May 20, 2018

Bloggin' for the Sake of Bloggin'

Bloggin' for the Sake of Bloggin'

I despise art for art's sake, so it's only fitting that I'm writing a blog post in the same spirit that I bemoan.

In actuality, there's several ways I could be using this time better. I could be rebuilding some of my endurance and muscle memory for some of the Shawn Lane-esque runs I used to do; I could be cleaning up the last strain of Art Tatum's Tiger Rag; I could be writing more code for the CLI to my secret project that I've been working on for the past 5 months — or I could be working on any of the other 8 projects I'm simultaneously working on!

But for whatever reason, I'll work on this darn blog post that no one'll ever read; a blog post that even I don't care about. I'm not even sure why I am compelled to write this very post. This I actually find somewhat bizarre.

Has it just been so long since I've written? That may be it. I used to write a lot. I still write a bit, only it's mostly writing pertaining to my daily work. Whilst I'm a programmer, a good portion of what I do is on paper. I write out of my own necessity. I don't have a good memory, so I have to write everything down: notes from meetings, TODO lists, pseudo-code, actual code, file paths of importance, URLs, designs, commands, and even the bathroom code (which I literally have to check everytime — I am unable to remember it; I've tried to rely on memory for this, but I've found I need to walk back to my desk and look at my note after failing at the code with multiple attempts).

The really odd thing about my memory is that, while I can't remember things all that well, I can usually remember exactly where I've written down what I can't remember — that is, if it's something in the last month; else, I rely on my own organizational system. It's fairly primitive system: I buy a bunch of college-ruled notebooks every back-to-school season, and as I fill them up, I write on the backs of the notebooks what the books usually contain, and I number the fronts. I always skip the first two pages in a new notebook (making a ToC of sorts as I progress), and I always leave a few pages at the end (in case I ever need paper later and don't have a spare notebook).

The approach I take to programming big projects is to make successive TODO lists, but I don't strictly use the TODO lists. I have a draft of an explanation of how this process works. The gist of it is this is something I've stolen from Tolstoy after observing how he worked: if you read his diaries, you'll find that he had a habit of making exhaustive lists of things he needed to do (he was inspired by Benjamin Franklin), but it would appear he wasn't always directly getting to the items (he was frequently chastising himself for this). Despite these lists that apparently were somewhat neglected, he did manage to get much of the stuff done (writing Childhood, for example).

Somewhere in an unpublished post on an abandoned blog, I theorized, after experiencing this type of thing this myself, that the very act of making a highly detailed TODO list functioned as a simulation of the overall task at hand — a simulation that provided the planner with enough insight at what was required that the work on the overall task could occur essentially non-stop without any real additional planning that could turn into extraneous work or distraction. With this kind of insight into the work, one doesn't need to refer to a prior plan while working (and they may not be compelled to update their diaries, in Tolstoy's case). At the end of all the work, or as it's coming to a close, one might remember they had an initial plan. In my experience, at the close of a large project, I've forgotten writing the initial plan almost completely, and it's strange to see a detailed prophecy of what I had done written in my own hand. On rare occasions, the plan reminds me of an aspect that I missed during the implementation or the plan was over-prescribing and some aspects were not needed to be done in the manner initially laid out.

Despite all the writing I do, my handwriting is completely illegible. It doesn't help that my handwriting style varies significantly; I've changed handwriting styles several times during my life and sometimes there is a resurgence of the past. Most of the time I write scribbles that I can't even read: the letters are incorrectly formed, and words are either misspelled or half-written. I can usually remember writing the words — that's how I know what they say; I can't actually read them (I can make some guesses, since I have distinct shapes for most letters, and I can guess a context that might help unlock any meanings I can't exactly recall).

So, with discussion of writing, planning, and penmanship, where do I find myself? Sitting in my bed at one in the morning, scratching my head, still uncertain as to why I felt compelled to write a blog tonight. I scratched my hand at some point today . . . and we're out of hydrogen peroxide.

I think I'll get back to coding; I've got to implement a ECDH key agreement scheme, amongst other things.