The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 20, 2014

Random Thoughts: You’ll Get More Mileage From a Cheap Pair of Sneakers

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:36 am

Random sunset, apropos of nothing.


Given the fact that I’m not a neuroscientist (nor do I play one on TV,) I tend not to have a whole lot of insight into the workings of the human brain.  Aside from whatever I might have learned from wandering into a random linkbait article on Buzzfeed or some news article I ran across while bored, the vast majority of the insight I might have into the function of the human brain comes from dealing with the one in my own head.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on the situation) I’ve had more than enough time to familiarize myself with it and figure out some of its quirks.  Which is nice and everything, but the problem is that I can’t ever seem to get the thing to go away for some reason.  I’ve been informed by various sources that this would turn out to be a Very Bad Thing if it ever happened, but there are definitely times when I would not complain all that much if given the opportunity to take leave of my senses for a while…  Just as long as I could observe the whole process from a safe distance.  Which generally tends not to be the case.  For better or for worse, I’m kind of stuck with the brain I’ve got, even if we tend to have our disagreements at times.

For example, I’ve noticed lately that my brain has a rather annoying habit of taking random bits of whatever conversation is currently happening, digging up some old song lyric that I haven’t heard in months, and then promptly getting that song stuck in my head for the next week and a half.  During a hallway conversation at work, me and a couple of co-workers were discussing various methods of ensuring uniform inputs while running some voice recognition tests we planned to do.  Rather than rely on the person doing the speaking to be consistent while speaking into the microphone, the discussion turned to using pre-recorded voice samples, which would then be played back to make the voice recognition requests.  As we discussed this, the need for a new set of speakers for playback came up in the conversation.  I was sort of half-engaged in this particular discussion, since it happened right when I was trying to walk out the door to leave for the day (something else that happens all too often, but that’s a topic for another post,) which left my brain plenty of time to correlate that with the lyrics to a song I hadn’t heard in years, which in this case happened to be “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel.  I suspect that for most people, their brains might happen to latch onto  some little bit of a song lyric stored in the long-term memory, let it roll around for a few minutes in short-term memory, then file it away again for some other time.  My brain, on the other hand, seems to want to bring up every single note of the whole entire song and make me listen to it in my head for hours, if not days.  By the time I finally made it out the door after the above conversation, I was singing the song in the car on the way home.

This type of thing isn’t a particularly uncommon occurrence for me.  And it’s just one of the many tricks my brain seems to enjoy playing on my conscious at inopportune times.  Another particularly annoying habit I’ve noticed is that my brain doesn’t like passing up information.  Even if it’s something small and inconsequential, for some unknown reason I have to know what exactly it says, especially if it’s going to be something I’ll pass by on multiple occasions.  Of course, once I have actually read it and know what it says, then it doesn’t matter anymore, and I can go back to ignoring it just like everything else.  If there’s one thing I can’t get enough of for some odd reason, it’s information.  Whether it’s spending three hours reading Lord of the Rings wiki pages trying to figure out what the heck I just watched (me and my friends have been in the process of gradually going through the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings movies over the course of several nights recently) or having to turn around and go back to figure out what a sign says that has absolutely no bearing on anything I do whatsoever, my brain seems to crave information.  It doesn’t seem to care what kind of information it’s getting, just make sure to keep the stuff coming.

Then again, this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.  One of the former managers I’ve worked with in the course of my career has told me that he thinks such tendencies can actually work to someone’s advantage when it comes to testing software.  After all, it’s a lot easier to spot when something looks wrong when it jumps out at you like that, at which point you probably remember how you got there to try and retrace your steps.  There’s also that little bit of extra motivation that comes from knowing there’s something not working right and just knowing there has to be some way to reproduce the problem.  And although there are times when you’ll see weird things that just don’t ever seem to happen more than once (and it’s entirely possible that you might end up chasing after them anyway.)

It’s somewhat odd to think of the brain and the mind to be two separate (and often opposing) entities, but in many ways that theory seems to explain a lot.  After all, it seems like I spend a lot more time fighting with my brain sometimes than I do cooperating with it.  And there are definitely times when it seems to have a mind of its own, for better or for worse.  Then again, it’s the only brain I’ve got, so until I can figure out where I can come up with a replacement, I guess I’ll just have to deal with it, arguments and all.

