Monthly Archives: May 2013

Log of Damocles

I took the weed trimmer to the grass on the creek side of the house this afternoon. The grass had grown unchecked since, well, last fall. When we moved to the woods, I was really happy and thought, “Yeah, this is great! I’m never gonna mow the lawn again!” Except that knocking the grass down does make for a nicer view. Also, it helps keep down the bur chervil. Given how long it took for me to get around to it, the grass was tough and it took a lot of whacking and I had a lot of time to think about stuff. I started wondering about why I so rarely get around to cutting the weeds down, or pulling blackberries, or prune the trees or…the list goes on. So then I figured, well, it’s because I’m doing other things. Sure, obviously, I’m always doing something and only one something at a time. So then I thought about logging it.

What about some kind of social network enabled device, like a BodyMedia Fit or something, that you logged what you were doing and had the list of all the other things you want to do or could be doing, and it would tweet for you, “I chose to spend the past hour doing laundry and washing dishes instead of reloading Facebook.” And you know, that mostly exists already. Consultants already use software tools to track which jobs they’re working on and when. The big deal really comes in setting up all the job codes and recording your context switches. Do I want to track “brushing my teeth” separately from “showering” or is “personal care” granular enough? And I’d need to have the darned log on my person all the time so I could switch.

And this reminded me of software development. One always sticks logging messages in code, just to prove that a given subroutine executes from time to time, or to emit state information for later analysis. And people sometimes complain that the cost of logging is so high that it impacts performance. Sure, that’s possible, but I know from actual experience that it is possible to log very verbosely without having the program’s performance slow down — but the systems have to be in place. Carrying around a notebook and pencil and a watch all the time to record what I’m doing and for how long would certainly give me some valuable insight into how I’m spending my day. On the other hand, it would slow me down and it’d feel really onerous. I bet I’d spend a noticeable amount of time on the logging!

Our house is falling apart, it’s messy, and there are a zillion things we’d like to do but we can’t because we’re already over-committed. For the moment, I’m just going to trust that what we’re actually getting done is more important than the things that aren’t getting done. We live indoors. We have electricity and food and propane. Our cars work. We have clean clothes, clean dishes, and fresh food that we prepare ourselves. That’s what’s up with us.