The Lion, the Fish, and Objective C
“What does that guy do?” I know many people on the island wonder about that. Norwegians tend not to be openly nosy. Only a few people directly asked me, and my first answer is, “I’m spending a lot of time with my children.” Well, an obvervant person would see that the children are in school, save for one daddy day — which is really one half-day — for each child. Altogether, I have about 25 hours of time a week entirely to myself, for doing whatever I want.
How I spend my free time differs from week to week, but I’ve managed to roughly follow the schedule I set out. Recently, my free time went to the lion, the fish, and Objective C. The lion is the mountain that I hike at 2-3 times a week, dropping 3 inches from my waist. The fish, well, is catching fish, followed by cleaning, filleting, and possibly salting and drying. And Objective C is the programming language for writing iPhone apps. Last week my 25 hours of free time got split pretty much equally among these 3 things.
When I was younger, I did a lot of programming. I made pocket money through college by doing it part time, and I was a programmer for my first two jobs after college. 16 years ago, I stopped. The main reason is that being inside the world of computer code for the entire day made me feel distant from the world of people, which is not a good thing because I’m an introvert to begin with. So I decided to switch to a job in which there is more people interaction. I think I made the right decision, but every now and then, I miss coding.
Many people who read this blog programmed before or still do. You know why I’m using my sabbatical time to write code. To us nerds, programming is deeply satisfying. Like architecture, programming is a perfect blend of form and function. There is a lot of aesthetics in writing good code, and your code can accomplish something useful. Unlike architecture, however, a programmer can single-handedly conceive, design, and build a computer program. In this sense, a programmer is like a writer. You and your paper, or your word processor, is all you need for creation; Your imagination is the limit.
A day spent programming is a day of solving many interlocking puzzles, big and small. Sometimes, it’s figuring out how something works. Sometimes, it’s an exercise of pure logic. Solving these puzzles gives the programmer a steady stream of jolts of happiness. The satisfaction is genuine and instantaneous, because you know right away whether something you wrote works. With business strategy, on the other hand, you may not know the outcome of your decision for a long time, and even if the outcome is good, you still don’t know if it’s something you did, or it’s pure dumb luck. Not so with programming.
When will my iPhone app be done? May be in a month or two. The arctic winter will overthrow the tyranny of good weather: there’ll be plenty of time to be inside at my desk coding away without feeling guilty.