random memes }

Building things

Took off this week and last with no specific plans. Might have gone driving (might still), but I made several trips in the last year, so ... (shrug). Guess I have been on a bit of a home improvement kick. Imagining a new bit, and - much work later - seeing an entirely satisfactory end result, is nice.

Was out in the garage last night, planning the next bit, when my daughter popped out of the house. "Oh, you're thinking again, aren't you?" She was not surprised to find me sitting and staring for an hour, before starting on the next bit.

Seems I use roughly the same approach whether cooking, building things out of wood and metal, or writing software. When cooking I never use recipes, I am always changing something, and usually get good results. When building I never use plans (other than occasional rough sketches), will think through the problem and build the next bit in my mind, before starting manufacture - and usually get good results. When writing software I do not have much use for design documents or formal processes, but cannot start until I have thought through the problem, and usually get good results.

In each case I can visualize the end result before I start. In each case I am working without plans (written plans or plans from others), yet ... I always have a plan.

As I learned back in school, this pattern of work does not work at all for some of my peers. My upper-division Physics lab class was the first clear example. The lab was - at base - one student alone in a room with a pile of equipment, and a set experiment to complete in a couple weeks. The lab had a new instructor when I took the class, and he was not familiar with the equipment. Also, for some reason, none of the equipment worked. So with little or no instructions, I had to figure out what the equipment did, how it should work, and what needed to be fixed.

Getting the experiments to work was both frustrating, and fun!

Midway through the course, the instructor assigned another student to work with me, as this guy was not doing well by himself. I knew the guy, counted him as a bit of a friend, and thought he was at least as good as I at the theory classes. But in the lab, he drove me nuts. I needed silence so I could visualize how things should work. For the parts I did not understand well enough to visualize, I would disassemble and play with the equipment, until I better understood how it worked.

I suppose it looked to the other guy like I did things in no particular order, while ignoring anything he said. After an indeterminate period of seemingly aimless activity, he'd suddenly hear "Ah ... I get it!", followed by an ordered, logical explanation, and a burst of activity - after which the equipment would (usually) work.

Bet I drove him a bit nuts, as he did to me.

Also, up to that point in the lab class, I thought I was doing poorly. Most times - when the instructor dropped by - the equipment was not working, and I had no coherent explanation (or so I felt) of what to do next. Once the equipment was working, I could - in short order - perform the experiment, and move to the next lab.

Bet also my more present co-workers see something similar - an indeterminate period of seemingly aimless activity, followed suddenly by a burst of activity and plans. Probably drives some folk - of differing nature - slightly nuts.

So my daughter caught me planning, again ... :)