Archive for May, 2008

Oh hai … I can has writing novels now?

Friday, May 30th, 2008

… we’re over 30 posts in a month now.  Mission accomplished, and without even using fake fill-me-up posts like this one.

There are a few topics left, but they can wait till June.

I can has novel writing now?
-the Centaur

For the time being…

Friday, May 30th, 2008

… we’re going back to the setting that makes Qumana put in extra line breaks.

Because if I leave that setting on, apparently Blogger reformats all of my old articles, removing the line breaks.

Not good enough.  Not good enough at all.  It’s easier to fix the twenty or so Qumana articles and to use shift-breaks in future to accomplish my will than reformat all 200 previous entries in my blog, so Blogger wins.

Me too me too

Friday, May 30th, 2008

So my buddy Gordon has beat me to the punch (yet again) by finding the site FaceStat, which does wisdom-of-the-crowds rating of pictures.  His came out pretty good; I used one of my favorite pictures of myself, which turned out … not so much.

tailless lizard

Ok, so I already knew my beloved missing cat is more attractive than me.  But did the crowds in their infinite wisdom have to put down "repulsive" for my level of attractiveness?  Sure, maybe they’re referring to the prominent surgery scar on my arm.  But that doesn’t explain why the crowds thought I was "definitely not to be trusted."

Stupid crowds.  I didn’t want your wisdom anyway.

-the Centaur

Just a little bit more than you want to…

Friday, May 30th, 2008

In my life, I’ve often found it necessary to work hard to get what I want.  (Whether this is the right thing to do is another matter).  But how much is too much, and how much is enough?

Sometimes I’ve been in startup and crunch mode where I had to work weeks or months on end, sometimes to good end, sometimes not.  Once I even worked thirty-six hours straight when a surprise bug forced a rearchitecture of a key software component – but the work was clear to do, the results easy to test, and the deadline ultimately easy to meet.  But you can’t do that all the time, and from time to time I’ve had to look at what I’m doing and dial it back.  I find if you’re not working so you spend most of the time ready and refreshed, you don’t have the jazz to go to crunch mode if you have to.

Other times I’ve had so much going on – recuperation from illness, moves, life issues – that I’ve had to look at my work and say: hey, buddy, you need to do more.  I’ve never had a boss tell me that that I can recall; I try hard to figure out when to tell that to myself.  In the end, I want my employer to feel like they’re getting their dollar’s worth, so they keep on giving me the dollars; and I don’t want or need supervision in order to do that, I want my employer to get that level of performance for free.

But if you feel like you need to get more done, how do you do it?  Go to crunch mode?  And if you’re in perpetual crunch mode, are you trapped there?  Is there really no way out?

No, and no.  In my experience, when things are going well at work — when it’s not an actual emergency — you need to put out just a little more effort than you want to to really get things done  That’s it.  Not a huge amount; not crunch mode, not ten hours a day.  Actually not much at all.  It might take you an hour – even just a few minutes – to:

  • Drop in on your boss and give him a status update, or get one on something pending
  • Take the time to compose that email to your co-worker summarizing the meeting he coudn’t make
  • Re-run the unit tests, and identify the bug you’re going to start on tomorrow morning
  • Package up that small changelist and send it to your coworker for review
  • Go visit that collaborator you haven’t heard from in a while and find out how he’s doing
  • Write your Monday morning report … Friday afternoon

If I take on a big task at the end of the day, I end up tired and drained and go home late, often defeated.  You can actually create for yourself a perpetual crunch by wearing yourself out so much you make mistakes!  If on the other hand — right when I’m tired and worn out and want to call an early end to my day — I instead hunt around for the small tasks, the little things I need to do but have been putting off, I find I can do two or three of them.  Or maybe one, small, self-contained programming task.  It usually takes between an hour or two to nail all of these things that I can.

The result? I feel energized, rejuvenated.  Instead of leaving tired after seven hours feeling like a slacker, or defeated after ten hours feeling like a loser, I go out on a high note after eight to nine hours feeling like a winner.  When you do this, you realize that no, there really isn’t anything more you can do in the day, and that all the little grease-the-wheel tasks you just did just made your tomorrow clearer, cleaner and brighter.  In fact, often those little tasks are much more useful to your work and everyone else’s  than if you started some "big task" that you wore yourself out on not making progress that you’d have to practically restart, exhausted in the morning.  You become more responsive, more effective, and get more done.

