Nested Problems

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 25, 2006

Filed under: Personal 11 comments

Thinking back to the frustration of Blender, one of the things I noticed was that I was suffering from nested difficulties. This is where, instead of solving a problem and moving forward, the solution to a problem involves a sub-problem, which in turn has its own sub-problem, and so on. A day with many problems seems rough, but it happens. A day where each attempt to solve a problem only reveals new problems is maddening, and threatens to drive me over the edge. Consider this scenario:

  • Drive to store (Get flat tire)
    • Change flat tire
  • Continue driving to store (Get another flat tire)
    • Change flat tire
  • Continue driving to store (Get another flat tire)
    • Change flat tire
  • Continue driving to store (Get another flat tire)
    • Change flat tire
  • Arrive at store

This is a bad day, to say the least. Having all four tires go flat would be frustrating, but for me it wouldn’t be as rage-inducing as getting just ONE flat tire under these circumstances:

  • Drive to store (Get a flat tire.)
    • Change flat tire
      • Bolts are stuck (Use WD-40 on bolts)
        • Get WD-40 out of glovebox. (Glovebox won’t open.)
          • Pry open glovebox with screwdriver (It’s too dark to see what I’m doing.)
            • Use flashlight – Flashlight won’t turn on.
              • Change Batteries (Get batteries from trunk)
                • Open trunk. (Can’t open it: Trunk key is bent.)
                  • Enter rampage mode.

This is far, far more frustrating to me, even though on balance I might arrive at the store sooner than if I just had the four flat tires scenario. With each new layer of nesting my anger doubles. It’s like an anger multiplier. One level deep is annoyed. Two levels deep is angry. Seven levels deep and I conclude the entire world is against me and must be destroyed. I’m sure this is how super-villians are created: They are normal guys until a day comes when they have a seven-level problem and they decide to hire an army of henchmen and build an orbital death ray.

With Blender, every problem was a five-level problem, which is why the program made me so crazy. I’d hit level five, get enraged, and storm off. Then I’d regain my composure, come back, and try something else, only to have it all happen again. So, it really was for the safety of the world that I had to give up on it.

LATER: Looking back, I think my experience with the HP Pavillion was another set of deep-nested problems.


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11 thoughts on “Nested Problems

  1. Dave says:

    could be worse… could be raining.

    Once I enter the rage mode it usually takes two more nested problems to bring the laughs back.. then I become a bit disappointed when I reach the end and start fixing things… then I wax poetically about my adventure.

    If I was a bible student I would enjoy sharing a Job-like moment.. but normally it just sucks.

  2. NeedsToHeal says:

    I get a little anxious when something doesn’t go as smoothly as I had imagined it. And you know what? It never does. Lesson learned? I’ll let you know when I’ve figured it out.

  3. Chris Arndt says:

    Backing up my software always leads to a Nested Problems day instead of the two hour boring tedious chore that I intended.

  4. Huckleberry says:

    Thanks for that. Exactly the same here, but so far I hadn’t realized what exactly it was that drives me crazy. Now I even have a name for it. Knowing my foe should make battling easier in future.

  5. Matt Tucker says:

    This reminds me of Yak Shaving.

    PS: A preview would be nice, so I could see if the link I’m trying to create works.

  6. Katrani Merack says:

    Hah. This reminds me of something the other day.

    – Mom takes me to guitar lesson. I love my lessons, but the half-hour drive makes me slightly mad. I hate waiting, even if I’m oving while waiting.
    – After lesson, instead of going home, Mom decides to go to Drive ‘N Shine to get car wash and a check-up. This takes an hour and a half.
    – On way home, instead of going home to at least drop me off, Mom decides to go to gas station on our side of town. Add an extr aten minutes to driving while dealing with traffic.
    – Right in front of the station, pulling in, we notice a noise. Noise turns out to be flat tire. Mom pumps tire up enough to get down the street to the auto shop once tank is filled.
    – Get to Discount Tire. Go in, start getting things taken care of.
    – Valves are bad on tire. It must be replaced, but they’ll do it for free. ‘Cause it’s warrantied. But now the car won’t start.
    – Turns out battery is dead. Or something. Not sure at this point. Mom calls DnS, to see if they might’ve messed with it. They say no.
    – While all this is going on, it turns out my phone won’t turn on. Not even turn on, ‘battery is dead’ message, turn off.
    – We go across the street to HOnker’s so we can eat lunch while car is worked on. It’s 2 PM at that point and all I’d had that day was coffee. This is actually a good thing, but still.
    – We call Dad, let him know where we are. He says he’ll come by soon as he gets off work. This just takes a little while.
    – Turns out DnS lied to us. To check whatever they did (I was zoned while we were there), they had to have unhooked on eof the wire-things. So they lied to us. And they still wouldn’t own up when we called them again.
    – We go to Advance Auto to get new battery. More waiting. But at least I find out my phone is working- the battery is just COMPLETELY dead and I’ll have to charge for half a day when we get home.

    Okay, so it’s all not my problem, and it did turn out alright. But still. I get contact-stress easy.

  7. Taneer says:

    That whole second scenario just sounded like a text adventure to my adolescent mind.

  8. Jarenth says:

    The mental image I have now of Shamus entering Rampage Mode has no right to make me laugh as much as it does.

  9. HeroOfHyla says:

    I do believe I just experienced the perfect storm of Nested Problems:

    I need to write an English paper. It’s a rough draft, so if I hurry I can get it done on time.
    Hm, Skype just signed itself out, that’s odd. I’ll restart it.
    Now Skype is saying it needs me to reconfirm the terms of service. I guess it updated?
    Well now it’s failing to log in, so let’s try restarting the computer.
    Oh, there are documents I need to save first.
    It’s failing to write the documents. That’s odd, let’s just trash them and restart, they’re just notes from an easy class anyway.
    Now Ubuntu isn’t starting up at all. Guess I’ll have to update to the newest version when I get home. For now, let’s restart in OSX.
    Oh, MS Word needs to update. Ok. Let’s do that.
    I have to close firefox for MS Word to update properly.
    Okay, I’ve closed it, why is the update still stalling? Was there an “OK” button I needed to hit?
    It was hiding behind Skype, and not showing up in Expose. Ok, now that that’s done, the install finishes.
    Now we’re finally in Word, with everything running fine, but I keep messing up because I keep hitting control rather than command for my functions. Also I can’t click the touchpad with 3 fingers to middle click on OSX for some reason.

  10. Content Consumer says:

    I realize this is what they call necroposting but I felt I had to contribute this.

    If you get the chance, buy the book “The Night the Bear ate Goombaw” by Patrick McManus, just for one of the stories: “Sequences.” It really hits the nail on the head.

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