How to understand VPCs, subnets and IGWs…


Still trying to really grasp the concept of VPCs and route table. This diagram, which contains actual clouds really brought everything together for me. Also, it was pretty relaxing drawing everything out and then coloring everything in. I think I’m going to draw out a few more of these diagrams.


How to learn about VPCs…

I keep reading that VPCs (Virtual private Cloud) is such a huge chunk of the AWS Solutions Architect Exam. I’ve always with been the most shaky on this particular AWS service. I feel like I’ve just figured out how to properly set one up, so I really need to focus on this area. I have to do a presentation on AWS to my class next week, so this is a great opportunity for to really go over everything with in detail.



I made these slides to help me get the difference between Security Groups and Network ACLs. I set them up as if they were sworn enemies and there can only be one. I’m pretty sure Network ACLs would win in a fight. They just seem like a safe bet. I’m not sure my class will appreciate the super hero homage, but listen, we all have our learning aids.

How take constructive criticism…

I have pretty thick skin. I usually take criticism well, because it gives me some directions and steers me away from what I shouldn’t be doing. The other day I got an email from one of my mentors and it knocked me back a bit. It wasn’t mean spirited in any way, but a wake up call for sure.

you’re a bright lady and my only wish is that you step out of the shell.
I mean be pro active, be a leader. You have the ingredients why NOT?


I always appreciate honesty. Especially when it serves to better my character. I will say though, when I first read it, it was kind of a hurt piece. I knew it was coming from a good place, so I took the time to really digest the comment and see what changes I need to make.

I feel like 95% of the time I have no idea what I’m doing. I just sort of push through things and if they work, “yas!” if they don’t, I try something else. The same goes for this world of tech as well. I’m still learning and I’m not at all confident in my skill. A lot of times I feel like I have no ideas to contribute or even any thoughts to add to the conversation. The email from my mentor proves that someone thinks I have something worthwhile to contribute. Being a leader terrifies me for some reason. I’m learning to push through fear in other ways, so way not in this way too. Here’s to a productive, assertive, confident 2017!

How to build a skill for Alexa…


I’ve had  Bose Wave Radio in my kitchen for close to ten years now. My aging Mother, who doesn’t see very well gave up on tv years ago and so her sole entertainment was this Bose radio. We would NPR on constantly and the various hosts kept her company throughout the day.

One day a few months ago, the Bose Wave just stopped working. I was a bit confused because even though we had it for close to a decade, I thought those things were supposed to last forever. I’m still working on getting the Wave fixed but I wanted an affordable replacement in the meantime.

I decided to get an Amazon Echo Dot. It cost just under $50 and I was intrigued by  the Dot’s AI function Alexa.


I thought it would be helpful to be able to ask Alexa the time, weather, and what time the train would arrive. Alexa is capable of SO MUCH MORE! I can not only listen to my Spotify playlist and my favorite podcasts, but I can also listen to and play interactive stories all hands-free while I’m doing the dishes. Check out The Wayne Investigation…so much fun!

Anyway, Alexa has countless skills that you can enable to do all sorts of fun stuff! Amazon has been pretty open with the developer’s platform and they’ve made it super easy peasy to build your own skill. One of my favorite learning platforms A Cloud Guru has a free introductory Alexa course. It walks you through how to build three different skills for the Echo.

I decided to build a Flash Card skill to help me study for my AWS Solutions Architect exam. It sounded intimidating at first, but it’s actually easy peasy lemon squeezy.

So the first thing you need to do is head over to the Alexa Skills Github repository. Amazon has been pretty generous and have provided the source codes for TEN different skills all packed up nice and cute.


I downloaded all the skill files so I can eventually play around with all of them. I used ReindeerGames as the basis for my Flash Cards skill. Be sure to log into your AWS account AND the Alexa Developer Portal so you can create your skill. You need to make sure that all the accounts are the same and/or linked. Your AWS account, your Alexa App, and your Alexa Developer Portal must all be the same username.

In your AWS console, select the Lambda service.


You can see where I’ve created my Flash Card skill. Hit the blue button to create a new Lambda function.

screenshot-2016-12-12-11-17-42Select this Alexa skill kit as your blueprint.

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Select Alexa Skills Kit as your trigger and then hit next.


You’re now going to name your skill and add your code. You can just copy and paste the ReindeerGames source code you saved from Github. In the source folder of that file, there should be an index.js file. Open it with your fave text editor (mine is TextWrangler) and then edit the code to add the questions you want to be asked.

Screenshot 2016-12-12 20.11.06.png

After you’ve added your desired code create your Lambda function! Be sure to copy the ARN that will be created at this point. You’ll need that for the developer portal.

Head over to the developer portal and under the Alexa Skills Kit select ‘get started.’

You’ll then select ‘add a new skill’ you’ll then have to add your invocation name, your utterances and custom slot types. I’m planning to make another skill so I’ll do a full walkthrough of the developer portal then. I’m not able to upload my snippet of me being quizzed by Alexa. I need to do more studying, but I had fun making my very own skill!



How to be a computer…


I’ve found my new favorite book. Hidden Figures is the story of a group of black women who worked as computers for NASA. They worked as computers! Like human computers. They did the math computations for some of NASAs earliest space missions. They did it all by hand during a time when gender equality and civil rights were more punch-lines than reality.  I’m so happy this book was published in time for my own STEM journey. Despite all the setbacks, failures and second-guessing that I face, its nothing compared to the odds stacked against these women. There were so many lines and paragraphs I wanted to highlight in the book. I couldn’t, its a library copy and I’m a good patron. I hope Santa brings me my very own copy for Christmas. Every time my code doesn’t work, every time I spend hours working on a lab only for it to not work — I’ll be thinking of these pioneering women who blazed such an amazing trail. This book has given me a renewed sense of determination and I cannot wait to see this movie on the big screen.

How to be a Super Hero

I was super excited to find out that my sort of doppelgänger, Lunella Lafayette was the smartest super hero in the Marvel Universe. Then I found out that the latest incarnation of Iron Man, was going to be a 15 year old MIT genius named Riri Williams. Riri is a black girl with giant afro. This made my heart sing.


Inclusion is such a blessing and its nice to see a monolith like Marvel jumping into the diversity pool. This NPR article from a few months back made me fall deeply and madly in love with Marvel again. They are planning special edition covers to promote girls in STEAM fields. The covers will feature the fly girls of Marvel,  Riri, Lunella and Gwenpool. I’m gonna be spending a lot of money on comic books.