Ruby On Rails: Saying Yes, I Guess

When it comes to new experiences, the philosophy I have very recently adopted revolves around saying yes now and figuring out the rest later.

I’m not particularly brave. If I can say yes, then the hardest part for me is already over. Giving myself permission to do something I have no skills in and knowing I probably won’t be good at it, violently goes against my control freak nature.

As part of my current personality like to know that the environment I’m going into, I will not just survive in, but also dominate. It’s not the best trait in the world, and I’m not always proud of it, but it does keep me on my toes when I use it to my advantage.

When I was younger I would only do the things I knew I could do. For instance, I wouldn’t climb the advanced ladder on the playground because I knew there was a chance I could fall off. My ego would, and still does, get in the way of me attempting anything that might make me look a little bit tragic and idiotic.

Understanding that this was a part of my subconscious thought process, came through theatre actually. I did Ballet and other styles of dance for ten years, and every year there would a concert. Every year when I was younger I would get hopelessly nervous before performing. I didn’t come off as nervous just grumpy and irritable, I fitted right in.

Then every time when I performed, no matter how sick or how stressed I was, as soon as the lights hit my face with their heat, and the audience was there, watching me, my body would kick into action. I never froze up, no matter how many times I thought I was going to. After a few years, I started noticing this and I guess it became a positive feedback loop in my head.

I convinced myself that on stage, no matter what was happening, my body would be there to kick into action. And because I had convinced myself of this, there was no way for me to not believe it. I became a walking, talking placebo effect when it came to performance.

But hey, if it works it works. To this day, I have never ever frozen up on stage. And when I started acting I never forgot my lines or my stage directions. On stage is the only place in the world, I feel like I am unstoppable.

The stage was and will always be my happy place.  

Looking back on this placebo effect now, I think this is really just my urge to control whatever situation I was in. Except it came through as ‘Talent’. My ego or vanity or whatever it is, is not going to physically let me screw up in front of what it perceives as an audience.

Upon understanding this about myself, I started saying yes to things that were hopelessly out of my comfort zone. I went to NYDS, worked professionally in the film industry and I voyaged on The Spirit Of New Zealand.

I’ve started trying to take advantage of this competitive, egotistical side of me and put it to use furthering my experience and knowledge of the world around me. With age and a little maturity, I’ve tried to push myself to become better at looking and feeling like an idiot. I’m proud to say I’m almost quite skilled at it now, and I do it almost every day.

It’s still a struggle but with that to balance the ego, this match made in heaven makes up my learning process.  

I never know if I’m going to be actually good at something or not, but I know that if I throw myself in at the deep end of the swimming pool, my body and my mind will not let me drown. I might not swim, but I won’t drown.

And I think that’s just how I learn new things.

So with the ridiculously high hopes of not being so terrible I break all the computers in the building, and delete all code ever, my sister and I were booked on a flight for Wellington the coming weekend to attend RailsBridge, an introductory coding course for the programming language Ruby.

Ruby On Rails: I'm Not A Hacker

My father had found out about the course that covered an introduction to computer coding, almost a year ago. We had tried to sign up then but they had been full, or it was too late to sign up, I can’t remember.

This year, we were a little more proactive, and by we, I mean my father was. I received a text early one morning, six thirty or something, ‘Want to attend a coding course designed to encourage women and other minorities to get into the tech industry?’

I had absolutely no knowledge of any computer languages. I had signed up for Code Academy when I was twelve, after deciding that hacking into NASA could be quite a sexy skill. It would fit with my black hoodie and future scorpian tattoos. I had watched the Matrix and started reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo at the time, which may have been influencing my asthetic.

Code Academy hadn’t lasted long and other than playing around with Minecraft my experience with computer programming is exactly nill. I hadn’t even managed to install Modpacks to Minecraft. To this day I’ve never experienced the Shaders Modpack.

I did once manage to change every block of grass in Minecraft to a picture of my face, which I was very proud of however, the endeavour wasn’t completely successful. I had to delete Minecraft because I had managed to break it so drastically, that actually every single texture was a picture of my face and I couldn’t walk around or interact with the world in any way. After that, I didn’t mess around with the coding stuff.

Side note: I also managed to play with, then break, my Sim’s 3 computer game. It was downloaded onto my computer, I played happily for a couple of years until the rhythm of creating a character and making it marry the richest Sim in the city to get money, got boring. I created various cults for my families and when that got boring as well I found the cheats. After being able to do almost anything I wanted became boring, I decided I wanted to be able to edit the environment directly. By that I mean the land and roads and buildings in the city.

