Full Resolution

This is a story about a plumber and a photographer.

First, the plumber.

My wife relates the following story about dealing with The Joys Of Home Ownership ™:

Not too long ago, we had a plumber come to work on the house because a toilet was only mostly working. I’ll spare you the specifics of the problem.

One of the first things he did was flush the toilet and listen. A few seconds later, he said “Aw, man. Yeah. Cheap and cheaply made. You heard that gurgling sound about 5 seconds in? Here’s what’s happening…”

So we talked more, I learned more, and now I know about The Gurgle. I also now know more about how toilets are put together, and will know what I’m hearing when I hear it…. every single time.

Put another way, she now has a higher-resolution perception of her world.

This happens for anyone who has invested the time in learning something; the world becomes a little more detailed and vivid because you know what to look for and why it’s important.


An archivist looks at a book and can tell you about the binding, how it was stored, and how long it’s likely to last.

A wedding photographer looks at a function hall and can tell you the optimal lanes they’ll want to use for taking shots during the ceremony.

I can look at a waterfall chart for a website and make some educated guesses about the org chart of the group that put it together.


Higher resolution also kicks in when you interact with objects in that way that typically gets you called a “[noun] whisperer”. You know, the kind where inanimate objects just seem to work/bend/move correctly when you’re working with them.

Which brings me to the story about the photographer.

A few years back I had a photo exhibition, and was working with a couple of friends to hang the photos. This involved a 15-foot-high ceiling, a picture rail, wires, hooks, and other fiddly things. The fiddliest thing of the bunch was getting a semi-flexible wire to hook around the picture rail, and we were short a ladder. This was by turns annoying, frustrating, and a general pain. After much mumbling and swearing, I realized that wanting the wire to go someplace by sheer force of will wasn’t going to work; it had no sentience, and I had no psychic powers.

So I stopped and just sat with the wire for a few minutes. I figured out how it behaved. How far could it be guided upward before gravity took its toll? How much flexibility did it have? Could it be guided in some other way, etc. That is, gradually increasing my resolution of that little bit of my world.

Fortified with this knowledge, we hung the pictures in record time. To someone on the outside, it would look like the wire was just magically behaving for me; maybe I had a better piece of wire, or the picture rail was just easier to deal with where I was.

The reality was that I needed to change myself in order to make the wire do the right thing. As a bonus, the “There is no spoon” scene in The Matrix made a lot more sense.

The world is always out there at full resolution. It’s upon us to learn enough to experience it.


Query: What have you done over the past year to increase the resolution of your world?

2 Comments

Filed under Tech Life

2 Responses to Full Resolution

  1. Ana MIchele

    I’ve increased resolution by learning a lot about how cars work and how to drive them more precisely.

    As a side note, please let me know if you’d like a lesson on How Spatial Analysis Helps me Find Bathrooms in less than five seconds.

  2. Awesome. This is the sort of post that I will come back to again in the coming year.

    And to answer your question: Arduino (just beginning this), Principles of Positive Reinforcement, How My Body Works and How Better to Love It (part Nth), WordPress (also just beginning this), plus a few subjects I will not mention in mixed company.

    It’s been a Very Good Year. Here’s to an even better one.

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