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Monday, July 15 2019

Dear Journal,

Last weekend was great. It was filled with good food, good family time, and a lot of relaxation. Kalahari was a success, and I really enjoyed grilling this weekend. Oh, and I even got some time to code yesterday while Rodney took a nap.

I’m glad I got some good relaxation time in, because frankly this week at work is going to be a crazy. Today, the summer interns are joining our team, and I’m handing out work to them. I’m also on ticket duty this week, which means I’ll be fielding questions in our team’s slack channel during the day and on call in the evenings - which isn’t terrible, it’s just a different kind of work. It’s also goals week, which means I’m drafting up my professional goals for the last half of the year and working to get them approved.

So there’s a lot going on. I was anticipating the craziness, and I’m actually fine with it. I like having busy weeks like this every now and then, because it just makes the weekend that much more awesome. Plus, the momentum of a busy work week usually makes its way into chores and side projects - as long as I’m hustling at work, I may as well hustle at home.

Ugh. Here’s a free tip - never eat hot sauce before bed. Last night, Marissa and I stayed up watching Hot Ones, and I got all excited about hot sauce and decided to eat a big glob of “The Last Dab” on a cracker. I woke up this morning feeling like there was a car battery sitting in my stomach. You know what the scary thing is? I think some hot sauces get even meaner as they continue to sit on the shelf. I don’t remember that one being so feisty - especially after it makes it to the stomach. Why do I do these things?

So where was I - ah, the busy work week. To sum up, bring it on. I’ve got good music to listen to, good coffee to drink, and I just rewrote my Emacs configs over the weekend for peak efficiency.

OK, let’s do this! Let’s have a productive week.


Sunday, July 14 2019

It’s been a wonderful weekend - so great that I’ve barely spent any time on the computer. We all went to Kalahari water park on Saturday. We were all pretty excited - even Rodney had been talking about waterslides all week leading up to it. So expectations were high. I started to get pumped for it myself. We’d be watching a toddler, but maybe he would have so much fun that I’d get to do a few waterslides too.

Things started to get rough while we were checking in. Rodney wasn’t a fan of the plastic bracelet he had to wear, and threw a modest, miniature tantrum in the lobby. After regaining our composure and heading through the locker rooms, reality continued to set in. I think Rodney expected waterslides, but not a busy water park with kids and parents running around. So he was a little weireded out, and seemed hesitant to enjoy himself in front of everyone. Marissa and I did our best to kind of ease him into it, which culminated into a coerced ride on the lazy river. “Easy”, I thought - “we just kind of force him onto a tube and by the time the leisurely current carries us away, the child wonderment will take over and he’ll be cool with it.”

He was not cool with it. My kid is not really a shrieker - the kind that can command a whole waterpark with just one scream - but he just visibly looked anxious and upset, and every now and then he would loudly announce “OK ALL DONE, OK ALL DONE, NO MORE PLEASE”. Honestly, I’d rather be sitting in a tube with a screaming toddler that just wasn’t having it. Somehow I felt even guiltier sitting with a patient, but anxious toddler trying to diplomatically negotiate his release from this weird punishment based on water and fear.

We dried off and decided to eat some lunch. We needed some quiet time to regroup, and perhaps lower our expectations a bit. We found a booth in the food court and opened the PB&J’s, pringles, sliced bell peppers, and chocolate rice krispies I packed for us. I’m aware you’re not supposed to bring your own food into Kalahari, but it’s a matter of principal. I enjoy sticking it to these kinds of places in that way, but it also helps that nobody who works there actually cares. Plus, I probably looked like I was just waiting for a fight. I wouldn’t have said something to me either.

So we’re in the food court nibbling on food. Rodney was enjoying the quiet time away from the crowd, and Marissa and I were lowering our expectations about how much fun we were going to squeeze out of these fifty dollar tickets. “Maybe we just need to loosen up a bit,” I said. “We should treat ourselves to a drink from the bar.” It sounded like a good idea. Rodney wasn’t really digging the pool, and people were walking around with these really big colorful alcoholic slurpee things. We ordered two from the bartender while Rodney waited patiently by a little fountain. “We’ll take two of those fruit things,” I said. “The big one, right?” asked the bartender. “Ugh, sure that’s fine.”

The bartender had our drinks ready in about four seconds. It looked like a bucket of ice, a bunch of sugary syrup, and maybe a half shot of cheap vodka. He turned to me and said “sixteen”, asking for my card. I was relieved because the price for these silly drinks wasn’t posted anywhere, and I could barely hear the guy and was honestly expecting to pay ten bucks each. But eight bucks was just barely acceptable.

He took my card and produced a receipt. The total was sixty dollars. The drinks were thirty bucks each. We immediately flagged the guy down and asked for a refund. He was reluctant, and really tried to sell us on them. “You get to keep the cup”, he said. Marissa put her foot down - “we don’t want these and we want our money back. We didn’t know how expensive they were, sorry.” The bartender went to the register to revert the charge. Marissa quickly grabbed the drink and took several sips before they were confiscated.

