An

a day keeps the doctor away
Everything here is my opinion. I do not speak for your employer.
April 2005
May 2005

2005-04-02 »

Blue Man Group

At a suggestion from mich, I went to see Blue Man Group while I was visiting New York this week. They're really good. And, like I've heard from other people, awfully hard to explain.

The thing that struck me was how well done the whole thing was. The best acoustics I've ever heard anywhere. Really excellent synchronization of all sorts of people doing all sorts of things. (Synchronizing multiple people with that kind of sub-second accuracy really ought to be impossible.) Audience participation that actually works. Metaphysical ponderings. Streamers. Paintballs. Flying toblerone. And all executed amazingly well. So go see it.

I have no idea if they're the same as the Blue Men in Las Vegas, but I bet the acoustics are different there.

On Perfect Execution

All that makes me think.

For the last few years I've repressed my perfectionist streak, the idea being that it's better to successfully do lots of very good things than attempt to do a single thing perfectly and then fail. I think I can trace this back to first year university, when my marks changed from formerly being "let's see if we can get 100%" to "I sure hope I pass this exam." It's also the first year I ever heard of "diminishing returns," which is really the most fundamentally important concept in all of engineering. Computer Science people, and artists for that matter, don't hear about it much. It's a simple concept: if the last 10% of the work takes 90% of the effort, then you can often just skip doing that part. Your test scores, for example, will still be about 90%. And it really works, but it's not very fulfilling.

I tend to judge my work and other people's work on different scales; a kind of double standard. A lot of work that I mostly consider fine when done by someone else wouldn't really be acceptable to me if I did it. And since I'm delegating more and more work all the time, my overall happiness with the result tends to suffer. With years of effort, products get more and more complete and useful but less and less perfect.

People who know me know that I can be a bit harsh sometimes when I'm disappointed in some piece of work. The real problem, though, is how little time I have to criticize (constructively, one would hope) the many little details that really deserve it.

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