Is this what Man Flu feels like?

I knew that quitting real cigarettes would catch up to me. About a month a go, I converted over to e-cigarettes. I knew there would be a period of time when all the toxins from real tobacco would all start trying to escape, making me feel very rubbish.

For the last few days, I have ached all over, my nose is running, my throat is sore, and I am kept awake all night coughing.

It’s bad enough that it’s bloody tempting to go and buy a pack of real cigarettes and put off this hell for another few weeks. I won’t though. That would just be delaying the inevitable.

It’s not just the nicotine withdrawal that makes quitting hard – it’s the withdrawal from all the other crap in a cigarette that kicks your arse to.

Now, this is hardly my first quit attempt (if this can be called a quit attempt, since I am still getting nicotine). I must admit though, that the slow weaning off nicotine through buying lower strength liquid is working better for me (and cheaper!) than any number of tablets, gums or patches in the past has. Anyone attempting to quit should try converting to vaping for a bit if all else has failed. And be prepared to feel like crap after a few weeks of kicking the real ciggies.

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The films that scared me when I was little are awesome now.

Just some random musing, today. I was trawling Netflix, looking for some of my old favourite films – namely, Labyrinth, The Never Ending Story and the Dark Crystal. These films all have two things in common – mainly, that I love them, and all three gave me nightmares when I was little.

The main scary points, in order:

Never Ending Story – Artax sinking in the swamp of despair, while Atreyu cries.

Labyrinth – those pink things throwing their heads was disturbing.

Dark Crystal – Skeksis. Need I say more?

In spite of the nightmares they gave me, I could watch these films on repeat now. Especially Labyrinth. Which may or may not have something to do with *those* trousers. Strange how childhood perception can be flipped on its head later on.

The Zone

The Zone is something that most programmers will know about. It’s that place of quiet in our head that allows us to focus all of our attention on one problem, to the exclusion of everything else. My Dad calls it ‘hyper focus’, which is also quite apt and probably more accurate.

I’m personally of two minds whether the ‘Zone’ is a good place to be or not. I can never determine how I go into it – all I know is that if I find something interesting enough, the rest of the world falls away. All that is left is my ‘item of interest’. People have been known to shout or throw things at me to get my attention when I’m in this place. A ceiling once fell in behind me while playing Sonic the Hedgehog when younger, and I never even noticed.

I’m not sure if the quality of my code gets any better while I’m in this place. Some claim that their code is the better for it. What I do know is that coming out of it, either due to someone else forcibly distracting me, or coming out of it naturally, is horrible. It feels like waking up after only 2 hours of sleep. Confusion reigns as I try to catch up on everything that may have happened while I was in the Zone. People have to repeat themselves a few times before I get what they were saying. It’s like emerging from a dark fog into a brightly lit room – you’re temporarily overloaded by all the things that you had not been noticing whilst in your own world of productivity. And then the overwhelming urge to go to the toilet, or eat/drink something. If I’ve ever gotten stuck in the Zone, I’ll often find I have been there for hours.

Some people have different methods to get into the Zone. Some need absolute quiet. Some need music. Personally, I find I just … get there. I habitually wear ear phones and listen to upbeat music whilst at work, but that’s mainly to drown out the noises of people around me so that I can concentrate when I’m not in the Zone. When I’m in the Zone, I don’t even hear the music. Or anything. Which is one of the reasons I find it kind of a scary place to be. I’ll end up in the zone through reading a book, playing a computer game, or doing work.

I actually try to avoid getting there these days. Which is actually easier said than done, given how easily I slip away to that place. I keep my usual Spotify playlist random (feel free to check it out here. Don’t judge me!). I try to make a conscious effort to take breaks every hour or so.

So, is the Zone a good or bad place to be? Honestly, my verdict is leaning more towards ‘bad’, given how awful I feel after coming out of it.

The Lady of the Manor

Ever met the Lord or Lady of the Manor?

They mean well. After all, they’re going around telling people how to make their life better! Or someones life better.

You’ve probably met at least one. Regardless of when they moved to your area, they’re going to tell you where to park your car. Or how to empty your rubbish. Doesn’t matter if everyone on the street has been muddling along just *fine* without their intervention for years. Or that there is no allocated parking. Do something to your drive way that they don’t like the look of, they’ll probably tell you off. Or tell you how to do it in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to themselves.

I’ve encountered a few in my life. Best way to deal with them – probably to ignore them, and let them seethe impotently while the tell-tale twitch of their curtain lets you know that you just parked your car in *their* spot on the car park. Even if they don’t actually have a car.

