Getting tired …

It’s not me who’s getting tired. It looks like my five fingers are starting to give up on me. I recently washed my five fingers again and spotted a hole in one of the toes.

Hole in the five fingers sole

Looks like the advantage of a flexible rubber sole is also it's disadvantage.

I’m now using the five fingers almost for seven months, every single day. I’m mostly walking on hard surfaces with sand and here is one disadvantage for the five fingers: A shoe which doesn’t last for a year isn’t worth A$ 200. Although I can imagine, that it is quite difficult to find a material which is flexible enough to be used as a sole and can still cope with the everyday use.

Goals for Next Year

A lot of people are setting new goals for the new year. I usually don’t do that – either you change something instandly or you never going to do it. But well, let’s say the change to 2010 just happens coincidently while I’m setting myself new goals.

Be rational

I’ve seen myself arguing in a very personal way in the past. I don’t think it is good. The problem with this is, that it makes you blind for better solutions, the outcome of a discussion is biased by your ego and your judgement is therefore flawed. One of the lightning talks at this years KiwiPycon actually opened my eyes with this, that we programmers have rather religious than rational discussions.

dsc_0106.nef

Especially whenever you say: “I believe…”, “I’ve the feeling of …”, “I guess…” are all applicants for coming up with arguments without any facts for backup. Good candidates to think again and get your facts sorted, before continuing further.

Write a Specification before Code

Do you also have a bunch of projects, which you started coding on and never got back to them? I have heaps of ideas, started coding and after the first barrier thought I’ll handle the problem later. I never fixed the problem and certainly never continued the implementation.

I realised that this is a stupid way of writing software. I used to write functional specs based on Joel Spolskys “Painless Functional Specifications” during work and realised: writing a spec before you actually write any code makes absolute sense:

  • you think about 60-70% of the details before you implement anything
  • while writing the spec, it raises other questions you haven’t thought about in the first place
  • if you use a text format like ReST, you can reuse the scenarios in the spec for doctests
  • and – last but not least – you know after the spec that you want to implement the idea or not.

Wonderland?

Motivation

All the ideas I’ve come up with in the past had mostly one flaw: they lacked of a motivation. Even 50% of the packages and components I’ve seen on pypi have this problem too. You’ll find for example three apparently similar packages and think:

  • What’s the motivation that this piece of software exists in comparison to the others? What problem does it solve better or what does it do better?

A motivation should answer those questions. If I’m writing a new project, that will be one of the first questions I’ll ask myself, before writing any code.

For any new project I start from now on: No spec, no motivation: no code.

The skipper and the fish

I watched Trawlermen on SBS yesterday. The documentary is about the work of a number of trawler crews based in Peterhead/Ireland. I have two quotes from the documentary which I found really interesting. It can be applied probably to any other business including writing software.

The skipper said: “Without my crew I’m nothing, because I can’t catch the fish all by myself.” The crew in turn said: “We have to trust the decisions made by the skipper. He leads us to the best fishing grounds which in turn brings the most money for the fish.”

So for now, all the people out there who think they can always do it better on their own, think about this documentary.

My five tips for walking with the five fingers

I did a 10km walk up the Brocken (1141m high, highest peak in my state) and a 20km walk. I want to share some experiences with the outside world about the five fingers:

  1. Take it easy
    Train your feet to walk barefoot. Don’t start with too long walks. Not only that you hurt your feet, you could also get blisters while walking (vibram five fingers classic).
  2. Wet feet getting colder much faster
    Don’t let them get wet, and your feet are getting colder even faster. They could stay cold.
  3. Sun heats you up
    It’s better to walk in the sun. Your body temperature get’s warmer as well as the feet.
  4. Avoid walking on concrete
    My walks on concrete were awful so far. Maybe it’s a training thing, maybe not. I’d rather avoid it.
  5. Minimum temperature
    If the outside temperature is colder than 9°C, your feet are getting colder much faster which you can’t compensate with warm clothes covering the body. Though the rubber sole isolates very good between the foot and the icy ground.
  6. Hiking
    If you’re up for hiking, be sure you practices enough before. You should be aware that you can cut your feet at sharp things (not from the sole – from the top). Check if not poisonous animals can cause problems (e.g. Australia).

Taking the five fingers for a walk

vibram five fingersThe autumn and winter is approaching in Europe. I was walking most of the days barefoot in summer. It would be cool to still walk barefoot even when the weather becomes colder. It looks like there is a chance of doing this: vibram five fingers.