So, I started playing. The game glitched out and wouldn’t load. So, I deleted the game. The wrong way. I didn’t uninstall it with the uninstall application, I just dragged it to the trash. So as far as I can tell the game still thinks I’m logged in, and because I had done this a few times already, I had used up how many times I could log in. Now the game won't let me reinstall Sim’s 3.

This could be quite a good thing because it’s meant I’ve spent my time on things other than turning my virtual city into a post-apocalyptic dictatorship. But I do miss it a little bit, especially the building and interior design aspect, so if anyone has a solution for this I would be extremely grateful if you could let me know. 

Anyway, back to my point, the only experience with coding that I had was breaking things.

So, I said yes to the RailsBridge course that was being held in Wellington a couple of weeks away, naturally. 

More coming soon, thanks for reading..!

How To Stop Waiting (For Your Serenade)

I think everyone secretly wants a song written about them. I know I did, the only problem was the fact that I didn't have any dashing young human's, who were completely in love with me and trying to win me back after a theatrical argument, over something silly near the end of the movie.

But this minor detail was not going to deter me from achieving my goal. 

I've been wanting to make a short film that showcases footage of myself as a little kid, in contrast with footage of who I am now, for a long time. It seemed poetically perfect to do it in my eighteenth year. 

I tried to write a monologue for me to paste over the footage. But then, because I've been really getting into my poetry recently, it started to rhyme. Usually, that's great, but I wanted a nice three minute, angsty summery of my life and then to cap it off, a couple of paragraphs about how I'm looking forward to the future. 

So then I decided to write a poem. But then, everything stopped rhyming. It was a very frustrating process, to say the least.

Then I had an idea. What if I got someone to write a song based on my life, poetry, and writing? 

First of all, I was met with the usual self-doubt and self-discouragement that comes with almost every idea I have. What if no one wants to do it? What if people think I'm just vain and full of myself? What if people are so offended by the idea of requesting my own serenade, that they hunt me down and kill me with their acoustic guitars and hipster buns. 

Then I decided to go for it. Whats the worst that could happen? Death by acoustic guitar would at least be a pretty original thing to put on my gravestone. 

I posted to the NYDS Facebook group stating my cause. I couldn't pay them any money, because I'm working with a non-existent budget, and I didn't really have any strict criteria apart from the fact that the song couldn't be longer than five minutes. 

Within an hour five people had messaged me saying they were 'keen'. That was thrilling in itself. 

Within forty-eight hours Reagan Dunphy, a fellow NYDS student, had not only reached out but actually written a complete song.

I was almost in tears as I listened to it. She has a beautiful voice and the lyrics were beyond perfect. 

I'll be using her song in my next short film: A Self Portrait. And, you can check out her Instagram here

So, the moral of this story is:

Stop waiting. Stop waiting for whatever it is that you're waiting for. Take ownership of what you want and go out and get it. Just start asking, it's that easy.

So, stop waiting. 

Thanks for reading..!

The Spirit Of Adventure (Part Two)

I remember watching Auckland slipping away from my grasp, and being painfully aware of how far out of my comfort zone I actually was. I had never been a ‘ship person’. When I was younger I’d had an unhealthy obsession with Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, but that was the extent of my exposure to the high seas.

The panic was overwhelming, it slid up through my stomach to my throat and sat there as I smiled and cheered with the other trainees.

Then Auckland was out of sight and it was lunchtime. I wondered how I would handle eating food with the swaying motion of the ship pushing my stomach around. But after lining up, collecting my food and finding a seat amongst the faces that seemed the most recognizable to me I realized that I wasn’t suffering as much as I had first estimated. After a few moments, I was scoffing down my meal in delight. I don’t think I had eaten since six thirty that morning.

Throughout the entire voyage I never once got seasick, so I must have a little more Jack Sparrow in me than I thought. 

After lunch, they kicked this whole 'sailing experience' off with getting some sails up. My group was assigned the sails at the front of the ship. I was following them to go find our sails when I was whisked aside by one of the volunteer watch assistants. His name was Quentin, he was Scottish and I dare you to find anyone who you’d want to mess with less, but who has a kinder heart sitting underneath all the briskness.

He asked me if I’d done the rigging up and over yet. And I replied with a cautious no, wondering what rigging was and why I was going up and over it. Did they catapult you over the sails from one end of the ship to the other? On this ship, it didn't seem to far fetched of an idea. 

In a few minutes I was harnessing up, for what I still was unsure of. And in a few more minutes I was very slowly following Quentin up the starboard side rigging, clipping my oversized carabiners one above the other. The ship was moving and the rigging was moving with the ship's motion, or I was shaking, probably both.  

