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My Life as a Wise Guy

wiseguy

So am I a know-it-all, or a member of the Mafia?  You decide…

Ok, putting the self-important title aside, my school just recently started a program called Wise Guy were students can sign up to tutor other students.  I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to give back and help others who may be struggling with understanding content.  Honestly, I can relate to trying to figure out elusive subjects and not completely understanding what was going on.  I recall hours and hours of reading text books, searing the web, and bugging my classmates and professors.  I remember signing up for the standard tutoring sessions through certified tutors, and finding that I was even more confused after the session than before I began it.  I remember opting to stop using the school-provided tutoring because it started to be a waste of time.

Now that I have this opportunity, I want to make better experiences…

We all have those ah-ha moments.  Those times when some previously fuzzy concept, now becomes crystal-clear to us.  I remember finally coming to a point of understanding and recognizing that there were approximately a zillion better different ways that a concept could have been taught. I discovered that simple (to me at least) concepts were presented in ways that were overly complicated.  So, as a tutor, I hope to explain things in a way that removes some of the fuzziness, while providing an environment that people can ask questions and understand that there are no stupid questions [especially when trying to wrap your mind around a complex subject].

At first I did this to give back, but now I see it’s also for me…

Apart from the overall awesome feeling I get when helping others, there’s also a sense of validation for me.  I never seem to give myself credit for all of the hard work I’ve put in over the past 2 years learning to program.  Through tutoring others, I am able to gauge my personal knowledge of a topic, which forces me to stop being so hard on myself. Talk about win-win situation!  Although my goal has been to tutor over the summer while not taking classes, I hope that I am able to carve out some time during the Fall to continue with this amazing opportunity.

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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Education

 

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Mentoring: The sometimes silent partnership

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Having someone to guide the way can be truly beneficial…

But what do you do if you do not have anyone to mentor you?  I stumbled upon this issue when changing careers, I found myself knee-deep in a new world without much guidance as to what I should do next.  In my previous career, I had a vast network of people to call upon if I needed help, or even just an ear that was willing to listen.  However, as I migrated into the programming world, I quickly discovered that my existing network lacked those that could help me in my new endeavors.

Having a mentor can be a very rewarding experience for both parties.  I know in my experience, I’ve benefited from mentoring others and from having a mentor.  Naturally, I felt a bit of panic having my network vanish beneath my feet.

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Posted by on June 6, 2015 in Self Improvement, STEM

 

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HabitRPG: A new attempt to stay on track!

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My desire to stay more organized…

By default, I am a very organized person.  Typically I do well with staying on track with deadlines and completing the things that I set out to do.  But usually those tasks include things that I need to do for work or school.  I schedule ample studying time, and I divide my time up by subject/task to ensure that everything gets complete.  But what often happens is that the new habits that I want to create for myself tend to fall through the cracks.  Like, I have an express desire to complete a daily kata while I drink my coffee and prepare for my day.  Well, I created an account EIGHT months ago, and I only seem to remember that I want to complete a daily kata is retrospectively after I’ve already begun my other tasks.

It’s natural to desire technology that can save the day!

My phone is full of productivity applications that I’ve tried and they have all failed, why? Well, first I forget about them after the first day or so.  Another reason is that often times the app is missing one or more element that would make it useful for me individually.  I’ve also considered coding my own productivity application just for my own personal use.  Instinctively, I feel as though an app makes sense as a tool to organize my life, since I always have my phone within reach.  But for one reason or another, each app that I’ve downloaded in the past gets cast off onto the Island of Misfit Apps.