All it takes is to realize:

I don’t want to work any more today, but if I do just a little bit more, I won’t have to work any more today.

Or maybe this should be phrased, do some more of the little bits.  This strategy works far better than when I’d club myself in the head at the end of the day with big tasks so I could feel like I was "getting things done".  Now, I am getting things done – leaving work today, for example, with eight former "Next Actions" now tossed over the cube wall to co-workers and comfortably sitting in the "Wait For" state, and two more sitting even more comfortably in "Done" — and knowing I can come in to work Monday morning not worrying about my weekly report, all those emails or anything else; just the two or three big tasks on my plate, the way for which I cleared before I left today.

This isn’t how Dad did it, but it has been working out pretty well so far.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes in the future.

-the Centaur

So by my math…

Friday, May 30th, 2008

… I’ve done 29 posts in 30 days, so I have a little catching up to do to meet my post-a-day-in-May goal. But actually I have the following options:

  • Work hard to finish the articles I haven’t written yet
  • Write a few short lame posts to finish out the month
  • Leave the month unfinished as a way of motivating me to do future blog posts
  • Recognize that I have many more important things I’d rather do, like writing novels
  • Bail on the goal on the grounds my wrists are hurting, which they are.

Or I could write a short self-referential post that actually counts towards my total while not killing my wrists or taking too much time from my novel-writing.

Hmm … tempting.

-the Centaur

A lot of my friends are already on Twitter…

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

… and apparently use it regularly.

I got my first a computer when I was ten years old (and had actually done some programming before that). When did I turn into such a Luddite?

Oh yeah, that’s right … I went to grad school. 😛

-the Centaur

Aftermath…

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

One consequence of finishing a paper is that there’s a bit of debris left over…

the piles

Fortunately, now that my library is more organized, it’s easier to reshelve:

the mess

No, seriously! Take a look:

the categories

I wuv my library. It feeds my ego. Or do I mean my head? Or both…

-the Centaur

The Marauder, Captured…

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

… on film at least:
tailless lizard
Fortunately we have a tiger to keep us safe…

I want to say something snarky about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull…

Monday, May 26th, 2008

… but I’m not.  I really respect what Messrs. Ford, Spielberg and Lucas pulled off and I really enjoyed it, so I shouldn’t say anything bad.  And as a couple of friends pointed out, they worked hard to make the movie accurate: they used the 48-star flag as was flying over America at the time of the movie; they used period-appropriate villains (Communists) and monsters (aliens) and I’ve even heard that they used shots more typical of a 50’s B-movie.

But…

A friend who hates a lot of modern movies described the 48-star flag bit as "the only good thing in the film, if it can be called that."  A lot of us made fun of him saying, of course he’ll hate the movie … but when The Last Crusade came out, he hated that movie right away, whereas I was lulled into enjoying it for at least 15 minutes – and that movie has aged very badly (more like milk than cheese, no offense to Messrs. Ford, Spielberg and Lucas).

On some fundamental level, I can take Raiders of the Lost Ark seriously … and the rest of the movies, I can’t.  And I don’t think it’s just "saw it when I was young" or any such nonsense … I will argue that the on-call troupe of swinging monkeys that appear in Crystal Skull are somehow goofier than anything that showed up in Raiders, and that cheapened the movie without aiding it.   In fact Crystal Skull has oodles of the same X-marks-the-spot goofiness that makes Last Crusade so embarrassing to watch.

But at least it was a *pretty* movie and was nowhere near as astonishingly gawdawfully craptacular as the Temple of Dumb. And I had a lot of fun, and there are scenes in it which I will probably remember for the rest of my life, particularly the "this is how they should have done it in the Mummy Returns" ending.

But, I recall the snark I made before seeing Kingdom: "Wouldn’t it be nice if they made another Indiana Jones movie? Cause they haven’t made one yet." At this point, I tend to think, yes, at this point they have now indeed made a second Indiana Jones movie, and I’m glad. Maybe 15 minutes from now, I will go over to my buddy’s side and think they still haven’t.

Or maybe not. After all, I’m the guy who saw Phantom Menace 10 times in the theater, so what do I know from bad?
-the Centaur

I’ve got 2 hours …

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

… so do I blog or work on my next novel?

Sorry guys.  Work calls.

-the Centaur