Someone asked me today how to strengthen their application for

Here is my response, which is what I believe gets you from a beginner to a job as a Rails developer.

– Launch a simple Rails application. You’ll learn more in this process than you will any other way.
– Beef up your GitHub page with solid, well-written, small code examples.
– Write some tests in RSpec. Try to get to 100% coverage (use simplecov to check)

– Get excellent at Ruby. Read everything on this page:
– Work through Agile Development in Ruby on Rails, Michael Hartl’s tutorial
– Start reading about refactoring. Know what ‘good code’ means.
– Learn Vim. Just stick with it and you’ll be faster.

– Read Ruby Weekly
– Listen to Ruby Rogues podcast
– Check Hacker News and read up on current events

– Attend meetups and hack nights. Work on a project with someone else. Learn from them and say thanks.
– Keep in touch with everyone you met, send them emails, have coffee with them.
– Join a Ruby mailing list (not ruby6) and participate.

Show interest:
– Know everything about people/companies before you meet them (Tweets/Blogs/Linkedin/Googling).
– Show up 10-15 minutes early for interviews.
– Put on a jacket.
– Be humble.


New favorite song/band discovered as the theme song for Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s “Portlandia”[New Yorker Review of S2], which is a hipster show which makes fun of hipsters. Also, it’s funny.

I’m a sucker for sentimental music, which this certainly is. It reminds me of Boards of Canada in a way (Great retro video for “ROYGBIV“). Or the more obscure “Casino vs. Japan” (their amazing “Aquarium” [youtube])

Anyhow, enjoy.
Washed Out – “Feel it all around” [Amazon]

Yes fine – a lot of these are clearly from my formative musical days in the mid-90’s. I’m going to go with it until I run out of songs and make a sincere effort to post more recent stuff in the future. 2012 resolution or whatnot.

To create a zig for yesterday’s sweet-tuned zag, today’s song is angry. Rather, it’s the only album I listen to when I’m interested in listening to angry music, which thankfully is rare these days. From Helmet’s “Meantime” album from 1992 (which is solid all the way through), I picked “Unsung”, the only single from the record. It was a toss-up for me between this one and “In the Meantime “, which is just a fireball and also worth a listen as well.

Some back-story, famous-person Steve Albini recorded this record shortly after “Nevermind“, which was also mixed by the great Andy Wallace. They did not get along:

The song “In the Meantime” was recorded by Steve Albini and later remixed by Andy Wallace. The contrast between Wallace’s style of mixing, which involves (among other things) triggered samples (leading to the album’s distinctive half wood, half metal snare drum sound), and Albini’s style of recording, irritated Albini. Later, when in negotiations to recordNirvana‘s In Utero (album), he stipulated a clause be added to his contract stating that Wallace would not be allowed to remix the album, although he had mixed Nevermind, which came out a year before Meantime’s release. [From Wikipedia]

It’s hard to know what to make of this sort of thing. It always colors your experience somewhat. For example, I think this record is perfect, but to know the people who made it had problems with it is a downer. Kind of like Eddie Murphy talking about how much he and John Landis hated each other during “Coming to America“. Maybe it’s better not to know so much about the art we consume. Thanks a lot, The Internet.

Helmet – “Meantime” [Amazon]

Today’s selection is from Jenny Lewis‘ really phenomenal 2006 album “Rabbit Fur Coat” recorded with the Watson Twins. Since she’s got a long acting resume in addition to fronting Rilo Kiley, she gets a lot of comparisons to Zooey Deschanel (latter better actress, former better musician).

Anyhow, this song feels like the right way to start the year on an upbeat note. (Note: this song is not nearly as angry as the title may lead you to believe)

Happy New Year!

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins “Rabbit Fur Coat” [Amazon]

Continuing with the early 90’s theme, I pulled this classic out of the memories for today’s SOTD. Fishbone are a pretty interesting band, playing reggae/ska and hardcore, but also because the members of the band are clearly insane. During the release and subsequent touring of their classic album “Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe“, this happened:

Just before Fishbone joined the 1993 Lollapalooza tour, guitarist Kendall Jones, reportedly suffering from mental instability, quit the band; John Norwood Fisher tracked him down and after an attempt to help him was charged with kidnapping.[6] A benefit concert to help with Norwood’s legal expenses featured Porno for Pyros, Primus, Tool, and Alice in Chains.[3] Fishbone was then dropped by Sony Records. Around this time, Keyboardist Christopher Dowd left Fishbone and recorded with a band including Jeff Buckley under the name Seedy Arkhestra, releasing the album The Puzzle, which included the anti-Fishbone track “Flog Your Dead Horse.” (From Wikipedia)

I saw the 1993 Lollapalooza performance in Milan, MI after my buddy Dave’s 1970 Oldsmobile Rocket gave up the ghost in a McDonald’s parking lot for 5 hours in 100+ degree heat. We finally got the car running, celebrated like maniacs, and were faced with a moral quandry – drive this piece of junk to the show and risk getting stuck overnight or drive home and get a more reliable car. We did the latter and caught Fishbone screaming at the audience and putting on an amazing show. I have since never eaten at McDonald’s.

