Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Bit of Anti-Planning

The temperature here broke ninety degrees today, ushering in an early beginning to summer to go along with our early spring.  And so a programmer's thoughts turn to summer projects.  Here's a sampling of some of the things I want to be doing with my free time over the next few months just in the realm of programming:

  • Install Xubuntu on my primary computer (after verifying that the wireless works) and get my development environment reasonably up to date.
  • Learn how to use the Eclipse IDE framework, starting with basic Java development.
  • Bring myself up to speed on the delta between where I left Java back in the 1.4 days and the current version.
  • Learn some SQLLite.
  • Try to make a basic Android app.
  • Continue learning Javascript.
  • Play around with WebGL, or at least the Canvas widget.
Sounds great to me!  Well, there is one little problem.  No, actually, there's two.  Time is the first issue, which Scott Adams neatly summarized in a post on his Dilbert blog.  Time is not something I can fight, so I have to press on against the second issue: energy.  I'm not talking just about the energy to get up and move around, but rather that energy that allows me to focus and create.

At this point in my life, my job uses up pretty much all the creative energy I have in me.  Now, doing any of the things on the list above, even something as relatively simple as getting Linux running on my box, would actually help energize me.  But over the past couple of years I've discovered that attempting to generate energy this way is sort of like playing the stock market.  It's easier to generate more energy if you have energy to spend in the first place, and if you are running short on energy the risk vs. return ratio is much less favorable.  And that, in turn, leads to something of a solution.  I'm not going to worry about doing any of the stuff I've listed.

Of course, I won't stop thinking about programming, and I'll try not to stop writing about it either.  (Especially since I'm barely squeezing in this month's entry...)  The way my life is at this particular moment, it's much more important for me to focus my mental and physical energy where it will give the most return.  I'm not going to set any artificial goals this year and beat myself up over failing to achieve them.  I'll keep going to that Bible study and my other church activities.  I'll keep playing games with my friends (digital and analog).  Maybe I will pick up the pencil and start drawing again to see if I can get past the plateau I was on.  Maybe I'll just watch Top Gear reruns via Netflix all summer.

That's not to say that nothing on the list will be attempted, but anything I accomplish in my relatively tiny hobby time is just icing on the cake that is my life.  And while cake is better with good icing, failing to enjoy the cake because you don't have time to make the icing is just silly.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Technology in the News

Today we're going to look at some stories about technology, from the high to the low.  Starting off,  NASA, continues to seek solutions to the complications of human space flight, even as the Shuttle program comes to a close.  With the navy already working on laser weaponry, NASA is seeking the other half of a sci-fi kid's dream: energy shields.  OK, it's really just electromagnetic radiation shielding which could protect astronauts in the same manner that the Earth's magnetic field protects the rest of us.  Right now, it's an item on a wish-list, but you never know what the future will bring.

On the in-production side, one of the big headline makers from a certain recent special forces operation in Pakistan was a strange helicopter tail rotor.  Speculation indicates there may have been one or more helicopters involved in the raid with stealthy modifications, possibly to a Blackhawk transport.  Perhaps something came out of the cancelled Comanche program after all.

Once upon a time, back in a distant, cell-phone-less time known as "the eighties," digital watches were how many kids kept time.  One particular style, of which I had several versions back in the day, now comes under scrutiny from the government.  Apparently inexpensive Casio digital watches are a bad thing to wear in Gitmo.  Relatively simple, reliable, thirty year old timepiece technology, in the hands of terrorists becomes a simple, reliable bomb timer.  Jerks.  Of course, having reliable items becomes a big deal when bombs are involved.  After all, having someone blow you up via text message is embarrassing.  Or possibly poetic justice, depending on your point of view.