May 7, 2014

Fun With Insomnia: A Series of Unfortunate Decisions

Filed under: Bad Ideas, Fun With Insomnia — Brian Lutz @ 2:21 am

One of these days I should really learn to stop eating at my computer.

Back when I added Fun With Insomnia to the category list on my Blog, I figured I’d be using it quite a bit.  After all, I tend to have problems sleeping at times, and I got the idea that spending that time writing rambling half-coherent drivel instead of lying awake in bed being annoyed by the fact that I can’t sleep might make a somewhat more productive use of my time.  Then again, by now I’ve pretty much figured out that I can write rambling half-coherent drivel pretty much any time I want to, so there isn’t really a whole lot of point in restricting myself to certain times of the night to do it.  Of course, I try not to make that fact too obvious here, so I tend to toss most of that stuff into other categories and hope that nobody notices.

Ironically, I wrote most of that first paragraph a few hours ago, then stopped because I was having trouble staying awake.  The net result of this was a roughly 1 1/2 hour nap, from which I woke up nice and groggy right around 9:30pm.  Given the fact thart I was pretty much half-awake at this point, I figured I’d be making it an early (by my standards anyway) bedtime, and made the usual preparations.  It was about 11 or so by the time I was ready to go to bed.  and roughly 11:30 by the time I actually turned the lights off.  Naturally, this is right about the time that the sleep inertia from the nice little evening nap happened to wear off, and I found myself wide awake in bed.  This is usually right around the point where you remember why those after-work naps tend to be a bad idea.  Typically it takes about an hour or so of tossing and turning before I start to realize that sleep doesn’t seem to be on the agenda, at least not anytime soon.  It is also right around this time that I start coming up with some of my “best” bad ideas.

Tonight, it was right around 12:30 that I started pondering completely absurd things, and started to wonder just how quickly I could be eating eggs if I jumped out of bed that very instant.  One thing led to another, and roughly fifteen minutes later I found myself at the second-nearest Denny’s (there’s actually one just a couple of blocks from my apartment, but I don’t go there all that often because it’s kind of a dump)  ordering something else because I had completely forgotten my original aim by that point.  Oh, and since I was already in the process of doing any one of a number of stupid things, I tried to write this Blog post while eating, which probably explains why I’ll be reading it sometime tomorrow morning and wondering what the heck I was thinking.  In theory, the Surface Pro I picked up a couple of months ago when they had the things really cheap (I don’t think I ever mentioned that I got one of these) would be perfect for this type of situation, but I’m quickly learning that the $129 type cover I bought with it seems to be better suited for decorative purposes than for use as an actual keyboard.  I could probably get better at this with practice, but quite frankly, it’s kind of a pain to use.

Anyway, based on my admittedly very small sample size of largely irrelevant data, I figured out that under ideal conditions someone could probably be eating eggs at an all-night diner within roughly 15 minutes of jumping out of bed, although this does assume roughly five minutes of dressing oneself in a socially acceptable fashion, no significant traffic between their current location and said diner, and fails to take into account the traffic lights that might be encountered along the way.  Specific optimizations could be made to streamline the whole process, but who in their right mind would call ahead to Denny’s to place an order?  Then again, there are plenty of other ways that eggs could be consumed within the comforts of one’s home.  I suspect that if someone has a quantity of eggs in their fridge and isn’t completely repulsed by the prospect of eating them raw, they could significantly reduce that number, down to almost zero.  Then again, as efficient as that may sound, don’t expect me to try any experiments on that anytime soon.  I could probably continue to overanalyze this to death for at least another thousand words or so, but I should really be in bed by now, so I’ll refrain from doing so (either that, or I’ll save it for another post.)

In retrospect, it occurs to me that by the time someone finds themselves at Denny’s ordering a three-course second dinner sometime after Midnight, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to trace this occurrence to one or more bad decisions, usually made in rapid succession.  One of these days I should figure out that those nice little naps after work, although they seem like a good idea at the time, have an annoying tendency to end badly.  Then again, I’m not really up past my bedtime, just everyone else’s.

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