Category Archives: Course

What? You want it harder…!?

OK, first things first. I think some apologies are in order. It’s been a teeny bit of time since I last posted…alright, alright. It was April. But much has happened since then. Well, actually, literally nothing has happened since then. Thanks to my current toe-to-toe with evil Count Fatigue, I’ve been mostly sleeping. Or sitting. Or sleeping some more. And whilst I’m sure some of you would find my warbling on about having less energy than a Duracell bunny fitted with non-branded eco batteries powered by rainbows and yeti dandruff highly entertaining (you weird lot!), I’ve been too flippin’ knackered. Even writing that little lot has me reaching for the Lucozade Sport! So April and May slipped by without a new “something”. Aww :(. But there was no need to be concerned, silly reader :). It’s me, remember? OCD, forward planning; it’s kinda my thing, yeah? So you must have known I’d have some of my “somethings” already booked in, sofa-dwelling mollusc status or not? No? Oh, silly reader indeed! Well I had got my June thing already booked in, months ago. One that I’ve been looking forward to since I first decided to do the “somethings”.  And one, as it would turn out, was pretty ideally timed, given my under-the-weather-ness.

March was the last time I dipped my toe into a “something”, nerding it out (and breaking my brain!) with some creative JavaScripting. You remember that, right? It was hard! So my grey matter needed some rest. Some time to recuperate. And having been poorly over the past few weeks, so did the rest of me. Admittedly, all this sitting about and sleeping probably sounds like more than enough rest, but being ill is kind of annoying! I wanna do what I wanna do, thanks very much body, so snap out of it already! It’s getting old pretty quick. And whilst I’m often to be found moaning about having to go running or how hard yoga was last night, six weeks on the sofa-sidelines has made me a tad grumpy. Ok, very grumpy. Add that to the frustration of actually being ill, and there you have it; one stressed out Cups :(. I’m being told to rest, to take it easy. But all this resting is doing my head in! And the vicious cycle continues… Sigh. I needed to look after myself, sure. But I needed to eliminate the stress. I needed to relax. And as luck (and a bit of my awesome forward planning) would have it, I was just about to be very relaxed indeed…

One familiar train ride, followed by a magical mystery tour round the back streets of the Ton (with the friendliest bus driver ever!), and the wheeziest of walks up a piddling incline of a hill – seriously fitness levels, where have you gone?! – and I’d arrived, first naturally, for a day of learning, laughing, laying down and lubricating. Yup, get excited people. I was about to learn the art of… body massage!

I have been ridiculously excited about this since I booked it up a few months back. I’ve wanted to take a course for years. And I love a good massage (who doesn’t, right?! ). Weirdly though, I’ve only ever had a professional one once. I’m not sure why that is exactly. I don’t have an issue with strangers touching me without so much as a how do you do. You know, in a massagey way (honestly, minds in the gutter much!). Which was lucky, given that the next 6 hours was gonna revolve around several strangers touching me, with oils and everything. It was gonna be an interesting day :).

The course, an Introduction to Body Massage, run by Brighton based College of Classical Massage, and taught on the day by the excellent Mike, was brilliant! The set up for the day is great. Once you have partnered up, you are taught the techniques for three types of massage during the course of the day – back, face and feet – which you do directly onto your partner (you know, the person you just met about 30 minutes ago, who’s probably already forgotten your name, and who’s naked skin you’re manipulating with grapeseed oil), following the visual and verbal instructions being given by the teacher. After a few minutes, any awkwardness is gone as you concentrate on the movements and the pressure, and your lucky partner enjoys their massage! And after you’re done learning the technique, you switch places and get an awesome massage yourself! WIN!

My classroom for the day…
“Now, get your clothes off and let me prod at you”.

Nine other excited, and slightly nervous looking people, arrived – my massage buddies for the day –  ready to get on tables, get naked and get rubbed up (hopefully not the wrong way) by people they’d barely spent 30 minutes with. Now there’s an ice-breaker for you! “Hi, I’m Paula”. “Hi, I’m Davina” “Now, get your clothes off so I can start poking at you”. It all could have been very awkward, but our teacher Mike has done this before, with countless groups of strangers, and he’s definitely mastered the technique of putting people at ease quickly :). Attending on my own, I was a little anxious about how the partnering up would work. Would they be assigned, like a lab partner in a science lesson? Would the cool kids in the class get to pick who they wanted, leaving the scrawniest, palest kid (that’d be me then) to be the boobie prize? Nah. Half the class were people on their own, and I was lucky. I got chatting to super cool Davina over tea and biscuits, discussing the possibilities of massage and hypnotherapy as a combined force – Me: “Imagine if you did them together. I’d massage them into a coma, nick their wallet, and then plant a trigger word into them, making them drop to their knees and bark like a dog every time they heard the word ‘kumquat’. It’d be hilarious!'”. Davina: “Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’d be struck off for that… and remind me never to come to you for a massage!” –  and after that, she still wanted to team up with me (glutton for punishment much) for lesson one – the back massage.