My current attempt to be productive…

Last week, a good friend of mine linked HabitRPG to social media.  I was initially interested because I love RPGs and I also still have the continued desire to stay organized and to start new habits.  So, I thought, why the heck not?  I created my character and set up a few tasks/habits and I was on my way.  The cool thing about this system is that there are built in elements that invoke my competitive and gamer tendencies of not wanting to fail.  For instance, there are daily tasks, fondly named “dailies” that you have to complete.  If you don’t, then you lose hit points (I thought this was awesome).  Your character can even die if you do not log your dailies each day.  There’s also a habit system that you can log both good and bad habits.  You lose exp/health for bad habits and gain for good ones.  There’s a gold system that allows players to buy gear to make their character more durable (and cool looking).  You can also form a party with people with like goals and join guilds as well.  So far, I have been having fun getting acclimated to this new system of being organized.

How is this app/site different from ALL of the many other’s I’ve tried?

Well, at first I thought it was the fact that it was a task app with a RPG game skin to make it more appealing to gamers.  BUT, then I realized that it was more than that.  It’s not just simply a task tracker w/ a notification system.  This is what all other organizational apps are, they give you a place to jot down your tasks and goals, offering you the ability to be notified that so that you don’t forget something.  But Habit RPG is different than simply taking a task and reminds you of it, it has a way of holding you accountable for completing tasks and creating habits.  The accountability lies in the fate of your adorable avatar.  But, it’s also more than this, accountability also lies in the social aspects of the community through the implementation of party tasks, guilds and the overall social aspect of the app.

Current gripes/dislikes…

The mobile app (at least for iOS) is clunky, at best and is plain ugly.  Although this is true, the website is designed really well and the mobile app could be seen as a way to access the site when you’re not able to get to your computer.  I’ve also found that visiting the site directly from my phone, rather than through the app, to yield a much better experience.

It’s only been a little over a week…

Despite my enthusiasm, I’ve only been using this app for a week (still longer than other apps!).  Although it hasn’t been that long, I have to admit that this is the most confidence I’ve had in continuing staying on track, than I’ve had in a long time.  I’m looking forward to seeing how cool I can make my character and getting to high enough level to start collecting pets! YAY 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Self Improvement

 

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Would YOU have followed the white rabbit?

white rabbit

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Opportunities and my new found ability to second-guess myself.

Recently, I have found myself in a situation where I have been second guessing my talents and skills.  I’m not exactly sure why this has started.  I still am doing well in school, and I still have the unruly desire to learn any and every thing there is to know about programming.  But as I get closer and closer to finishing my studies, I have found that I have talked myself out of opportunities.  On a few occasions, I have decided not to follow the white rabbit.  This is opposite of my normal behavior and tendency to seize every opportunity and make something of them.  So, what gives?

The well-known enemies of Opportunity…

Although there could be many reasons as to why someone fails to grab hold of an opportunity, I personally believe that there are a few core reasons for this behavior:

  1. Self doubts – When an opportunity arises, we get into our heads sometimes.  The more unanswered questions we have, the more we may be likely to shy away from an opportunity.
  2. Lack of Confidence – For me, I am pursuing an entirely different career path than what I spent the majority of my adult life pursuing.  So, naturally, there is a confidence deficit that, if left unchecked, can become a bigger issue.
  3. Fear – This is an obvious one.  Fear of the unknown. What if the other people going after this opportunity are better?  What if I fail?  What if I’m not the candidate they are looking for?  Fear manifests itself an many ways and it’s important be able to identify fear when it occurs.
  4. Anxiety – very close to fear, but is really an underlying general apprehension towards situations in general, although there may not be a specific threat.  Varying levels of anxiety can keep a person from going after an opportunity.

Micro vs. Macro thinking…

Another issue that I’ve personally experienced, as well as, identified in my peers is the scope thoughts.  There is an assumption of there not being enough.  Therefore, by assuming there aren’t enough opportunities, people give up before even trying.  For me, I’ve had to reevaluate my personal views on the value that I add to a situation.  For years, I had a certain skill set that I knew that I could bring to the table.  However, after changing careers, I never reevaluated the value that I can bring to a team.  So, my self-perceived value went to 0 because my skill set (in my twisted way of thinking) was no longer applicable.  Finally, I believe that people sometimes fail to see the big picture.  Sometimes, we do not spend enough time day dreaming and thinking big.  Not enough time is spent on researching the end goal and breaking the big goal into small, digestible parts.  The big leap from now to the future that we seek can seem daunting if we don’t break it down into achievable pieces.