This album is pretty complex – you would call it a “concept” record if you thought these guys had such lofty ideas. In any case, it’s amazing and well worth picking up and includes “Unyielding Conditioning”, a super-upbeat song about really depressing topics (much in the vein of The Doors “Peace Frog”).

Buy “Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe” from Amazon

Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe split off of New Edition in 1989, after it more or less ran its course as boy bands from Boston do. (Yes, they’re from Boston’s Orchard Park housing projects and were formed by the same manager immediately before NKOTB, which was meant to be New Edition but with white teenagers. New Edition, in turn, was meant to be “the New Edition of The Jackson 5“. And the wheel turns.)

Bobby Brown was off doing songs for the Ghostbuster’s II soundtrack (he was voted out of the band in 1986 for “lewd stage acts”) and Ralph Tresvant failed to fill his shoes as a performer, so they broke up the band in 1989. So legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, most famous for Janet’s “Control” and “Rhythm Nation” albums, who produced New Edition as they shifted from bubblegum nonsense to young-adults-with-relationship-problems, smartly managed the offshoot solo acts of BBD and Tresvant.

So BBD released “Poison” in 1989 to huge sales. The music video era was peaking and BBD took advantage with stylish proto-90’s fashion (think overalls with one strap) suggestive but not explicit content, and incredible beats (produced by the same geniuses who made Public Enemy’s records, the Bomb Squad). They seemed like cool guys and the songs are still absurdly catchy (Case in point: I insisted “Poison” be played at my wedding and the place went bananas). BBD struck the delicate balance of making R&B that wasn’t corny or overly mushy and still had a solid beat.

The album is built like an album – intended to be listened to all the way through, maybe more than once, so there are a lot of solid cuts aside from the singles. One of which is my favorite – “I Thought it Was Me”. For all the male bragadoccio of the other songs, this is the one which reveals a slight amount of emotional complexity. This is the album version – the remixes are terrible and the live versions lose the power of the production.

Bell Biv Devoe – “Poison” [Buy from Amazon]

It’s the holiday-times so I’m going with some of my more favorite good-mood relaxing tracks. This one in particular was played for me by a friend while we were on an amazing vacation earlier in the year, certainly one of the highlights of 2011 for me.

This one is from Maze, one of Marvin Gaye’s opening acts who released this classic album in 1977. They’re more well known for “Joy and Pain“, or rather, for when Rob Base sampled it wholesale for a song of the same name. Not that I begrudge Mr. Base – he’s living well on “It Takes Two” downloads sold during weddings after some white zin.

When I used to have a porch, this was my favorite song to play when sitting out there with a lemonade, watching shady people walk through the alley.

From the album “Who Killed the Zutons?” which features horns, like everything they do, and frankly it’s hard to dislike a band with a horn section. Anyhow, enjoy.

My friend Dave sent me the below video, which is great on a number of levels, not the least of which is, this is another piece of mythology in the life of Major Tom, the fictional astronaut created by David Bowie:

First, it’s an artifact from “Breaking Bad“, which has crept up to become the second best show of all time. Second, it features Gale Boedeker, the dorky would-be meth supercook, who is a lot like the interesting but mildly irritating fifth member of your trivia team with a weird breadth of knowledge. Third, the karaoke video has Thai subtitles.

So yes – it’s funny. The most important element of this song, however, is the content of the lyrics. The song is “Major Tom (Coming Home)” by Peter Schilling, from his 1983 album which also featured a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Odyssey”, where the Major Tom character was first introduced. This is interesting for a few reasons, but largely because a character created by one artist (Bowie) across three of his own songs, has had his mythology colored in by numerous other artists since. It’s like the story of Major Tom (which is itself not that interesting) has become part of modern rock folklore, like it’s an oral history being retold by subsequent generations, despite the fact that all of the songs are available currently.

So what does this mean? Let’s go through the chronology of Major Tom’s service record and see what we can learn, starting with the original song:

David Bowie – “Space Oddity” from the album “Space Oddity” (1969)

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