Optimizing My Life

I analyze. Everything. Constantly.

Always optimizing.

Everything needs to be as efficient as possible. Even when it doesn’t matter.

You have no idea.

Thursday morning, I went to gather my clothes before taking a shower. I typically wear a pair of jeans twice before washing them and the night before, I did what I always do on day two – I removed the belt from the belt loops, hung it up in the closet, turned the pants inside-out, and placed them in the hamper.

Standing in the closet that morning, I remembered that this week I had decided to wear my khakis one day instead of jeans. But when I reached for the hanger, I saw that it was hanging backwards, which meant it was awaiting its second day of wear. That gave me pause.

Wait a minute. I thought. If this is day two of the khakis then Friday will be a new pair of jeans that will only get one day’s wear this week. That can’t be right. Only one pair of pants gets a single wear each week. It can’t be two. So what did I do wrong?

Wait a minute. The first pair was Monday, Tuesday. That means the pair yesterday… shoot! That was only one day of wear! And I took the belt off – again! Sheesh.

I retrieved the pair back out of the hamper and flipped it right side out and set it aside, thinking about how I had done the exact same thing on Monday. Except that after hanging up the belt, I realized my mistake before putting the pants in the hamper. So I was getting worse as the week went on.

I regaled my husband with the tale of my poorly executed routine that week. He lay there staring at me before saying – with considerable feeling, “I am really glad I don’t live inside your head.”

So. Yeah.

It makes me killer good at Mastermind and packing a small car with a lot of stuff and finding all the mistakes in your emails. But it really is kinda exhausting sometimes. I’ve yet to find a way to turn it off.

Your Stats Are Booming!

I’ve been noticing some strange things about my WordPress account of late. I’m curious if anyone else has noticed something similar.

The first is just curious, not particularly alarming, but it has to do with when I cut back on how often I posted. Twice in December, I posted something to the effect of, “Gosh, I’m just really busy and can’t seem to get around to writing my blog or reading anyone else’s so don’t be surprised if you don’t see much of me.” I picked up multiple new followers after both of those. I found that humorous. Hey, yes! I’d like to follow someone who doesn’t actually post anything! LOL

Humorous, but not baffling. What was baffling was to get the “Your Stats Are Booming!” notification from WordPress when I hadn’t posted a story in a week. Did some old post of mine suddenly go viral? I’d ask myself the first few times it happened.

But a trip to the stats page would show that while I had had 50 some views in the previous hour, they had all come from 2 or 3 people. Ok, whatever, some folks traipsing through my vast archive… Only… those 2 or 3 people all accessed the same exact random stories. Not the 10 most recent or the 10 most popular. Ten completely random posts.

The stats page also showed me something else. Before, when I was posting practically everyday, I’d get a dozen views or so on the day I posted. Sometimes more. The day after something posted, I’d get a handful, and then there’d be nothing until I posted again.

But now? I noticed I was getting more views on off days than I used to get on on days. I am consistently getting 20-30 views a day now, whether I post or not. Wonder when that started happening, I thought to myself.

Nothing to be concerned with, right? Bloggers blog at least in part to be read. I should be happy. But I analyze. That’s how I live my life. So how exactly was I supposed to make sense of something like this?



So if I’m to believe my stats page, 3 visitors contributed a total of 45 views. Except that I had 6 different posts (not including my home page) that each got 5 views. So did each of them read 2 different posts 5 times? Or did they each read all 6 of those posts a couple of times and then each read 2 of them a third time, but each a different post? Or maybe one person looked at my home page 15 times and each of the other two read three posts 5 times each?

I’m having trouble drawing conclusions. The numbers don’t line up in a way that makes sense. This particular screen capture shows the posts were basically the most recent posts, but earlier in the year, they weren’t. A fairly pedestrian (hah! punny…) post entitled One Shoe was getting a lot of traffic at one point.

So here’s my theories:

  1. WordPress is actually terrible at counting the number of visitors. Or maybe the number of views.
  2. WordPress is trying to encourage me to publish more often by lying to me about the number of views.
  3. I’m getting watched by a bot (why, I have no idea).
  4. Someone is stalking me but has terrible memory so has to keep re-reading my posts.
  5. Someone is reading through my archives and loves the stuff so much that s/he keeps sending links to their 2 best friends.

I dunno. None of those theories feels particularly viable. You got anything better for me?




If You Can Read This…

There’s a truck that I come across in our parking lot at work regularly. It has a bumper sticker on it that says:

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a soldier.

I just want to start out by saying I don’t have a problem with the sentiment – in particular. I might argue that being over here on our own continent with Canada and Mexico as our neighbors, we’ve been pretty safe from any sort of invasion that might result in us speaking another language, but that’s just conjecture and ignores the point the person is trying to express.

