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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where is Dennis Ritchie's day?

It's now a week since the creator of the C programming language, and co-creator of the UNIX operating system, Dennis Ritchie, died after a long illness. I still have the distinct impression that Steve Jobs' charisma and Apple's links to pop culture have generated far more hype than the former's profound contributions to technology.

A few days ago I'd shared the New York Times obituary on Ritchie, which garnered comments from my loyal readers (thank you, Klaus and Mick!) Since then, I'd been looking at various media sources to see what more would be said about him. However, I see announcements instead like this (Californian governor declares October 16 Steve Jobs Day), and threads like this (Google has neither created a doodle nor provided a hyperlink to Ritchie, despite doing the latter for Jobs).

It seems there must be many more people who share my disappointment and outrage that Ritchie's passing has been eclipsed so effectively by the timing of Jobs' death: here's a blog entry from Computerworld, which makes some more interesting comparisons.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time management thoughts, Part 1

I'd recently admitted to some friends that, ironically (and funnily enough) the topic of time management has been on my mind. The irony being that this post comes more than halfway through October, with the greatest gap in time that had transpired since the blog was launched in May.

Here is a quote from the TV series "Bones", which has a protagonist whose behaviour I can relate to quite well. She's being interviewed by a bubbly morning chat show hostess in the following exchange:

Courtesy of IMDB:
Stacy Goodyear: I'm Stacie Goodyear and joining me on Wake Up, D.C. is Dr. Temperance Brennan. She is the author of the best-selling mystery novel "Bred in the Bone" and she's also - now tell me if I get this wrong - an anthropologist who works with the F.B.I. to solve crimes?
Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan: Yes, that's correct. I use the bones of people who have been murdered, or burned, or blown up, or eaten by animals or insects, or just decomposed.
Stacy Goodyear: Well, that's exciting. Uh, Dr. Brennan, your book has sold over 300,00 copies. How do you juggle twin careers as a best-selling author and a crime-fighting scientist?
Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan: Well, I do one, then the other.
Stacy Goodyear: And is the work enjoyable? I mean, the part involving rotten bodies?
Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan: Enjoyable? Well, satisfying, yes. Like cracking a code. But in general, when you're looking at someone who's been brutally murdered... it's complicated.
Stacy Goodyear: 'Cause I just thought, you know, yuck!
[she laughs, but Brennan doesn't





When I saw this episode some years back, I laughed so much at her response to the juggling twin careers question that my outburst may have slightly alarmed my husband. It's exactly the sort of reply I'd have given, and I'd also learned long ago that while I'm capable of some multitasking, the efficacy thereof is highly dependent upon the nature of the tasks involved.

Over the years, the level of care I've needed to devote to scheduling my work has varied greatly. In consulting settings, at one point I'd tracked 15 minute increments of the workday; being billable necessitated this. In managing linguistic data for the NLP research team, I was able to set my own deliverable due dates, and work towards them in a fairly undisciplined fashion.

Recently, I'd returned to work on something for an external client, which meant there were very intense efforts to meet the interim and final deadlines. With the perceived level of urgency being so high, I found that I truly couldn't let my metaphorical mental backburner work on anything else: even my dreams worked through concerns about the tasks at hand (although this wasn't a new phenomenon in my life: during my piano performance studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada as a teen, I recall having nightly "walk-through" dreams in the fortnight or so leading up to both the grade 9 and 10 exams.)

Part 2 of this topic to follow...

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.