Knives, Banjo and Cashews

I had my second go at knife throwing the other day and it was heaps better than the first time I did it. Yay! I threw 50 times and managed to get 1 knife in the target 17 times and 2 knives in the target 3 times. I was pretty excited about that:

The times I got the knives in felt different to the times I missed, kind of the like the way it feels to hit a perfect shot in tennis; it was a really good feeling and I took heart from that because it didn’t feel like that AT ALL the first time I tried throwing the knives.

When I kept getting it wrong I went back to the instructional book to see what it was making me get it wrong. I tried to concentrate on how the knife was meant to be held, the follow through and the windup. It all make a difference. My aim seems pretty good because even the knives that didn’t stick in the target hit the target. Still, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to stand around with apples on their heads.

After the 50 throws I wanted to keep going, but I thought it would be best if I didn’t overdo it and end up getting the shits with it like I did the first time.

The same day I started playing the banjo again. I’ve had my banjo for a long time, but have never been able to play it. Well that’s not technically true; I can play it fine, I just can’t make it sound like anything anyone would recognise as a tune. I started out worrying about never being able to get it right and this kept coming up the whole time I was playing it, although it was pretty easy to pick up the rolls again.

I found the whole thing pretty frustrating actually. For the millionth time I wished that I could find someone to teach me how to do it because it feels like I don’t know how to learn this particular thing properly and that I should be further along with it by now given how much I’ve done so far. If I break it down though, I’ve probably only spent around 20 hours practicing in the six years I’ve had the instrument. I think the belief that I should be further along comes about from my most recent attempt (about 7 years ago) at learning the violin; I was able to play an actual tune after the second lesson and was able to teach myself other songs at home. I’d played the violin for a short while when I was 8 or 9 years old, but have never played the banjo prior to owning this one.

I found a slow jam beginner’s banjo DVD in my library of 5K plus books and DVDs and slapped it on in the hope that it might help. It didn’t. It was too fast to follow, didn’t explain anything properly and I felt like it was saying:

Here, it’s easy, just play it like me. I’m so great. It’s so easy and if you can’t get it right following these simple instructions, then obviously you’re stupid.

It would be like someone walking into their very first maths lesson having never even seen a number before and the teacher going, “here’s an equation, work it out” without explaining anything.

I wasn’t really that happy after this and I recognised that I was getting the shits when I felt cause to yell at the DVD: “How the fuck am I meant to follow that when you didn’t even tell me what it was, you dickheads!!” So, I shut it down, put the banjo away and hoped for better luck next time. I had a really good link to put in here for a TED talk about how this dude was able to learn stuff, including the mandolin, by teaching himself, but of course now I can’t find the darn thing. Poo!! Anyway, Tim Ferris is someone to look up regarding learning and Josh Kaufman also gives some good insights on how to learn new stuff on your own, both on TED.

The cashews are a small aside that I wanted to use to demonstrate how it can serve you to think outside the box. We have a huge cashew tree in our yard. For all the years we’ve lived here it has dropped its disgusting fruit here and there but this is year is what some would call a mast season:

These are cashew apples. The nut is on the outside of the fruit. Apparently the fruit is edible, but far out, I can’t imagine eating them! They stink and are all soggy and disgusting. Yuck! The dogs love them though and my kelpie has put on a considerable amount of weight from gorging on the fruit before we can pick them up.

We’ve been putting them in our compost until I thought about how wasteful it was to throw away the viable seeds. Could I sell the seeds? Yes I could! Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery replied to my enquiry email by saying they wanted to purchase 300 seeds:

So, basically I got paid almost $100 for stuff I’d been throwing away. All it took was to think about the “rubbish” in a different way.

If it’s my thinking holding me back with the banjo playing, it would be great to find a way around it, but for now I just have to remember:

If I am willing to be good at something,

I must also be willing to be absolutely terrible at it.

Woodcarving

One of the things I decided to try this year is woodcarving. This is one of the things on my list that I’d never done before and I was looking forward to it, but also a bit worried that it would be really hard and I’d be really bad at. See, this thing is, there are a few things I’ve tried to do in the past that I failed at because I had a shitty teacher, which caused to me to sink into despair, not just for the skill I was pursuing, but for my entire life: I’m a useless idiot, why do I bother with any of this? Playing the banjo is one of them and when I try something new that involves a teacher I get a bit scared that it’s going to pan out the same way as my banjo lessons.

