The Right Amount Of Discipline

Too much discipline and you’re rigid and lack creativity. Too little and you’re free flowing and going in circles.

With the right amount you’re driven and aiming for a target.

Building A Fire

I never learned to build a fire as a kid. I don’t know if I wasn’t taught or I wasn’t paying attention but the first time I tried on my own I couldn’t get it to light. I learned that there is more to it than putting wood in a pile and applying heat. Now I know that you need to layer the materials in the right way. First the things that are easy to get started – I like to use crumpled up paper for this. The next layer should catch easily but not quite as fast as the first layer. If it catches slower then it is likely to burn longer. Twigs and small sticks are good for this. The last year should be big chunks of wood – logs or thick branches that light slowly but will burn for a long time.

The bottom layer lights quickly and provides the energy to get the second layer to catch fire. The second layer can burn long enough to catch the top layer on fire.

Estimating Projects

I’ve had a bad time of creating estimates for projects the last year. Everything seems to take longer than I expected as I have to learn something new or hit an unexpected roadblock. The good news in that is that I’m learning what aspects of a project cause it to take longer to build.

Today I realized two more of those aspects: animation and functionality that requires a lot of resources and therefore efficiency.

Animation takes extra time because it has to be just right and I can’t get that without many iterations of watching the movement and comparing it to the previous iterations. That process takes time.

Anything that requires a lot of resources needs to be efficient in order to run well on every device. The problem is when the code you’ve written is as efficient as it can be and you have to start figuring out tricks to make further improvements. Like animation this is an iterative and time consuming process as you make a change, benchmark and compare it to the previous iteration, and so on.

So I’ve figured out that these things take extra time but I still don’t have a good idea of how much extra time that is. Still working on that.

Accepting Reality

Much of my dissatisfaction in life comes from unreasonable expectations which should be fairly easy to solve by just altering my expectations. The problem is that I can’t figure out if my expectations are too high or if I just need to keep pushing in order to make my expectations reality.

Take estimating time as an example. I go through a lot of stress over meeting timelines that I promised to clients because I try to be true to my word. But estimating time on a project of any complexity is nearly impossible. Should I come to terms with that reality in order to try to spare myself some stress? Or should I keep on the path I’m on now and let my dissatisfaction power me through to a solution? I’m leaning towards the latter but that might just be because I’m stubborn and don’t want to accept reality.

Inside Out

Yesterday I finally got around to watching the movie Inside Out and I thought it was great. Today I’ve been thinking about one of the concepts in the movie and how it relates to my life.

The movie is about a pre-teen girl and the emotions that live in her head and control her mood, Joy, Sadness, Fear, and Anger. These emotions steer her through life and take over in the appropriate circumstances. All the while she is creating memories which are depicted as marbles which contain a short video of the memory and are tinted by the emotion that was in control at the time. Every once in a while a special kind of memory rolls in, called a core memory. These core memories power the fundamental structures of who she is as a person – her passions and the things she cares about most deeply.

The part I’m trying to relate to my life is this concept of core memories. I know that Inside Out is just a movie and not a well researched documentary about how the world works. But I also love a good analogy and I find it fun to think about. The problem is that I have no idea what my core memories could be or what the fundamental structures of who I am are. I’m going to keep thinking about it and see what I can figure out.

Useful Information

I picked up a prescription tonight and had to wait inside a drug store for 15-20 minutes. Being inside a drugstore is a rare occurrence and it is even more rare that I’m there and wandering around without a specific purpose – that isn’t a way I spend my time. But I was there and I walked around the store and looked at what they had on the shelves. And those things on the shelves made me wonder about the value of knowing what’s on the shelves.

What information can I get from the things they have in stock, where they are located in the store, and how many they have on the shelves? Is that information useful in anyway or could it only lead to false conclusions? Is it useful data or just more clutter?

The store had several shelves for toy cars, small versions of real cars rather than imaginary cars. Amongst those toy cars was a high percentage of Aston Martins – I didn’t count but probably 20-30% of them were Astons. I find this strange because Astons are a particularly fast car or good car in terms of high performance cars. And I didn’t see any of what I would call good high performance cars there like Porsches or Ferraris. So why were there so many Astons? I can’t tell without more information. It could be that they sell a lot of the Astons at that store. Or maybe they sell a lot of them on average over all the stores. Or maybe the creator of the Aston toys pays more money for shelf placement and so they bought that ratio. Or maybe I saw so many because Astons don’t sell as well as the others.

Obviously I don’t have enough information to change what I perceived from mere information to real data. But that doesn’t mean the information itself isn’t useful because our brains are built to find connections. Each new thing we learn get organized with everything else we know and tested for logical accuracy. So each new piece of information can possibly spur something we can’t imagine now.

Incorrectly Naming Things

I’ve noticed a quirk in the way my brain works when I’m writing code. What I’ll do is name a variable something different than what it is or print something to the console that says the wrong thing. So I’ll print “banana is changing” when in actuality the code has apple changing and try to remember in my head that in fact it is not banana that is changing each time I read the message. My memory fails in this situation on a regular basis. I’ll confuse myself and start debugging my code to figure out why banana is changing when it should be apple. My mind has a glitch in the way it processes the things I read – what I see overrides what I know.

I don’t think my glitch is unique. If you’d please I’d like you to try an experiment. Write something down on a piece of paper that is false, maybe something like “today is Tuesday” on a day other than Tuesday. Put the paper somewhere you’ll see it often and let me know how often you think it is Tuesday when it isn’t.

Something New

I got a tiny computer in the mail today, the CHIP. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it but while thinking about some possibilities I realized how little I know about this area of technology.

I think I’ve come up with a project that will be a good introduction to the tiny computer world. It seems like a simple concept to me – I want to build a device that has a camera and that can take pictures when told to do so by an iPhone app. There isn’t a lot of functionality there but thinking through the implementation I realized I have no idea how to do the key component of having the iPhone app talk to the device. I don’t think I could even muddle my way through it without hours of research on the internet.

Seeing this new thing I have no clue about humbles and excites me. Every time I think I know a thing or two about the world of technology I quickly get brought back down to reality.

Quitter

I’m where I am today because I’m a quitter. I’ve never quit at the best times, like when I’ve had another better job lined up. But I’ve always turned one good job into another that’s a better fit. That’s required choosing to leave comfortable situations and putting myself at risk. But that’s the only way I know to move forward. One leap at a time.

Pacing

You have more control over the pace of your work and life than you think. As social animals we tend to subconsciously behave like our peers – the people around us. One of these behaviors is our speed. When walking together we naturally match each other’s pace and if you move more quickly the person with you will probably speed up without thinking about it. Similarly they’ll slow down when you do.

It is similar to something I learned while doing dog agility years ago. If you are running with your dog and begin to slow down then she will too because she’s taking your cue. If you want her to continue at full speed then you need to do the same.

What cues are you putting out? What pace are you setting?