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Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane

by clintp (Curate)
on Jan 17, 2002 at 18:48 UTC ( #139515=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Every programmer does this: at some point in working on a problem, you begin to thrash. The exhaustion and mental tension begin to creep up and completely overtake any chance you have at making progress on a problem. You can solve it -- just not right now. Adding caffeine doesn't help, nor would consulting a technical manual. Your brain needs to take 5 and regroup.

So you take a break. I don't mean you get on a plane and head to Disney World. I'm talking about something you do at your desk, in your cubicle, in the hallways of your office. How do you put your analytical mind on the shelf and mentally check out for a while?

Personally I do any of the following: bounce a ball, play with a yo-yo, go for a long walk in the big blue room, take a catnap leaning back in my chair...

What do you do?

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Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by japhy (Canon) on Jan 17, 2002 at 18:57 UTC
    When I worked on Wall Street, a common distraction from the worries of work was the foozball table. We'd play once every couple of hours; I was usually lucky and played twice as often as everyone else, because I'd play sessions with the programming group (from my floor) as well as some assorted friends from two flights up. (Sneaky.)

    There was also the view. I could walk outside and stroll around the Broadway/Wall St. intersection. I could see the World Trade Center as I entered my bank. I could stroll to South Street Seaport.

    And, of course, there's IRC. The stress-away-from-stress, as it were. Whenever I'm having trouble focusing on my own programming tasks, I can always help someone else have trouble with theirs. ;)

    Jeff[japhy]Pinyan: Perl, regex, and perl hacker.
    s++=END;++y(;-P)}y js++=;shajsj<++y(p-q)}?print:??;

(RhetTbull) Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by RhetTbull (Curate) on Jan 17, 2002 at 20:16 UTC
    Two words: Nerf Wildfire

    Nothing like unloading a full clip of 20 nerf darts into a coworker (or your monitor/computer/whatever) to take the edge off.

    I have 6 Nerf Wildfire's so I can pass them out and we can play "Capture the flag" in the hallway. "Shoot the bosses" is another fun game. :-)

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by dthacker (Deacon) on Jan 17, 2002 at 20:26 UTC
    I've been known to:
  • heave nerf balls at flowcharts/project charts
  • go outside and walk around the building
  • make bad jokes in the Chatterbox
  • sing along loudly to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (can only be done when co-workers are gone)
  • play air guitar and/or air drums to some loud uptempo music(also done when co-workers are gone)

    The key for me is to do something physical to allow the brain a brief vacation.


Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by grep (Monsignor) on Jan 17, 2002 at 22:21 UTC
    I like to talk Ovid into a game of Stick Hockey and roundly stomp him into the ground :)

    grep> cd pub
    grep> more beer

      Yeah, yeah, yeah. What grep didn't bother to mention was the image I have on my desktop. It's a picture of me with a demonic look on my face (nothing new there), creaming him at Stick Hockey. I was down 6-0 in the last period and beat him 7-6 :) So far, that appears to be our company's record for the best comeback.


      Join the Perlmonks Setiathome Group or just click on the the link and check out our stats.

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by count0 (Friar) on Jan 17, 2002 at 21:09 UTC
    First off let me say RhetTbull, you have it made!!
    I would love to work in a place like that =) ... or even a place with people in my age/maturity range (early 20s).
    But alas, I work with stuffy middle-aged commodities/futures traders, so wild wacky stress relief is out of the question.

    We have absolutely beautiful grounds here at the office complex, however - with a lake, plenty of trees, and some wildlife even. So needless to say, I click off my monitor and take a walk outside where I can free my mind of debugging messages, hardware limitations, 8-level derefrencing -- and it helps to smoke a pack of cigarettes ;)

    Whenever possible though, that unbearable level of frustration/exhaustion/tension should be avoided!
    I find it helpful to take periodic short breaks - stepping out for a quick smoke, reading the Newest Nodes, dropping into #Perl, reading the news.
    Aside from those times you get deep into a coding trance, these quick, but frequent distractions can help keep you out of the asylum. =)

    Update: fixed broken tags.
Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by stefan k (Curate) on Jan 17, 2002 at 20:39 UTC
    While I was at the university I often did some plain HTML stuff on my website. Nowadays I usually call a colleague and we head for the kitchen (tee, coffee, cappucino) and have a good laugh at what ever comes to our minds. Of course simple and addictive computer games are always fun (mahjongg, or even better shanghai-great moments from activision - has anybody run this under wine? Would be cool for me since I don't have a win box).

