Mar 4, 2010

On Challenges

Recently I've been working at redoing a challenge that I failed in the past. It is not really my choice since it is a class required for my degree, but I find I am enjoying being forced into the opportunity and hope that in the future I will force myself to re-attempt past failures in hopes that I can do them better.

The failure was a class called "Real Analysis", and while I didn't actually fail the class, I dropped it halfway through because it was an elective that was kicking my ass. It is a class where you analyze what the real numbers actually are, and how they can be used to build up the fundamental ideas of calculus. After getting my ass kicked on trying to do proofs about limits and continuity, I decided it might be better if I spent my time working on computer science classes instead of this class that, while interesting, had no real impact on what I wanted to do in life (which at the time was graduate and be a programmer).

This was a big regret of mine. At first I was happy to have free time again, but after a while I felt somewhat bad that there was something in a field that I was supposedly good at, yet couldn't do. So here and there I would re-tackle some of the problems in the textbook, with varying degrees of success. Some of them were easy this time around, others were still just as difficult. However now that I'm in a class where I basically have to relearn all this stuff, it isn't as bad as the first time around, and I find I'm actually enjoying it.

So what am I getting at here? Basically what happened to me was I was encountering new challenges. Sure, I've met challenges before in my academic and professional careers, but a lot of the time these challenges were programming or computer related challenges. This is stuff that I know reasonably well, and so the "challenges" aren't really all that challenging when you think about it, since I'm already thinking in the mindset required to solve these problems - although a good programming problem is one where thinking like a programmer isn't really the way to solve it. So if you're one of those programmers who loves to find challenges, why not start looking for challenges beyond your area(s) of expertise? One great thing that could happen is you begin to look at problems from a different perspective, which you can take back to your programming problems and maybe create something great. One thing that I've been thinking about now that I've been writing recipes in Ruby is real-time languages - basically ones where timing is important, even timing that makes your program run slower. A neat idea would be to add a "when" keyword that works like "if" but instead of just skipping when the condition is false, it hangs around until the condition is true. You could do this in Ruby (although you can't use "when", since it is already a Ruby keyword) by just making a function that takes a string of code and a block, evalling the code and sleeping until the evalled code evaluates to true.

Then again, if you want programming problems you can always check out Rosetta Code.

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