Emptiness

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Hope you enjoined that moment of Zen

The space above was brought to you by my killer task list and cheat sheet rolled up into one epic note, more on why later. The note serves as a useful guide and reminder of where I left off after a number of hours away. If you can stomach moments of intense boredom there’s nothing more productive than working on one thing at a time, the list allows me to add things to look at later, cutting off a distraction before it leads to other distractions. If you are a master of concentration and meditation such parlor tricks have little value. I’m the master of self distraction so they’re a good self hack.

I have an insatiable propensity to add interesting tasks to the list, balanced against limited ability and resources to bring them to fruition. I’m confident there’s a rationale behind this arrangement, but I couldn’t communicate the concept without a few seasons under a banyan tree. Why is not as interesting as how I can best leverage this quirky relation between ideas and execution to my advantage^.

Whenever it grows too complicated or bloated I refactor it by pruning the cruft, byte by byte. This cathartic activity bares resemblance to a crafter sanding smooth curves into wood, or the mindful act of trimming a bonsai tree. If the powers that be* saw fit to bless me with the fortitude to complete all of my self assigned tasks, I have little doubt the event would precede a reality bending warp into bizarro world.

Now about the story behind the space at the top of the post

Last week while working late at night (for me that’s 10:30pm), I struggled to get a trivial JavaScript function to mimic a conceived flow of data and user interaction with little luck. As per my usual experience with web hacking, there are a 1001 different ways to skin the same cat (poor kitty). Curse the diversity of web frameworks, but bless each of their finest qualities and lessons. Where would we be without their perky front ends, restful routes, and static assets**?

Following a usual bout of frustration therapy^^, I cleared a few dozen rows of space at the top of my to do list. I immediately felt more relaxed. Now each time I sit down to work, I’m greeted with a comforting blank space above my to do list. I decided this silly practice of prioritizing calmness over tasks is worth sharing. We master utilization of information by shaping the spaces that surround it. Only then are we free from the visual noise of distractions.

Notes:
*= my wife’s cooking
^= Self mind hacks FTW
**= pervert
^^= Listen carefully as I reveal the engineer’s secret mantra passed down to me from legends of an earlier age. First what can this mantra accomplish?

  • It is the miracle I wield to banish indecipherable bugs deeply embedded within code
  • It is the light that shines on the flawed logic of another developer or more likely my earlier work, which faulty memory empowers me to blame on other developers. Flawlessness is a state of self delusion ;)
  • It is the compass that unravels the circuitous and needlessly over complicated algorithms we are forced to bear

The secret: To curse and occasionally send complaints to mailing lists or hacker friends. I tend to email Tyler about why whatever I’m using sucks, and why each design decision they made pains me, until I figure a way around it.

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  • http://www.missi.com/ Peter Beddows

    Classic: Great insight so eloquently and succinctly stated here Mark. Really suspect you may be missing your true vocation.

    Whom amongst us has not, at some point in our life, had alternating moments fleeting from, on the one hand, panicked feelings of having “too much to do in too little time while things are not working out as expected that they should” and consequently drawn to spend ill-afforded time to look for resolution which, unwittingly, thus adds to the already overburdening list of distracting things to be addressed to, on the other hand, the complete opposite moments of “feelings of successful accomplishment leading to a sense of calm, euphoric, self-assured, confidence in, and conviction of, our own amazingly magnificent abilities to handle whatever may come our way regardless of its complexity”?

    I suspect it is often way too easy for us to set ourselves impossibly high standards which clearly is a set-up that guarantees leading to frustration when we inevitably occasionally do not reach those standards.

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    Inspirational quotes Peter, thanks for the complement. Every so often my word smithing communicates the ideas as I think them, not as I first say or write them. Give me a few thousand more posts, and my writing style will be dangerous.

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