Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Importance of Seven

Seven.  Apparently this is the minimum number of times a person has to try to do something before said person actually succeeds in doing it.

Of course, that’s not true of all things in general.  For example, stumbling.  Typically, a person can succeed in stumbling on the first or second try.  This includes most variants of stumbling, especially toe-stubbing and its most common tripping derivatives (step-tripping, curb-tripping, cracks-in-sidewalk-tripping, etc.).

Or saying the wrong thing.  Most people would agree that saying the wrong thing at the wrong time requires almost no thought or focus at all and therefore can be done within a few tries.  An example might be:

Wife: “Does this outfit make my butt look big?”
Husband: “No, your butt makes your butt look big.”

As you can see, the husband said exactly the wrong thing on the first try, even though it only appeared in the second part of his response.  The resultant smack across the face from the wife confirmed it was the wrong thing to say.  The husband should be satisfied with his effort there.

No, seven is the fewest times a person will have to try to do something worthwhile before succeeding.  Things like getting out of bed.  How many times have you tried to get out of bed and utterly failed?  A very typical sequence is listed below.

ATTEMPT 1: Slap at the annoyingly screechy alarm.  Note: attempting to interact with the alarm is not counted as a separate action for the purposes of this discourse, although it is acknowledged that this is a hotly contested classification.

RESULT 1: Fall asleep again after only managing to hit the Snooze button.

ATTEMPT 2: The alarm goes off again.  Repeat attempt #1 with the same result.

ATTEMPT 3: The alarm goes off AGAIN.  This time it is turned off.

RESULT 3: Since the alarm was disengaged by virtue of it being thrown across the room, it is probably off forever.  However, the person hasn’t actually gotten out of bed yet, rendering another failed attempt.

ATTEMPT 4: The person places his or her arms outside of the covers.

RESULT 4: The person typically considers this an achievement worth celebrating with a little rest and relaxation, and almost falls asleep again.  Obviously they are not out of bed yet, and in fact almost failed utterly.

ATTEMPT 5: The person pushes one foot and/or leg off of the bed.

RESULT 5: The leg dangles over the edge of the bed, steadfastly refusing to touch the floor.  This time, the person realizes that they have to make another attempt immediately.

ATTEMPT 6: The person pushes the other foot and/or leg off of the bed.

RESULT 6: The second leg joins the first.  The first is glad to see the second again after such a traumatic experience.  Dangling over the edge of the bed is no more fun for a foot than hanging by your fingertips over the edge of the Pit of Despair would be for you, gentle reader.  The author shudders at the thought as he types the words.  Regardless, the person has still not achieved exit from the bed.  Attempt must be counted as a failure.

ATTEMPT 7: The person uses their groaning muscles to lever themselves toward the edge of the bed.  Note: “groaning muscles” are defined as all muscles whose use makes the user groan, not the muscles actually required to emit groaning sounds.

RESULT 7: As soon as the person’s derriere has cleared the precipice, gravity and the resultant inertia pull the rest of the person’s body onto the floor, where the person lays panting at the exertion of the effort.

Technically, the person is out of bed after the seventh attempt.  Other actions that fall into this category include but are not limited to:

  • Not burning toast but still being able to call it toast
  • Vacuuming up that pesky piece of white string
  • Finding something good on television

Perhaps the most difficult thing to achieve, which is the main subject of this paper, is telling someone that you love them and having them understand it.  This will always take at least seven attempts, so a person should not be discouraged when the object of their affection does not respond in the appropriate manner on the first six tries.

Monday, June 27, 2016

June's Lone Entry

By this time last year, I had written 18 blog entries for the year, with the single entry for June being a book review of "The Magic of Reality" by Richard Dawkins.  I'm behind my mark this year, only having submitted 12 so far.  I would apologize for this, but my hope is that the quality of the content this year has improved.  If it hasn't, feel free to make suggestions in the comments section.  I'm happy to take requests on blog entries.  Then again, if you're already upset by the quality of my posts, I'm not sure you'll like anything I have to say about a topic that might be near and dear to you.  Wow, what a Catch-22 you're in!

With the above said, I don't have any reasonable excuses as to why I haven't written more entries.  I could say that I've been busy, but I don't think I've been any busier than I was at this time last year.  I will say that we've picked up a couple of activities since last we spoke (or I typed and you read).  First of all, we've taken up gardening (box and tomato) and bread-making.  You may recall my earlier blog entry about tomatoes.  That entry was inspired by the fact that Tanya is growing four different kinds of tomatoes in the garden, in addition to rosemary, basil, mint, and stuff in the box.  Overall, the experiments have been fruitful (or leaf-ful, in the case of lettuce).

Bread-making is worthy of a post in and of itself, so I won't comment on it further here other than to say: if you're not making bread for yourself, you should be.  It's delicious, and better for you than almost anything you can buy in a store.  :-)

The second activity is swimming.  Beginning June 1, we started swimming on Monday and Wednesday evenings with North Texas Masters Swimming, coached by Dave Young.  It's only been a month, but I really can't say enough good things about this organization.  First of all, Dave is incredibly knowledgeable about all things swimming.  He's fantastic with instruction, going so far as to record individual laps on his iPad and playing them back to us during the workout for immediate feedback.  He's also funny, which helps when you're struggling with all of the mechanics and techniques.  Secondly, the facility is great and pretty close to our house.  Third, the group itself is friendly and approachable, with lots of different people at different levels offering words of encouragement and advice.  When it gets to be Monday and Wednesday afternoon after work, I'm typically dreading going.  Tanya always talks me into it, and I'm always glad I go.

Beyond that, it's been a pretty normal start to the summer.  The boys are here, and this year we're actually organized about summer activities that will (hopefully) lead to a more productive time than last summer.  We've listed modest goals for them to achieve by the end of the summer, gone through the process of enumerating what it will take to achieve those goals (at a high level), and actually written it all down.  We further spent some time planning how much stuff needs to be done each week to achieve the goals as well as thought about rough dependencies and contingencies.  I've gone so far as to put up tiny scrum boards for them.

As you can see, Garrett is researching colleges and learning touch typing (which apparently he missed in years 1-3 of high school).  Gabriel is going through scripting courses at codecademy.  Garrett will have tasks in flight from multiple goals per week, while Gabriel will be working through one at a time.

I'm actually pretty interested to see how the boys like this approach, since it's very similar to what I do at work every day.  And for those of you that were wondering -- yes, I considered using a Trello board, but no, I do not sing at the daily stand-up with the boys.  I'm not sure they could take that level of energy that early in the morning (10 a.m. CT).

So that's what's going on so far this summer.  Aside from all this, I'm getting back into the game development that I'd meant to do at least a year ago.  I'm working on the Dark Tower board game in clojure/clojurescript.  It's coming along nicely so far, but not far enough to comment on yet.  Stay tuned for that!