Davina took to the table, putting her back in my exceedingly cold (sorry!) hands and off we went. Me, watching Mike’s instruction and attempting to recreate them without cracking bones or putting muscles into spasm, and Davina, drifting off into a relaxed stupor, with only my descriptions of my ridiculous Tai-Chi looking dance moves to get the right angle and movement for the various strokes and my hair-dresser toned inquiries of “is the pressure ok for you?” harshing her massage buzz. After 35 minutes, my first massage was complete. And, how was it? Well, as the ‘Practioner’ I really enjoyed it, and thought it had gone well. No bruises, no death screams. But what about my guinea pig? Had she survived intact, still able to move her spine and supporting limbs? Why, yes she had! And apparently, it was really rather good :). I took the fact that she felt a little woozy upon sitting up as a good thing; that what I’d done had been so relaxing as to have knocked her equilibrium out of kilter for a couple of minutes (and not that I had accidentally given her the sleeper hold whilst massaging her neck…). So now it was my turn for the table. Off with some clothes, on with some towels and relaxation in 3, 2, 1… GO! And. It. Was. Awesome! I was so relaxed at one point I think I was drooling. Yup, there’s a lovely mental picture for you right there! Having just practised the same techniques that were now being carried out on me, it was cool to feel the difference between how it felt doing them on someone to how it felt having them done on you. The actual sensation didn’t always match what I had thought they would feel like when I was doing them, which I found really interesting. Regardless, it all still felt pretty awesome :). After lunch, we swapped partners for the the remaining lessons – face and feet – and more awesomeness was had by all. I managed to send my face partner to sleep with my silky massage skills, and successfully got through an amazing foot massage without kicking my partner in the face once (I have extremely ticklish feet you see). 6 hours of excellent teaching, great people, lots of laughing, new skills bagged up and ready to use, AND three massages! Now that’s what I call a good day :).

I am, however, now anticipating suddenly become very popular with my friends and family. Out of nowhere it’ll become apparent that they haven’t seen me in ages, and that they desperately need to ‘pop round’ or ‘catch up’.  Yeah, yeah. I’m on to your shenanigans you lot. You wanna see me? Fine. It’s been such a long time, hasn’t it? Sure. Ohhhh, and you’ve been a little bit stressed lately have you? You’ve got quite a lot of tension in your shoulders you say? Would I mind, just for 30 minutes or so…? Oh no. I wouldn’t mind. I wouldn’t mind a bit. Come straight over. Just leave your wallet on the side. Oh, and afterwards, can you go to the supermarket for me? I need ‘kumquats’… 😉

Going geek

Q1 of 2012 down, and my list of  completed ‘new somethings’ is looking quite impressive already: fitness boot camps, yoga classes, attending trendy launch parties, jewellery making, becoming an organ donor, even mentoring someone in running! Phew! It’s no wonder my posts have been getting few and far between; I’m too busy doing stuff to be writing about the stuff that I’m doing. Oops! Some balance is required in this respect I think… Anyway, it’s all been great fun and, without wanting to sound smug, not too taxing (although some of the yoga positions I’ve attempted defy gravity!). But all this was about to change. It was time to take things to a new level. It was time to engage my brain. That’s right people; I was gonna go geek.

I have the right genetic make-up to be a nerd. I’m whiter than Casper the Friendly Ghost. Dressed as a sheep. In a snowfall. Covered in talcum powder. And at the first hint of sunlight I burn redder than the sun. I can’t even sit under a 60 watt bulb without my factor 120 on. I’m as blind as a bat without my geek-chic specs on. And I was always hopeless at sport. Except running, which I’m quite good at. But that makes sense. Nerds should be adept at this, you know, from all the running away from bullies and stuff. Anyway, I digress.

Last week I made good on a threat I’d been holding in reserving for a few years, by popping along to a course of unadulterated geekery run by my friend Seb Lee-Delisle. I’ve been wanting to attend one of his courses for a while – they always sound so cool – but the content has always been way too advanced for my teeny little brain to comprehend. So when I found out he was putting together a creative JavaScript course for complete noobs, and realising this would fit in rather nicely with my ‘ new somethings’ plan, I signed up. Two birds, one stone. Nice.