    Surfing the net usually makes things worse for me, since I get kinda uneasy by it. It would be cool to do something that I'll have to move for (more than just going to the kitchen), but, well, no, that's simply not it *g*.

    Regards... Stefan
    you begin bashing the string with a +42 regexp of confusion

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by frag (Hermit) on Jan 17, 2002 at 20:24 UTC
    I try to get away from sitting stuck in front of the monitor, the printouts, and the books. When you're stuck in a mental set, change as much as possible about your setting. It doesn't have to be the big blue room, but walking or moving somewhere helps. And when it gets really frustrating, exercise is great.

    -- Frag.
    "It's beat time, it's hop time, it's monk time!"

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by dws (Chancellor) on Jan 17, 2002 at 22:45 UTC
    What do you do?

    Go outside, take a walk, and let the body get some sunlight. There's a reservoir nearby that gets good drop-in traffic from migrating birds. Watching them for a few minutes is a great way to clear the brain.

    Though since I'm a manager, I sometimes make do with shifting my tension on to others. :)

    "Incoming Management! Duck!"

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by greywolf (Priest) on Jan 17, 2002 at 21:38 UTC
    I like to turn to my right and call my co-worker a Bad Monkey. Sometimes I even call him an Ass Clown. After he defends himself by calling me names we will both have a good laugh and then get back to work.

    As I write this somebody threw a piece of paper over the wall. He missed me because his aim really sucks.

    mr greywolf
      In reply to mr greywolf, the ass clown comments are good, the bad monkey comments are damn funny, but the silly rabbit whack jobs comments are probably the best to beat the time when the only other possible solution to ease your mind would be to smash your head against the wall. (In a side note, we even have a news article on the wall of our web closet about a bad monkey jail, so go figure!)
Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by little (Curate) on Jan 17, 2002 at 19:12 UTC
    As japhy said, talk to other people
    or as I like to do as well, play a game that doesn't require much of thinking, eg. Q3A fg

    Have a nice day
    All decision is left to your taste
Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by FoxtrotUniform (Prior) on Jan 17, 2002 at 22:43 UTC

    Depends on the place. At work, I usually take a quick break to read web comics, The Onion, or other time-wasters. (High-powered nerf weaponry is on my to-do list.) Sometimes it helps to work on another unrelated problem; if I'm thrashing on a DB issue, I might switch to something graphics-related. Or I can SSH home and play rogue.

    At home, I have more options. Playstation 2, idiot box, computer games (rogue is excellent for that sort of thing, since it's fairly brainless and you die quickly), guitar, arseloads of books, a wide selection of pubs within a ten minute walk, whatever. (That reminds me; when I get a decent amp, I should pick up a cheap guitar and set it up with the old amp in my office. Oh. Headphones. Sure.)


      No, you die quickly. Speak for yourself on matters rogue-like.

      Speaking for myself, I don't die quickly ;).

        I should've qualified that: one dies quickly in rogue compared to a fairly good game of nethack.

(ichimunki) Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by ichimunki (Priest) on Jan 18, 2002 at 00:54 UTC
    Go home. Go to bed. Read a book about something technical but different. Take a shower. And maybe set a deadline (works assuming the brain is already familiar with the problem and can have some relaxed time in between learning about the problem and having to solve it). Chit-chat on Perl Monks. And 75% of the time, if I start writing the problem as an email to a mailing list or a post to a site like PM or to a newsgroup, by the time I'm done I've solved the problem on my own, because I had to explain so much of it anyway or I've double-checked part of a manual I hadn't thought to look at before.
Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by ignatz (Vicar) on Jan 17, 2002 at 22:43 UTC
    I've gotten into the habit of inviting coworkers on a smoke-break, even though I don't smoke. It's fun to stand in front of the building, shoot the s$%# and watch people go by.
Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by chaoticset (Chaplain) on Jan 17, 2002 at 23:47 UTC
    I usually come here. *G* This seems more...recreational, in a way. Also, I feel that if I expose myself in casual-thinking mode to lots of idioms and perl-think, it'll help me with understanding idioms and perl-think later when I'm trying to see through code.

