Rubber ducks

Have you ever been in a situation where you have a problem or a question, and simply by explaining it to another person, you find the solution yourself? And not because the other person did anything in particular...

In fact, “the other person” doesn´t even have to be a person at all. It can even be an object, like a rubber duck for example.

yellow duck toy beside green duck toy

And I say rubber duck because this is exactly the name that´s been given to this technique in the IT world: the rubber duck debugging method.

This method proves really useful when you´re programming and get stuck trying to resolve an error (or bug) that´s preventing your application from behaving as it should. The idea is to explain the situation to the rubber duck, and to do it in great detail because of course, the duck knows absolutely nothing about your application. So you have to explain the context, the exact problem you´re trying to solve, how you´re trying to solve it, the code you´ve written line by line… And very often what happens as you´re going through it with such a level of detail is that you suddenly realize where the problem is, and how you can solve it.

Super cool, right?

You might be wondering: ¿why a rubber duck? Honestly, I don’t know, maybe it all started out as a joke, but the truth is that this method is as useful as it is simple (once you get over the awkwardness of talking to a duck, or any other inanimate object of your choosing), and can be used not only for debugging code but for life in general.

I imagine this technique works so well because it forces you to take the problem out of your head and see it from the outside, from a different perspective, so you stop going about it in your head the same way again and again. Moreover, the action of going through it step by step and out loud helps you to focus on details that you may have overlooked before, that way increasing the chances of identifying the real problem and finding a solution.

What do you think? Are you willing to give it a try? Perhaps next time I see a rubber duck in a shop, I´ll buy it to keep it here by my computer :-)

Conscious songs: Unwritten

When you´re listening to music, do you pay attention to what the lyrics are saying? I do it sometimes, and to be honest, I find all kinds of things in there...

Every once in a while I´m going to share with your the lyrics of a song I particularly like. Let´s start with Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield, I hope you like it:

Original lyrics in English:

Spanish translation of the lyrics:

Life, laughter, love

Continuing with the art tour of my own house, this picture is patiently waiting for us to hang it on my bedroom wall:

Irish words for Life, Laughter, Love, written with latin alphabet and Ogham

Beatha, Gáire, Grá are the three Irish words for Life, Laughter, Love… The only one I know how to pronounce properly is Beatha [ba-ha], and it’s a word I’m very fond of, those who work with me will know why ;-)

The lines are the same three words written in Ogham, the earliest written form of primitive Irish. The Ogham alphabet has twenty letters, each represented by one or more lines, and when it´s written vertically like here, it´s read from bottom to top.

Three simple yet powerful words, written in three different ways, reminding me to pay attention to what really matters.

An unexpected present

I´m not much into sea swimming in general; I grew up inland and it´s not something I´m used to. But what I do love is walking along the beach, dipping my feet in the water. 

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of doing exactly that, as I watched a gorgeous sunset. It had been a very hot day, but at that time it had cooled down a little, and the temperature was ideal, even the water felt less cold than usual to me… Most people had already returned home, there were only a few left. And at that moment, it was all peace and quiet.

What a joy.

So there I was peacefully walking, enjoying the scenery, deep in my own world of thoughts, feeling happy for having set aside my to-do list for a little while to live the present moment (and in my head giving shape to a blog post about priorities, which I will write some other day) when another visitor of the beach took this cool picture:

Bea walking along the beach at dusk, her reflection showing in the water

An unexpected little present, and a lovely memory, thanks Sharon!

Recharged batteries

Every once in a while it´s good to have a change of scenery, even if it´s just for a couple of days, to set aside the daily routine, change perspective, and recharge batteries. This summer, for the second year in a row, I took the girls on a mini-vacation in Ireland, or using a popular expression nowadays, on a staycation (holidaying without leaving the country).

It´s really such a joy to go out and visit new places, or return to places you visited years ago... And these lockdown times have made me appreciate these opportunities more than ever. I´ve loved going back to the ring of Kerry, and we´ve had the privilege of seeing it at our own pace, without rushing, and without the endless row of tourist buses that usually invade these lands during the summer months. 

During this family trip, we´ve had a bit of everything: surprises, changes of plans, lots of music on the radio (of varying quality), lots of ice cream (and chocolate!), and above all, lots of amazing landscapes. Here´s an example, the Kerry cliffs:

View of the Kerry cliffs and the sea

So in summary, we´re bringing back a big load of good memories, enough to keep us going until the next break. And if going away on a holiday for a few days feels great, equally great is coming back home afterward :-)

After having this little rest (more of a mental break than a physical one, I must say), I´m resuming my day to day with renewed energy, especially the couple of projects I´m working on, that I´m really excited about, one of them this blog of course. I´ll keep you posted.

Fridge magnets

I´m not sure how the tradition first started, but it was a long time ago: in my family, whoever goes on a holiday usually brings back fridge magnets as souvenirs. It may seem silly, but I think it´s a nice gesture... Every time I visit my parents or siblings, I spend a good while inspecting their fridge magnets, going over the old familiar ones, and looking for new additions. I have contributed with a few of them myself, of course. And sometimes the same magnet can be found in several houses, in either the same or a slightly different version.

