It’s Time for Time Management

Following a couple late assignments, an ill-prepared presentation or two, and countless nights spent working late because I had procrastinated away the evening, the time has come for me to be held accountable for my own time management.

Oh, what to do? Time management is something I’ve had a very hard time with, for a very long time. My thorough, colour-coded calendar and notes work wonders for staying organized, but there’s only so much colour-coding one can do before running into the issue of time. After school and on weekends, my time is a lot less structured than at school – I work not until the bell, but until my work is done. In recent years (and especially at Propel), my workload has shifted from a bunch of short assignments to a collection of ongoing projects. Since that kind of work can never be “done” in my eyes, I’ve developed a bad procrastination habit. Since I know I’ll work until the moment I go to bed no matter what, I spend time right after school (and on weekends, entire mornings) doing anything but working. Starting to work later leads to late nights spent working, perpetuating the cycle and often leaving assignments not-quite-finished out of sleepiness as a result.

How can I solve this, then? Well, I’m going to directly contradict what I said about how my amazing calendar and notes can only do so much. My plan is to take the to-do lists I already make, and make them more precise. It’s just like what we learned with the fourth credit logs! My future to-do list for my project will look something like this:

  • Write documentation for the functions of PlayerSprite
  • Add arrow key movement
  • Replace placeholder graphics with Shae’s art
  • Research fixes for display resizing issue
  • Write description of most likely fix so I don’t forget about it later

Compare to (a slightly exaggerated version of) what I use currently:

  • Work on project

This strategy, I hope, combined with shifting my free time from right after school to right before bed, will get me to manage my time better, leading to less late nights. Who doesn’t want that?

 

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Long Time No See…

Open a file on your computer, I dare you.
It can be anything – a picture of you and your best friend, your resume, your favourite song. Just find it on your computer, and open it.

Simple, right? You probably opened your computer’s file manager and navigated to the folder you knew the file was in, or maybe, if you were lucky (or disorganized, really), it was just sitting there on your desktop.

You’d think that opening a file would be child’s play for a computer programmer like me. You’re about to see how wrong you are.

A bit of background – for my project, I’m working with Nick, Shae, and Hannah to produce a demo for our upcoming video game, Project Tribute. Within this team, I am leading the coding and level design. This demo will feature a portion of the full game’s story, an area for the player to explore, and a prototype of the game’s battle system. After Propel, we’ll continue developing the game until its release in 2018.
Another bit of background – there’s a reason I’m the only one talking about it. For everyone on the team but myself, Project Tribute is a secondary project, playing second fiddle to the one they’re getting a credit for. I’ll have the support of 5+ people come summer, when we all start getting serious about the game’s development, but for now, I’m on my own. To make matters worse, neither of the teachers know all that much (anything) about programming in Python.
Have I characterized myself enough? I’m a tad bit isolated. When it’s just you and your keyboard against the world, you’re bound to run into some struggles… like opening a file.

The file I was looking for was the game’s logo. I had the bright idea to move it into its own folder for organization’s sake. I didn’t think that moving one file would cause any problems, but any good programmer always re-runs their program after making any changes. After all, you never know what’ll break everything! Imagine my surprise when I ran the game and saw not my glorious temporary logo, but a big fat error message, its red text on a black background like a punch in the gut.
It wasn’t a very ambiguous message – the computer was complaining that it couldn’t open the file. Apparently, it couldn’t comprehend the existence of files that weren’t in the same folder as the code.

After quite a bit of googling, I found out that I can get to the coveted file by typing out the full path to it. I followed the instructions I found, and ta-da! It worked!

This newfound peace of mind didn’t last long, as it occurred to me that this code will only ever work on my computer. Remember, I typed out the exact path to that file, weaving through my personal documents folder. Unless every single person who plays Project Tribute has the same name as me and stores the game in a folder labelled Propel, it won’t work for anyone but me!

After hours of trial and error, I found an amazing command: os.path.dirname(__path__)

See that? I wouldn’t blame you if you have no idea what it does but see how the word “path” is in there not once, but twice? This command, it turns out, is exactly what I was looking for! It automatically outputs the path to the main project folder, and once I had that command in my repertoire, it was just a matter of finishing the path in my code.

I asked Nick to run it on his computer, and sure enough, it worked! He wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about, seeing as nothing had changed from the user’s perspective, but I knew, deep down in my heart, that I just solved a problem that would’ve made the game literally unplayable for thousands.

