Warming Up

23 October 2010

I hung out with Chevy Ray of FlashPunk fame the other night, and he shared with me some programmer wisdom. Which I now share with you: warm up!!

 

I always make it a point of mine to spend enough time warming up before physical activities. Whether it’s going for a run, dancing, rock-climbing…anything physical. I always make sure to spend the first few minutes doing some light but similar exercises, stretches etc. It literally serves to warm the joints and muscles, because they become more flexible and powerful a few degrees above body temperature, but it also serves to put me into a more self-forgiving mindframe. I suppose it’s because when I warm up it really drives home the point that I’m human, that I’m not perfect, and that it can take me a little while to get into the groove of something so that I can do my best work.

 

What Chevy pointed out to me was warm-ups can be made for mental activities as well. Some of the best teachers I know get their students into the right frame for class by throwing around some open brainstorming or opinion questions: mentally warming their students up for the subject at hand. And it’s just as useful to put this idea into practice for the dark art of computer programming. And I don’t know about you, but being more aware that I’m human, not perfect, and need to get into the groove of something goes a long way towards helping out that pesky programmers block :)

 

So today as I start my programming, I’ll be taking Chevy’s advice: start on a few small things, just change some colours around or tweak some variables, write a piece of code you’ve already written before, change some formatting or variable names. Just to warm up. Don’t get buried in changing little things, just get the mind thinking about programming before moving on to what needs to be done today.

Inputs and Outputs

23 October 2009

A good friend and mentor of mine has convinced me to try  a suggestion of his to “get creative”.  I, in turn, convinced a good friend of mine to join me in the challenge.  Hopefully this is going to make quite a change to the way I view and discuss things – especially here on my well-hidden little blog :)

The basic idea is this: Get right-brained.
Every day I spend at work is a day I’m programming and thinking in the logical, problem-solving part of my mind – the left-side of the brain.  While this works fine for coding, social interaction is a creative activity – it uses the right-side of the brain – and trying to delve into an interesting conversation after a day of coding can range anywhere from difficult, to impossible for me to embrace.

So, to help me be something more of a social animal – I need to get some practice in right-braininess: get the creative juices of my mind flowing, as it were.  To do this, I need to differentiate between inputs and outputs in my life.DominicProcopio_Wxfield_base_switchboard_1955__2_

Inputs are essentially anything which I absorb, watch, view or somehow experience in a passive way.  TV, movies, video games*,  fiction books, browsing the interweb and listening to boring people talk are all inputs.  Inputs are good for expanding knowledge, awareness and understanding.  But they do nothing to help me understand myself or to create new things.

Outputs, on the other hand, are things I have an active hand in.  They include things that I can create directly: painting, blogging, writing, journaling, sketching – or in my case, stick-figure doodling :).  They also include things where I’m expressing or using my body somehow, such as exercise, dancing, jogging, singing, talking to people etc.

Inputs let me understand the world – outputs let me understand myself.  So over the next 2 weeks myself and my awesome friend will be doing the “Input-matching challenge”: for every input we give ourselves, we’ll create an output to match it.  If it’s a book, TV show, video game etc – we write a review.  If it’s knowledge (*ahem*Wikipedia-whore*ahem*), we journal it.  We can offset it with anything from singing, to swing dancing, to writing, to larking about in our underpants.  It’s just gotta be an output.

Wish us luck!

* Sure, games are interactive, but the player interacts as a character, in a designers world, following a scripted storyline etc.  Almost all (that I know of) are escapist and therefore not a proper output – in fact, that’s half the reason they’re fun :)

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Startup woes

3 July 2009

I never would have described myself as a ‘busy guy’, but since signing up to the Game Design Concepts course online I’ve been finding myself pressed for time to get any of the work done. Now while catching up over the weekend is a tried-and-true method I used many-a-time during my degree at university, we all know that we never get as much done as we planned to. It’s the weekend after-all: easy to make that excuse :)

So I started looking over my time to see where all of it was going. 7 hours a day, 35 hrs a week total on work (I take an hour lunch-break doing anything but work, so I’m not counting that as ‘work time’). 4 hrs a week Swing dancing classes, plus or minus an hour of social dancing at the end of classes. 2hrs a week of Yoga. 8-9 hrs a week on public transport! What? I spend more time on trains and buses than I do in a day at work?!

Yes folks, it seems that I’ve been letting a whole lotta time go to waste waiting for that train to arrive, that bus to appear (if it ever does), or the next stop to be mine. And the kicker iss – I’m not even doing anything interesting in that time. If I haven’t got a book, or I don’t feel like reading, I find myself just staring blankly out the window. Surely a man with 2 laptops can find a better use of this time, no?

And this leads me to the essence of this blag-post/net-whine: computers take too long to start up! Packing and unoacking my laptop from my bag every time I get on the bus/train, get off, or change between means the once I’m seated I have to wait another 30secs to a minute just to get back in to whatever I was doing again. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can easily be the difference between trying to fit 5mins of work into that 5min train trip, or (as I have this week) lugging a heavy laptop around with me and not actually turning it on that day AT ALL!

Disabling the hibernate options and/or putting the computer to sleep in these situations seemed like a good idea – but I’m rapidly finding that a sleeping or active computer inside a safety sleeve inside a bag feels pretty warm to the touch once it comes back out again. I’m paranoid that I’ll forget I’ve left it on and pull it out at the end of the day with heat damage all over the screen.

But until scientists hurry up and get memristors out there – it looks like this is the best solution for now. Happy overheating!!

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