Do you believe in magic?

I’m not one of those people who loves coding because she loves puzzles. I love coding because I believe in it. I believe in it the way Harry Potter believes in magic. It was there all along, waiting for me to use it to solve all my problems. I keep having problems and then turning them into app ideas.

One problem is that I have trouble organizing what I’ve learned and projects that use that knowledge so that I can refer back to it. So, I want to write an app to organize examples of what I’ve done, searchable by the skills involved. This will be for my own reference and also to impress potential employers. Mostly for me though. It’s really handy to refer back to your own work when you need to do something similar again. It will have links to the exact files on github where the searched for skill is used. Perhaps there will be explanations as well. The working title of that project is Recursive Resume. Get it? Because it’s self referential. I’d love to come up with a recursive acronym to use as a title, but mostly the ones I come up with just sound weird.

The other app I want to write for myself is the app that will help me get healthy.  It will be based on the teachings of Elizabeth Benton of the Primal Potential podcast, specifically the type of food journaling she recommends. The idea is you track your food items, not even worrying too much about amounts, and you track certain side effects afterwards, such as levels of hunger, energy, cravings. Then, after a while, you start to see patterns. Except I think doing that in a journal is clumsy. I tried it. But imagine how better it would be in an app that provides data visualization! Also I think if I made a whole app I’d be motivated to use it regularly so that all that coding doesn’t go to waste. I have no catchy name for this one yet.

There’s even a third app I’ve got in mind: I call it Time.pie. Basically, it’s to help me visualize my day as I’m planning it by allowing me to plan my day in pie slices. Will it change the world? Nope! It would be fun to figure out how it could work though, and maybe it would be useful.

I’m a little stuck on starting because don’t know which to start with.

My father (an engineer) thinks the Recursive Resume app is a really great idea for showing off to potential employers. He seems to think it would provide me an edge in seeking employment. I think he might be right, but I sort of wish I’d never had the idea. It’s just not exciting to me. But if it would help me get a job, I can’t just not do it because it’s boring, right? And it would be nice for keeping my knowledge organized. As I build the other projects I can add them to the database.

The health app is one I’m passionate about though. I’m almost exactly 100 lbs overweight, and that’s not great for my health, my mental health and honestly it’s stressing my marriage. I really believe in the concept of learning to eat “foods [I] love that love [me] back.” Somehow the idea of discovering a personalized food list sounds more fun and liberating than following someone else’s food rules. I hate being told what to do, but the idea of eating to optimize my mood in the immediate future… that I think I could get behind. If I could get the app working and it helps me lose the weight, that would be a huge set of accomplishments. I’ve been sitting on this idea for I don’t even really know how long. A year at least, maybe two. When I think about it, it’s like my mind is on fire with possibilities and hope. I really want to start making progress on it! But I’m also scared to start it because I want to get it right, and what if I need more practice before I can do the idea justice?

The third idea, Time.pie, is sort of a throw away. It could be fun, and if it turned out not to be fun I would be fine with abandoning it. The appeal there is that I wouldn’t be as tempted to stress myself out over it, which might make it a good one to start with.

You’ll notice these ideas cluster around a theme: personal growth. I want to be better, and I want to create a system that will support me in that, whether it’s to help me retain knowledge, to help me improve my health and therefore overall performance in life or a silly app to make time management more fun.

So yeah, it’s hard to choose. The path of least resistance would be starting with Recursive Resume, because my husband and I live with my parents and my father does periodically ask if I’m working on that app. I’m adverse to conflict, so it would be convenient if I could answer “yep.” I kind of hate that though, because, as I mentioned, I hate being told what to do. Also my husband feels I let my parents have too much influence over me and that I need to grow up and make decisions for myself. So if my husband were to find out that I’m listening to my father’s advice there might be an argument. So there is no guaranteed way to avoid conflict. Technically, I’ve already started that project, so there is some momentum in its favor… But is that momentum negated by the fact that I’m not excited about it and therefore very at risk of procrastination?

Part of the problem is I have no idea how long any of these will take, unless you count “twice as long as I thought possible, even factoring in that I expect things to take longer than I think is possible” as a valid time estimate. If I had a rough idea of what kind of time commitment I was getting into with each, that might make it easier to decide. If I knew that Recursive Resume would only take two weeks it would make sense to just knock it out of the way so that I could start the fun stuff with a clear conscience.

Probably I need to set arbitrary deadlines for each subtask to minimize how much I allow myself to get bogged down in details. I don’t have a lot of project experience on which to draw to make reasonable deadlines, so I’m going to have to balance the fact that I need to stick to the deadline to guarantee progress against the possibility that my deadlines may make no sense at all. I guess this is the sort of thing that the agile concept of velocity is supposed to help with? If you know what to do about this, please sing out in the comments, I would be grateful for advice.

Wow, I’m really glad I wrote all that. Suddenly I know what to do next: try and break my top two projects down into the likely subtasks and then just come up with guesstimates about how long each subtask might take. Then I’ll total up the timeline for each project and I’ll use that to inform my decision.

I feel really good now that I feel I know my first step. To be honest, yesterday pretty rough. Not that anything happened, I spent the whole day either on facebook, stressing over what to be doing, or crying bitter tears of disappointment, frustration and self hate. So, a pretty normal day in that nothing got done and I also really didn’t enjoy myself at all. Moving on.

It’s a relief to see that first step laid out in front of me like a stairway leading out of a dungeon. I’m excited to take that step. Here’s me committing, right now, to posting again tomorrow evening with a brief update on the outlook of the projects. Also, I think it’s time I got strict about having a blogging schedule, so I’m deciding right now that I should post every Tuesday at least. Thank you so much for reading, writing all this has really been helpful for my mood and decisiveness.

Like most bloggers, I’d really appreciate it if you felt inspired to leave me a comment. Here are some prompts for your convenience:

  1. If you’re a developer/engineer/similar, what advice do you have for a n00b who wants to pad her portfolio with a brand new project?
  2. Have you ever taken on a passion project (of any kind, not just coding) without any external structure and what was that like?
  3. Do you ever struggle with prioritizing things you want to do? things you need to do? Things that might be a good idea but you’re not guaranteed to benefit from?
  4. What inspires you or gives you hope?
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2 thoughts on “Do you believe in magic?

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  1. I’m so interested in where you get with the food app. Tracking the way food makes one feel (vs. the amount of calories it has, or sticking to somebody else’s diet plan) is so important. I hope to work with nutrition in the future, so seeing what people can do with health and technology is super cool!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For the would-be developer, nothing says “I do this often” like a set of github repositories which you maintain. And then you get to introduce each new repository from your blog.

    I routinely take on passion projects. I consider myself a renaissance man out of the same cloth of Da Vinci, only… without patronage. I design and print things in 3D, I’m into robotics now, I love the Raspberry Pi single board computer, interesting forms of recycling, new teaching methods and even things which dabble close to the world of biopharmaceutical in nature.

    My biggest pains in the area of prioritization is how much time my girlfriend needs from me versus what I need from me. I don’t need to benefit from working on an invention or project; my rationale is to have fun regardless of the normal reasons and the costs involved.

    What mostly inspires me is that at fifty-four I should get on with inserting as much life into my life as I can get away with.

    As for weight control, a 1000-calorie-per-day diet six days of the week as combined with an eat-anything Friday seems to be the trick, combined with a daily walk of no less than 45 minutes.

    And yes, I believe in magic as in “technology sufficiently advanced that it appears as magic”. Now, you just have to advance your understanding of physics to the extent that others can’t comprehend that it’s still just science.

    Liked by 1 person

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