Refactoring My Evenings

When I announced to the world that we shall be spawning a child process in summer, some wags wryly advised that I sleep as much as possible between now and then. Superficially this sounds like a good plan, but for one reason and another it is proving difficult to implement.

My gainful employment keeps me occupied and entertained during the day, but the life of a software developer can be a rather sedentary one, and no matter how much I wiggle that mouse, nor how vigorously I tap the keyboard, it just doesn’t lead to me returning home feeling physically drained in the way that my coal-mining forebears probably did.

Also – I’ve given up alcohol for Lent. Well, more or less. I was more than ready to go totally cold-turkey, really I was, right up until last Friday I when I read Dr Thomas Stuttaford’s health column in The Times:

"There are good reasons why some of the Lenten, hair-shirt penances may actually harm health. Alcohol is a prime example of a substance that needs to be treated with some care, including the way it is discontinued. It is a drug and, like many drugs, can’t be stopped suddenly.

Most doctors now accept that, in moderation, alcohol prolongs life. This effect is most noticeable in drinkers of red wine. This is mainly, but not entirely, because of alcohol's effect on the arteries, the heart and the clotting mechanism. There is some small immediate effect on the arteries — a good example is the way in which a glass of whisky can sometimes relieve angina.

Alcohol’s main influence on the vascular system is long-term. Conversely, the effect on platelet stickiness, fibrinogen levels and other clotting factors is more rapid, so that a sudden change in intake alters the pattern of blood clotting and may cause disaster. Everyone fares better if they stick to the same safe amount of alcohol. To suddenly stop, when one’s daily habit has been several glasses of wine a day, could induce thrombo-embolic problems, including strokes or acute coronary arterial symptoms."

Thrombo-embolic problems? Acute coronary arterial symptoms? Strokes? All of which can be kept at bay by a regular dram of my beloved Lagavulin? Given this advice it seems that teetotalism is downright dangerous, but in the interests of a spiritual workout I suppose I'll cut down somewhat for forty days and nights.

My general evening "pattern" in recent months has been to dine with the wife, then skulk off to my office for some web-surfing, coding, or genealogical research before feeling guilty about the lack of spousal interaction and turning in for the night whenever Jocelyn does. But in recent weeks the foetus-carrying one has been retiring increasingly early, whilst I, for reasons cited above, have found myself laying awake well into the early hours.

So, it’s time to refactor my evenings a little. My new grand plan is to spend time with the wife early in the evening – I have a large pile of books that I’ve been meaning to read, which I can attack whilst we share conversation about our respective days. Then, when Joce hits the hay, I’ll hit the PC for a few hours. In my blog post regarding my MCSD.Net, I mentioned the long hot summer of 2003 when I worked late into the night learning .NET – it was one of the most technically productive times of my life, and provided the springboard and skills for leaving a lousy a job and getting a great one. I figure that if I once again harness these extra hours when the world is otherwise quiet, I can boost my skills further.

It's tough being a generalist these days – there are so many technologies out there and so little time during the working day to get to know them. So, I really need some undisturbed hours to get to grips with ASP.NET AJAX, LINQ, VS Orcas, IIS7, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk 2006. There’s plenty there alone to keep me occupied until junior makes an appearance.

Also, I have some coding projects on the go right now, which will never get finished unless I devote more time to them. Plus the genealogy, of course, and always some starred messages in Gmail requiring attention. And then there’s the blogging – ah yes, the blogging. I could really use some extra time to expand my witterings hereon. What shall I write about first? John tells me that the sure-fire path to the blogging aristocracy is to write at length and with passions about one's hair... hmmm...