Hi there friends, welcome back to the weekly (!!!) head voices! I missed you.
Software Release Frazzle
Releasing desktop software, even for a small group of people, can get tricky quickly yo!
Yes, people still write desktop software, and we do love doing it. However, compared to web-apps, there are some additional challenges.
One can’t easily roll-out an incremental fix while no-one is watching, because every release is a significant event where users have to go to the effort of downloading and installing your baby.
It’s a fairly new product, so our release process is still being refined. Long story short, we caught a bug on the release platform (we develop cross-platform, but deploy for a single platform) shortly before release and so we really had to scramble to fix. This, together with the fact that the preparations for the release were already generally intense, left me quite frazzled by Wednesday evening after dinner.
Lesson learned: In a cross-platform development, don’t allow any dependency version discrepancies between platforms, no matter if it causes developer inconvenience.
Unicorns and rainbows
GOU #3 turned 2 on Thursday.
The littlest genetic offspring unit seems to be verbally well developed. She’s already using words like “eintlik” (“eigenlijk” in Dutch, “actually” in English) in fairly well-structured sentences. I have taught her to say phrases like “universiteit” and “lekker internet”, which she does with a smile.
She is able to express her wants and needs at a level which exceeds that of some 30 year olds.
Anyways, yesterday we held a birthday party for her.
It was a fabulously enjoyable affair with far too many delectable delicacies, and more than sufficient amounts of craft beer and good wine (expensive local Chardonnay is my current preference, if you must know).
It was beautiful to see so much of the family together in one place, all connecting like we humans should be doing as often as we can, but often don’t.
Thank you little GOU #3, for everything.
Your complimentary grab-bag of interesting cocktail party conversational tidbits
Trump / Brexit voters were scared.
In my 2016 to 2017 transition post, I lamented the observation that for both Brexit and the Trumpocalypse, a lower level of education was the strongest indicator for a vote for leave and for Trump respectively.
A new study by the Queensland University of Technology has now shown that in both cases the vote for Brexit / Trump was also driven by fear. It also makes the scary point that the respective campaigns deliberately targeted this fear, which is more than worrisome.
Use this tidbit with care, or right before you were planning to leave the party anyways.
How to defend your exercise addiction
A recent study published in Aging Cell, showed that older people who exercised regularly (in this case cycling), had the same levels of T-cells as 20 year olds. In other words, their immune systems are as effective as people a fraction of their age.
If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system.
(I like how he casually takes aim at our pill-obsession.)
The Carmack Productivity Method (CPM)
John Carmack is the modern-day genius who was the lead programmer of genre- and era-defining games like Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM (“one of the most significant and influential titles in video game history”) and Quake. During working on these projects, he invented a number of important computer graphics techniques.
It turns out that Carmack is not only a genius, but a productivity and focus monster.
In this 2013 blog post, a colleague of Carmack at id Software describes how Carmack would apparently play CDs while he was working. If he was checking his email, or if he was interrupted by a colleague, or he needed to go to the bathroom, in other words, if he was not focusing on the core of his work, he would pause the CD player.
By the end of the day, he knew exactly how much focused work he had done by how far he had gotten through his playlist.
Compared to the interrupt-driven way programmers work today (thanks internet!) this sounds like an amazingly visceral way to recognise and signal interruptions in your flow: THE MUSIC SIMPLY STOPS.
Would you be able to implement something like this for your work?
Thank you very much for stopping by! Have a productive week, and don’t forget to exercise.
Following the rich tradition over here of year transition posts, having just rounded off a brilliant outdoorsy take-your-mind-off-of-everything vacation with friends, and also inspired by wogan.blog’s nicely personal 2016 review post, I decided that a farewell-2016 how-you-doin’-2017 post was in order.
Warning: This post is long (1800 words+), rambly and sometimes even a bit mushy. I hope you enjoy it!
2016: The Review
The bad, with a hopefully slightly positive outlook at the end
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way as soon as we can…
For me the biggest disappointments of 2016 were the double-whammy of the Brexit followed by the Trumpocalypse.
I really did not expect either of these events to go the way they did.
This is probably because I was, ever the optimist, over-estimating the level of human development of British and US voters.
The exclusionist, nationalist, xenophobic and in many cases even white supremacist thinking associated with Trump’s support in the US and the Leave vote in the UK are truly abhorrent.
I understand that there were many other factors at play. However, these voters were either throwing out the baby with the bath water, or, much much worse, agreeing with the abhorrent sentiments mentioned above. Especially this second possibility depressed me greatly after the US election.
After such setbacks, one needs to look for solutions.
This is yet another strong indication that we should really be pouring every resource we have into the education of our people. (yes, correlation and causation, I know. hence the terms “strong indication”. discuss in the comments if you like.)
Human history has become, more and more, a race between education and catastrophe.
The way things are going now, that thought, and movements like #feesmustfall, are more important than ever. There can be absolutely no excuse for neglecting the highest quality and accessible education (basic up to tertiary) of future generations of humans whom we expect to further our civilization.
