Sanity Check of Life

Life can be difficult. Things don't always go the way you want them to, and sometimes you have no control over it. That's when it's time for a sanity check of life. Sanity checks help you confirm that it's not your fault that things have gone wrong and they help you build up your confidence again. If you fail to do a sanity check every once in a while you might end up with low self-esteem. It's not the main point of the sanity check though. The main idea is that you want an answer to this question: "Is the rest of the world insane or is it just me?"

Here's some examples of sanity checks:

  • Going to the Sainsbury's (upperclass supermarket) instead of the LIDL (shit) to prove to yourself that shopping does not have to be a horrible experience.
  • Accepting a fun job with low pay to show yourself that you can have fun at work.
  • Accepting a boring job with high pay to show yourself that work doesn't really matter.
  • Traveling to an 'easy' country to have a smooth traveling experience (as opposed to, say, a country where you can't read the road signs and nobody speaks English).
  • Hooking up with a decent, normal girl to get over the psycho bitch you dated in the past.
  • Hooking up with a crazy wild psycho bitch to get over the boring girl you dated in the past.

The concept of Flow is heavily related to this. If you pick a challenge that is too difficult (impossible country to travel to, crazy difficult job, psycho bitch girlfriend) then you will get disappointed and you'll lose your motivation to do even the easier of challenges that you would otherwise enjoy. On the other hand, if the challenge is too easy then you just can't be bothered. You have to be in exactly the right level of difficulty/comfort to achieve flow. At times when you're not, it's important to do a sanity check afterwards to 'reset' your confidence in yourself and in others and your expectations from the world.

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It's 10PM on a weekday. After a long day at work you go cycling, 12 kilometers to the seaside. Not because you want to, just because you think you should. It's a cold winter day, with the temperature around 4C. A dark night. No moon. Let's go.

40 minutes later. You turn from the main road into a narrow path that leads to the beach. It's pitch black. No lights, nobody there. No sound except for the smashing of the waves. You take a break.

10 minutes later. You've started on your way back, and shortly after departing you've realized something. You've had a big tailwind going down to the seaside, and now an icy cold wind is blowing in your face. The way back is twice as hard, going ever so slightly uphill. Not enough to pose a serious problem, but enough to make your muscles hurt after straining them for 40 minutes on the way to the seaside. Your body is tired. The wind is cold and strong. In your mind you are already home, taking a nice hot shower, but it's impossible to concentrate on that for longer than 5 seconds because of the fatigue. You're losing strength and willpower.

Then, two kilometers later. Acceptance. You no longer feel the pain. You no longer have the energy to imagine yourself being at home, but somehow your body and your mind focus on one thing: the road ahead of you. You find your rhythm, and you enjoy. No break is necessary, everything comes naturally. And before you know it you're back home, and you wish that you could have continued longer.

You are satisfied.

Posted in Cycling | Tagged , ,

Optimum Flow rate

Things have been faring well at work recently. After a couple of weeks of developing for the iPhone I finally feel that I can be as efficient as I was when working in Java. It took some brain adjustments and a lot of working environment adjustments (different keyboard, different mouse, IDE hotkey changes, ...) but I'm finally up to speed, and starting to enjoy it. Which is good, cause there's a deadline approaching. Yet it is perhaps thanks to this deadline that I am able to achieve flow once again. Just the right combination of pressure and skill. It's like a drug, really.

I think I underestimated developing for a mobile phone in the beginning, and that was the reason why I couldn't quite enjoy it. I felt limited by the framework cause the things I wanted to do were simply not directly possible. I never really felt that when programming in Java. That shouldn't really be a problem, because normally if you notice something missing, you create it. That's what programmers do: create code. Yet I was very reluctant to do so at first. The first thing Objective-C throws at you is memory management, which is scary as hell when coming from a garbage-collected language. Then the second thing that's easy to notice is the documentation. Every other line in Apple's iPhone documentation states "but be careful because processing resources are scarce! you need to code very carefully and smartly". Putting the elephant in the porcelain closet, and telling it to collect its own garbage. Ya.

I found that it's best to completely ignore these warnings altogether. Aside from a few basic rules that programmers must stick to when dealing with memory management there's really not that much to it. If you're neat and tidy, which I am in the process of becoming thanks to Apple. Great memory profiler too by the way. In the beginning I was reluctant to create a new re-usable component every time I face a problem, because I couldn't directly justify the extra time needed to make the component elegant enough to be reusable. Especially on a mobile platform I think it won't happen very often that I'll be able to re-use one of the components that I've created.

As a result the code that I wrote was quite ugly. And unmanageable. I made the assumption that on a mobile platform with a rather dodgy object-oriented implementation the rules of programming must somehow be different. Well, I can be very clear on this: they're not. It pays off to create reusable components and an elegant structure. Don't worry about resources or performance until it actually becomes a bother, and then refactor it into something faster. A cleaner design is always worth spending the extra time, even on mobile platforms.

Side note: Windows 7. Hmmmmm. It's clean.

Posted in Daily Life , Tech | Tagged , , ,