Used pencils

Two HB pencils. One is two short to use comfortably. The other is a couple of sharpens away from being in the same state

It’s quite satisfying use a pencil till it’s too short to hold comfortably. The longer one is just hanging in there. The shorter one is going into my nerdy work caddy for those “where the hell is my pen” moments.

I lose pens all the time but I tend to hold on to pencils so that’s generally what I have at hand when I’m writing notes in meetings, making lists, and drawing diagrams.

I pretty much always use paper for those kinds of tasks. As a computer enthusiast I’ve experimented with all sorts of digital systems for notes (Google Keep, Notes on my phone, text files, google docs), lists (Trello, spreadsheets) and diagrams Miro, Paint, Lucid Chart) but nothing works as well, especially for capturing and doing first & second drafts as an analogue system.

I was very heartened to find on Austin Kleon’s blog, a talk by Clive Thompson on pencils and keyboards, where suggested my preference for analogue is the best way for planning and for retaining information.

Thompson talks about getting obsessed with fancy pencils. I tried one of those Palaminos – it was a nice pencil but not that much nicer than a bog standard HB from Staedtler.

Fancy keyboards, though, I am on board with. Thompson notes that for smashing things out, typing is the way to go. As the owner of a particularly obnoxious mechanical keyboard this is a cargo cult I’m happy to be a part of.

Thirty days of stretching

I injured myself almost a year ago. I ignored my coach and used very poor form to lift something heavy. My back was a bit sore the next day and the day after that. I took it easy and went back to my normal routine a few days later. A couple weeks after that I reached down to pick something up and noticed a shooting pain in my leg. Four hours later I could either stand up or lie flat and anything in between was excruciating. My upper right leg was quite numb. The diagnosis was two pinched nerves.

Rest, physio, dry needling, and a regimen of stretching helped me recover. I got back to the point where there was numbness but no pain. I don’t lift heavy things now. The gym is about lots of lighter reps with good form rather than aiming for PRs.

After a while stretching fell by the wayside. I’ve always been pretty lazy when it comes to post-workout care and some months ago I realised the lack of stretching was contributing to a plateau in my recovery from my injury. Then I committed to lifeguard training and decided to get more serious about stretching.

In started going to some Sunday yoga classes at my gym and enjoyed them. Then I subscribed to ROMWOD, a daily yoga-like routine aimed squarely at people who do Crossfit. There’s a bajillion free yin yoga videos on YouTube that I could have gone with but paying for ROMWOD gives me some encouragement to do it regularly.

Until just over a month ago I was doing a ROMWOD routine a couple times a week. Better than before but not a habit and not enough to really get good results. Not worth the subscription either! Then a post from Austin Kleon’s archive about keeping a Seinfeld calendar struck a chord. I decided to make stretching a habit.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

Jerry Seinfeld

I drew up a thirty day grid in my brain dump notebook and committed to doing a ROMWOD routine every day. I’d mark an X in the grid whenever I completed a routine. I wrote DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN at the top.

Thirty days later, I’d done a routine every day, the chain unbroken. I saw some results: more feeling in my leg; more flexibility in my arms and shoulders; less soreness. Stretching, along with swimming, and drinking water has paid dividends.

Keeping up the chain was difficult. I got sick twice and the congestion and headaches weren’t super conducive to yoga moves. I did the shorter workouts on some of those days. I had to plan around a night away: an early morning routine one day followed by a late one the next.

Crossing off the grid every day was very satisfying. And I genuinely think the stretching helps. It’s a habit now and I look forward to getting out my mat & blocks and stretching as Daniel Head’s baritone encourages me along.

Python to be renamed

I wrote this for segfault.org in May, 2000. I think I was living in London at the time. 

segfault.org was a nerd satire site, based on the style of slashdot that was popular in the late 90s and early 00s. It was founded and run by the internet’s Leonard Richardson and Scott James Remnant. segfault accepted reader submissions and they were kind enough to publish about a few by yours truly. 

Links to the post made it to a couple of Python mailing lists and Guido van Rossum kinda, sorta responded.

In a press conference held early this morning, Guido van Rossum, creator of the Python programming language Python, announced that his most famous project will be undergoing a name change. The new name for the language is Homer.

Python was originally named after the British comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Today Mr. van Rossum told reporters he had “gone off Python” and enjoyed watching reruns of the Simpsons. “I caught a Simpsons marathon last weekend – that Homer, he’s so useless and so funny. And that Bart, what a little rascal,” said van Rossum.

Mr. van Rossum denied that the name change was bcause former Flying Circus member John Cleese has repeatedly declined invitations to come round one evening for some pizza, a few beers and some late night hacking.

“No no,” he insisted. “I’m just sick of reading ‘I fart in your general direction’ on the error messages of every second Python program I use. I want some new jokes, and the Simpsons will provide them.”

As well as the name change it appears the Python organization will be getting a new sponsor – Fox TV. Australian-born Fox boss Rupert Murdoch explained:

“Yeah mate, Disney have got that bloody Squeak so I thought we should have a language too. It’s all fair dinkum, they get money, we get ratings. And anyway, the Simpsons is a bloody laugh, not like that limey rubbish.”

There were other benefits resulting from the name change, added Mr van Rossum. “Writing comments, for instance. Not everyone understood the phrase “Luuxury” next to a variable declaration, but everyone will get “Mmmmm, integers.”

Segfault.org asked John Cleese for his comments on todays announcement:

“I’m not too worried about the name change at all. Actually, I’m glad it’s all over. Perhaps he’ll stop pestering me about his god-awful hack-a-thons. If you ask me, there’s nothing you can do in Python or Homer or whatever-it’s-bloody-called-today that can’t be done faster and more efficiently in assembly code.”

Already Homer applications are popping up on freshmeat.net. Included among them are a a program that orderes a can of pop over the Internet when the TAB key is pressed, and a script that scans comments and replaces the word “Ni!” with “Doh!”