We got to the first platform, one of three, and I sighed in relief as we started to make our way down again on the other side. When I got to the bottom, Quentin slapped my back encouragingly and then left me to go rejoin my watch. So that was an up and over.

Having been fueled with boldness after not dying on the rigging, I overconfidently volunteered to be the group leader. The spectacle that followed would have entertained even the driest sense of humor.

Imagine a blind, deaf, chimpanzee trying to teach a group of humans advanced, nuclear, chemical science. I’m not even sure if that's a thing, but that's what it felt like.

Short of understanding that the white flappy things needed to be up in the air and that you did that by pulling some ropes, I was quite lost.

I combated this by waltzing around on deck telling my teammates to 'pull all the ropes'. When our watch assistant frantically interjected with a 'Noooooo, not that one.' I could eliminate that rope from our pulling options. 

It was a process of elimination learning strategy. 

Somehow we managed to get the sails up, although I suspect it may have been due to my teammate's competence a lot more, than to my leadership skills.

That night I settled into my fabric bunk, a little cold from the breeze the open door by my head was bringing in, wondering what on earth I’d gotten myself into.

Little did I know, I was going to walk away a completely different person from an experience I will always credit, in some part, for changing my life.

Check out #spiritofnz here

More coming soon, thanks for reading...!

Create Conflict and Disagree

Conflict is something that, like most people, I’m very fond of avoiding. Conflict is exhausting and makes most people very uncomfortable. Because conflict is rejection. And humans aren’t great at rejection. We like to believe we are absolutely fantastic in every way and get a bit cranky, to say the least, when someone dares to shatter that illusion.

If you’re at a dinner party, it’s not common practice to go around disagreeing with everyone's opinions. People don’t like being told their idea is stupid, who would have guessed?

But if we have an idea that has never been challenged, how do we know that it’s a worthy idea. We naturally assume it is majestic because nobody has ever bothered to tell us it isn’t.

I’m slowly coming around to what I like to call ‘positive conflict’. Actively seeking out conflict around my theories. Finding people that disagree with my ideas, opinions, and beliefs and getting them to argue their contradictory viewpoint.

I say argue but I mean it in the most philosophical way. This kind of conflict isn’t malicious

Malicious conflict isn’t worth anyone's time. And it’s important to understand the difference between malicious conflict and positive conflict.

Malicious conflict is when somebody wants to pick apart your idea without offering a constructive argument against it.

It’s like destroying that kids tower of blocks, then just leaving all the pieces on the floor and walking away laughing and rubbing your hands together basking in the glory of your evilness.

Positive conflict is destroying the tower of blocks so that you can show them how to build what you believe, is a better tower.

As soon as they’ve gone, we decide to knock the tower down. But maybe their tower has a really structurally sound base, so we keep that and use it in our next tower.

Positive conflict is a way of thinking something through, in a way you couldn’t by yourself.

This means looking for people who have different belief systems, thought processes, upbringings and past experiences who understand what you need from them. Who understand the difference between positive and malicious conflict.

It means resisting the urge to gravitate towards the people that are very similar to you at that dinner party. Instead, striking up a conversation with the crazy, eccentric, old uncle.

Because it is only through the process of having our ideas and opinions deconstructed and proved wrong, that we can see what can’t be proved wrong.

Thanks for reading..!

Money Making Ideas

If you’re just getting into the ‘entrepreneur thing’ then you’re probably all geared up to have a idea and start your business.

The struggle comes at the beginning of that process. The struggle is coming up with that idea that is actually going to make you money.

Personally I’ve found that a good place to start is scratching your own or somebody’s else’s itch.

Brainstorm over problems you or your friends face, then think of ways you could solve them.

Another great way to come up with good ideas is to get into the practice of brainstorming ten ideas every day. They might be terrible ideas, but at least you’ve come up with ten ideas.

Eventually, if you’re in the practice of coming up with ideas every single day you will stumble on a half decent one.

Thanks for reading..!

Writing Reviews For Money

I’m no stranger to the blogging world thanks to my Dad. Back in the good old days when blogs first started to become a thing he was already fully on the bandwagon.

We sat down together at the kitchen table and used one of those horribly slow ‘Build Your Website’ internet apps to customize my very own blog.

I tried to find the original blog so that I could link it here, but I think it’s been lost to the sands of the internet.

At the time, I was probably about eight or nine and I was obsessed with reading. I had moved into the realm of chapter books and have devoured all the Famous Five, Secret Seven, Hardy Boys, Three Detectives and Trixie Belden books.

Dad had started to buy me thicker and thicker books so that it was worth his money to purchase the book in the first place.

So we decided that my blog should be centered around book reviews.