Ways to overcome our negative inner voices…

Ok, so Trinity tells you to follow the white rabbit… The next thing you know, there’s a knock at the door and BAM, there’s a white rabbit staring you in the eye. What do you do? Talk yourself out of the next adventure in your life?  Convince yourself that you were seeing things and no one really warned you to follow that adorable white rabbit? Or, do you grab your jacket and follow the white rabbit?  This answer isn’t as easy as making a decision, often times it takes a bit of preparation for our next big opportunity.  Some tips that I personally practice are:

  1. Surround yourself with positive people — I can not stress this enough.  Positive, like-minded people are always a great catalyst for being successful.  There’s also the benefit of possibly having someone nudge you in the right direction.  A friendly invitation to engage in a beneficial activity can go a long way.  If you don’t have someone physically around you to be that positive influence, find a digital source.  Maybe a group on social networking could be helpful, or contributing to a newsgroup, or contributing to an online project.  Regardless of the method, it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and expanding our network.
  2. Celebrate your victories! — No matter how small the victory, sometimes we are our worst critics.  We don’t take the time to congratulate ourselves on a job well done.  Sometimes with the demand of work, we finish something then rush on to the next project.  Take time to breathe, give yourself a high five for finishing a project on time, or for learning a new programming language.  It all adds up, and the more positive thoughts you can create, the more self-confidence you will generate as well.
  3. Help someone else! — I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been reenergized about a personal project after helping someone else with a project that they were working on.  There’s something about taking the time to help someone else that keeps us focused and gives us a small confidence boost.  Also, there’s the added benefit of paying it forward, you never know when you will need help in the future.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes — Sometimes our negative inner voices scream our fear of making mistakes.  But guess what, we aren’t perfect.  Often times the best way to learn is to mess up first and learn from our mistakes.  Also, don’t be afraid to learn from other’s mistakes.  If you fear making mistakes, research others that have made the mistakes and learn from that!

Don’t let the next opportunity pass without tossing your name in the bucket!

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Self Improvement

 

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My PS4 Journey…

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The Euphoric, and over-dramatized story of my PS4 purchase…

The day is Black Friday 2014.  There are a zillion deals online for gaming systems, with many deals specifically targeting PS4 systems and games.  My heart skips a beat when I see several games bundled with the PS4 system, for FREE.  But wait!  I can’t buy a PS4 now!  I have finals, and lots of school work, and and and… My logical mind reminds me that the deals that were out probably would not be topped until the following Black Friday season (maybe this wasn’t THAT logical).  As my fingers clicks away, adding my shipping and payment information, I can’t help but become giddy at the prospect of playing a brand new system with amazing graphics.  My mind wanders to happier times of staying up late and killing things in the privacy of my own home.  Finally, I click that bright orange “Confirm Purchase” button and I receive an email confirmation informing me that I would receive my new system in 2 days.

The wait began, but I didn’t wait idly!…

While waiting for my new system, I decided to catch up on all of the new games that were available for the PS4 and read about future game releases.  During my wait time, I also ordered a few more games and my excitement only grew as I tracked my PS4 system daily (ok hourly) until its arrival a few days later.  I became at war with myself because I had final exams to study for, but I also had a brand new shiny system waiting for me to click it, touch it, smell the new plastic smell (ok this is going too far).  But you get my point, I was torn between being the good straight A student and the video game playing cave troll that I’m just as comfortable with being.  But finally, the student won, and I tucked my PS4 away on the shelf until I finished with my final exams, for I knew that had I cracked open my new system, I would not be able to pull myself away in order to be productive.

