Teach me…

Posted: 13 October 2011 in skills

Some years ago, there was a series of guide books to software entitled Tips, Tricks and Traps. Written distinctly with tongue firmly in cheek, the books purported to be merely a guide to the very important, nay vital things you needed to know in order to use a specific piece of software. Of course, the books were nothing of the sort – they covered everything from the very basic to the quite advanced.

They all ended up with three ‘lists of ten things’, which were essential reading. The first was “Ten Things you really do need to know”; the second was “Ten Things that it’s very helpful to be able to do”. The last was the genius bit: “Ten Things you’ll need beer for,” the idea being that with these things, it took too much time to learn how to do them, so it would be much easier to go to someone who really knew the software and say to them: “if I buy you beer, will you please do this for me?”

Now, I have no beer, but I sometimes get incredibly envious of the skills possessed by other people.

Time to address that envy, I think.

Teach me one thing about your job, or a skill you possess, something that the odds are that I don’t know. (Note, I’m not asking what skills you possess – I’m requesting that you teach me something about that skill…)

You want examples? OK, well, say you spend your professional life writing. Then tell me how you get over ‘writer’s block’. Or if you can touch type, what’s the hardest word to type, and how do you remember it? You’re a whiz at teaching others mnemonics? Then teach me some. Or if you write gags, how do you know what’s funny and what’s not? Or if you write web pages, did I know that by sticking <b> and </b> around a word, I’ll make it appear emboldened? (Well, “yes“, is the obvious answer to that one…)

Other examples people have taught me over the years include:
– how to feed a cat a tablet
– a sommelier explaining how he decides the description of a wine
– the key to cleaning up images for icons
– how to breed fruit flies
– the best way to corner at speed
– a teacher taking me step by step through the process of the “you’re about to be in trouble” stare
– how to design a room
– the placement of word balloons
– how to learn a really difficult piece of music
– to create a genuinely blind hem on a satin bridal gown or other formal outfit
– how to calculate the flow of bubble bath when you bathe
– how a cover teacher knows your name in class (when you don’t think they do)

Go on then – teach me something about your job, or a skill you possess.

  1. Ginger_wookey says:

    I have been racking my brains for something that I a) know how to do and b) can remember at this late stage of pregnancy.

    It’s not easy I can assure you.

    So I have decided to teach you how to remove a tick from pets. Or humans. I’m sure it’s a skill that will come in really handy in an urban area.

    Ideally, get a tick remover from your local vet. If you dont have one, you can make one by splitting the end of a cocktail stick and opening it out into a V shape. Once you have done this, make a bend about halfway along the stick (it will sort of snap, but as long as it remains firmly attached it’s fine). You now have an l-shaped stick with one end that is forked.

    Now very gently slide the forked bit of stick under the tick, against the skin of the creature it is feasting on. Push it right to the fork so it’s firmly wedged. Now twiddle the stick round and round round with the fork still firmly underneath the tick. Within a few seconds the tick with release it’s bite on its victim, and you can carefully lift it off using the stick, and then destroy it utterly. I bloomin’ hate ticks.

    Doing it this way there is no risk of the mouth parts being left in, which tends to cause infection & other nastiness.

    If I think of something more interesting, I will let you know!

  2. Littlepurplegoth says:

    I get over writers block with gimlets and blind panic about being destitute!

  3. Hayley says:

    Right. Well.

    As my ‘profession’ these days is even officially *declared* as Music Teacher I suppose this should be a breeze!

    But it’s not as easy as all that. When I’m stood infront of a group of 4 year olds; firstly, they accept pretty much everything I tell them without question and secondly they all have instruments and all manner of props infront of them.

    But we’ll see how we go.

    This thing here is a piano keyboard – http://www.music-for-music-teachers.com/images/piano-keyboard-no-note-names-large.gif

    Each of those black & white oblongs represents a piano key. On a regular sized piano there are 88 keys in total including 52 white keys and 36 black ones. Some electronic keyboards have less and some pianos have more (Bosendorfer can have 97 in total) but normal pianos will consist of 88 notes or 7¼ octaves.

    An octave is a group of 7 white notes and 5 black notes recurring over and over. The best way to begin navigating notes on a piano is to notice the pattern of black notes – first two together, then three, then two, three, two and so on. All the way from the left (low) to the right (high).

    The easiest note to identify as complete beginner is D. You’ll find a “D” as the white note between every set of two black notes in your pattern. Every one of them is a D and adhering to traditional alphabet, the notes either side are C (before) and E (after).

