S07E13: Resilience

We talked about resilience at work, and I went completely over the top dramatic and wrote – I dunno, something a bit grand about human beings and resilience. It’s very West Wing, and I mean that in the best and worst way. Read it way down below, or as we old internet people say, after the jump.

I finished Day 16 of the Advent of Code challenge which, given it’s May, means I probably have not won the Advent of Code challenge. Nonetheless I’m happy with it. Well, mostly happy with it. The next day looks amazingly, stupidly complicated. It’s the Game of Life (which I’ve done before, as a performance piece) but in three dimensions. I think it’s going to grow exponentially, so I’ll need to find some shortcuts. Code puzzles! Pointless games where you win nothing but the joy of working them out.

Late edit: I did Day 17 part one! And it was, as expected, quite tricky. I think there’s a lot of extra nonsense in my existing solution, and I think I need to cache some of the answers in order to manage the second section this side of the heat death of the universe – because section two asks the exciting question “what if four dimensions”, and my brain has squidged out of my ears.

Four dimensional objects are impossible to portray in our three dimensional universe. The most well-known of these objects is a hypercube: a cube inside another cube. It’s representative of the fact that brains might perceive the four-dimensional object as a small cube some of the time and a big cube at other times but, get this, it’s the same cube.

If you can get your brain around this, then you start imagining human beings as hypercubes. Flesh and bones and blood all sort of…superimposed on each other, or else like an enormous sausage that reaches back to the moment of their birth…


Anyway, I am feeling buoyed up by my rapid success with code puzzles. Hurrah for being able to monetize that particularly useless skill.

Specifically, I’m excited to bring it to bear on some fairly automatable tasks in neighbouring teams. I’m running some office hours for colleagues to drop in and ask me questions. Someone finally has and it looks like a nice, simple, generalisable problem. This almost certainly means it isn’t and I’ll lose so, so many hours to it – but it’ll be nice to do something good for colleagues.

I’ve also got a little bit more fiddling around to do this weekend with something open source. It’s been a real eye-opener. If you’re building something new I really do think you should be building it on serverless. I can’t understand why you wouldn’t: it scales endlessly, it’s cheap, and you don’t have to worry about operations. If I were to go back to writing code, I think I’d be unbearable. Unless I was using serverless.


This week I’ve been receiving responses to a document I wrote. Some of the comments deal with hypotheticals, others with tangentially related issues, and still others point out drafting errors or logical inconsistencies. All of these things are incredibly valuable – even of they’re not valuable to this specific documents, I’m getting a fantastic insight into how people are thinking about this issue and that’s an amazing gift.

I’ve written that completely honestly, but it’s also taken me a little while to get to that place. I definitely grumbled a bit the first time someone gave a comment that wasn’t absolutely related to the work, but I’m trying hard to be more positive and to see the silver lining. I genuinely think it’s something I can train myself into.

If I can choose kindness, I’m gonna.

Human beings are not particularly resilient. We can’t withstand increases or decreases in air pressure. We can’t survive long in water. If it’s too cold, we die; and if it’s too hot, we also die. If you were to line up all the mammals and ask an alien which was the dominant lifeform, we wouldn’t even place in the top three.

Despite that, we have spread everywhere in the world and beyond it to the stars. We have beaten back plagues, disasters, and the music of Rick Astley. Crabs have evolved independently six times, but they are yet to make the Great Leap Forward (Sideways?). What differentiates us? What gives us this resilience to a world that seems determined to wipe us out?

The answer is in a femur that healed. Your femur – your thighbone – is absolutely essential. Ask my father-in-law, who slipped and fractured his only two weeks ago. In the ‘real world’, a broken femur is death. You can’t hunt, you can’t get to water. You’ve not stopped breathing, but you’re dead nonetheless. My father in law is not dead: he is, in fact, texting me from a pub where he’s enjoying a pint in his wheelchair.

We are resilient, not as individuals, but as people bound together with bonds of love, with bonds of duty. Whether you take the Roman symbol of fascies or the Bantu word ‘ubuntu’, I am because we are, the truth is a femur that heals. We are resilient because we stand with each other, for each other. If we cannot stand on our own, we lean on others, and together we move forward. To be resilient is to change and adapt; to let others take the lead when we can go on no further; to permit yourself to be carried by those who take on faith the promise that you will carry them in time.

What have I learned? I have learned that I can depend on the love of those close to me and the kindness of strangers. And through those things I have a renewed faith in our resilience.

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