Once final exams were over… 

Now, grades were posted, exams done, and I had 3 entire weeks to play to my heart’s content.  I started with, “The Last of Us”, with its pull on my protective nature and my fondness of dystopian settings.  I found myself loving the story and wanting to play more, but my mind kept returning to wishing I had a keyboard and mouse and not a controller.  So, I thought to myself, maybe it was just how the game was made and I moved on to the next game, Grand Theft Auto V.  Again, so much excitement and I was ready to repo the crap out of some cars and be as bad ass as I could be.  But again, my clumsy fingers kept yearning for my keyboard and mouse.  I told myself that it had just been some time since I played console games.  Over the past 5 years, my gameplay has been strictly PC and I wanted to convince myself that I just needed some time to revert back to my origins.  I started playing console games with the PSOne and wasn’t introduced to PC gaming until YEARS after I’d already fallen in love with game consoles.

I failed my fellow gamers… 

After hours of playing all of the games I’d purchased, GTAV, The Last of Us, Shadow of Mordor, Destiny, and Minecraft (don’t judge, or I’ll cry lol), I realized that my issue was the console/controller.  I found myself incredibly interested in the story and the game play itself, but not  enjoying interacting with the game via a controller.  My new-found disdain for controllers was extremely confusing to me considering the hours of time I spent playing COD, Halo, and pretty much every other FPS on my XBox360 and the metric ton of games I played on both my PSOne and PS2.  I considered that possibly I had bumped my head or was coming down with something, but no, I was in great health.  I found myself slowly gravitating back to my PC games, playing a game of D3 here, a game of LoL there.  Next thing I knew, my PS4 and the games were sitting collecting dust.  What happened?  What did I do wrong?  Do unicorns really exist?  My brain could not comprehend what was happening.

I haven’t completely given up…

I still believe deep down that I just need to keep at it.  Now that winter break is long gone and school is in session, I don’t have much time to play video games, so when I do, I go back to my old faithful games that I enjoy playing.  Although I do play some type of game every day, usually an hour or so of Diablo 3, or a match (or 2) of League of Legends, I don’t have nearly as much time as I will have during the summer break.  I will definitely spend quite a bit of time playing during the summer break.  I plan on playing around with the controller settings again and maybe tweaking my way back into the console scene that I loved so much for so many years.  Either way, I REALLY want to finish The Last of Us, and get much further into GTA V at the very least.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Gaming

 

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Video Games & Math: A Survival Guide!

math, meme,

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It has been awhile!

Yes, I have to say that it has been a few months since I have posted.  I can truly say that it’s not due to inactivity.  A few injuries in my family caused my time to be completely redirected, but now that everything seems to be getting back on track, I am attempting to get back on schedule with my blog posts.

But first, an update!

So, math? lol.  In a previous post, Math and Game Design, I talked about my fears around not getting enough Math in my curriculum in school.  I found out the deficit was due to how my major was coded and if I wanted to get more Math, I would have to change my major.  I did so without hesitation.  My major originally was a double major in Computer Science and Graphic Design.  I thought this was a good route to follow considering my desired future in making video games.  But then I learned that my school cut out a lot of the math options in order to accommodate the double major status.  Now that I have that situated, Calculus I and II, Discrete Math, Linear Algebra, and Differential Equations are all part of my near future! Well, I actually completed Calculus I already and that was a challenge, but I did well!

Somehow, Math made me a cave dwelling loner…

The last Math class I took prior to Calculus I was Trig in 2001.  Yes, I’m old.  I’ve always excelled in Math without effort.  I took AP Calculus in high school and although I placed in Calculus II on my placement test, I still decided to only take Trig because it was the minimum requirement for my major at the time (I was a tad lazy back then).  I got a B in the class, even though I only came to class for quizzes and exams.  To further demonstrate my laziness, I had a friend sign me in for attendance and turn in my home assignments.  I mean, 8am classes are just evil.  Anyway, the true point is that not only had I not taken a Math class in 14 years (damn), I also did not put much effort into the class that I did take.  To say that I was a bit intimidated to take Calculus after such a gap in time, is a monumental understatement.  I spent HOURS reading, watching YouTube, doing practice problems, pulling my hair out, and having mini heart attacks while waiting for grades to be posted.  But in the end, I feel as though it was all worth it.  I mean, who cares if I growled at people who came within 10 feet of me, or that I locked myself in my room while I solved problems that took up both sides of the paper?  The point was that I was figuring it all out…

