Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How stress makes us dumb

Summer has ended and a new job is about to start - it's time to focus on work! And with that I mean programming. At least that's what I thought... but this link - The programmer's stone - that I got on a social media the other week, turned out to be much greater than expected and relevant not only for programmers but for all people. It tells us about how stress makes us incapable of grasping big, complex problems. To put it simply - stress makes us dumb.

Try it out yourself on The embedded figures test! It becomes very clear that stress makes you blind...

To be more precise, stress makes us lose our ability of juxtaposion, and makes us fall back to focussed attention. I'd say this can explain a lot of stupidities we do and wrong conclusions we draw (in turn making political populism very tempting, just as one of many examples). Among the implications, this lost ability of overview, basically, explains bloatware, "both in computer programs and human bureaucracy". Read more on The programmer's stone's third page. For a programmer it means it becomes impossible to keep a program in one's head. A skill that is very important, as told in Holding a program in one's head.

Talking about bureaucracy: Both blogs mentioned above talk about programmers and organizations being in conflict: "organizations are designed to prevent what programmers strive for" as The programmer's stone says and blames it on the stress that organizations induce. Holding a program in one's head, on the other hand, blames the conflict rather on personal issues: "It's not merely true that organizations dislike the idea of depending on individual genius, it's a tautology. It's part of the definition of an organization not to." "Good programmers manage to get a lot done anyway. But often it requires practically an act of rebellion against the organizations that employ them. Perhaps it will help if more people understand that the way programmers behave is driven by the demands of the work they do. It's not because they're irresponsible that they work in long binges during which they blow off all other obligations, plunge straight into programming instead of writing specs first, and rewrite code that already works. It's not because they're unfriendly that they prefer to work alone, or growl at people who pop their head in the door to say hello. This apparently random collection of annoying habits has a single explanation: the power of holding a program in one's head."

I guess they are both right - the programmers' annoying habits are due to stress avoidance.

Reading further on the The programmer's stone, you get sad realizing that indeed organizations do everything to kill good programming: Open plan offices. You "can't afford" good tools. You "don't have time" to play around with and get to know the technology you chose to use. Ignorance is seen as a bad thing. Don't try to prove you're wrong (in order to prove you're actually right). Use brainstorming sessions. Don't just have a project leader, but also a project manager to take care of the boring stuff!

"The first Great Abdication occurred in the early 1990s, when managers who weren’t programmers, and therefore had no understanding of the work, abdicated their responsibilities to proceduralism in the form of perverse misinterpretations of ISO9001. When that didn’t work, in the late 1990s, they moved to the second Great Abdication. In this, they decided that uniquely amongst commercial activities, software engineering is best handled as a democracy, where the horde of JavaSchooled script kiddies all had equal votes to the minority of experienced people who could have led and taught them. As Richard Gabriel has observed, “It takes twenty years to get good at this stuff”, so of course that was a failure. The third Great Abdication was to ship the whole mess offshore!"

When it comes to creating a good team, we have succeeded if the individuals have a good self-confidence and no stress. This is why Open Source software development works so well - there is no management stressing, there are no contra-productive team building events etc.

Further on: "A person who frequently does juxtapositional thinking is aware of the importance of self-consistency in their thinking. If something doesn’t “hang together”, they know they have made an error." Lack of self-consistency can then lead to confabulation and god knows all can happen!

The fact that humans are a social being is maybe proved by the Asch conformity tests.

In The camel has two humps it is shown "that programming teaching is useless for those who are bound to fail and pointless for those who are certain to succeed". This blogg is well worth reading! "To write a computer program you have to come to terms with this, to accept that whatever you
might want the program to mean, the machine will blindly follow its meaningless rules and come to
some meaningless conclusion."

Well, let's say you manage to create a gelled team. That doesn't mean you can relax, because what then usually happens is the Dreaded Jungian Backlash. One part of this problem is that stress is addictive, and most people are addictive to a level of stress that impairs the juxtapositional thinking! Note now that stress releases dopamine and loss of the ability to produce dopamine causes Parkinson’s... The other part is that the stressed people in the organization seeing the not stressed gelled team becomes envious and do all kinds of stupid things.

So, what to do per organization? In most, there is no point even trying...

And it doesn't get more optimistic in the Marketing section: "A great deal of programming happens within and between large organizations, which are rarely operating at high efficiency. No-one would ever put it this way, but lots of people won’t actually appreciate an efficient supplier, because it puts too much pressure on them to be an intelligent customer."

