Stave off boredom with cows

Herd of cartoon cows with an empty speech bubble

Fribble: to act in a foolish or frivolous manner

We all need a little frivolity on our lives.

Every job, no matter how meaningful and rewarding, has boring tasks. And those boring bits may seem even more boring than usual these days, thanks to the cold and the pandemic. So how do we deal with them?

Some (expert) suggestions

A professor of psychology suggested these tips for dealing with boring tasks:

  • Look at the big picture. Boring tasks are part of a bigger, more meaningful picture.
  • Go zen. Get into the flow. Develop a rhythm for doing the boring task as quickly as possible while still being accurate. You may find that you enter a "flow state" where you end up completely absorbed in the task. (Lewis does this when he hangs up laundry. I just get irritated.)
  • Bribe yourself. Reward yourself with something small for completing the task, even if it is just something decadent to eat. (Chocolate rules! This is clearly my favourite tip.)

I also found a (less expert) suggestion that you should look at picture of baby animals. But that sounds like an invitation to fall down the Youtube rabbit hole watching cat videos.

What developers do when they are bored

I am going to share a deep, dark secret with you. This is what developers really do when they are bored with a task...

Da da da dum ... (drum roll)

They write silly command-line programs with weird names like cowsay and FIGlet.

I promised cows

Jo Ann was disappointed about the lack of zombies last week, so I promised cows for this week.

First a tiny bit of technical background. It's useful, especially when debugging code, to be able to output some value at the command line. (If the term "command line" is new to you: think command prompt or black DOS box.) So if you open a command-line window and type in echo hello, the echo command will display hello on the next line. You can replace "hello" with any word or phrase of your choice.

But why just display the output in normal text? Why not add a little extra spice to it?

FIGlet is a program that outputs the text as a sort of banner. So figlet hello will produce this:

❯ figlet hello
 _          _ _
| |__   ___| | | ___
| '_ \ / _ \ | |/ _ \
| | | |  __/ | | (_) |
|_| |_|\___|_|_|\___/

Why stop with fancy text? Enter the world of true ASCII art with cowsay.

❯ cowsay hello
< hello >
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

But wait, there's more! For no additional cost, you can pipe the output of figlet to cowsay. And you can add the -d switch (option) to cowsay for "dead" cow eyes:

❯ figlet hello | cowsay -d
/  _          _ _        \
| | |__   ___| | | ___   |
| | '_ \ / _ \ | |/ _ \  |
| | | | |  __/ | | (_) | |
| |_| |_|\___|_|_|\___/  |
\                        /
        \   ^__^
         \  (XX)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

PS: You will need to first install figlet and cowsay to play with this.

What does it mean?

I have no idea, but it was definitely more fun than preparing VAT returns. So I hope it helped you with your boring tasks.

Please share your thoughts - and any suggested words for next week. I've managed to include zombies and cows, so I'm open to any challenge.

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