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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.

  1. Ai TomBounDin #

    “The satisfaction is genuine and instantaneous, because you know right away whether something you wrote works” – I can say almost the same after finishing my next model – now I am sewing new coats for my girls – a daughter and a granddaughter:-)
    If you do every creative work with love you’ve got the great satisfaction of the process, isn’t it?
    It looks that you write also with a lot of plasure – good writing!

    October 30, 2011
    • To create something is definitely a source of true happiness. And it’s infinitely repeatable.

      October 31, 2011
  2. John #

    Wait – you lost 3 inches off your waist in 8 weeks? Forget writing code, you need to write “The Rødøyløva Diet.” A guaranteed blockbuster!

    October 31, 2011
    • My pants don’t fit anymore. It’s been 12 years since I was this fit.
      But there’s no mystery. I went from no exercising to hiking 8 hours a week — that’s “The Rødøyløva Diet”. Who has that kind of time in normal, everyday life?
      I’m shocked though by how quickly it happened.

      October 31, 2011
  3. Kjersti #

    Winston,, your post is making me want to go hike and learn how to write code:) Instead I’m off to work on a business strategy that may or may not be implemented (ahh – the exciting world of management consulting:)

    I very much enjoy your blog and your writing.
    Say hi to Kristin and the kids from me!

    Sunshine from Boston,

    November 2, 2011
    • Nothing wrong with management consulting! Today I talked to a guy who’s about to take a data management job. It’s been 2 months since I was in that world, but the conversation got me strangely excited.

      November 2, 2011
  4. Hi Winston… or should I say “Howdy, Neighbor!” 🙂
    My name is Jeff McLean, and I’m an expat living on the island of Bolga. A friend of yours in Oslo tipped me about your living on Rodøy, so I just wanted to say hello. I also happen to be “iPhone-frelst” and would be happy to test any app you happen to write. I’m heading to the US tomorrow, but we really should have a phone chat sometime soon. It would be very cool to hear about your “Norwegian Experience”. I’ll be following your blog too.
    Happy Holidays to you and your family! God Jul og Godt Nytt År!
    Hilsen fra Bolga,
    Jeff McLean

    December 15, 2011

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