    In music however, the alphabet only needs to go from A to G for an octave and then repeat. So an initially overwhelming 88 keys can be broken down into easier to remember groups of just 7 white notes – A B C D E F & G and 5 black notes.

    Additional fun facts – “Middle C” is the C note closest to the centre of the keyboard and when sitting correctly at the piano should be aligned with your belly-button.
    New pianists are advised to imagine holding an egg or bubble underneath their fingers when playing to encourage correct posture and lastly;
    Russian pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff possessed extremely large hands, this was reflected in his challenging compositional style as demonstrated by comedy performers Igudesman & Joo:

  4. HTML

    So you think you know how to make bold links… and, indeed, you do. But these days the standard advice is to avoid doing this. Instead, you want to mark up your document semantically. So you don’t use “blockquote” just to indent a paragraph, you use it only to display a block of quoted text – and in fact blockquote has been deprecated. Similarly, marking bits of your text as “bold” is largely meaningless. Why does it want to be bold? Is it a heading? A stage direction? Something you want to emphasise? Then mark it up that way.

    Headings should be marked as headings with h1, h2, h3 and so on. Stage directions can be given their own class, so you can use a span or paragraph or div tag, and supplement it with class=”direction” or similar. Emphasis can be put into the page with the “strong” tag.

    Then the style comes in, but that’s handled separately. You use a different file, known as a cascading style sheet, and call it into the main page. Here, you specify how your tags look, be they paragraphs, spans, emphasis or something else. You can specify whether it comes out in bold, or italics, what colour it is, the font size, where its borders will be if you choose to add them, how the padding works, and the margins too. And then every thing on the page that you specify as that kind inherits the visual behaviour. There’s a lot more too it, like increasing specificity, using multiple sheets, hacking for browser failings and loads more, but they’re the basics. If you want to examine how other sites are put together you can just do “view source”, but there’s a tool called Firebug you can install as a plugin on Firefox and then you can right-click areas of a page you’re interested in and see how it’s put together. Enjoy. Or ignore and avoid, because it can get pretty tricky and stressful trying to match behaviour across browsers and figure out why things just won’t work…

  5. Clara says:

    How to clicker-train a fellow animal:
    The clicker is a small hand-held device, that emits an audible “click” when pressed. This method is only useful if training a hearing subject. Other signaling devices may be substituted for the non-hearing.
    The purpose of the clicker is to pinpoint the exact moment at which the subject is performing the desired behaviour, thereby speeding up the learning process because it reduces the likelihood that the student misunderstands what he/she us being rewarded for. This method is very useful to inexpert trainers as it requires less precision in delivering rewards than training without a clicker.

    Step 1. Preparation
    It is first necessary to establish what will work best as a reward. Some subjects respond very favourably to food. Keep treets very small and tasty. Work when the subject is hungry. Other forms of reward may include praise, touch or play.
    Establish a comfortable way of holding your clicker in your non-dominant hand and make sure you can click it easily (test this away from subject). Make sure you can easily offer repeated rewards with the other hand.

    2. Priming your clicker
    Now you need to teach your pupil the connection between hearing the click, and getting a reward. This us achieved simply by cocking & immediately rewarding repeatedly until the subject comes to expect a reward every time a click sounds (this usually only takes a few minutes).

    3. Training begins
    Now watch your subject until he/she performs the behaviour you want to train. If you are training a simple behaviour like a “sit” this is not too problematic. A complex behaviour, like carrying an object to a location and putting it there, will need to be taught in stages. (Stage 1 touching the object, stage 2 picking it up, stage 3 walking with it, etc etc).
    Do what ever you can to encourage the behaviour (smear something yummy on the object to be touched) or if it occurs with natural frequency, just watch & wait. As soon as the behaviour is performed, click & reward.

    Step 4. Adding a command word
    It will not take long until the subject is eagerly performing the desired behaviour over and over again. Now, as the behaviour is being performed say the chosen command word & click & reward.
    The word is spoken earlier and earlier until it comes to predict rather than accompany the behaviour. Once well established the behaviour is now only rewarded if it follows the command and not when offered spontaneously.


  6. When I’m making music and I want to tidy up the mix a bit, both to make it sound cleaner and sharper, and to make more ‘room’ to add more elements without it sounding confused, one simple thing I do (this is within dance music) is to try to isolate the frequency bandwidth that each of the instruments/elements occupies.

