Saturday, August 17 2019

Dear Journal,

Yesterday was wonderful. I got to work at my usual time, had a few meetings, then caught a ride to the company picnic. It loosely followed a “county fair” theme, but in a very cool, laid back kind of way. Besides a few games to play and a giant slide, it was pretty much a time to drink beer, eat some food, and hang out. Among the selections was PBR, so it turns out I didn’t need to follow my rigorous, fool proof system for staying sober after all.

I had some good success with the carnival games! I rang the bell with the mallet, played some ring toss, and almost guessed the mystery beer down to the brewery and type. The drinking and standing around in the sun must have made me more upfront than usual. When the person running the beer guessing game asked me if I knew who the brewery was, I yelled out “because Capital Brewery SUCKS.” I don’t know if he worked for Capital Brewery, but it got a good laugh out of him. And it’s true, they do suck, so I stand by the exclamation.

We made our way back to the office and I caught my usual 4:30 bus home. Marissa was all packed up and ready to leave, so after a quick farewell she hit the road and Rodney and I started on our pizza. We had a good time. Rodney kept eating the cheese that we grated and set aside for the toppings, and he thought it was pretty funny and kept sneaking bites even after I “yelled” at him. We also used the dough trimmings to make some breadsticks - well, Rod took some creative liberty and mashed them into little patties. So they were like little biscuits, and they turned out pretty good, he might be on to something.

I put Rodney to bed, then worked a bit on the computer. I set up a wallpaper randomizer for the dining room computer, and as I was populating with images I got to just browsing old photos. It’s fun to look back and see everything that changed - especially how things were 2-3 years ago. It’s a bit of a nostalgia blind-spot for me. We were in the same house, and we had a kid, and for the most part did all the same things we do today, but the little things jump out at you - like the color of the walls, what you were eating, and how you had things organized.

It was a pretty quiet, lonely night without Marissa. It sucks spending the night apart from your spouse. We met up around 11:20 for a minecraft date, and that was a highlight. It was fun to get back into minecraft and use the downtime of waiting for the virtual sun to rise to just catch up with the built-in Minecraft chat.

I called it sometime around 1:00 AM and turned in for bed. The puppies were really bummed that they had to go to bed without their momma.

This morning, Rod is watching Spider-Man - the 2002 Toby Maguire movie. He’s really taken with it lately. And I don’t know what he sees in it - don’t get me wrong - it’s a great movie, but it’s just way more Toby Maguire and not really that much Spider-Man. And it’s a lot of Willem Dafoe. I find it so funny that Rodney is sitting on the couch with a toy in his lap, absent-mindedly watching Willem Dafoe perform a dramatic monologue in an old mansion.

After journal & coffee time, Rodney and I are going to walk to the grocery store, checking out the construction on Oak street along the way. Don’t tell Mom, but when she comes home we’re going to have prepared an Italian feast!

Hope you have a wonderful Saturday today. In the words of Willem Dafoe, “You are who you choose to be - NOW CHOOSE!”

Friday, August 16 2019

Dear Journal,

Good morning, and happy Friday everyone! Yesterday was quite the day. It was pretty much end-to-end meetings, the last of which being the staging DR exercise that the interns and I have been planning over the last month. It was pretty tense. We hit a few snags, but all-in-all, it was successful and pretty impressive. We grabbed a beer at the work happy hour gathering to celebrate and debrief before I jumped on the bus to head home.

After getting home, I was surprised to find that Rodney was still asleep. I was in no hurry, since we had decided to eat out somewhere and there was no need to make dinner. I climbed under a blanked on the couch, joined by Zig Zig. At first, we watched a few YouTube videos, but it quickly turned into a deep, solid thirty minute nap. Ziggy slept up by my head with her nose nestled in between my neck and the pillow. I felt like I was drifting through space - it was an excellent nap, and so rewarding after a busy day.

I woke up to Rodney yelling DADA at the top of the stairs. With great reluctance, I emerged from the most snug place in the universe so we can get on with our evening plans. We decided to walk to the new Ian’s pizza that sprang up in our neighborhood about 0.8 miles away. By evening, the cloudy sky had cooled the air, and mysteriously the mosquitoes weren’t out last night, making for a wonderful walk down the nature path to this exciting new pizza place. The location was a former factory, and it is being refitted into some kind of miniature indoor bistro. While waiting in line for our pizza, there was plenty of room for Rodney to run around.

