Waxing metaphorical with Ruby

I must preface this post with a few disclaimers: First, The Wizard of Oz is my all-time favorite movie. Second, I am an English graduate student, so it’s in my nature to wax metaphorical. And last, I’m currently in a Ruby-induced fever which has severely limited my ability to think/write clearly, so this post will be one of my more ridiculous. (I actually dreamed in code last night.)

Disclaimers made, Bethany threw out a metaphor that I can’t get out of my head, though it was probably intended as just a witty, catchy title: She named her blog post, ruby slippers” (my emphasis). Because I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz at least 100 times and Ruby is still an alien language to me, I grasped at the ruby slippers as a familiar way to allegorize my experience learning Ruby. Brilliant, I know, but bear with me here:

The Ruby slippers are magical and powerful. You have to ride a twister over the rainbow and drop a house on a witch to get them on your feet. Then you’ll spend roughly an hour battling a witch to keep them on. Now, rather than twister-hopping and murdering someone, I joined the Praxis Program, but that move for me could easily be likened to riding a DH tornado to the other side of the academic rainbow. The Scholars’ Lab is Munchkinland, which I guess would make the staff Munchkins (but of average height, superior intelligence, and much less prone to musical outbursts), and Bethany is (of course) Glinda the Good Witch. I’ve bridged the imaginary academic divide, dropped a house on the Wicked Witch of the East, and Bethany and the SL staff have convinced me to keep the Ruby slippers on my feet rather than frustratedly discard them and run screaming. But now I have to battle the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys of programming frustration. The shoes don’t fit and I’m not quite comfortable on the other side of the rainbow yet, but they’re on my feet, I’m on the yellow brick road, and I have a goal: Prism. And even if Prism turns out to be just an old man behind a curtain (it won’t), it will never disappoint because the journey is significant in itself.

BUT: The Ruby slippers are more complicated than they seem. Wearing them isn’t sufficient; they come with instructions that are neither obvious nor intuitive. For Dorothy, the method for using the ruby slippers’ magic is to tap her feet together three times while repeating, “There’s no place like home.” If only it were that simple. For me to master my Ruby slippers, I need to resurrect long-dead mathematical and practical/logical thinking, then pair that with a brand-spanking-new vocabulary of strings, loops, and methods that currently makes very little sense to me. I know Ruby is magical and powerful, but I don’t think I’ll understand that power or my own potential for harnessing it until I find my way to the Prism “Wizard,” when I’ll move out of theory and into (pun intended) praxis. But from what I’ve heard, we’ll be off to see the Wizard soon enough.

Brooke is a 2011-12 Praxis Fellow and MA candidate in the Department of English. She is currently working on a thesis which investigates Virginia Woolf's moment of being as a biographical, historical, and narrative phenomenon in Woolf's fiction and essays. Brooke is also a graduate research assistant in IATH, working on Alison Booth's Collective Biographies of Women project.

5 comments on “Waxing metaphorical with Ruby

  1. YES! Somebody took the metaphor bait! :)

    For what it’s worth, I was in a kind of melancholy musing on “there’s no place like home” (and what is it?) when I wrote that — but I’ll totally go for power and twisters and the dropping of houses, too.

    I guess none of us are in Kansas, anymore.

  2. I object to the characterization that the SLab staff is “much less prone to musical outbursts” than the average Munchkin.

  3. I have to agree with Eric! Brooke, you really must come to lunch with Becca, Ray, Eric, and me sometime. :D

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