At this point, we were feeling pretty defeated, and just decided to wander a little further into the park. We found a basketball hoop and a kiddie pool with about a foot of water. Rodney really likes basketball, so he got pretty into it and started shooting hoops with some other kids. Playing basketball got him excited about everything else, and all of the sudden he wanted to run into a little water jungle gym that had slides running out of it. He did a few slides, gained his confidence, and eventually climbed to the very top of the jungle gym. There were these really big slides coming out of the top. Rodney started saying “waterslide pleese”, and I was really surprised by that because we were about three floors up and the slides looked pretty big. I wasn’t even sure if he was big enough.

We walked up to the lifeguard sitting at the top and I asked “is he big enough to ride these”. The lifeguard nodded, then went back to staring off into space. I guess we were good to go. I made a quick plan with Marissa so she would meet me at the bottom. Rodney sat down at the top of the slide, and I knelt down to prepare him for it. I think I was more scared than he was, because half way into my briefing, he lunged forward and flung himself into the tube. I felt a mix of worry, pride, and amusement watching his little body spin, bounce, and splash all the way to the bottom. Marissa’s mouth was wide open when he hit the water - we were both in complete disbelief.

We went down every slide in the jungle gym. We even started to take shifts so either Marissa or I could take a break and do a bigger slide. My favorite was the screaming hyena. You stand in a tube, and the floor drops, sending you into a completely vertical slide that doesn’t even touch your body until halfway down. I talked Marissa into trying it (without telling her what to expect of course), and Rodney and I waited for her at the bottom.

So Kalahari was a success after all. Things were looking pretty dismal, hitting a lowpoint when we were almost conned into spending $60 on a slurpee. But the timeless magic of waterslides were there all along, and not even my son could resist. Waterslides were also a real lesson in letting go. I don’t think of myself as a helicopter parent, which is why I didn’t expect to feel fear as my son was climbing into a giant yellow water slide.

When we got home, Marissa and Rodney slept. I walked to the grocery store and picked up steaks, potatoes, and corn on the cob. I slowly roasted the potatoes on the grill, seared the steaks, then while everything rested I blistered the corn. It was a good day.


Friday, July 12 2019

Dear Journal,

One of my favorite things to make is kibbeling, and I think I perfected it last night. We all went to Hy-Vee after work to pick up a few different types of fish. I bought about twenty bucks worth of fish, first going for the off-cuts of cod and halibut, then padding the rest with just shrimp. I think the people working behind the meat counter appreciate getting rid of their off-cuts and leftovers - they’re always sitting right on top and it must be nice to not have to cut and weight it.

When we got home, I added two cups of milk, a half cup of Lemon La Croix (I think that’s the secret weapon), a pinch of salt and pepper, and two eggs to a bowl and mixed with a whisk. I then added the flour. I forgot to measure how much flour went in. But it didn’t feel too necessary, since you can just add it in small portions, incorporate it, then decide for yourself if the batter is thick enough. Personally, I like it thin and runny, even thinner than pancake batter. I set aside the batter to rest in the fridge.

I rinsed and dried the fish, then cut it into small chunks (since they tend to fry better). Marissa peeled the shrimp. I added all the fish chunks and shrimp to a bowl and tossed it with a bit of salt and pepper. I filled a dutch oven with about an inch and a half of peanut oil and turned the burner on. While I was waiting for the heat to get to 320-330F, I made the dipping sauce - which is so easy and delicious. It’s just a bowl of mayo, the juice of one lemon, a bunch of chopped dill, and two grated cloves of garlic. Seriously, we didn’t need to even add any seasoning. I might just start throwing this sauce on everything.

When the oil was hot enough, I started doing the fish chunks in batches - dunking them in the batter and letting the excess fall off, then slowly lowering them into oil. I panicked as the fish pieces started sticking to the bottom of the pan, but then I remembered that’s fine at first, and that when they’re done cooking they pretty much float up to the top on their own. The other nice thing about frying fish in small pieces is you can use a pair of chopsticks to flip and maneuver them around the hot oil. After about two minutes, I nudged each piece with the side of a chopstick, and if it floated to the surface and gave off a flurry of tiny bubbles, I removed it from the oil and moved it to a paper towel.

Another thing to look out for is keeping the oil hot enough. After each wave of fish, the temperature will drop - which is fine, you just have to wait a few seconds between batches to let it rise again. I looked into it later, and it turns out that’s a basic technique of frying food, but I’m kind of new to this and had to rediscover it for myself.

After the last batch of fish went in, I rinsed a bowl of brussel sprouts and added them to boiling water, which was seasoned with sea salt and lemon juice. That’s a play I took from French Cooking Academy’s blanched asparagus recipe, except it works even better on brussel sprouts because you can pop them in your mouth as a taste test while they boil.

Rodney, Marissa, and I sat around the table and munched on fish. Rodney was laughing really hard at the dogs while they were circling the table, and it felt good to laugh with him. After dinner we went for a walk to check out the new construction machines parked on our street to repave Oak street. It was a good day.


