Making A Screen Saver in Visual Studio #C
Last week, I "completed" this screensaver tutorial. Can't say I completely understand everything that was going on (plus I couldn't get preview mode to work), BUT, it still demystified the following things for me:
Gotta admit, it was a thrill going back over some of the code he had written and suddenly going "A-ha!"
I still couldn't have come up with the code itself, but my ability to read and comprehend is getting better, bit by bit.
Riddle Me This
We talked about programming sub-skills a few blogs back, and we came to a conclusion: puzzles. Mental gymnastics, learning how to learn, puzzles, riddles--yes, good. Good for budding programmers.
So I started doing Sudoku puzzles. But going beyond what I used to do, actually looking into two things:
1) Mental techniques for improving my form/efficiency (I turn off the clock on my Sudoku app, but I started caring about the time it took me to complete a puzzle, insomuch as I wanted to improve each game and not just coast through each game for entertainment purposes only)
2) Focus (being able to focus on just this puzzle from start to finish, no interruptions)
And there's a third thing hidden in there:
3) Problem solving
Mental techniques, focus, and problem solving: all of them sub-skills for programming.
I couldn't believe it took me an hour to finish my first Sudoku puzzle. It was only on moderate difficulty.
But the second time, it only took me twenty minutes.
And then I couldn't believe the improvement. I even noticed that I was feeling much less foggy within a week of starting the exercise.
The idea of completing Sudoku puzzles actually came from V. Anton Spraul's book, Think Like A Programmer. In it, he also mentions a gem by the name of Sam Loyd.
I mean, just check out this guy's dedicated web site.
Sam Loyd was an early 20th century puzzle pioneer, and his puzzles are just beautiful to look at. I went ahead and ordered a few of his collected riddles and puzzles, figuring they'd make great keepsakes and handy tools for sharpening my rusty problem-solving skills.
So, I guess the lesson from this practicum is: strengthen your mind, not just through programming. Especially when actually being able to understand programming, let alone being able to program yourself, can be slow goings.
Bonus: Things I Tried To Make Learning More Automatic and Organized
1. Defining My Environment
The same computer I use to write short stories, browse the internet, check emails, and play video games is the same computer I use to work on my projects, take tutorials, write my blog, and watch lessons.
Oh, and it's also in the room where I read and sleep.
Needless to say, some days the temptation to noise and distraction is overwhelming.
So I tried two things.
I made sure all my clothes remained in my closet, at least 80% of the time.
I lit a candle every time I had trouble focusing on just coding.
Keeping my room an average level of clean kept me from anxiously nitpicking it or anxiously ignoring its faults. And lighting that candle served as a signal to my brain that it was time for one specific thing.
2. Getting Up At The Same Time Every Day
I really struggled with brain fog between Blog #5 and Blog #6. So I did what I knew I should have been doing all along: regulated my sleep schedule.
This is easier said than done. I should say I wake up at relatively the same time every day. And that this one is a work in progress.
But I decided that this task was important, even if it felt only tangentially connected to my more passionate goal, which was to wrap my head around the concepts we've been exploring. I realized, however, that I was chasing stimulation instead of results.
And it's hard to admit, sometimes, that results are a product of time and, not, strictly, productivity, or what passes for productivity.
So, I've made consistency a priority, even if its slow goings.
3. 30g of Protein within the first 30 Minutes of the Day
Sometimes I really don't want to do this one (and, um, sometimes I just don't do it), but I know its results first-hand. I started this habit way back in high school and the results spoke for themselves: I lost weight, gained energy, and had a habit I could rely on.
So I retuned this habit recently, taking Timothy Ferriss' advice to eat 30g of protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up. This is one of Ferriss' MEDs (minimum efficient dosages), or the least you can do for the most results. In this case, eating 30g of protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up is a two-fold no-brainer:
A. It regulates fat like nothing else. Without changing anything else in their diet or exercise routine, obese practitioners who put this habit into daily usage saw a monthly increase in weight loss (Ferriss' own dad went from losing 5 pounds a month to 18+ pounds a month from this ONE thing alone--he didn't regulate any other part of his diet and he didn't start hitting the gym).
B. It regulates mood. Some days I'd be fine skipping breakfast--could even feel heroic. But the compound interest would result in a few inefficient, foggy days about a week later--it almost always works like that, doesn't it? The results of our decisions can feel so delayed it's hard to say what caused the sudden lag.
4. Putting A Win At The Beginning of the Week
Ray Bradbury once told struggling writers to aim at writing 52 short stories a year, one for every week. I mean, you can't write 52 bad short stories in a row.
Realizing that the first week of January had yet to pass, I thought--why not? Some would be prompts, some would be flash fiction, some would be just for me, some would definitely be aimed at contests and publishing.
Then I made one more caveat: I'd make sure I got the story done at the beginning of the week. Monday or Tuesday, using Joyce Carol Oates' advice of just writing the rough draft in one complete gulp. "You can edit for weeks afterword." Well, hopefully not, but as weird as it sounds:
We're going for quantity over quality this time around.
And I'm putting this goal at the beginning of the week so I have psychological goodness running through the rest of my week. When I'm struggling with making progress or staying focused or skipping breakfast or some other misstep, I can think--"Yeah, but I finished that thing."
And I finished that thing today, y'all.
It feels good.
Bonus Bonus: A Good Read
Great interview from game designer Chris Avellone.
In Excelsis Deo.
K.W. writes novels, short stories, the occasional ode, game scripts, and (with actual evidence!), this here blog.