I find people who care so much about what other people are doing in their own space kind of sad. And amusing. Also, incredibly easy to wind up without trying. If you find yourself living in the vicinity of one of these types of people, just smile, wave, and keep about your day as you always have. They’ll either get over it, or die mad.

Also – don’t be one of those people. They’re annoying.

Disclaimer: Any similarities to people I know are coincidental. Probably. Maybe.

The Last 5 Computer Games I Played

It’s some list Sunday! Here are the last 5 games I played, and my thoughts on them.

Bloodborne

Probably my favourite this year. High paced game play, and player invasions. Fantastic bosses. At the same time, kind of depressing. Main reason I love this – I can run around with a pistol and whip. Which is awesome, and says nothing about my character.

Dragonage Inquisition

Kept me busy with side quests for hours. However, once I figured out that you could be invincible as a Knight Enchanter, Nightmare mode became a breeze. I’ve yet to play the new content, since my Dad has kidnapped my copy of it and won’t give it back until he’s bored of it.

Dark Souls 2

A good game. Not quite so tight in design as Dark Souls, but entertaining all the same. That said, I haven’t replayed this as often as Dark Souls, which says something. I think it’s because the Soul Memory system bodged up invasions and co-operative play.

Destiny

Very playable… once. Which is a shame, really. Should have been so much more than a grindfest in end game!

Dark Souls 1

One of my all time favourites. Lots of replay value, invasions are great, and the bosses still play well even after all this time. Praise the sun!

TL;DR

Play Dark Souls. Then Bloodborne. You won’t regret it.

The Scariest Thing I’ve Done This Year

We all reach milestones in life at some point. They’re generally scary places to be. People who know me may think that getting a new job would make the top spot for me this year, but today I think I just passed a way scarier one successfully.

I was introduced to my boyfriends children for the first time. On a full day out a farm theme day.

This is scary for various reasons.

If they hate me, that’s it for the relationship. My boyfriends children are the most important people in his life, and they have to come first.

I’ve opted not to have children, and odds are that I am terrible with them.

Meeting the kids is entering into a commitment. You don’t just enter a childs life and be ready to walk away easily.

It’s strange to think that the future of a relationship I am in is hinging on the opinion of a 6 year old and 9 year old girl.

I admit I was tempted to wuss out of the whole thing by simply not answering my phone this morning. But I knew it had to happen at some point. I think it went well. The first half hour was difficult, as they obviously didn’t know what to make of me. They don’t currently know that I am their Dads girlfriend. A bit of effort to talk to them, followed up by being the bearer of a water bottle in the corn maze seemed to ease the whole thing though, and soon I had small children talking a mile a minute to me about … well, everything.

My proudest moment for me though was not running screaming like a little girl when a wasp started dive bombing one of his daughters. I went in, lured the wasp away without showing fear, and returned an ice lolly wasp free. While a wasp isn’t so scary as entering a childs life, wasps are a big phobia of mine.

So, scariest thing today? Realising that I have just entered a commitment that I won’t walk away from easily, now that I know his children didn’t hate me on sight. Awesome thing is that I’m actually ok with it.

Oh, also, I got to see a baby pygmy goat climbing a tree. That was pretty cool to.

Goat in a tree!
Goat in a tree!

On the Job Training as Knowledge Gathering

This week, I am being trained on an application which I am to build the next version of. Initially, I thought it would be a bit of a waste of time. I’ll be writing the all new singing and dancing version on a completely different platform, so who cares about being trained in the old one?

Well, it turns out I should. Being in a training room with other people who are also learning it is providing me with invaluable information. So what if I know how the app is working under the hood after reading the code base for the last couple of weeks? I have pages of notes on things that need to change that may have made it into the next version without this kind of feedback. I am watching how users – new and old – are using the application in its current form. I’m experiencing some of the strange niggles first hand.

This post isn’t to down talk the application as it exists now – like anything these days, it has its great points to. What this is about is being aware that just watching your end users – be they trainers or newbies – use your application is like a gold mine of information on what could be better, what actually works, what they want to see more of, and what they want to see less of. They don’t care about what’s under the hood. They just want to make their working day more efficient.

Although it’s bound to be time consuming, I can’t help but think that having user groups together to play with an app well before release in an observable environment will do that app more good than any number of revisions to a product specification. I’m not talking beta testing here, as what I’m experiencing now is active feedback on an application where the new ideas are still being collated. It’s something I’m going to be trying to push for going forwards in my own processes. It’s not a new idea. I’ve just never thought of applying the idea to a training scenario before. An established application in a training environment is certainly a great candidate for this treatment.

Going by the information that I have noted down after just two days, observing a hands on training session group is providing more value to me as a software and UI developer than any mass emailed questionnaire ever could.