Happy with the day’s work, I put down the computer and picked up my 3DS. As I booted up the system, I couldn’t help but wonder if the devs at Nintendo ever struggle with little things like this. As you read this, there might be an employee that’s struggling to polish the physics engine for the next Mario game, all because they wanted to put Mario’s hat in another folder.

Dragons’- er, I mean Tigers’ Den

A reluctant entrepreneur’s journey

Tigers’ Den wasn’t my first rodeo into the world of small business.

It all started a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. More precisely, July 2016 at the University of New Brunswick. I was a proud member of SHAD, a month-long summer camp for high school students passionate about Continue reading “Dragons’- er, I mean Tigers’ Den”

Wonderful Winter Excursion Exaction

A story about a story about a field trip

I stared at the computer screen, sweating profusely. The screen seemed to stare right back. It displayed a Word document, totally blank except for the title, Blog 1 – Winter Excursion. My eyes aching from the light, I looked down at the handbook beside the keyboard for the umpteenth time that day. It was none other than the single most important bunch of paper I’d ever use in the new semester: The Propel Handbook. It was flipped to the TELL A STORY – Assessment Feedback page. Taunting me. In an act of desperation, I read over all the tick-boxes one more time, because maybe, just maybe, I’ll get a grand stroke of inspiration in some minute detail I missed in the first thousand read-throughs.
Nothing. Yeah, turns out the solution to writers’ block isn’t to stare at the block. I stared out the window at the moon, wondering if my Propel pals were doing the same at that very moment.

I slammed my fist against the desk. Tell a Story? About what!? I knew it was supposed to be about last Friday’s winter excursion, but that field trip didn’t really offer much in terms of dramatic arcs. I iterated through my mental list of things that happened on the trip, hoping that I could think of a way to spin it in an entertaining way.
Noah’s concussion? I wasn’t there to see it. Helping Kerri walk across the ice? Heartwarming, but the entire story would span a couple of minutes. A particularly intense Chain Tag moment? Too bad I ran away from the taggers the entire time.
I collapsed into the keyboard, exhausted. It was getting late, and the epic tale I was hoping to tell was nowhere to be seen.

All hope seemed lost, when I heard a voice. “Why do you torture yourself so?”
I nearly jumped out of my chair. The voice was intimately familiar, yet I had no idea who it belonged to. I turned around to face whoever thought it would be a good idea to doubt my work ethic at 3:00 AM.
No one was there.
I sighed. I guess I was just hearing things. Maybe that voice was actually the wind ruffling the nearby trees. I turned the computer screen back on so I could get back to work.
“You search far and wide for story…” That voice again!
I needed to give the mysterious chitchatter a piece of my mind. “Geez! Can’t you see I’m working here!? I, uh, can’t work with interruptions!” I said in the general vicinity of the voice.
It continued on. “…but you do not consider perhaps, your story is in the only place you cannot observe.”
“Seriously!” I said. If this was some sort of joke, it wasn’t funny. Where are you? Who are you?”
“Fool. You can never know the answer if you do not ask the right question.”
“And I’ll never finish this assignment if you keep yapping at me!”
“If you desire to know, I will enlighten. I am nothing more than a creation of your mind, a manifestation of your emotions in this chaotic time.”
“So basically, I see Propel as a dingbat who speaks in riddles?” I paused to think about that. “Yeah. Makes sense. So… what was that thingy you were saying about my story?”
“You cannot see the future, and you are blinded by the past. You must look to the moment you know best.”
“The present? Like, you want me to write about right now?”
No response, but I could swear I heard the emotion-being-thing smile.

In that moment, it all became clear! I would write a meta-story! A story about my inability to write a story! My sleep-deprived stroke of genius had everything the teachers could ever look for in a story – a hook, developed characters, conflict, and best of all, total relevance to the winter excursion!
“Thanks, man,” I said. “Next time I’m having trouble with homework, can you, like, keep giving me hints? Maybe come a bit earlier next time?”
“I need not. The wisdom which you desire is to be found within. To unlock it, all you must do is get more sleep.”
The mysterious voice talking to me at 3 AM had a point, but I had work to do. I shook the mouse to wake the computer back up, and for once was happy to be greeted by the blank Word document. I knew exactly how my story was going to go – it would be a long-winded epic, starring me. It would have exaggeration in spades, characteristic of my wonderful sense of humour. It would have aliens! Romance! Explosions!
I started typing.
I stared at the computer screen, sweating profusely…