Micromanaging will be the Death of Me

By: Danny Geisz | January 5, 2020

Project: XFA Genesis

Shalom, brethren. I have spent this week of winter recess in Arizona with my family, which means I have had time to obsessively build the XFA site. I understand that many of you readers may not be programmers, but let me tell you, if you’re looking for a hot, passionate night of shameful pleasure, learn Python and then build a web app with the Django framework. I can barely contain my feelings toward Django. It is juicy, juicy sauce. If you are in fact a programmer, and have previously used Django in your endeavors, I’m sure you share my sentiment.

My compulsive programming this week has also been a time of self-learning for me. I know all you readers care deeply about even the most minute details of my work life, so I won’t hold anything back. Actually scratch that, I am going to hold some stuff back. Otherwise, many of you might be concerned I’m an egotistical sociopath, which isn’t good for business. Anyways, I have specifically been paying attention to my micromanaging tendencies. When building a web app you generally have to keep track of several moving parts (models, views, CSS styling, whatnot), and I very much tend to spend far too much time perfecting small details when much larger pieces aren’t in place. For example, you know how sometimes you go to a news or blog site that only displays part of an article, and then the text fades out with a “Read More,” button at the bottom? For some reason, I had a spontaneous love affair with incorporating that effect on the XFA site, and I honestly think I spent an hour (“…A full hour!” –Crazy Craig) getting everything right. Now, this wouldn’t have necessarily been the end of the world, except for the fact that the entire site looks like garbage right now because I haven’t started styling the site yet. The engaged reader might be tempted to ask the question, “Why oh why, Danny, did you spend so much time perfecting the text fade away effect when you haven’t even started styling yet?” Well, my wonderfully engaged reader, I don’t really have a good answer for you, aside from the fact that I derive an irrationally large amount of utility from having perfect control over small details. Some might say I’m a perfectionist. Others would be wrong.

I think because I’ve spent the last five years mostly doing physics (not hard stuff like QFT or GR or String Theory. I’m not Wolfram sigh) I’ve generally been rewarded for being cripplingly OCD about the minute details of derivations. However, recently I have been attempting to tackle more complex theories (the hard stuff like QFT and GR), and I have been running into issues because I tend to spend way too much time trying to understand the incredibly minute details of every equation instead of trying to grasp the central tenets of the theories. It's also hard because the minute details of the mathematical theory usually give me the most pleasure (the details are a bit fuzzy, but at one point I believe I was accused of having romantic feelings for eigenvalues. I can’t say that’s too far off the mark. Honestly, eigenvalues are the Django of basic linear algebra). The issues I’ve been having with these theories specifically have genuinely caused me to wonder if my brain is already slowing down, but I think it’s far more likely that my perfectionist tendencies are finally catching up to me.

So then, the ~groundbreaking~ (really pretty obvious) conclusion I’ve come to is that I have to be much more militaristic with myself when it comes to my organizational approach to learning new subjects or working on my projects. As a practical example, I will have to force myself to implement the architecture of the XFA site before I go about trying to style the thrice-fracked thing. This organizational approach is pretty obviously the best way to go, but my time of self-reflection has really showed me how shamefully unorganized I’ve been with my past projects.

As an example of this shameful, shameful behavior, for the past two semesters, I’ve been doing a research apprenticeship for the ATLAS group at Berkeley (For the uninitiated, the ATLAS detector is a detector in the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, which just so happens to be the largest particle collider in the world). I won’t go into the specifics of my projects with ATLAS, but this last semester I was primarily working with the incredibly elaborate data readout system used by ATLAS.

It’s honestly a bit painful to think back to my project this semester, because I really did a poor job learning the necessary material to do the project I was working on. The fundamental issue was that in order to understand anything about anything, you had to first develop a basic understanding of the system as a whole. This was an issue for wee physicist Danny because I’m used to reading out of a physics textbook, understanding equations line-by-line, and then watching the main ideas unfold before me like the glorious phoenixes they are. When confronted with a subject that wasn’t possible to learn line-by-line, I hopelessly floundered about like the weird fish in Harry Styles music video for Adore You.

The moral of the story is that if you’re a perfectionist, you’re annoying and I don’t like you. JK, we’re all friends here. The moral is that in the future, I’ve learned that I need to make a much more concerted effort to outline whatever it is I’m working toward, and only dive into the details when I can see how they support the bigger picture. Unless I’m just looking to trip out on some delicious math. Then I’ll just shamefully and giddily open Weinberg’s QFT book to the section about the topology of the Lorentz Group. Until next time, my friends.