Friday, March 9, 2012

Protocol Based Lifestyle

I've had some cool mentors throughout my working life. Sadly, I never worked under a coding master, but I did have a few mentors in other aspects of my professional (heh, and personal) development.

One such mentor was Master Juffy (Jeffrey Parker). He taught me both indirectly (through his many jokes, stories and real-life examples (occasionally (and most hilariously) illustrating what not to do)) and directly through his protocols.


Juffy had protocols for all aspects of his working and home life. We had Lift Protocol clearly stipulating that those on the lift alight before those standing outside attempt to get on. There was Coffee Protocol wherein the first staff member to arrive at work in the morning was responsible for putting on the first carafe of coffee; and the closely related Refill Protocol requiring the staff member who drained the last drop of coffee from the carafe to put on a new one.

We had many such colourful and humorous protocols, almost all created by Juffy to maintain a happy workplace atmosphere. Exemplary among them was Fuck Off Protocol. This afforded any staff member who was feeling the pinch of a deadline to coldly say, "Fuck off!" to anyone who interrupted them without causing hard feelings, insult or injury to the audience. And it worked. We understood that there was no malice in those words; it was the protocol - the right thing to do at the time. And we were glad for the comfort of it.

Dumb Protocol

One of the more amusing (and often used) protocols was Dumb Protocol. This protocol was prompted by Juffy's then 3 year old boy. Whenever the child had detected that a human inefficiency had just occurred, he would loudly proclaim to the room, Dumb! Dumb! Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!!! He usually operated in broadcast fashion like this, but he had a point-to-point protocol as well, like when Juffy made a goof at home: Dumb, daddy! Dumb!!!

Sadly, my work took me away from the cultivated cloister of Juffyland, but I always remembered my Protocol Based Living lessons learned under the tutelary Master Juffy.

My Modern Protocols

My girlfriend, being a nerd like me, was an agile adopter of the Protocol Based Lifestyle. Between us, we have our house and daily routines whipped in to shape with a poignant pack of protocols. Washing Protocol: clothes (yes, separated, darks from lights) are placed in to the washing machine throughout the week and only when it is filled is it started (always checked at around 6am when I get up). Loo Protocol: succinctly (and colourfully) expressed with the pithy poem - if it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down. Shower Protocol: household members stagger their showers (typically around dinner and the evening vids) sufficiently far apart from one another so as to allow the hot water heater time to do so, affording hot showers for all in the house. Kettle Protocol: Our gas kettle has a little flip lid over the spout that serves no real purpose other than disrupting the flow of water when poured so as to spill messily over the tabletop and avoid wetting the insides of the cup beneath it (yes, we learned quickly to flip it out of the way before pouring from it, but only after painting several puddly portraits). As you'll read below, we have a real need in this part of the world to be certain that the water in the vessel has indeed been boiled. Kettle Protocol requires us to flip that spout lid as soon as it's boiled, advertising its availability for all approaching suitors. And I could go on with many more protocols that keep our lives running smoothly and often humorously... but let's talk about the birth of a new protocol:

Urn Protocol

We have a new electric push-button urn with a little indicator light that shows when it is re-boiling. This can be a bit hard to see, especially when your mind is still trying to parse that last piece of hairy newLISP or decide what it's going to enjoy for dinner. One weekend a few years ago in Chiang Mai (Thailand) my girlfriend and I helped ourselves to the hostel's urn for a nice cup of hot coffee each. It wasn't, though. Hot, I mean. But we foolishly finished our coffees anyway and spent the next three days violently spraying various smelly liquids out of both ends all over the walls and floors of our poor, rented, little bathroom. Lesson learned - in Asia, let the urn come to the full boil before drinking from it. Which brings me back to our swanky new push-button urn... That little indicator light just wasn't enough to warn us that she wasn't yet done boiling our water for us... We tipped out several cups of coffee & tea before realising we were in desperate need of a New Protocol. It has a swinging handle which rests at the back of the unit when not in use. If rotated all the way forward it actually sits across the control panel, preventing access to the pour button. Awesome! That's our re-boiling indicator! There's the birth of Urn Protocol: When the handle is forward and the little red light is on, the unit is not safe to drink from; wait. When refilling the urn, rotate the handle forward to show that it's not yet potable. When finding the urn with its handle rotated forward AND the little green ok-to-drink-now light is on, rotate the handle back out of the way and drink happily knowing the bathroom walls will be dry tonight.

Protocol Based Lifestyle

We can go months without creating any new protocols, or several new ones might appear in a week, as needed. We sometimes review old protocols and discard ineffective ones for more efficient ones. If something goes wrong we analyse it with an eye to crafting a new protocol around it to prevent subsequent recurrence. This is how we live our Protocol Based Lifestyle. I heartily recommend it to any erudite nerd attending this now... Adoption Protocol.

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