League of Legends… My saving grace…

I found that breaking up my studies with a wholesome (lol) game of LoL was really beneficial to me.  I could virtually shoot things, yell at my monitor, giggle when I killed things and then get back to my studies.  I also played my favorite streamers in the background while I studied and often the ambient noises of game play or hearing a funny joke would make me giggle and I would relax significantly.  On too many occasions to count, when I returned to my math problems, the answers that I couldn’t figure out were so obvious to me, all I needed was to step away for a bit.  What better way to step away than video games 🙂

What’s next?

This session, I’m taking Discrete Math, Computer Graphics, and Calculus II.  Three classes that are drenched in Math and I’m actually looking forward to it.  After taking Calculus I, I rediscovered what I had loved so much about Math so long before.  The primary concept being how many applications of Mathematics there are in the world.  Math is everywhere, and the more I study and appreciate it, the more I see it in my every day life.  Although my course load this session is likely to keep me a cave-dwelling loner, I promise to leave my cave to share more of my story!

TL;DR

Math is yummy.  If you’re into programming, don’t be afraid to take those extra math classes, so far I have seen just how every single math concept I’ve learned can be applied to Computer Science!  Also, play video games.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Programming

 

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“I want to be a computer nerd, just like you!”

computer nerd, programming, life, coder bug

Sometimes I’m just oblivious…

I have to admit that I often go through life completely oblivious of the impressions and impact that I make on other people.  As I am pursuing a greater education, I am realizing that I am developing a following of younger females in my family.

It all began with my niece getting into graphic art.  Now this may fall into both the art and technology arena, but more than her artistic abilities, I recognized her ability to grasp concepts really quickly.  She has been teaching herself how to use Photoshop, Flash and Illustrator — she began this at 12.  My sister, in full support of her, purchased her a Wacom pen tablet for her 13th birthday which occurred a few weeks ago.  Although I support her goal of wanting to be a cartoonist, I really see her passions developing into areas such as animation or even game development.  She currently loves to make cartoons and small animations of the characters she develops.

She is in the process of applying for a high school that specializes in Game Development and Interactive Media.

Our relationship has grown and developed through random FaceTime conversations where I’ve walked her through a concept that she needed a little more clarification if she couldn’t find the answer online.  I am flattered that she looks to me for help in these areas and through this connection we find ourselves enthralled in our own geeky conversations only to look around and find other family members staring dumbfounded.

But wait! There’s more!

Recently, my goddaughter/great niece confidently informed me that she wants to be a programmer like I am.  Her mom sent me a text saying that my goddaughter has been talking about our programming conversation ever since that day and that she told her that she wants to be a computer nerd just like me.  She has always had an inquisitive mind and her mom informed me that she has the tendency of doing extensive research into things that interest her – such as a full research paper on owls – she’s 10.  She’s recently switched her razor focus from owls to programming.  I recognize the spark in her eyes when she speaks about programming.  I remember having the same experience at the age of 12 when I coded my first web site by hand – html tag by html tag.  Somehow this deep passion went unnoticed and it has taken 10 years for me to get back to that place where I started.  Hopefully, if it’s what she really wants, my goddaughter, instead, will spend the next 10 years developing her talent and deepening her passion for programming.

Engagement begins with an invitation

I never once considered that the young women in my family would be interested in programming.  I feel a new responsibility to help them explore the possibility – at the very least.  As fickle as a child can be, I think that it’s important for me to help explore Computer Science as an option.  There are programs that exist today that help with getting young women interested in STEM fields.  I feel like I can now bridge the gap between their initial interest and tangible resources and programs that will further spark that interest.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Programming, STEM

 

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