Thursday, July 11 2019

Dear Journal,

I really need to read more. I’ve been staring at my bookshelf for the past few minutes, waiting for the coffee to kick in, and I got looking at the books on my shelf. Most of the books are non-fiction. I have a whole bunch of textbooks from school that I kept around, as well as a handful of programming books. I’ve always had a hard time getting into non-fiction, and I think that’s because I consider time spent on a bad piece of fiction is time wasted. Text books, on the other hand, are a little more forgiving. Even if the book is not great at explaining things and you are having a hard time connecting to the examples, I usually still benefit from just spending time trying to learn something. I think sometime last year I tried to learn C. I picked up this book from Barnes and Noble called “learn C in 30 days”. You can do amazing things in C, and a lot of really smart people demonstrate that. And after reading the book and working through the examples, I wouldn’t claim to be an expert. But I think I learned just enough C to decide that I don’t like it.

Learn C in 30 Days is leaning up against Peter Siebel’s Practical Common Lisp. I think I only battled half way through the book before it fell by the wayside. It was good, but the ironic thing is it just wasn’t feeling very practical. I stopped trying to write Lisp because it was too hard to find examples of Lisp that were actually accomplishing something other than teaching someone how to write lisp.

All that to say is I feel like I need a new book. Speaking of books, my sister told me yesterday that my mom has had her Amazon account since 1998, and you can still look all the way back in the purchase history to see what books we were buying (you know, back when Amazon just sold books). One of my first purchases from Amazon through my mom’s account was a book called The Mars Diaries. It was a book series about this kid who was raised on a human Mars colony and, when he was a baby, had surgery that would allow him to control robots. There were five of them in the series, I think, and I read them all. You know for someone who hates fiction, I really miss the feeling of getting swept up into that story.

I also have a few comic books on the bottom shelf. In college, I tried to really get into them. I had a few when I was really little, and I guess I was trying to use that as my foot-in-the-door to get into a new hobby later in life. I bought those on Amazon. A few years ago, I tried perusing the comic book store near our house. I attempted to talk shop with the guy and throw around my knowledge of how they had recently completely rebooted the Spider-Man storyline by allowing mephisto to reset the timeline and send an older, married Peter Parker back to high school to a time where he never met Mary Jane, but the classic smug comic book store guy (who honestly could have been right out of a Simpson’s episode) quickly sniffed me out as an imposter and informed me my information was at least a decade old, and Miles Morales was Spider-Man now.

Well I’m out of time. I got to get to work. Let’s have a great Thursday, everyone!


Wednesday, July 10 2019

Dear Journal,

Yesterday was very productive. I think I finally got the catch-up day that I needed. In the morning I beefed up the first few weeks of planned work for the summer interns, then I made an agenda for our first meeting. I went for a quick trot around the square and picked up some food from a food cart. It was a new one that I have never tried - a food card called “braisen hussies” or something like that. I brought the braised pork rice bowl back to my desk. It was pretty good, the black beans and rice were really tasty, and it even had little bits of pork rinds sprinkled throughout. While I ate my lunch, I watched some recipe videos to plan dinner and pick something to make for Wednesday’s concert on the square.

At first, I was thinking about making Babish’s Chicken Quesadillas. I made them once before, and although they were a little involved, they turned out pretty good. But half way through the watching the video again, it was starting to look like a poor choice for Tuesday night. It’s a solid recipe, but cutting and marinating chicken, frying the chicken, dicing and sauteeing vegetables, assembling the quesadillas, and then finally frying the quesadillas sounded like too much work for a weekday, especially since I had another meal to cook afterwards. In the end, I decided to just toss some cod fillets in breadcrumbs and fry them for dinner. For concert on the square, I had a fun idea to make vegetarian crunchwrap supremes. They have this meatless chorizo made from soy that looks (and tastes) a lot like ground beef, and getting vegetarian refried beans is just a matter of finding a can without lard listed in the ingredients. I set out all the ingredients, including the meatless chorizo which I jazzed up with some taco seasoning and olive oil, and Marissa formed them into little tortilla polygons while I made some guac.

After carefully setting the tower of crunchwrap supremes in the fridge, we settled in on the couch to knock out another episode of Stranger Things. We watched the second to last episode, and as expected, there were some more odd choices in the plot line that had us really scratching our heads. I’ll also add that there are some serious pacing issues - for being the second to last episode in the season, things got really slow all of the sudden.

Today, I’m working from home. This will be my last work-from-home Wednesday in a while, so I’ll be sure to savor this one and get a lot of work done. Marissa has agility class this morning, so it’s just me and the Rod man hanging out. After she gets back, we’re going to walk to Glass Nickel for lunch and a beer. Usually after lunch on Wednesdays, Marissa and Rodney take a nap on the couch and I finish the workday while playing a movie in the background. Today, I’m feeling Mad Max: Fury Road. Seriously, that’s a movie that I feel like watching any time, any day. At some point in the afternoon before we leave for concert on the square, I have to fry those little tortilla polygons in butter. And maybe eat one. As - you know - quality assurance. What kind of lunatic would bring food to share without tasting it first?

So that’s Wednesday. I can’t believe the week is already half over. Here’s to a fast week and a slow weekend. OK team, let’s have a Wednesday!