The Change Log

I’m currently writing a new content management system (CMS) that I will be replacing my current WordPress installation with. I had written one before, way back in 2003, and was actually pretty happy with it. But as WordPress gained in popularity, I didn’t want to get left behind, so I jumped onto the WordPress bandwagon and became one of the millions of WordPress users out there.

Another reason for my switch was that I was afraid I’d need more features than I had available. Writing these new features were deemed too troublesome for me, and I thought that if somebody else was willing to do them, why not just let that somebody else do it?

But four years on, and the artist in me is getting increasingly indignant: I should be using my own software, not somebody else’s.

This past month I’ve been keeping myself busy playing Pro Evolution Soccer (PES 2008) and catching up on some reading. But apparently it wasn’t enough to prevent my mind from wandering into thoughts of re-writing my CMS. And so I did.

The CMS is coming along pretty well, and many of the features that I had in my old program have already been written into it. But I noticed one aspect of my coding style that bothered me: whenever I finished coding one aspect of the system, I would suddenly become unsure of what to do with myself.

I’d then either mindlessly StumbleUpon sites or go play some PES. It is only after a number of hours are up before I would finally get back to coding. It was when I was having a shower that a solution to this problem came up: I could use a change log.

A change log is simply a list of changes that a developer notes down when writing a program. For example, it could contain bug fixes, new features, or improvements to existing ones. Change logs often come together with new versions of software.

The idea of having a personal change log hit me: what if we could have “versions” of ourselves? Being a work-in-progress, I suppose you could call me the perpetual Donn v. 2008b (substituting 2008 for whatever year it is).

Objectifying your life will help you look at things more systematically. Though you may think that it removes the emotional aspect of living your life, take it that it is the removal of emotions at the planning level. The actual living of your life will still be filled with emotions and relationships and other spontaneous things like ringing the bell at Long John Silver’s.

You could keep a “bug reporting journal”, where you list down all your quirks and things you’d like to improve upon, and have lists for what bugs the next version of you will iron out, as well as the new features you’ll be introducing into your life (“Donn v. 2008.1b will have six-pack abs”).

Every time you reach a milestone, a version where the bugs you’d plan to iron out and the features you’d planned to implement are achieved, you can list it all down in a change log, and then see “where to next”.

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is something that many people in this modern age are looking for. The most obvious symptoms of lack of balance is when either performance at work suffers due to family commitments, or the family’s upset at all the time the individual spends at work.

Many employees tend to believe that the onus is on the organisation to provide sufficient “benefits” so as to provide the employee a balance between work and other commitments, such as shorter work weeks or working hours.

But many employees tend to ignore the fact that “work-life balance” is a relatively new concept, and historically the “balance” has always weighed in more favourably for “work”, especially for men.

I think that Jack Welch showed great insight when he wrote in this book Winning:

The fact is: work-life balance concerns are actually a luxury — “enjoyed” largely by people who are able to trade time for money and vice versa. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Korean grocer who just opened his shop in New York doesn’t worry about whether he has time to get to the gym, just as you can be absolutely certain that 99 percent of the entrepreneurs in China’s huge emerging competitive workforce don’t wring their hands about working late every night.

The Conversation is the Relationship

The following abstract is taken from the book Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott:

During a keynote speech at TEC International’s annual conference several years ago, [David Whyte] suggested that in the typical marriage, the young man, newly married, is often frustrated that this person with whom he intends to enjoy the rest of his life seemingly needs to talk, yet again, about the same thing they talked about last weekend. And it often has something to do with their relationship. He wonders, Why are we talking about this again? I thought we settled this. Couldn’t we just have one huge conversation about out relationship and then coast for a year or two?

Apparently not, because here she is again. Eventually, if he is paying attention, it occurs to him, Whyte suggests, that “this ongoing, robust conversation he has been having with his wife is not about the relationship. The conversation is the relationship.”

Examination Results

I just received my examination results, and miraculously I managed to improve on my grades from last semester.

I’d like to thank all who have supported me.

