Lessons Learned from Camping

Posted on 08/23/2017 in Uncategorized

Pooping is easier without pants, especially when you had to dig a hole first.

Try to poop before sunset. It’s way scarier in the dark.

Bring a real shovel. Emergency snow shovels don’t do a great job of digging poop holes. (I had a hunch…. so I brought a real shovel).

Ants will mostly leave you alone, even if they have a massive 15-foot across anthill, if you dump a small amount of food on the hill as a ritual offering.


Leaving Quora

Posted on 08/14/2017 in Meta, Science, Software Development, Technology, Writing

Quora recently changed the site in some heinous ways. They removed the details from all questions, because they’re trying to make sure that there’s only one “canonical question” you can search for an answer to.

Quora Logo

Unfortunately this destroys nuance – after all, there’s only so much detail you can put into 250 characters.

So in response, I’m going to start migrating all of my question answers on Quora to my blog. It’s going to take a while, but hey, more content for the blog.

The Paradox of Empathy

Posted on 08/11/2017 in Psychology

The problem with empathy is that too much of it is bad, and too little of it is bad.

Too little empathy, and you’re an uncaring sociopath who doesn’t care about others’ wellbeing.

Empathy is great when it comes to doing nice things for nice people when everything’s going well. That’s the easy scenario.

Too much empathy when you’re dealing with people acting poorly, however, and you care so much about others’ wellbeing that you only examine the problem in a shallow fashion, and will avoid doing what appear at first to be “mean” things that are better for the other person in the long-term, to avoid causing short-term pain.

In many ways, too much empathy is selfish.

Because you’re not really being nice. You’re avoiding causing yourself pain just as much as you’re avoiding causing the other person pain. There’s very little altruism involved here.

In addiction counseling, for example, you’re not in the role of helper if you’re doing this – you’re in the role of enabler.

That’s a hard lesson to learn. Especially if you consider yourself to be a good, noble and empathic person. You need to examine the long-term consequences, not just the short-term ones.

Tips for New Programmers

Posted on 06/25/2017 in Game Development, Software Development

A few minor things they might not cover in whatever book or class you’re using (and way more important than ancient maxims like Keep It Simple Stupid)…

Writing Comments in your Code

Documenting intent in code comments is important. Some programmers believe that the source code is the documentation – they’ve never had to maintain someone else’s code.

Documenting what each line of code does, however, isn’t desirable, unless it’s not obvious. So comments like “This implements a piecewise-linear approximation of a sin() function” – awesome.

Comments like “This adds 1 to the count” – terrible, unless it’s some ungodly mess of functions to do that thing – in which case, there’s probably something horribly wrong with the code, and the reason for that mess is worth documenting, not what it does.

Write Readable Code

Write readable code. Readable is more important than optimal – because code always has bugs. (And you in 6 months time will thank you).


Design Archaeology: Why are Closed-Caption Font Sizes the size they are?

Posted on 05/28/2017 in Design

Sometimes you can discover different points of view from the tiny differences in the way things are done. For example, with a bit of inspection, you can figure out that US Closed-Captions are designed primarily for profoundly deaf people. UK ones are designed primarily for people who lose their hearing due to aging.

How do I know this? More…

How do you personally handle Impostor Syndrome?

Posted on 05/16/2017 in Business, Me, Psychology

It’s strange. So, here’s the “humble-brag” part – over the course of my life, since I was 16, I’ve been a freelance journalist with a large readership, published in multiple countries (and even translated into Portuguese for the Brazilian audience). I’ve won some very minor awards (not even on the same league as the Razzies). I work on the frickin’ Xbox for gawd’s sake (which carries a certain built-in nerd-cred with it). I’m one of the most famous programmers for a specific computer. I’ve made a couple of short films. I’ve made games. I’ve made all kinds of stuff. I’m not a household name, but I’m a “known quantity”.

I tell you this not because I want applause and accolades, but because I need to set up my credentials so that I can contrast them with what comes next.

I’m hit with Impostor Syndrome all the freakin’ time. All the time. Every single day.

For what it’s worth, I also have trouble with being complimented – compliments bounce off me… I fundamentally have trouble believing them at all, and I can’t take them to heart – no matter how sincere they are. (I’m told, and I suspect, that in many ways this is a very British trait – others may feel the same way, but we owned it and made it ours. Like irony). If you really want to make me feel good? Tell me something I did is cool – I can relate to that.

So far as I can tell, my own personal internal ego dial is always set somewhere in the direction of “mildly unworthy”.