In a response to a Reddit comment this is said: "People in the stressed state can’t program. Period. We have a software industry which is like a black comedy, with projects going over budget by orders of magnitude and many other problems, because the ability of some people to program most of the time, and most programmers to program on rare occasions, has led us to believe that all programmers can program all the time."
The "problems come from social background stress preventing the prefrontal cortex from functioning in a way which permits programming".
Old people remember their childhood clearly, but not the rest of their lives, because they have been stressed out all their lives. Until now...
"I have concluded that social stress addiction, as exposed by studying the mysterious subject of the practical industrial psychology of computer programming and then identifiable all over the place, is the greatest curse the human race has ever suffered."

Further: "This does not mean surrendering ourselves to intuitionalism, but it does mean that we should sanity check our reasoning when we are in a frame of mind to do it juxtapositionally and vice versa. We all know how we can see more possibilities once we have slept on something. I suspect we then have the opportunity to dissolve unnecessary subsystem boundaries so that the algebra of possibilities becomes simpler and we see the structure of the situation. If one cognitive mode was enough, we probably wouldn’t have two."
Stress and memory puts it bluntly: "In a psychology lab, it’s easy to show that stress interferes with your working memory, making you temporarily dumb."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Emmas Glück

Dieses Film ist so gut, ich will es einfach nicht vergessen. Nur deswegen schreibe ich jetzt. Guck mal! :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Inspiration - En kvart om miljöombyte

Jag tänkte efter mitt uppdrag i Tyskland hålla ett inspirerande föredrag hemma på kontoret och skrev ihop detta. Men det blev aldrig något föredrag. Liksom det aldrig blev något av EIS. Det fanns helt enkelt ingen inspiration...

Visst är det så att vi människor är trygghetssökande, men att ibland våga söka sig utanför ens egna komfortzon kan vara oerhört berikande.

Jag tror personligen att om man aldrig vågar lämna sin trygghet, så kan man aldrig växa upp. Hur vuxen kan man bli om man aldrig lämnar mammas ömma famn??? Och det slutar inte där – hela livet bör man ständigt försöka utöka sin komfortzon i min mening, för det är bara så man en gång har chansen att bli inte bara gammal utan också klok. Man lever så länge man lär sig. Den dagen man slutar lära sig, vad är poängen?

Det finns många sätt att vidga sina vyer! Man kan dra till Indien och röka på i Goa, eller pumpa puder i Kanada eller Alperna några år, säga upp sig, plugga till något helt annat. Men det kanske är lite i värsta laget, åtminstone lite grundtrygghet vill man gärna ha. Så mitt förslag – ta ett uppdrag utomlands!

Du får det positiva med att bryta upp och se andra horisonter, annat folk som talar ett annat språk i en annan kultur. Men samtidigt så har du din anställning kvar, din ITPK och alla tjänsteår. Det är äventyrligt på ett tryggt sätt.

Visst finns det ändå risker! Man tappar kanske kontakten med kompisar. Man hittar kanske inte den perfekta kung fu-klubben eller den bästa latten. Men det finns ju så mycket annat. Du kanske ska lägga kung fun på hyllan ett litet tag och spela piano istället. Dricka cappuccino istället. Dessutom försvinner inte vänner som är värda namnet bara för att man bor lite längre bort ett tag. Glöm dem. Fokusera på dig själv! Vad är viktigt för dig. Vad behöver du för att vara lycklig?

Gör som jag. De första dagarna i Frankfurt satt jag på Mains strand, såg solen gå ner över skylinen, njöt av min Weissbier i den ljumma sommarkvällen och funderade på alla möjligheter som nu låg framför mig. En oändlig mängd möjligheter.

Visst finns det risker också. Man vet ju inget! Vad gör man när man måste gå till doktorn? Köpa toapapper? Hur kommer jag till jobbet? Var ska jag bo? Men allt sådant löser sig! Varhelst det finns människor finns också det du behöver för att överleva, du måste bara klura ut hur och det är ju detta som man som ingenjör älskar! Att klura ut saker, komma på lösningar, se saken från en annan vinkel, bättre förstå det ursprungliga problemet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Märta Tikkanen - Århundradets kärlekssaga

Denna bok drabbade mig hårt, första kvällen på mitt första qi gong-läger, några månader efter att ha insett att jag har en missbruksproblematik. Jag kände igen mig i allt - missbrukarens kval men också den medberoendes lidande och oförmåga att förstå varför.