    To do this, I add an EQ to each of the channels and add high and low pass filters. I turn these toward their maximum effect (cutting as much as possible) until I hear a noticeable effect (like the top end disappears and becomes dull, because I’ve taken the filter too far), then wind back a little bit from there to where no effect can be heard.

    This has the effect of trimming frequencies above and below the real gamut in which each of the parts is most represented. There should be no great effect noticeable on each track, as you’ve set the EQ points to before you hear them ‘bite’, but the cumulative effect of doing this to (say) 10 tracks, is that all these tiny nips and tucks really contribute to a cleaner, clearer-sounding mix in which there is less mush and more room either for the existing elements to be discerned, or for more elements to be added.

    Once this is done, I typically find elements that exist within similar frequency ranges (mostly bass, mostly mid, mostly top-end, etc) and add them into group tracks, which I compress. This means that elements occupying the same space are compressed together, giving a similar effect to multi-band compression. Each of the more broad frequency bands should be well-saturated and the compression effects of one oughtn’t interfere too much with those of another.

    Finally, when I feel I’m reaching the very end of mixing and mastering tracks, but it still has problems (for instance, mastering an album), I reach a stage when I refuse to make ANY change above 2 decibels. This is a small, but significant amount and in practice, minimises the tendency to turn something down that is too loud… TOO much, overshooting, and having to return to the mix yet again, turning it back up… then back down… then back up, oscillating around the sweet spot and wasting time

    By making the smallest change I can readily perceive, I control the tendency to over-adjust and cause myself more work than is needed. The minimum changes until I stop caring about each issue are the best ones to get your work done and get the project completed to a high quality, and within a reasonable time.

  7. Vix says:

    How to calculate UK alcohol unit, by Vix, aged 31 exactly, who may need this info later today!

    (%ABV x quantity in mL)/1000.

    So the 13.5% bottle of wine I will probably consume tonight (750mL) is 10.125 UK units.
    13.5 x 750 = 10,125
    10,125/1000 =10.125.

    An average liver will process a unit of alcohol an hour, therefore if I pack up at midnight then I shouldn’t think about driving much before 11 tomorrow. Which, trust me, I won’t.

  8. How to count in binary on your fingers:

    I learnt this from some Johnny Ball book when I was about 8. I can’t say I’ve ever needed this for my job, but having some awareness of binary is occasionally helpful, though probably less often than you might think, working in IT. And being able to count to 31 on one hand is pretty useful. And when you do it people think it’s witchcraft or something.

    Start by holding your right hand out, palm towards you. We are going to give your fingers imaginary numbers:
    1 (thumb); 2 (index finger); 4 (middle finger); 8 (ring finger) and 16 (little finger).

    Notice that the numbers double from right to left. That’s because Binary is Base-2, because it uses only 0s and 1s. The logic is exactly the same as decimal (or Base-10, using digits 0 to 9, where each digit is worth ten times the one to its right), but we can show 0s and 1s easier on one finger (finger down, finger up) than we can show digits from 0 to 9. Unless you have LED displays or something similar built into your fingertips in which case, frankly, you’re way ahead of me.

    So… on to the counting bit.

    Start with zero – a closed hand, with all your fingers tucked in.
    For 1, raise your thumb, like you would to give someone a thumbs-up sign.
    For 2, put down your thumb and raise your index finger, like you’re about to point at something.

    Easy so far.

    For 3, raise your thumb, keeping your index finger raised (1+2=3)
    For 4, put down your thumb and index finger and raise your middle finger, as if you’re flipping someone the bird.
    For 5, keep your middle finger raised and raise your thumb. (4+1=5)
    For 6, keep your middle finger raised, lower your thumb and raise your index finger. (4+2=6)
    For 7, keep your middle finger and index finger raised and raise your thumb. (4+2+1=7)
    For 8, lower the three fingers you have raised and raise your ring finger.

    Basically what you’re doing is this:

    Every time you add one…
    …the thumb changes (from lowered to raised or vice versa)
    …if a digit is lowered, the digit to its left changes (effectively you’re ‘carrying the one’)

    That’s it.

    With a bit of practice (surprisingly little) you’ll start to get into a rhythm where you don’t need to think about what number you’re on.

    Then when you’ve finished counting whatever it was you needed to count, you add together the finger values to get the total e.g. all five fingers of the right hand would be 16+8+4+2+1=31.

    Using 10 fingers you can count to 1023. (512+256+128+64+32+16+8+4+2+1.)

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