The running and the mindful
In 2016, I ran 440km.
There are a great deal of people who have run much more than that, but those are my 440 kilometers and somehow they brought me a great deal of deep satisfaction.
During the year, my per-run distance and speed have gradually increased.
Besides fitness gradually increasing, I discovered experimentally that shorter, quicker steps get me further and a higher pace. It took a biomechanical friend to explain to me that this was about muscles operating within the more efficient middle of their full extension/contraction ranges. I could probably just have read this somewhere, but doing it the hard way and then having a friend explain it on top of Table Mountain definitely added something to the experience.
With the surroundings over here being what they are, it does not take much to slip into a state of mindfulness.
No doing, no planning; just absorbing all of the surroundings, physical and mental, the music, and feeling how the meat-based machine that houses me propels us forward.
On the topic of mindfulness, for the last few months I added a repeat event to my todoist, helping me to spend five minutes every morning before work doing the breathing exercise. More recently I do this without any voice track, but previously Prof. Mark Williams at one point would say (original quote is due to Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD):
Each breath a new beginning; each out-breath a letting go.
There’s a whole lot in there. I have spent quite some time with it and I am far from done.
The first rule of blogging: You don’t blog about blogging.
However, I hope you don’t mind me breaking that rule to mention that in 2016, this blog was viewed 133 thousand times. I already get happy when one other person reads a post. You can imagine how happy it makes me to know that there are even slightly more people who have come here to consume some of the words I have written, and even some who have taken the time to leave behind comments!
The lion’s share of those views were due to focused posts that got picked up by some of the more popular nerd sites. I have to admit that I derived the most enjoyment from the more personal posts that were only read by friends.
Whatever the case may be, this has to be my most satisfying hobby. Thank you for the crucial role that you who read play in it!
The new life
In early(ish) 2016, our third daughter, affectionately known as Genetic Offspring Unit #3 (GOU#3 for short) around these parts, was born.
This wonderful little cellular mega-cluster is currently making noises that have the primary purpose of being immensely cute, but are also slowly starting to make sense. Her ambulation capabilities have increased immensely, and she is on the verge of standing up by herself and so we will probably have to re-arrange our interior. Again.
I prefer making resolutions in secret, then carrying them out or not, and only then reporting on them. However, that would mean that I would have to wrap up this post right now, and for that I’m not quite ready yet.
Those of you who have spent more than 8 seconds in my or my blog’s vicinity know that I absolutely adore craft beer (this includes local, but also special beers of the Belgian type) and local wines, both of which are regularly consumed by me and “business partners” during “business lunches” in the not-unattractive local surroundings.
This decision was not taken lightly.
It is mid-morning of day 2 of Experiment Alcohol Zero (EAZ) as I write this. With the air full of smoke due to local vegetation fires, I have not been able to go running yet, but I am imagining that my energy lasted later last night, and I got up easier this morning. I have 29 more days to investigate.
I also remind myself to be grateful. It takes continuous practice to identify the many things one can be grateful for every day, but it is definitely worth it.
I often remind GOU#1 (#2 and #3 are not old enough yet for this lesson) that, besides the guidelines above, we have to keep on working on two more related characteristics: being useful, and being likable.
Being useful means continuously developing and refining skills that enable one to contribute value to one’s surroundings. Being likable means understanding and appreciating how we humans stick together. Kindness, see above, is an important component of this.
In 2017, I would like to write more (on this blog probably), and read more.
Rapidly morphing goalposts jumping randomly through even more randomly pulsating hyperspace, with a slightly positive outlook at the end
Yes folks, this is going to be my parting thought.
When I was much younger, I used to believe that one’s life could be “cracked”. That is, if you searched, and you worked really hard at understanding yourself, your people and your surroundings, you could come up with some kind of answer with which you would be able to attain contentment.
In the meantime I’ve come to the realisation that that Much Younger Me, although quite dashing, was of course utterly wrong.
Life is utterly dynamic. You Now are a different person from You Last Year. The same goes for people around you, and the same goes for everything around you.
The goal posts are not just moving all the time, they are an illusion flashing in and out of an hallucinogenic and especially dynamic perception.
Importantly, in this restless environment, some peace can be found by realising that a large part of the restlessness originates from within you. Fortunately, you have slightly more say in you than you have in your surroundings.
What one can do then, is nicely summarised by Prof. Mark Williams in the audio accompanying his mindfulness book:
The deep stillness we seek does not arise because the world is still or the mind is quiet. Stillness is nourished when we allow things to be just as they are for now, in this moment, moment by moment and breath by breath.
The End (for now)
Alright friends, that was it from me, for now. I hope that you have the best 2017 possible. I hope especially that your kindness and that of those around you flows deeply and freely.
As a parting gift, here is the high-resolution panoroma I made from the top of Table Mountain, after hiking up Platteklip Gorge with friends: