Where does the time go?
Once again, it is well past 10pm and I am only now running out of "catch up" things. You see, each day I go to work and yearn to get home to follow up a bunch of things I've been thinking about that day. Once I get home I time and again get excited about how much time I have before I go to sleep, to not only knock over all those day to day things I've been meaning to cover, but also to get on with HRSoftWorks stuff. Time and again it gets to 2am and I haven't started on HRSoftWorks stuff. Where does the time go?
Well back to those "catch up" things. It seems that 8-10 hours spent at work allows for a lot of time for my mind to wander. And a wandering mind for a information addict is a dangerous thing. So here's a sample of the "catch up" things I covered tonight, before I got on to "real" work:
1. Email. 200 odd emails a day is no trivial consumption task. Not only do I feel obliged to respond to mailing lists full of people with troubles I've previously resolved, but I also subscribe to lists that interest me. So I spend considerable time perusing SlashDot's latest headlines, the Apple updates, the TheoryEdge (crackpot Physics theories basically) ramblings, University technical issues. On other nights, something in one of these emails will lead me to start asking questions, and I often can't let it be without researching further. Why? Because I need to know - time I spend on this kind of stuff is invested into my knowledge bank, and sure(?) to pay off eventually! Tonight this didn't happen. Instead, I worked on transfering email from one account to another, since the former can no longer efficiently deal with the traffic, and is inundated with spam.
2. Outerlimits of course! I'm afraid my pursuit of information has widened to include auto mechanics. I have learnt a tremendous amount of practical and valuable information by only spending my time. The method of education delivery in Outerlimits is actually very efficient - I read the threads I want to learn about, can ask questions immediately, and have a large number and a wide variety of "expert" sources.
3. "Games". Now of course, I don't play games, but I do do puzzles. Unfortunately, many of the small Flash games that appear on the web and come to my attention trick me by convincing me they are a puzzle. And I don't let puzzles sit unsolved. Here's one I spent 15 minutes "solving":
4. Tech support. Friends and strangers contact me to fix their computers. I like solving puzzles, but I don't like tech support. The problem is too poorly described, too already solved a million times, too mundane and too poorly valued. More than that, you're solving a puzzle for someone who doesn't care about the puzzle. If someone asks "hey, do you reckon if you used this you could achieve this" I'm probably going to work hard to find out. If someone says "this is broken, can you fix it" I'll probably fix it, but I wont like it. In the former we are sharing information, initial research has been performed and the problem is of interest. In the latter only the resolution is of interest and there is no value in the solution. I only gain from the solution, not the resolution (since it's not my system) and the solution is probably pretty mundane.
5. And finally, arguments. I love a good argument. There's a maxim that says you don't really know something until you can teach someone else. Convincing a non-believer is an even greater challenge, and really requires your thoughts to be in order. I find that organisation of mind and confidence in delivery absolutely engaging. These days, many of these arguments are held on Outerlimits. The breadth of knowledge and the depth of background and experience on the forum is staggering. I also enjoy the written medium for arguments, since it offers opportunity for poise and collection of thought, a record for historical purposes, segmentation for supplying argument context and attribution, and a live, open medium for accessibility and flow. Compared to debates, which I also enjoy, a web forum lets you accurately and deliberately segment someone's argument, agree with parts and refute others, follow threads and track arguments. Of course, as any web forum participator will know, these strengths also lead to some common and very well known failures.
Nonetheless, my argument of choice at the moment stemmed from the infamous plane on a conveyor belt problem. Despite this question raging for thousands of arguments all over the web, the answer I believe is quite clear. Cecil Adams gives the soundest explanation for my liking. When this question came up on Outerlimits many moons ago, my explanation was just as Cecil describes (up to and including the paradoxial alternate interpretation) and that was that.
However, a few days ago the thread reared its ugly head.
It is now 2:40am and I've just finished with the thread for the night. The latest is me trying to convince two others (one a good arguer, one not) that a tangential force applied at the very circumference of a perfect wheel floating in space will increase its rotational velocity but not its linear velocity. It is certainly proving quite a challenge to explain.
All I want is an extra day for every day of the week where I can just catch up on my "catch up" things. I promise I'll spend the rest on things I "should" be doing.