    Also, I tend to go over to, just to see what everybody else is doing. You can't know what's going to be in a journal entry; most of them range from two dry little sentences to great scads of personal information, or little funny notes, etc., so it's both work-related and casual.

    You are what you think.

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by poqui (Deacon) on Jan 17, 2002 at 23:28 UTC
    I like to make gluep (borax, water and elmer type glue... lots recipies on the web).

    It dries semi clear, looking quite snotlike, especially if you add a little yellow or green food coloring.

    I also have a 12 inch Tie fighter pilot figurine, and I like to slime him with the gluep.

    Then there is also 'window bowling' where we set some of our smaller toys on the window sill and throw a sticky snake or an octopus (like the ones that came in capt crunch a while back) and see how many toys we can make it grab and topple. the little 3 inch R2D2 and 2 inch princess Leia and a 3 inch robot from 'Lost in Space' are the favorite targets.

    Its funny, but alot of techie types are jugglers too, at least around here in Colorado, and sometimes we juggle together.
Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by mdillon (Priest) on Jan 17, 2002 at 22:17 UTC
    All these sober responses... I'd say go smoke a joint, man.
      If only we had Amsterdam style coffee houses here in the states ...

      Of course, nothing beats good 'ole rigorous excercise to really cast those frustration demons out.


      (the triplet paradiddle)
      JUST SAY NO!


Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by trs80 (Priest) on Jan 18, 2002 at 07:59 UTC
    I work out of my house for the most part and have found the
    thing for me is to go to the kitchen table with a piece of paper
    and a pen or if I am really desperate a pencil. Then I stare
    at the paper for about 5 minutes (or at least is seems to be,
    probably more like 5 seconds knowing me) and then I write out
    what it is I am trying to do. 95% of the time being disconneted
    from the computer is all that was needed. I think my mind gets
    wrapped up in what the machine is telling me rather then what
    I should be telling the machine.
(jcwren) Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by jcwren (Prior) on Jan 18, 2002 at 11:06 UTC

    I work out of the boat, so I turn on Cartoon Network and play with the dogs.


    e-mail jcwren

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by innerfire (Novice) on Jan 18, 2002 at 12:20 UTC

    When I've been banging on a hard problem for a long time with no results, I find it helpful to change the environment (as everyone else has been saying, go outside). Then I come back and start from scratch. (Even if your new version is broken, you can sometimes gain some insight into why the first version is broken.) Sometimes I draw pictures of the problem or data structures on paper.

    One time I worked for three days on a search algorithm and it kept having the kind of bugs that, when you fix them, cause others to appear. I finally got so frustrated I went home an hour early. When I got home, I slammed a working version out from scratch in 30 minutes.

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by moodster (Hermit) on Jan 18, 2002 at 14:39 UTC
    Staying in front of the computer (for IRC, Unreal och PerlMonks etc.) doesn't work for me when I'm stuck. And I'm usually too obsessed to tear myself away from my workplace. So for me that means that I solve most problems on my way home from work or possibly while taking a shower in the morning (a lot of great solutions have seen the light of day in that shower).

    Also, I try to cut down on the coffee. It makes you feel focused, yes, but it also makes you narrow.

    -- moodster

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by Chrisf (Friar) on Jan 18, 2002 at 05:18 UTC

    I also make a habit of also having a fun project lying around to work on - a simple video game or something of that sort, whatever you enjoy programming most.

    If for some reason after trying all of the above you're still about to snap, you may have to resort to dthacker's suggestion - but only in extreme circumstances ;-).

Re: Tension Breakers -- or, how to keep from going insane
by NicS (Scribe) on Jan 18, 2002 at 06:38 UTC
    Good call ++clintp
    Unlike some lucky b*****ds here I unfortunately work in a stuffy office.
    The only real escape we get is IRC, not the boring work channels mind you.

    Man I wish I could take my nerf to work!



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