No, I’m not a masochist.
I take a strange, geeky, masochistic pleasure, though, in making things hard for myself. In doing computer-based things the long way round. In solving the problems that are probably easy for some people, but hard for me. In learning new things just because it’s a new challenge.
Today, I was wrestling with a piece of Basic code in an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve not touched Basic since it had line numbers, which is a long long time ago, and I barely know any of it. I forced myself to work out, though, how to do what I wanted.* It was mentally hard work, and meant a lot of looking back and forth to the help pages, but I got it done in the end. It might not be written in the best way, the most efficient way, or the most idiomatic way.** But doing it was, strangely, fun.
* or, rather, what the consultant I was assisting wanted.
** for non-geeks: every computer language or system has its own programming idioms, which fit certain ways of programming particular problems. Someone used to language A will, on switching to language Z, often keep on programming in language A’s style even if this produces ugly and inefficient code in the other language.
We had a computer that was working fine. We switch it off. We move it. We plug it in. And it doesn’t work. At all. So dead, there’s nowhere to start looking for what to fix. God knows how we killed it.
Things I meant to do and didn’t this week:
- buy clarinet reeds
- write more blog posts
- finish designing Symbolic Forest tshirts
- book my upcoming holiday
- do more on my secret DIY project
Things I did do:
So, at least I’ve done something.
Life has many simple pleasures.
One of my favourites at the moment: cleaning keyboards. Take one can of compressed air, hold can and keyboard at arms’ length, push the nozzle, and be amazed as a huge cloud of dust* is blown before you. FSSSST. FSSSST. It’s great fun, it really is.
* and biscuit crumbs, if it’s mine.
New Channel 4 comedy series The IT Crowd starts tonight; being a big geek, of course, I had to watch it. And, overall, it’s rather good.
So far I’ve only seen the first episode, and I think you have to give the first episode of any new series a little leeway. It takes a lot of time to make sure the characters are all properly introduced, after all. Nevertheless, it seems to hold up rather well.
In writing this, I’m trying not to take the easy route and start comparing it to Father Ted. It’s written by one of that show’s writers, it has a similar production style, and it has a central trio of characters. Moreover, both have a small kernel of darkness which is occasionally revealed. It might not be as gloomy and despair-filled as, say, Peep Show, but the darkness is there.
Of course, the main reason I like the show is probably the comedy of recognition. The writing isn’t particularly technical, but they do have a ZX81 lurking in the background,* not to mention the Perl Camel stickers and Flying Spaghetti Monster posters scattered around the set.** I don’t get beaten to a pulp by the non-technical staff on a regular basis, but only because they think I’d probably enjoy it. And, of course, there is that stalwart technical advice of IT staff everywhere. “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
* Unlike my own, modern, up-to-date IT office – our last 1980s computer in service was retired last summer, and the last one on the spares shelf was sent off to long-term storage a few weeks ago. Scarily, I’m not joking here – until last summer one department did rely on a mid-80s PC running MS-DOS 3 and with Windows 1.0 installed on it
** Update, 4th February 2006: another thing I’ve noticed in the background of the set: a poster of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa