TITLE: Odds and Ends from Recent Reading and Writing AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 16, 2008 11:56 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I'm on the road to a recruiting event in Des Moines. The event is for girls who are interested in math and science. For me, the real treat is a chance to meet Mae Jemison the first woman of color to travel in space, on the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992. She's surely going to do a better selling math and science to these students than I could! (Note after the talk: She did. Perhaps the best way to summarize her message is, "We have choices to make.") A few short items have been asking me to write them: • At the risk of living too public a life where my students can see, I will say that the personality of my current class of students is not one that gives me a lot of energy. They are either still wary or simply disinterested. This happens every once in a while, and I'll try to find a way to create more energy in the room. In any case, it's nice at least to have a student or two who are like this. • Kevin Rutherford has been working on a little software tool called reek, a smell detector for Ruby code. That is what I would like to be doing right now, with either Ruby or Scheme being fine as a source language. Every time I teach programming languages I get the itch to dive deeply back into the refactoring pool. This is the primary drawback of administrative work and the primary indicator that I am probably not suited for a career in administration. Short of working on such a cool project, blogging about interesting ideas is the next best thing. • But consider this advice on writing:
If you have so many ideas, prove it to the world and start blogging. There is nothing like a blog to help you realize you have nothing new to say.
That post is really about why not to write a book. For many people, writing a book is a way to gain or demonstrate authority. Several of my friends and family have asked when I plan to write a book, and for at least a few their desire for me is grounded in the great respect that have for the value of a book. But I think that the author of the post is correct that writing a book is an outdated way to gain authority. The world still needs great books such as, well, Refactoring, and one day I may sit down to write one. But I have to have something to say that should best be said in a book. Perhaps we should take this author's advice with caution. She wrote a book and markets it with a blog! • That piece also contains the following passage:
... self-respect comes from having some sort of vision for one's life and heading in that direction. And there is no one who can give you that vision -- you have to give it to yourself, and before you can feel like you have direction, you have to feel lost -- and lost is okay.
Long-time readers of this blog know that getting lost is not only okay but also demonstrates and exercises the imagination. Sometimes we get lost inside code just so that we can learn a new code base intimately. • Finally, Seth Godin offers an unusual way to get things done:
Assemble your team (it might be just you) ... and focus like your hair is on fire. ... Do nothing except finish the project.
I need a Friday or a Monday at the office to try this out on a couple of major department projects. I was already planning a big sprint this weekend on a particularly persistent home project, and now I have a more provocative way to rev my engine. -----