He helped me with formulating a structure for my reviews, little did I know he was training me on how to write essays

I think I only managed to write three or four but around the third one, we realised we could hook up the reviews to Amazon or Fishpond. I can’t actually remember which one it was.

Anyway, we hooked it up and I wrote another few reviews then moved on to something else and forgot about my book review blog.

A couple of months later a actual real life check showed up in the mail, made out to a Miss T Smith for $34.40.

I don’t think I ever managed to write another review and my account with whoever was paying me has long expired, but I still remember that day as one of the proudest days of my life.


 

Grand Cookie Selling Escapade

After selling bookmarks for a two dollars each to my grandparents, and writing book reviews for Amazon I decided I needed to expand my enterprise somewhat.

So ten year old me set to work researching. My research involved sitting, cross legged, in my room with my arms folded stubbornly waiting for my billion dollar idea.

Read More

Crash Course Curriculum

When I first started researching free online learning resources one of the first things I came across turned out to be the most beneficial overall.

The YouTube channel Crash Course has been active since 2012, slowly growing to notoriety over the years. It was hosted by John and Hank Green, although the channel has branched out now with many different experts hosting a series in their specialized field.

There are series on everything from Astrology to Anatomy and Physiology with each video exploring a certain aspect of the topic in under ten minutes.

You can watch a video or two over breakfast or on the loo. There is no excuse to not learn with Crash Course.

The channel is not going to offer you in-depth Havard level intensity, but that's not what I’m aiming for when it comes to my own Self-Educating. I’m simply looking for comprehension and Crash Course offers that. 

I highly recommend the World History and Anatomy and Physiology Series.

 

Check out Crash Course

Thanks for reading..!

The Importance Of Self-Educating

I was lucky enough to have been homeschooled until high school age, Year 9, or about thirteen. Until then my parents who taught me kept me accountable to a strict learning curriculum. I was constantly surrounded by people who had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and self improvement. With this environment on my side, I grew up loving the process of learning.

When I was about thirteen I managed to convince my parents to enroll me in our local high school. I was curious to see if my lifestyle and knowledge would hold up against the formal education system.

I wasn’t particularly good at maths, I wasn’t a confident speller and I didn’t understand all the social politics that surround that system. But even though I wasn’t strong at maths I loved solving problems. Especially problems that didn’t have the answers written in the back of the book. And even though I wasn’t going to win any local spelling bee, by a long shot, I loved writing and I loved reading.

These skills were what allowed me to stand out in class, not the ability to simply retain facts until the knowledge is no longer required. I’m not saying that all formal education is useless and that we should all run into the woods and raise our children on daisies and dress them in bearskins as we teach them the ways of the earth through contemporary movement around an open fire.

That's definitely not what my childhood education looked like. Although I often think, that is the image that people conjure up when they hear the word ‘homeschooler’. In reality, my parents were kind, intelligent, nerds who wanted to spend lots of time with their kids and teach them how they wished they had been taught.

I dropped out of high school not even halfway through my third year, the middle of term two, because I couldn’t justify wasting my time any longer. The first year had been fun, it was exciting to be the expert in the class and the teacher's pet. But as the terms and the years went on I kept waiting for it to get harder. For the challenge. But that never happened. I even convinced one of my teachers to let me sit in on one of his Year Thirteen classes. Expecting to be well out of my depths, I was disappointed to see that all they were doing was making a scrapbook.

I promise I’m not just full of myself. I did struggle with many elements of my high school experiment, just not any academic ones. After a while, I started to ask my friends if they too found the academic level a little easy. Then not just my friends. I would start talking to kids in hallways and un-strategically segway into my investigation.

My research amounted to three typical questions:

  • Yeah, it's easy but I don’t want it harder.
  • No, I think this stuff is crazy hard.

  • *Melancholy and a dramatic shrug of shoulders* I dunno.

All three of these answers alarmed me exponentially. Fed up with not feeling out of my depth I started my journey of self-educating. The rules were simple:

  • I had to be able to learn about the topic through a process that I enjoyed and was highly engaged in.

  • It had to be free or at least very, very cheap. (I was fifteen when I started guys, babysitting money was the full extent of my funds.)

  • I had to learn about the topic until I was comprehensive enough to be able to hold a conversation with an expert in that field.

This Study Of Everything is not meant to make me a master or everything, nor is it designed to make me the ‘Smartest In The Room.’ It is designed to be a crash course in a very broad range of subjects that will bring me up to the level that I can simply hold a halfway, non-idiotic conversation with the smartest people in the room.

Over the next blog posts in this category, I will share what I do and what resources I use so that you too, can get chatty with geniuses and not look like a complete ass.

Thanks for reading..!