This post isn’t about banjos, but I’m attempting to impart how it feels to be held back by past experiences and why you shouldn’t let negative crap from the past stop you. See, my banjo lessons were run by a very good banjo player. He really was, he was awesome, he was in a band and he traveled all around the country-side doing his thing. But what I didn’t realise at the time is just because someone is an expert at a particular thing, doesn’t mean they are a good teacher, which is what happened with my banjo teacher; he was a useless teacher, but an awesome banjo player, and I was a bit scared that the same thing would happen with the wood carving teacher. Thankfully, it didn’t. I really didn’t want a repeat of the banjo lessons – old mate not explaining what to do, followed by a speed demonstration, which I couldn’t copy, then repeating the same procedure over and over until all he was doing was playing the banjo as though up on stage for an expensive hour that I drove a six hour round trip for (I worked out after the second lesson that he was a total dick and never went back). Click here for what he expected me to do in the first lesson.

Anyway, the wood carving was hard, but not seemingly impossible like the knife throwing. That strikes me as strange because with the carving there is more than one thing to get right, but with the knives it’s just the knives. I thought that maybe it’s because the carving is slower and you can see what’s happening as you do it, whereas with the knives, you throw it and that’s it, there’s no coming back from that single action; it’s a single action to get the result, but the carving is multiple movements and actions to get the result.

I worked on a relief carving of a leaf. I had trouble knowing which side of the chisel to press up against the edge when cutting the line along the margin of the leaf. It feels weird not to know how to hold something to make it do what you want. I can’t remember the last time I had to learn something like this; probably in childhood. Once again, it was very difficult to embrace the feeling of ineptitude and I had to constantly remind myself that it’s a natural way to feel in the circumstances.

This is how I started out: just playing around with the tools on a block of wood clamped to the bench.

This is what I ended up with. I’ll keep working on it in my next lesson. It’s going to be a leaf.

Experiri est Descere

(to try is to learn)

 

 

What do you do with a chance? — The Wandering Keens

Quote

A great post from my awesome friend, Shanny about having an adventure with her family.

The night before we left Australia Jillsy aka Gam Gam read us all a book she had found for the kids titled “What do you do with a chance?”, a beautifully written children’s book by Kobi Yamada. The story is about the amazing things that can happen when you take a chance and have the […]

via What do you do with a chance? — The Wandering Keens

Graffiti

Today was my first attempt at graffiti drawing and lettering. Graffiti is one of the things I want to learn, not because I want to deface public property, but because I’d never done it before and I thought it would be interesting to pursue; it is.

Man, I had no idea of the history of graffiti! It’s so cool and there’s so much information on it. Graffiti Diplomacy and Graffiti Knowhow were really good websites. The first one with lots of practical lessons and the second with lot of info about the culture of being a graffiti artist. I totally love it when I get to learn something absolutely brand new. It feels like I’ve discovered buried treasure. For example, I learnt about mops, which are a certain type of pen/marker used by graffiti artists. That’s a much more exciting use of the word usually preserved for describing a boring household item that is used to drag a ratty wet end across a dirty floor. By the way – I hate mopping. It makes me sad.

I spent around three hours today researching and giving actual graffiti a go. I would like to learn how to do Wildstyle, which is a kind of font. This is what I came up with today, which I did freehand, following the methods on the websites I mentioned:

I think I did better at this than I did with knife throwing. This probably comes down to graffiti being a form of writing, which I am quite familiar with having been able to write since I was a little kid. Plus, I’ve kept at writing,whereas with the knives, the only thing I’ve ever thrown at a target is a few darts. I gave up on that when I was a kid after being yelled at endlessly by an impatient father who expected me to be an expert the first time I tried something.There’s a hilarious video here of an angry, impatient dad. Mine was about this level, minus the eff word plus religious blasphemy.