I was apprehensive in the days leading up to this nerd-fest, being that my only attempts at anything vaguely like coding were the two frenetic weeks I spent teaching myself basic HTML and CSS last year, to get my website up and running. And this didn’t really give me an edge. It’d be like attending a course to learn Spanish and saying “well, I kinda know some French”. Yeah, really not very helpful. The ‘creative’ element – given top billing in the course title – was giving me the heebie-jeebies too, cos I’m about as creative as a stick. So the prospect of spending 2 days blinding tapping away at my hefty laptop, employing my patented ‘nod-and-smile’ technique every time something was said that I didn’t understand (I anticipated having a major case of neck ache and face freeze by the end of the course!) and trying to cover up my lack of creative prowess by using the brightest colours I could code up, to cause temporary blindness, was a little unnerving. But as I’m always being told, particularly by said teacher of this course, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. Ok fine. I’ll feel the fear and do it anyway. Times 100! Bring it!

The dates rolled round, and suddenly here it was, Geekment Day. Or Geekment Days; it was a 2 day course after all. And what a fun couple of days it was! The class were a lovely bunch of fellow noobs from all sorts of backgrounds, all eager to learn this weird JavaScript stuff. The girls outnumbered the boys 4:1, which I hadn’t expected, and it was pretty cool to see so many girls interested in learning programming :). Day 1 kicked off with Seb showing us some basic drawing commands, and how we could use these to make shapes, dictate colours and even move stuff around the canvas! Cool! Check out some of the pretty stuff I made:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After we had these basic commands down, and we’d stopped sniggering at the slightly rude sounding terms we’d been learning all morning –  “Now remember, it’s really important that you stroke your Rects before you fill your Rects…” (snigger) – we were tasked with creating a little critter with wobbly bits and everything! Here’s my offering: click on the bunny then watch him wobble as you move your mouse across the canvas!

Kinda cute, right? And I almost understand how I put him together, which is pretty cool!  The rest of the class made awesome creations too, from wobbly aliens to grinning faces to a hilariously rude body part. I won’t mention exactly what it was (where would be the fun in that), but will say that, when it came to Day 2 and particle systems, the owner of the anatomical graphic wasted no time in working on an eruption of particles to ‘finish off’ her work. Nuff said. Needless to say, immature as we quite clearly were, we all had to have a sneaky look at her laptop, laughed like naughty school kids and collaboratively decided that her offering won the entire course.

Day 1 completed, pretty stuffs coded by yours truly, so onto Day 2, with gusto! Well, I started with gusto. It soon petered out when Seb started schooling us in while loops and for loops and arrays… What the flip?! Queue all manner of confusion and brain-frying and frustration, admittedly mostly from my corner of the room. We were now into scary territory. The bit I’d been dreading. The moment where I’d found myself staring at my screen, fixated with wide-eyed gormlessness and not understanding even a hint of what I was looking at! Oh how I longed to go back to stroking and filling my rects. Reassuringly though, this stuff seemed to be a bit of a stumbling block for everyone. But we were lucky. Seb is an excellent teacher, and talked us through this terrifying world of unfamiliar terminology, happily answering all our “um, I may be being really dumb here, but…” questions. And it started to sink in. Well, for the others perhaps. As for me, I was still clueless! But I bluffed my way through until the afternoon, chomping at the bit for the exciting culmination of our 2 days of coding – PARTICLE SYSTEMS! Ooo particles, you’re so pretty. And so impressive looking. Shapes that appear from nowhere in an explosion of awesomeness. Aahhhhhhhh! Ones that are glued to your mouse and whizz across the screen, following your every whimsical move. Weeeeeeeee! Who knew that after such a short space of time, complete JavaScript novices could be creating such visually stunning effects. What a brilliant way to end 48 hours of nerdy wizardry :D. It’d be rude not to share some of my particle examples, so here you go. Click on the images to see them get animated…

       

That’s some pretty awesome stuff right there!  And after only two days. Amazing!!! So I’d like to say a huge thanks to Seb for running a brilliant course for us coding virgins. I’m always blown away by the stuff Seb does, so getting to see the mechanics of how he can create visually beautiful things with code was really eye-opening. Understanding it (for the most part anyway…) was even more amazing! But being able to type some gobbledygook that can barely count as English into the notepad, and instantly see it come to life in the canvas – wow. That was so cool it almost hurt a little. As expected, the anticipation was way more painful than the actual act, but we’ve all come away, Javascript cherries popped, feeling nicely sated thank you very much ;).

And that’s it, my first Creative JS course completed, and I’m actually feeling a little impressed with myself – yay! So am I now a fully fledged geek? Um, probably not. But this has definitely gotten me a few steps closer. And seeing as I’ve now become inseparable from my laptop, playing with the variables in my examples from dusk till dawn, I think it’d be acceptable to declare my status as nerd-in-training. I’m now the proud owner of a big orange book, which professes to be able to learn me in the ways of processing. Hmm. We’ll see… I’m still tweaking the stuff I created in class, and if any of my random changes result in something mind-blowingly gorgeous (it could happen, right?) I’ll definitely be posting them. But for now, it’s glasses on, curtains drawn, laptop launched, and brain engaged. All systems code!