Here’s What You Should Do This Weekend

Take a rusted, rotten shell of an old car.

An old car with weeds grown into the grille, probably hasn't moved in years. Source

Remove all the junk from inside of it.

A cleaned out race car shell painted black on the outside and red on the inside.Source

 

Set it under a nice maple tree.

Battered old truck under a maple treeSource

 

Bolt in a racing seat.

Corbeau racing seatSource

 

Remove the steering column, and replace it with a laptop desk on a swivel.

A mount that could be used to install a laptop on the dashboard.Source

 

Run an extension cord out from the house.

A beautiful extension cord, with fabric insulation instead of plastic.Source

 

Remove what’s left of the engine, and replace it with a refrigerator.

A small, portable chest stye refrigerator.Source

 

Hang out in your new fort and watch Top Gear.

Me, in a BMW, watching Top Gear on my laptop.Source

 

Things No One Tells You

You have to reach down to loosen the strap on clip-style bicycle pedals. Who knew. No one ever mentioned this to me – they either weren’t aware or didn’t know. “Google it” isn’t a helpful answer. It never even occurred to me to ask the question. I found out by accdident while reading an article about the various advantages of different pedal styles – not research, just a link I happened to click on in /r/bicycling.

So what are the things that everyone knows?

When I tried to teach my mom how to use iPhoto, giving her instructions via Facebook chat, I didn’t understand why it took her so long to follow my instructions. It turns out that she thought you had to close the web browser to get it off the screen, then open iPhoto, then do the thing, then close iPhoto, then reopen the browser…etc. My mind was sblown when I saw her doing it in person. This isn’t an “Old people do dumb things” problem, though. I come up to it all the time, and my OWN stupidity catches me by surprise quite often. Staring at a Java if statement for several hours:

before realizing that it should be:

I’ve been trying to get the CakePHP framework running on my computer, without much success. The docs contain this sentence:

“For some reason or another, you might have obtained a copy of CakePHP without the needed .htaccess files. This sometimes happens because some operating systems treat files that start with ‘.’ as hidden, and don’t copy them.”

This was exactly the problem I was having, but the doc didn’t tell me what do about it. I found the answer from some other obscure blog, after dozens of Google queries. The Cake doc, though clear, easy to read, and fairly complete, seemed to assume that I would know what to do if these files didn’t turn up.

Am I an idiot? Well, yes, obviously. But we’re all idiots when we’re doing something new. Too many instruction manuals skip vast swaths of information, because they assume you already know how to do the things they’re telling you to do. And these bits of info are so hard to track down, because you don’t know what question to ask. Ever tried starting a standard transmission car, and it just wouldn’t?

The first question to ask, is “Did you push the clutch in?”. But I made that mistake tons of times when I was learning to drive, and people would offer me booster cables and jerry cans. They assumed…   and that’s the problem.

Don’t assume someone knows something just because they’ve made it to the age of 23, or 63, or whatever, without dying of idiocy. When you encounter a person being dumb, think of the last blindlingly dumb thing you did (if you can’t think of any, you aren’t paying enough attention), have sympathy, and just fill in the missing information without judgement or ridicule. It’s classier, and hopefully they’ll return the favor.

Confess

I have to confess.

I’m too lazy. I should be working on finding a co-op position for the summer. Last year, my cousin was in the same position, and he didn’t find one. He left it till too late. I sneered at him behind his back.

Earlier in the year, last quarter, I was fired up and raring to go. I started doing research over Christmas break. I had sent out 7 resumes by mid-February. I was far ahead of my classmates. I got positive replies from several employers, and an interview from one. The interview yielded a job.

That job must have really burned me out, because I haven’t sent out another resume since then. The indifference of man who hired me, his lack of communication with me, the disinterest of the other employees in my department (they didn’t even introduce themselves, after 2 months), and finally, their failure to deliver my final pay check left me angry and disillusioned with a company that I had admired.

Far from daydreams about high paying jobs with prestigious companies, like I was, I now consider whether I should go back to my old job washing cars this summer, or maybe shoot a bit higher and try to get a job assembling bikes.

What brings me joy these days:

I still love writing code. As aggravating as it is, as lost as I feel, when I finally get something to work the rush is incredible. I love it when I know what I’m doing, fall into a groove and sit there banging out code for hours. Or when a problem gets stuck in my head, so I think about it in the shower in the morning, on the bus to school, during the lectures, and finally solve it in the lab after several hours of wrangling. The green bar in a JUnit test is probably my favourite thing in the entire world right now.

Programming is my passion. But am I good enough? When build something on my own I don’t have much success. One job I applied to involved a lot of PHP. It’s a company called Radar Hill. I really want to work there, it sounds brilliant. I like PHP too, despite the constant house-of-cards feeling I get when I code in it. But they use the Cake framework, which they say is easy to use. Well, I’ve been trying, off and on for months, to get the stupid thing running on my computer. Can’t. I’ve tried half a dozen times, made some progress, but have not yet even gotten to the point where I can actually write and install code. I’m still trying to figure out why the .htaccess files don’t work.

The internet says that the CakePHP documentation is pretty bad, which fires up in me the desire I feel every time I encounter incomplete docs, to fix them and make them right.  I could be a technical writer pretty happily.

I can chuck it and build wheels instead. I love building bicycle wheels. I may regret the lost time for awhile, but I always bounce back to happy. Instead, I’ll slog through, gasp with joy every time I see that green bar, try to motivate to build something, try to will myself to look for a job.

I don’t feel hopeful. Only bloody minded determination.