I felt like I had level of pre-existing mastery over the graffiti, which was absent during the knife throwing. The knife throwing took more brain power and a level of perseverance that the graffiti was void of, and as a result I was able to enjoy the graffiti more. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the knives, just that I suck more at them than I do at the graffiti and that’s ok, because that’s what beginners do; they suck at stuff.

Imagine how much room you’ve got to grow

 

 

 

 

Throwing knives and a YouTube doco

In my last post I wrote about sucking at stuff in 2020. I started by using my throwing knives and the GoPro (for separate things) and I wasn’t disappointed at my expectations of sucking.

On the 1st and 2nd of January I set out in my kayak with the GoPro attached to my head to film what I thought would be an awesome documentary on the Burrum River. I paddled around for ages giving a running commentary of the goings on, while imagining how great it would all be look once I was able to edit and post it on YouTube.

When I got home I was excited about watching it and making it look really cool so my fantastic footage could go immediately viral. Rubbing my hands together in anticipation of critical acclaim and vast fortunes, I set about attempting to view what I’d recorded. I could see it on the tiny screen on the GoPro itself, but none of the media players I have on my computer would let me see the visual. I could only hear the audio. I downloaded it this way, then that way, then yet another way, but none of it made any difference. After around five hours of dicking around and being close to tears of frustration, I decided I’d better pack it in for the day.

The next day I went out and took some more footage with different settings on the GoPro. I was certain this would be the answer. It wasn’t. I dicked around with it a bit more, but after a couple of hours I still felt like crying, so I had to leave it, and googling the problem wasn’t any help.

On the third day I posted my problem on a hiking facebook group that went something like this: Help me, I’m too stupid to work a GoPro, and lots of lovely people, who were once stupid, just like me, responded with helpful advice. In the interim, I’d decided that I’d just upload it to YouTube as it was because I had an inkling that YouTube might be running under a better system than my Asus laptop, which I’ve had since 2009. Guess what? I was right, YouTube’s system is better than Windows10. Who would’ve thought! This is the video here:

So, what I learnt here is that  I made a buttload of assumptions about how this whole exercise would pan out, which is probably something I do all the time.  I also learnt – quite sadly – my laptop is too old to edit stuff from the GoPro and that no amount of dicking around with it is going to help. Now I forge on with the advice provided by the hiking group to see if I can download some of their suggested software to bridge the gap between my geriatric laptop and the already superceded GoPro Hero 7. I almost cried a few times while learning this stuff and it made me feel really annoyed, but I made it through the challenge and came to no ill fortune.

Then it was time to throw some knives. This is one of the activities I highlighted in my most recent post: I’d never thrown knives before and I thought it would be interesting to see how I progress at learning something totally new. I knew I’d suck at it to begin with and yep, I was right:

As you can see in the vid I miss every single one! At least some of them are actually hitting the target. I managed to get one knife into the target out of about forty throws, but it was right on the very edge. I lost one knife in the leaves on the ground and the cool guy I’m married to had to go and buy a rake so we could find it the next day.

It’s hard not to be good at something. It makes me feel stupid and useless. I know that’s normal, but it’s still a difficult feeling to embrace. I guess this is what stops most people when they discover they aren’t an expert straight away when they try something  new, and probably prevents them from even trying in the first place.

The start and finish are irrelevant because

GREATNESS COMES ON THE PATH

 

How much will I suck in 2020?

2019 wasn’t bad. It wasn’t all easy though. Some shit went sideways and I said goodbye to a few relationships and also some beliefs that I’d been hanging onto for too long. I also extricated myself from a toxic workplace. None of this was easy because it’s hard to see people for what they really are. I don’t want to believe that people are intentional arseholes, but the truth is that sometimes they just are, and contrary to what said arseholes probably think, that’s not actually my fault. It would have been easy to blame myself and say that I should have done this, I should have done that, I should have learned how to breath underwater, defy gravity, turn water into wine, tame dragons, control the weather, and I should have kept my mouth shut about the shady shit that was going on, but I didn’t because it’s not right to do bad shit to people and it’s not right to accept that from anyone, be it your boss, your brother, your neighbour, your best mate or a government department.  If I kept accepting that kind of treatment then I’m just as crappy a person as the ones who are treating me like shit because I’m teaching them that I deserve that kind of treatment. I’m also teaching them that they can treat other people the same way, and that’s not OK with me.

