Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cut and Paste Is a Deadly Sin

Cut and paste is a version of the deadly sin of Sloth. I know because it's been killing me, literally. I have been having problems at work with my technical reports. They keep being kicked back by my boss, something that was both totally embarrassing and frustrating to me. It has taken me months to figure out the common problem. When you work as long as I have in my profession, you tend to amass a great deal of information that can be "copy and pasted" into subsequent similar reports, a practice that can be quite deadly for one's reputation as an engineer. My profession requires an attention to detail, something that cannot be done with a "boilerplate"approach.

I finally figured out what my problem was when a close friend of mine, who uses boilerplate language frequently, started to piss me off a great deal (the sin of anger). There's only a couple of times I can stand listening to the same old catch phrase before someone starts to sound like a used car salesman to me. Who in their right mind trusts a used car salesman? I don't. They reek with profit, over customer service. Profit is a version of the deadly sin of gluttony. More on anger and gluttony in a later post.

Sloth is very unique in that the trait of non-activity. Sloth is "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good... [it] is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds." Thomas Aquinas

Sloth is ruled by the planetary influence of Saturn, which was very counter-intuitive me for a long time because when I think about the Saturnian associations of rules, regulations, laws and orders, I think of the legal system, which used to be associated only with "good deeds" in my mind. I used to think that until I got totally screwed by the legal system. In my mind I was thinking: "But...But...the law will protect me. I will come out ahead because I am a good person." I had to face the fact that the law does not care if I am a good person or a bad person, it does not "care" at all. Laws cannot "care". Only people care. And then I remember the tidbit of wisdom:

Unbalanced severity is cruelty and oppression.

It is the word "oppression" that is the key in the Aquinas quote and the "unbalanced severity" quote.

Laws only address issues that are codified and laws tend to be a reactionary action.

Rules do not consider unique circumstances and reactionaries tend to oppose progress.

Sloth is like the Borg in that it opposes individuality and growth outside of the boundaries. The Borg have no passion and are purely mechanical

When faced with an uncomfortable situation, it is very easy to fall back to sloth, to be lazy or to be oppressive.

So what is the solution to sloth?

Get moving. Let go. Be free.
Have passion.
Celebrate and honor individuality.
Simple, huh?


HilbertAstronaut said...

_Love_ your picture of Saturn, btw. Is that one of the Voyager probes in the foreground?

The Wikipedia article you cited talks about "boilerplate code." As a programmer, boilerplate scares me, because it is prone to errors that don't get noticed. Repeated code is an occasion for errors, because the code that the boilerplate calls may change. It's easy to miss correcting one of the many repetitions.

Boilerplate prevention happens when designing a programming interface or language. It's hard, though. Certain kinds of boilerplate become idiomatic. (Analogy from English: "for all intents and purposes.") i catch myself not even noticing them. It's hard to revise the code constantly, looking for opportunities to strip away unnecessary repetition -- especially when working in a lower-level programming language.

Wait, what was the point of this extended analogy? ;-) Oh, yes, that's right. i was going to say that there are two approaches to fighting sloth. You mentioned spontaneity -- freeing oneself from legalism and the fear of breaking rules. The second approach is that of the master craftsperson: stripping away everything that doesn't need to be there. (Think Michelangelo: "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.")

It would be a fun exercise to project these two approaches onto the Tree of Life as balances to Saturnian influences.

PhoenixAngel said...

I like to think it is a Voyager probes...

Boilerplate has been the bane of my existence because it is so prone to errors. Statewide, there has been a movement to standardize certain technical reports, which I have been against for quite some time because errors become...well...invisible... to the untrained eye and after months of being lazy with the specs, its so easy to lose that training we are so well respected for.

Yes, one would do well to get out of rut and do something different..and the journey to attaining a master craftsman is anything but ordinary

HilbertAstronaut said...

Ugh, "standardizing tech reports" sounds like boilerplate hell. i wonder if that calls for some kind of exorcism of the chthonic bureaucracy demons...