:

Yo wat up Harley! Would you consider taking bitcoin for your merch, records, gaurentee, etc...? It's the way of the future and I think it could really help the hxc punk community progress!

A:

I'll take bitcoin when I start taking cans and bottles as well lol.


Q:

Any chance of Crush The Demoniac making it into the setlist for the next tour?

A:

It's always possible.


Q:

When did all the Oi bands records start to become available in NY/US. Its interesting that NY bands didnt start to label themselves "Oi" until late 80s?

A:

I was getting my hands on all that stuff as it was coming out, places like Bleecker Bob's and a couple other stores used to get their hands on a lot of that stuff.