I did some pretty amazing stuff in 2019: I hiked 450 km on my own to Brisbane and got to meet some really cool people, and I raised over $6000 for brain injury while doing it. I read close to 100 books, exercised for 377 hours, ran more than 180 km, learnt some wicked skipping drills, went to some great gigs, grew out of my clothes because I built new muscle, got my first reading glasses, survived a bushfire, and made some freakin’ awesome plans for 2020.

In 2020 I’m going to see how much I can learn. Can a skill in one sphere emerge in another sphere, giving rise to an ability where none previously existed? Basically, will a lifestyle of breadth, rather than depth facilitate emergent abilities? I believe it will. It’s going to be tricky to measure this, but I’ll do my best. I’ll be recording everything I do and putting it on YouTube so everyone can see how much I suck when I first start out, and how that’s actually OK, because everyone sucks to begin with!

Watch me as I suck at these things:

  • playing video games*
  • knife throwing
  • tap dancing
  • learning a new language
  • skateboarding*
  • graffiti
  • juggling*
  • rubix cube*
  • macrame
  • physics
  • wood carving
  • singing*
  • kiteboarding
  • navigation*
  • chess
  • playing the banjo*

* These things I’ve tried at least once before, but was never any good at and/or it’s been over twenty years since I’ve done them.

Here’s what I’ve been doing in the last couple of days:

Snorkelling around the snags in the river. It’s a hard life.

Kayaking up the river and down a creek. This is where I suck. I made this ridiculously stupid and hilarious documentary about the Burrum River on a GoPro, but can’t get the damn thing to transfer to the computer so I can upload it to YouTube. Waaaahhhh!

See, it’s ok to suck, because that’s what pretty much everyone does the first time they try something, and this was the first time I’ve used the GoPro.

Learn by way of failure

Because

No one ever started off being an expert

 

 

 

The Magic Clothes

I recently learned that my clothing has magical qualities, namely the ability to disappear. Luckily this only happens when the clothing is not on my body otherwise it might make for an embarrassing episode of unexpected public nudity. I’ve only noticed the magic once so far and that was on the 13th of November this year and I wrote about the incident that lead me to believe in magic here.

After the people in question stole my clothing  I submitted a complaint via the relevant online portal for that particular state government department (yes, it was public servants who stole my belongings) suggesting that my clothing be returned or I be paid the amount of money I calculated to be a fair sum to replace the articles that had gone missing ($194.95: pocket knife, lip balm, hat, sunglasses, New Balance running shorts and branded t-shirt). Imagine my surprise (sarcasm alert) when the department denied that my clothing had been stolen, which of course absolved them of the need to return it and meant that they wouldn’t need to compensate me, or even take any responsibility for anything that happened that day. How convenient for them! I wonder how I would have fared if I had done the same to them?

Ok, so if I’m insane and the cops didn’t steal my shit, here’s what I think might have happened. I have a few ideas. I’d love to hear what you think of them:

  1. China has been secretly tunneling to Australia and the opening of their new tunnel just happened to be directly under my clothes and the clothes got sucked into the negative airspace, fell at an alarming rate, and through a fissure in the rock came to fiery demise in the earth’s core. See the accurate diagrammatic representation:
  2. A giant squid, and I mean really giant, was laying in wait for all of us to turn our heads so that she could steal my stuff as an offering to the Kraken, who she’d fallen out with in recent times over the beheading of medusa. This is what she looked like:
  3. I’ve been living on this planet as a spy for an alien race. After 40,649 years, my people finally came to retrieve me, but their navigation system was disrupted by a solar flair, so they mistakenly took my clothing instead of me, damning me to twelve more lifetimes of human existance. I was so sad when they flew off
  4. An escaped naked convict happened to be hiding out in the bushes and seized the chance to dash down under his cloak of invisibility to steal my clothes, so that he could pursue his lifelong dream of living as a woman. He’s now beautiful:
  5. The clothes never existed in the first place:

 

I don’t hate you.

I just lost all respect for you.