That is perhaps why I have a soft spot for fridge magnets, which together with my fondness of magnetic whiteboards, results in a considerable amount of magnets at home :-)

Some of them I keep always on display, some others I rotate over time. Some of them are presents from family or friends, while others are presents to myself! Today I´m leaving these three here for you, with their cool messages:

Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful
Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won´t get you anywhere
I literally love literature
  • Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.
  • Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won´t get you anywhere.
  • I literally love literature.

Being expert enough

Continuing with our art tour of the posters around my house, today I want to share with you this other manifesto. It used to inspire me some time ago, and it´s now resonating strongly with me again. I feel that, after spending over a year in a state of hibernation, the time is finally here to go out into the world again, to practice everything I´ve learned.

And what have I learnt? Among other things, that it´s not a question of having all the answers (or all the knowledge, or all the experience), but of having a genuine interest and willingness to learn, and above all, of being confident that you can do it, and that you´re going to do it well enough.

The EXPERT ENOUGH manifesto. We are all capable of so much more than we think. Most people never scratch the surface of what they´re capable of. Expertise is relative. Expertise doesn´t come from a piece of paper. Life is richest when we become good at a lot of different things. "Know'it'all", "Jack of all trades" and "Renaissance man" are compliments. LIFE IS AN EXPERIMENT. You don't have to wait for permission, and you don't need anyone else to grant you status. It's not about being the world's greatest expert. It's about being expert enough to accomplish your goals. The more you use creativity, the more you get. Brilliance lies within each of us. Go now. Live. Play. Explore. FOLLOW YOUR PASSION. Learn more. Do more. Be more.

Unfortunately there´s no Spanish version for this one, and the original website seems to have disappeared, but I can translate it here:

The EXPERT ENOUGH manifesto.
We are all capable of so much more than we think. 
Most people never scratch the surface of what they´re capable of. 
Expertise is relative. Expertise doesn´t come from a piece of paper. 
Life is richest when we become good at a lot of different things. 
"Know'it'all", "Jack of all trades" and "Renaissance man" are compliments.
LIFE IS AN EXPERIMENT. 
You don't have to wait for permission, and you don't need anyone else to grant you status. 
It's not about being the world's greatest expert. 
It's about being expert enough to accomplish your goals. 
The more you use creativity, the more you get. 
Brilliance lies within each of us. 
Go now. Live. Play. Explore. 
FOLLOW YOUR PASSION. 
Learn more. Do more. Be more.

Finding your voice

I have always thought I was not a very creative person, mostly because when I heard the word "creativity", what usually came to my mind were artistic skills like painting, design, arts & crafts... Precisely those things I was quite bad at.

Then over the years I´ve changed that perception, not because I started getting good at painting, design or arts & crafts, I´m still awful at all of them. It´s because I have realized two things:

First, that trying something once or twice and finding you´re not good at it doesn´t mean you´re never going to be good at it, it just means you don´t have enough practice (this seems really obvious when you see it written here, but it´s not always easy to see in the moment, especially when you´re used to getting other things done right the first time round without much effort)

Second, that you can be creative in so many different ways! You just need to find the creative outlet that better suits you personally. Your own way to express what´s inside you.

Your voice.

A couple of years ago I "found my voice" in the most literal sense, upon signing up for my company´s workplace choir and starting weekly practices with Nicola, our choir director. I had always liked music, but never realized before how much I really enjoy singing, it truly lifts my spirit.

Whether I´m good at it or not is another matter entirely; that will only be seen once we can reunite again and put together a performance, although I would say that that´s the least of my worries... The most important thing is how much we enjoy singing (and laughing) together as a group, and if other people also enjoy listening to us, then that´s brilliant, double reward.

Also in my life there are and have been other ways to express my creative side: during my childhood and adolescence it was dancing, when I moved to Ireland it was blogging, and when the gils were younger (and even now that they´re a bit older), you can imagine, being a parent also demands a fair amount of creativity :-)

How do you express your own creative side? Have you found your voice yet?

A sentence up on the wall

Every now and then I´m going to leave around here one of the quotes and sayings that most resonate with me. This one I saw for the first time as a child, in a magazine, and even though I didn´t fully understand it at the time, it caught my attention:

A man only possesses what he cannot lose in a shipwreck

Hindu proverb
Hook Head lighthouse, in county Wexford (Ireland), where the rocks and the mighty winds have surely caused more than one shipwreck.

This is your life

Well, here I am, starting to write blog entries again, after what feels like an eternity.

A lot can happen in eight years... Some of the topics I used to write about back then are less relevant to my life nowadays. Some others remain constant, if one can call them that, given that they also evolve over time, like life itself :-)

And what better way to begin again than with the Holstee manifest, which I have hanging in my living room, and which inspires me every time I look at it:

Holstee manifesto (Spanish)
Holstee manifesto (Spanish)
Holstee manifest (English)
Holstee manifesto (English)