Thanks mom, for always believing in me (though I’m sure you must have had some doubts as I’d had throughout the past semester).

Thanks Li Shya, for supporting me throughout the examinations — justifying the saying that behind every man is a great woman!

Thanks Wei Hao, for the car, and the laughs, and just providing respite from the “great woman” behind me.

And thanks to the lecturers and tutors, including Brad Turner who assisted me in my tutorial marks so late into the semester, and also to Dr. Doina Olaru whom I have learnt so much from, especially for her passion and enthusiasm even when faced with some of the most unresponsive of us.

The Prejudice Against Age

Being relatively young, I’ve never really given much thought to if and why older workers tend to be laid off first during an economic downturn. Perhaps due to the availability heuristic, the technical term referring to the assignment of higher probabilities to events more easily recalled, I seem to recall it being so.

I’m currently reading Jack Welch’s book Winning. In one of the chapters, he talks about this thing called differentiation. Some of you may be familiar with the term as it is used in marketing, meaning to compare the differences between groups of products or ideas, emphasising these differences, and putting them through different treatments.

In his book he calls out for two types of differentiation: “software” (people) and “hardware” (products). He focuses on “software”.

I suppose in a nutshell, you could also say that what he calls “differentiation” in terms of people is also what people more often refer to as a meritocracy, in that the returns that you get (in terms of salary or bonuses or other job perks) are based on merit, like your on-the-job performance.

One of things that he points out is that many companies do not carry out such differentiation. People are often treated the same — it doesn’t matter if you’re a stellar performer bringing in most of the sales for the company, or if you’re a soon-to-be-expired worker going through the motions and waiting for retirement.

Many companies, he says, keep their under-performers because of emotional reasons. It may just be that the employee is “such a nice person”, or that the employee may have been at the organisation for such a long time that it becomes very difficult to fire him.

And because there’s no honest performance evaluation (since people are not rewarded due to merit, but given the same benefits), everyone’s evaluation comes back as “good” or “great”, and no one really knows where he or she stands. No one, that is, until an economic downturn.

During an economic downturn, because there’s no room for sympathies, employers tend to release these under-performers first.

I’m thinking that a great proportion of these under-performers of whom the company is reluctant to release is made up of older workers, people who have been with the company for a long time and who may have built many social networks within it.

The younger ones, no matter how nice, are easier to lay-off during times of economic normalcy (or upturns), if they’re found to be under-performing.

Might this then be a contributing factor to higher-than-normal lay-offs for older workers during economic downturns?

Writing for a living

I was just thinking how nice it would be to write for a living — not fiction works, for that’s not something I’m either good at nor really passionate about, but non-fiction, self-improvement, finance literature, of which I am rather passionate about and am pretty interested in.

The problem here of course is that as much as the market is a pretty large market, I hardly see myself (yet) as one of the better writers; as one of whom has much experience or value-added thoughts to add to the already saturated world of self-improvement and financial literature.

And so I decide to not do it.

But after making the decision, I suddenly feel a little lost, and not quite knowing what else to do, especially with my free time.

I should really go get a job, one that allows me (at least in part) to do what I love. And then perhaps after some time spent in the finance sector I’ll be able to come back to freelance in writing, and actually feel like I’ve got something to offer.

Feeling like a Retiree

I’ve been back in Singapore for about half a week now, and I must say that I feel absolutely like a retiree — but one that hasn’t got much of a clue what to do.

During the exams itself, there was much to do: which is just about anything that doesn’t involve studying. Now that the exams are over I’m feeling pretty aimless, and lethargic, and totally unmotivated to do just about anything.

I have decided to catch up on some reading, but even then these reading episodes don’t last as long as I’d have liked them to. And another problem: I’m not too sure what to read.

I suppose one of the things that I probably should do is to find out what I want out of life. I want to live my life such that when it comes to times like these, where I do not have any clear “external” goals, I’ll still have something to work toward.

Something intrinsically worth working hard for: I think that’s what I’m looking for.