Coffee and other warmups

Making a cup of coffee sometimes helps me prepare for the process of solving puzzles with computers. Something about choosing AeroPress, French press, Chemex, or Clever; heating the water to 212F or 200F; medium-fine, medium, or coarse grinding of the beans. The weighing and grinding of the beans, boiling the water, rinsing the filter, pouring… Continue reading Coffee and other warmups

I like to listen to podcasts and screencasts at two or three times the recorded speed. The application I use (Instacast) does this with pitch correction, a feature that’s probably built into iOS at this juncture. In short, I can listen to a thirty minute podcast in ten to fifteen minutes and they only sound funny when music plays. I do mean funny; listen to Radiohead’s “Creep” at 3x speed and it comes out downright chipper.

Our brains can process speech at these accelerated rates just fine. In fact, when I listen to some of my favorite podcasters in “real” time, they sound like they’re thinking really hard and speaking slowly, or that they’re flat-out drunk. The interesting bit is when an accelerated speaker has an accent or when there is radio interference with the FM transmitter I use in the car. At this point, all bets are off and I have to slow the podcast down or listen when the signal is better.

The bottom line is that, empirically, human speech has built-in redundancy. We tend to speak at a rate that, if you miss some sounds, you can probably still make out the words. Further, the space in-between words is probably filled with our own thoughts anyway; we only listen part of the time we’re listening.

Nifty things, our brains are.

You know how sometimes, everything is clicking and you’ve just got it? Some people call it flow. On Thursday, I was in a quiping flow. You may have witnessed it on Twitter. I thought it would be fun to try and weave it into a coherent narrative, so here we go.

Sara Flemming started a new blog about digging into the technical mysteries she comes across as she works. It is, brilliantly, titled Visiting All The Turtles.

Upon seeing a press photo of Adele, I had an epiphany. As an SAT analogy, Achilles Heel is probably about like Adele’s eyelashes. All of her singing powers come from those lashes.

There’s not many ways to connect Brian Wilson and Axl Rose, except that they both worked on an album for more than a decade, managed to finish it, and missed the moment when it would have been a huge deal. That said, Brian Wilson’s album Smile is way better and about as genius as you’d expect. It’s better to be a follow-up to Pet Sounds than a follow-up to Use Your Illusion, even though that’s my favorite Guns ‘n Roses album (haters?).

It’s easier to draw a connection between Igor Stravinsky and Brian Wilson. Listen to the former’s ballets or the latter’s albums (not the surf songs) and you’ll always find something strange going on. A flute trill where it doesn’t make sense, a honking bass clarinet, a bizarre harmony. It’s fantastic.

As you can tell, Brian Wilson is a kind of my jam lately. It would be a shame if that guy doesn’t have the opportunity to make all the music that is bouncing around in his head.

I’ve never actually been around someone “vaping”, but I’m pretty sure I don’t like it based on the name alone. Because that word will never get mispronounced or misheard in a booze joint. Great job, tobacco industry!

On contemporary indie/rock music. No value judgement, just an observation of the way it is:

A one. A two. A one two three four.

hits play on drum machine

Semi-related: I am so glad 7-string guitars are (mostly) no longer a thing.

Tinkering with coffee plus condensed milk has brought my iced coffee game way up. I highly recommend it, if you have the means. Just be prepared to stir, a lot.

To wrap it up, on some other music I’ve enjoyed and thought a bit about lately:

Ben Folds taps into pathos. Bruce Springsteen taps into the American Dream. Dave Grohl taps into the part of us that just wants to turn it up.

Listen to suit.

Improv perspectives on changing code

In the last improv class I took, we spent a lot of time focusing on four kinds of scenes that appear in improv with astonishing frequency: Straight/absurd: A character has a strange perspective on the world, another points out the absurdities in what they’re saying and encourages them to say even more absurd things. Peas… Continue reading Improv perspectives on changing code

A sophisticated solution to a complex problem is fun to find. Its even fun when someone else finds the solution and thoroughly writes it down.

Despite the thrill of being recognized for tackling a big complex problem, I often find it’s more practical to look for the simpler problem that lurks in and around the big problem. Not all tricky problems are complex. Some are presented in a complex way, some are complex because of restrictions that are simply worked around, and some are complex because of an adjoining social problem. Find the simple problem, or the social problem, and solve that instead. It often works for me.

My favorite kind of solution to find is one where the solver has taken a problem with a big surface area, found the core of the problem that is 80% of what people care about having solved, and then solved that tiny subproblem. If you want to see masters of this approach, check out the works of Blake Mizerany and Ryan Smith.

Sandi’s Rules

One day, Sandi Metz was pressed by a team she was working with to produce a simple set of rules that would lead to better code quality. After consideration, she came up with the following surprisingly numerical guidelines: classes can’t grow beyond one hundred lines of code, methods can’t grow beyond five lines of code,… Continue reading Sandi’s Rules

Your application is on fire

Six easy pieces on thinking about sustainable code Your application is on fire. Something is consuming it, a process converting fresh and shiny code into rigid, opaque legacy code. Seriously, your applications is on fire. You should look into it. Are you going to fight the fire? Will you keep throwing logs into it, hoping… Continue reading Your application is on fire

What makes longevity?

A joke for a late-night variety show monologue may only be funny for one day (e.g. a joke about a celebrity). A newspaper article may lose relevance in days or weeks. A TV show might feel dated a couple years after its run ends (e.g. most problems on Seinfeld could be solved with a smartphone).… Continue reading What makes longevity?

Look up every once in a while!

Sometimes, I feel conditioned never to look beyond the first ten feet of the earth. Watch where you’re going, don’t run into things, avoid being eaten by bears. Modern life! When I remind myself to look up, there’s so much great stuff. Trees, antennae, water towers, buildings. Airplanes, birds, superheroes. Never mind the visual pollution… Continue reading Look up every once in a while!