Du är en ensam varg
du litar bara på dig själv
du tror på briljansen
i svindlande soloprestationer
lagspel är ingenting för dej

Du väger mäter jämför
alltför ofta misskänd
förbigången försummad

Om nån annan
får beröm
betyder det för dej
att du
blir mindre

Om nån annan
så har du

Du tror aldrig något gott om nån
förrän du har sett att han är värd det
Alla andra misstror du i grunden

Och för det mesta tycks du ha rätt
för det mesta är det tydligen bäst
att misstro mänskor som du möter

För tusende gången
står jag där
och mumlar mitt:

man måste ändå
man måste ändå tro
man måste ändå våga älska


Jag är feg
Jag är så fruktansvärt feg, ropar du
och slår en dånande trumvirvel
Medge medge medge
att jag är oerhört
Den fegaste och uslaste
som nånsin fanns

Det var väl
modigt sagt, säjer du
och inväntar

De kommer
ja visst kommer de

Så feg
så modig
och så ärlig
det är bussigt det, säjer de
och applåderar
så det smattrar

Och ju mer de applåderar
dess säkrare
kan du vara
på att du inte behöver uppfatta
vad det är
jag försöker viska
i ditt öra

Käraste varför
är du så rädd
för verkligheten?


sökte jag dej
som fanns överallt
i min värld

Jag försökte göra om
min värld
så den skulle passa dej
sökte dej överallt

men den jag äntligen fann
var mej

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Finally an exterior DAC

Finally I got my thumb out of my arse and went to Tele-Hå to get a DAC. I've had wet dreams about the ADL Cruise for some time, figuring it would make my portable sound quite fucking awesome in pair with my Bose MIE2 headphones. But discussing it a bit I realize a phone or MP3 player doesn't stream any music anyway, so I would have been stuck with the useless internal DAC, only using the amplifier of the Cruise. Complete waste, that is.

Well, with dreams shattered, I soon found new energy focusing on my home system. I have a Musical Fidelity CAN V3 headphone amplifier that, with a pair of Sennheiser HD 650, pretty much rocks your balls off. Or takes you to nirvana, depending on the mood. But having most music in digital form I mostly listen through my computer - with it's shitty DAC and a cheap cable from it's simple phone plugs...

I've been seriously thinking I should have a USB-S/PDIF converter connected between the laptop and a DAC. But talking to the salesman at Tele-Hå for some time I realize that it is simply too much money for a poorly paid consultant (a serious S/PDIF DAC is about 6-7000 SEK). Instead he convinces me to try a "simple" Music Streamer II from Los Angeles and High Resolution Technologies. Costing not even 2000 SEK I'm not convinced. After all the LEAD LA-100 costs the double e.g. On the other hand the LA-100 has a lot of connectors, a head phone amplifier and shit I don't need anyway. The Music Streamer II has only a USB input and a phono output pair. Being an engineer I know simplicity is beauty is quality... I bought a basic USB cable from Techlink, the Wires NX USB A to USB B cable for 99 SEK.

Anyway, I get home and connect the small and deliciously red DAC between the laptop and the V3. At first I'm like hmmm, well, lucky thing I can return it... But switching back and forth between the laptop phono output straight to the amplifier and having the Music Streamer II in between I soon realize a difference. Listening through the DAC is like lifting a blanket off your ears, like waking up well rested with the sun in your eyes and birds singing on am early Sunday morning, in contrast to the heavy hangover, ears peeping, head aching Sundays of the past. The major breakthrough comes when listening to Smells like teen spirit: An awesome song but, well, not the latest shit, I think to myself. Until I connect the DAC, put it on and suddenly find myself a meter up in the air playing guitar screaming! Recollecting myself I dis-connect the DAC and the song dies. Such a difference! Same thing happens playing This Perfect Days' I'm in love - flat, boring, muffled turns into screams of pleasure! Listening to Leonard Cohan's Live in London I'm there - on the stage, walking between Leonard and the musicians hearing every string being played, every breath taken. Wow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bikes and CO2 emission

No, bikes arehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif not absolutely pure. We are, after all, nothing but humans. But still, a biker is 10 times better than a car-driver when it comes to CO2. Add to that the noice, the NOx, the particles etc and it's clear that cars have to be fought.

For you knowing Swedish check out the Cykelsmart blog for a calculation.