I really feel ya, check out my post almost 2 years ago
What I've learned the hard way is:
- Arm yourself with a lot of patience when you study houdini
- Follow along, DO and FINISH all the tutorials you can
- Do as many variations you can think of out of the tuts
- Ask in the forums wording your question the best you can, and be patient, if there's no reply when your thread's gone to the second page, rephrase your question in a new topic. Repeat until you get an answer. Be sure to include the simplest hip possible.
- Remake works you've done in other software
- Post your work so you get challenged to take it further
- Read the docs every so often. Make it a goal to read it all the way through in a couple of months or a year or whatever you have the time to.
- Contact support politely, they do care. And should respond in a day or 2, often within the day.
I'm sure I have more but those are the ones at the top of my head. As per your last problem, it looks like an openGL glitch, are you using an ATI card ?