Changing the script

I haven’t been handling change well at all this week.

It disrupts me; makes me feel unsafe. This is especially the case when I don’t have a ‘fallback’ script. And uncertainty is even worse.

So I thought I’d explain more about exactly what I mean when I say that I need a script. It’s not like learning lines in a play; more like writing computer code.

Every situation for me is like an individual macro, or series of linked macros. They run well, most of the time. Like any VBA code I write, they may not necessarily be written in the most efficient way but – assuming I have enough spare processing power – they shouldn’t cause things to run too slowly.

And in normal circumstances, that’s fine.

To illustrate this, here’s a very simplified flowchart of the script I use when I go into Brighton for a regular Saturday morning appointment (I did start writing this in code, but then thought that may be rather too niche).

getting to Brighton

When a change is introduced, it introduces a bug into the code. There’s a mental ‘error message’ and I need to work out how to fix the script.

Even if I’ve been in similar situations before, it can take a little bit of time to identify the bits of code I need to plug into the current macro. If I need to write new code, it takes rather longer.

When I’m debugging my mental macros, it helps to have binary choices. So, for example, last Saturday the train stopped for an unknown period at Preston Park station.

My ‘normal’ script says that I need to stay on the train until Brighton. But the points failure introduced uncertainty into the whole thing. I can’t deal with uncertainty, so I needed to rewrite this quite quickly. I did this through a series of choices:

Choice 1: stay on the train or leave the train

That one’s easy. Staying = uncertainty = unacceptable

Choice 2: bus or walk

A conditional decision here: if there is a bus due in 10 minutes or less then I will catch the bus, if not I will walk.

Choice 3: get off the bus or stay on for longer

This choice is more complex but I know this area of Brighton quite well, so have more data to make an informed choice. The decision is to get off the bus as soon as current time + projected walking time = appointment time.

However, some situations I can’t fix without assistance. There can be a number of reasons for this. I may not know what commands to use. The code has too many variables and I can’t keep them straight in my head. Or someone may react in a way I don’t anticipate and haven’t yet defined.

I’m still adding to my library of scripts. Completely new situations don’t come up that often. But the more scripts I accumulate, the longer it can take to find the right script. Maybe the next thing to work on is how to index more effectively; unfortunately – and this is where the analogy falls down – I don’t think it’s possible to upgrade my brain to one with a faster processor…

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