Theuni started with the five fingers. I ordered myself a pair of five fingers classic from barefoot.com with the size of 46; tried them and recognized, that they not fit. barefoot.com didn’t had a bigger size in stock, found one pair at globetrotter.de and ordered a 47. The five fingers homepage has a good introduction on how you measure the size you should order.

So, my key points are:

  1. is it really different to walk in those shoes from walking barefoot?
  2. can you still wear those shoes in autumn, maybe in winter?

Difference between walking barefoot

So to summarize from the first walk: it is different. I wouldn’t believed it. You still have to adopt on wearing those shoes.

You can sense the ground under your feet. You feel that the ground is cold. Your feet feel kind of numb. For example, if you walk barefoot through gravel it feels really uncomfortable (depending on the gravel). If you use the shoes, it’s much easier because of the vibram sole catches most of the stones. But you still sense that you’re walking through gravel. If you’re walking through grass, you sense that the grass is cold and soft, but you can’t feel the grass on your feet.

Wearing five fingers during cold times

It was 9.0 ℃ when I took a walk today. I sensed the cold ground under my feet (especially when walking through grass). Though I was wearing thick clothes to keep the body warm and it turned out to be working. After 5 Minutes the feet were getting warmer and were well temperatured. I will continue doing this even when the temperatures drop. I really want to know when it is to cold to not take a walk “barefoot”.

General

In general I like to wear them. It’s a great alternative in times where it’s not possible to walk barefoot. I’d like to test the five fingers sprint. I can imagine to take them for running.

Don’t mess with an express train …

I literally run into all the shit you probably can run into on a Friday when taking the train home.

I had to travel from Saarbrücken to Köthen (Anhalt) via Mannheim and Braunschweig. It’s an unwritten law, that the trains are mostly overcrowded on Fridays (because everyone wants to get home). I was lucky and my company already made seat reservations.

Crowded (Photo by Manfred Yeung)

Instead of changing the train in Mannheim, I catched up with the train in Frankfurt (Main). What I didn’t realized, was the point that it had cost my seat reservation. The train was totally overcrowded – as expected – and another man was sitting on my seat. All of a sudden, he booked via internet and had the same seat reserved as I. The conductor said to me, that you only reserve a seat from the starting station and if you don’t take it, the reservation is void after 20 minutes.

Well, found a seat after a lot of people got out of the train the next station (Hanau) I enjoyed my ride till Braunschweig. The train had a delay of two minutes. The connecting train scheduled on the same platform 5 minutes later. It just happened to me, that I thought, that I had my tickets left in the compartment. I instantly jumped back in, checked the compartment, ran out and – bang – the door just closed. I tried to open it, ran to the conductor, but the only thing he did, was to tell the driver a ‘Go!’. “We can’t wait 30mins on every station, man!”, he sarcastically said. I would have loved to punish him at least 30 minutes from this station on, because this ment, that I had to pick the local trains connecting Wolfsburg with Magdeburg and Magdeburg with Köthen.

I had to wait one hour in Wolfsburg. Nice city – same as Köthen: nothing there than a small station hall. But it came even better. I hopped in the train to Magdeburg and two right wing extremists with me. Of course they didn’t had a ticket. I was surprised: the conductor didn’t raised a train fee of 40 EURs, he just mentioned that they need to buy a ticket at the automat. Try to do that during the week and you’ll have a hell of a trouble. After they started to play rassistic music, I moved to the other end of the train. No one seemed to care anyways – the conductor was never seen again till Magdeburg main station.

I took it like a man, when the train conductor just mentioned that there is a rail replacement bus service on part of the track and arrived home after 9 hours instead of 6.

Living in a Distressed Area

“Distressed Area” was the term how Spiegel Online called East Germany in an article (German) today according to the newly published study by the Berlin-Institut (“Europe’s Demographic Future”).

According to the study, the future of Saxony-Anhalt is very dark in terms of it’s population (actually, most of East Europe). The birth-rate will not provide enough children to stop the loss of young people, which are migrating to the west, in the future. A lot of well educated (young) people are leaving the state incl. women. Even parts of Romania look into a better future.

I wouldn’t believe it if I would read the study, but it backs up my own experience. I was born in Dessau and have to say, the city (and most of other cities in Saxony-Anhalt) experience a huge loss of people. The biggest problem according to demographics is the loss of young people.

I really hope, that this loss will turn into a growth on some point, which proves the study wrong.