No, I want to strut with my computer programmer and grammar nerd feathers spread in full display for just a bit. Some of you may remember me shining a light on my analytical neurosis when I blogged first about the fascinating designs of gum wrappers and then about the proper use and restocking of public restroom toilet paper dispensers. The fact that you are still here means that you are ok with my quirks, so I think maybe I won’t run you off with this one. We shall see. If you have joined me since those posts, consider this one your test of loyalty.

The word ‘if’ conveys the notion that there is a condition here. A condition that could or could not be true. If the statement is always true (or always false), then there is no value in first stating the condition. You are just stating what is already known.

In the programming world, there are tools that help find inefficiencies in your code. This is one of the things it looks for. If you set a variable to zero and then immediately say “if the variable is not zero, do blah blah blah”, it’ll declare the “blah blah blah” to be dead code because the condition is always false. Similarly, if you checked “if the variable is zero”, the condition is always true so why have the condition? Just do “blah blah blah” and call it good.

So back to the bumper sticker. The bumper sticker was written in English. That means that anyone who reads it is reading it in English. There is no possibility of them reading it in any other language because it was written in English.

“If you can read this, thank a Teacher” is good, because the possibility exists that a person can’t read it. And, obviously, since they can’t read it, they won’t be thanking a teacher.

But the second sentence? The word they wanted wasn’t “if”. It was “since”. It is strongly implied that the second condition is dependent on the first; that is, the reader’s ability to, well, read. And we already know they are reading it in English since it was written in English. So what they meant to say was “Since you can read it in English, thank a soldier.”

Yes, yes, I know I overanalyzed the dang bumper sticker. That’s what I do. From an English standpoint, there’s probably nothing actually wrong with it. They used the repetitive words to emphasize their point. But something has to keep this high-powered brain (hah!) working during that walk into work. And the bumper sticker just didn’t hold up under close scrutiny. I submit that most probably don’t.

Charge Ahead!

The aisles between the cubicles where I work are very long and very narrow.  I’ve worked in this space for over a year now and I’ve made a few observations about the choices my co-workers and I make while navigating the cubicle aisles.

When you enter the aisle and see that someone else is heading toward you, you have a choice.  You can charge ahead or you can step aside.  Most people appear to have a strong preference for one action or the other although mood and circumstance can cause some to act out of character.

The Step-Asiders are going to step into the nearest cubicle opening or side aisle to give the other room to pass.  This can be a bit awkward if the other person wished to enter the space that they have moved into, but for the most part, all is good.

The Charge-Aheaders are going to walk down the aisle on the assumption that the situation will resolve itself without collision.

If a Charge-Aheader encounters a Step-Asider, life is good.  The two parties are able to go about their business without conflict.

Life is also good when two Charge-Aheaders meet up.  I’ve yet to see a showdown in an aisle with neither party making way for the other.  No, the usual behavior of two Charge-Aheaders is to simultaneously pivot toward the near wall and quickly sidestep past each other.  It’s a very efficient group.

The only problem, as I see it, is when two Step-Asiders try to walk down the aisle.  They each dart into the nearest cubicle opening and wait, sometimes without looking up, for the other to pass.  Eventually, they gaze down the aisle to see the other person doing the same.  Then there’s handwaving or verbal encouragement or maybe both parties trying to resume progress and then stepping aside again when they see the other moving.  It’s a very friendly and selfless group but can be exhausting to get caught up in.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor for life in here.  Something about the relative success and opportunities for people who take charge vs. those that take the back seat and wait on others.  I’m definitely a Charge-Aheader in Cubicleville.  In life?  I’m trying.

Oh, and if you think I’m rather neurotic or warped for analyzing the walking patterns of my co-workers, you should read my analysis of public bathroom toilet paper dispensers and this post won’t sound so odd to you.  Plus, you should keep in mind that engineers get paid well to solve problems and analyze.  It’s not like we can just turn it off when we step out of our cube!

One final note:  I wanted to measure the aisle width for you.  I didn’t have a tape measure but I did have an extra long (18 inch) ruler.  I poked my head out of my cubicle and when I didn’t see anyone, began to measure – not on the floor, just waist level.  I didn’t care if I was really exact.  Well, as I tried to read the result (it was less than two rulers wide), someone stepped out into the aisle.  I tried to hurry back in my cube but she had seen me.  She asked what I was doing.  I said I was curious how wide the aisle was.

“Why? They aren’t going to change it.”

“I know.  I’m not asking anyone to change it.  I was just curious.”

She responded, “You know if they were to change it, they’d just take the space out of your cube.”

“I know,” I said, exasperated. “I don’t plan on saying anything to anyone.  I just wanted to know how wide it was.”

She didn’t understand.  I didn’t even bother to say I planned on blogging about it.  If she couldn’t understand my curiosity, she would certainly not understand my desire to write about it.  I guess not all programmers have the same level of curiosity and analysis about everything around them.  Oh, well.