100 things not to do before you die

I am so tired of living in a culture where everything appears to be about grabbing as much as possible. It feels as if we are being encouraged to act all the time, that any action is better than no action, and the idea that goodness might be expressed in refraining from action is just seen as weird. So, in the spirit of Zen Buddhism, I will suggest some things not to do before you die.

Don’t try and get a tan. It’s much more relaxing to read inside. If you want to sleep, why do it in public?

Don’t wear a bikini. It’s not a great look, even for men, and the bits come off when you dive in.

Don’t get wound up by your boss. They’re going to die too. Maybe with more money, but it doesn’t  save you.

Don’t watch any of the amazing, highly-recommended TV series. Wait until they come out on box set and then don’t buy them.

Don’t put up shelves in your house. You’ll only put stuff on them.

Don’t write lists of things to do, or not to do. You end up padding them out with rubbish,

This is an obvious substitute for actually writing up anything about the software release. Jiri currently has three half-empty bottles of Diet Coke underneath his desk. This is not a good sign. Mr Grumpy has decided to sell his house and move into a caravan in his sister’s drive. I’m not sure if he actually means this or not. He claims that it is the only way he can get away from the badgers that are building a sett in his garden. GandD are spending most of their days closeted in the conference room. Can you in fact be closeted in a conference room? Caballing in the conference room? Anyhow, they are busy, either having meetings with each other or with a set of lovely lovely doctors who are very enthusiastic about the possibilities of Jeremy Hunt and the NHS reforms and how our software could do just they wanted if only they tweaked it a bit. I have a terrible feeling that this won’t be a case of feature creep but a case of explosion in the feature factory and there will be a massive recruitment drive shortly, swiftly followed by a massive redundancy drive. But hey, I’m cynical.

I’m still trying to work out how to stop Gavin coding. Well, not how to stop him, just how to lock him out of other people’s work. There was a very bad scene a couple of days ago when Ian discovered that some of the stuff that he had checked into the code management system had been checked out by Gavin and horrible things had been done to it. Basically it wasn’t a case of his ewe lamb being taken, it was more it being taken, dyed pink, dismembered, and then returned attached to the back half of a leprous rabbit.

I think I will draw a veil over the coffee room conversation.

Time and attention

We are limited by the time and attention available to perform tasks. As the old saying goes, you can have X that is good, fast and cheap, but you can only choose two out of the three.

In the real world, you don’t even get the choice of fast very often. Some things just take the time they take. If they can be delivered quickly it’s because you have a lot of skilled people giving it their full attention for a short space of time. If they’re not skilled, it doesn’t matter how many people you put on the job, they will a. waste their own time and b. waste each other’s time.

In fact, I started this post last week, but I have been giving it neither time nor attention, so it’s sitting exactly where it was. I’ve been removing dandelions from the back garden now that the sun is out.

You will now claim that there is a third point to the triangle, which consists of rsources. I’d agree with that. Good tools can make an enormous amount of difference, but they do this – no, I wanted to say, either by reducing time or by focussing attention, but actually I can’t quite do that. Of course, they make the job easier, or sometimes you just can’t do the job without them, you can’t make bricks without straw (well, you can now – I assume that saying goes back to the days when the bricks would fall apart if they were only made of mud – can I be bothered to look it up? No, there’s google out there, I’m not that interested. It’s not a vital reference. I’ll just not bother, and, as it were, leave it as an exercise for the reader).

Anyway when designing interfaces, the two things that you need to think about most are time and attention. Do you have the user’s attention? More important, do you need to have the user’s attention? The user is going to be sparing with those two resources, she doesn’t want to waste them, you only have a limited amount of either, and somebody else’s crap interface that wastes your time and makes unnecessary demands on your concentration is the last thing you need.

So in appreciation of you having got down to the bottom of this post, I’ll give you a free joke.

Where does a general keep his armies?
Up his sleevies.

I never said it would be a good joke.

Blogging Easter

Let’s tick off the Easter rituals carried out:
1. Member of the household in bed with flu? Check.
2. Feeling sick after eating too much chocolate? Check.
3. Brisk walk in icy wind while strange dog inspects your groin? Check
4. Loud and entirely justified row in which I am totally, completely and utterly in the right at all times (apart from an occasional fact)? Check.
5. Bottle of champagne chilling for celebration that does not, in fact, occur? Check.
6. Search of internet for exciting event to take part in over bank holiday weekend which ends up as a serious gogglefest of 1960’s St Trinians films? Check

OK, I admit the last one isn’t quite traditional. They were actually quite entertaining. I could possibly have gone for the Carry On… series to drop down a notch in the non-blockbuster black and white left-field arthouse option. Or the relentless replay of incredibly bad Hollywood blockbusters aimed at five year olds. Or climbed up through the arthouse credibility stakes by claiming to have watched the entire Studio Ghibli season. Mock not, I lost the family copy of Spirited Away before my daughter hit her teen years and may never be forgiven. As far as I am concerned, a video/DVD/bitstream shelf that does not include Some Like It Hot, Casablanca, Die Welle, M, The Battleship Potemkin and the original Wicker Man is the mark of a family that is not giving enough cultural attention to its children. Before you know it they’ll be skipping the Suzuki violin practice, forgetting whether Pride and Prejudice was written before or after Northanger Abbey, and omitting hashtags on twitter.

Anyway, I am proud to feel that I have done my duty. Easter baking took place – with the traditional drop of the cinnamon jar lid into the mixture, thus enabling all products to have a deeply intense cinnamon flavour. Easter egg trails took place. Suffice it to say that I wish they could have more unexpected anagram solutions than either “Happy Easter” or “Easter Egg”. We spent some time trying to convince the children that there was a small but real possibility it might be Faster Dog, but they didn’t believe us.

Next year I plan a complete set of clues leading to a small soft-boiled egg lurking in a handwoven nest. Disappointment should be rife.