We enjoyed our pizza and a couple of beers on a picnic table outside. The dogs didn’t get to eat anything, but they had their fill in attention. They were very popular with the bike path crowd, and Ollie and Ziggy basked in the brief popularity.

After we walked home, I put Rod to bed while Marissa mowed the lawn. I worked a bit on the Minecraft server. Marissa and I are going to try to play tonight while she is spending the night in Chicago, so it was important that I figured out the networking ahead of time. Once I got it to a working condition, I joined her in the dining room and we caught up on some YouTube videos. Last night’s playlist was the new Hot Ones interview featuring Stone Cold Steve Autstin. Steve Austin was a pleasure to listen to. Podcasters are very loquacious, and being a professional wrestler he had lots of interesting anecdotes about the industry. While “professional wrestling” is a form of staged, fabricated entertainment, you can go down a really interesting rabbit hole reading about the culture, the daily life, and close-nit bond that these wrestlers experience.

Today is nothing short of a victory lap for the week. We have a few meetings that lead up to lunch, then we’re heading over to the park for the company picnic, where free beer and food abounds for the weary worker. I am due back home at five, but as I’m taking the bus home I’m planning on rocking a mild, mid day buzz, then tapering off in the afternoon. You gotta be careful with those Wisconsin craft beers, though. The difference between two, three, and four beers is a whole order of magnitude. Now that I mention it, I might as well break down my system. If you want to enjoy a craft beer, but still be productive immediately afterwards, one beer is perfect. If you must, get a second, but do not finish it. The maximum beers you can enjoy productively is literally 1.9, so enjoy the second one if you’re having a good conversation, but whatever you do, do not finish it. For some reason, exactly two beers is enough to break the party barrier. Anything between two to three beers can be called “the Friday night zone”, as this should only be enjoyed on a weekly basis - perfect for unwinding after a tough week. But a fourth beer is usually asking for trouble. This should not be attempted unless you’re prepared to deal with the consequences, or you need to show somebody up on the dance floor at a wedding. May as well call four beers “the wedding zone”. To review, I intend to hang out in the Friday night zone through lunch. Again, this system only applied to craft beers, if you’re drinking a standard PBR or a lager, those tend to be a little more forgiving (and hydrating). Lastly, a good rule of thumb to follow is try to drink one pint of regular old water for every pint of beer you drink. Your stomach will thank you.

Hope you all have a fun, relaxing Friday night. Grab a drink, you’ve earned it.

Thursday, August 15 2019

Dear Journal,

Last night may have been the quickest I’ve ever fell asleep. Marissa and I turned in around 11:40, and I faded away very shortly after that. I didn’t even check my phone or chat for a few minutes. I was pretty exhausted from the full mid week day. Yesterday was a cooking heavy day. For dinner, I made a Caesar salad, which was surprisingly involved. I was following a recipe that instructed me to make the sauce from scratch, and - most curiously - grill the lettuce. I had some close calls with a few romaine leaves catching on fire and wilting into unappealing strands, but the moist hearts actually looked pretty good with a bit of char, and once mixed into the rest of the salad, it was easier to see what they were contributing. The recipe also had instructions of how to make your own croutons, but I punted on that front and just bought a bag of good ‘ol Hy-Vee brand. And I’m glad I did, otherwise me may have been eating dinner sometime around when I went to bed.

After cleaning up all the smoldering lettuce left over from dinner, we put Rod to bed. Marissa worked on some tasks for the upcoming bridal shower this weekend while I made a little batch of faux meat saucijzenbroodjes for a friend. I had some left over puff pastry, and running with a tip I got from my little sister I decided to bide my time by making some turnovers. I didn’t have any apples on hand, but bananas did fine. There’s very few things that don’t work in hot butter and sugar. The turnovers puffed up really nicely - if I had known how easy these were, I would have bought a whole extra sleeve of puff pastry and made a proper batch!

We wrapped up chores and kitchen shenanigans some time around 11:00. I had a beer and watched some youtube videos with Marissa on our fancy new dining room computer. The playlist included Anthony Fantano’s review of the new Bon Iver album as well as a special Editor Edition Dude Perfect, which honestly was so entertaining it left us speechless. Marissa and I used to watch Dude Perfect sort of ironically, but now the irony is lost and we just actually enjoy them, despite the fact that it’s pretty much targeted at 12 year old boys.

I see today as the final hurdle before getting to the weekend. I’m running a bit behind in ticket duty, so I’ll have to block off some time and catch up on support tickets & questions. I try not to finish the week with any loose threads. Tomorrow is our end of the week demo, retro, and company picnic, leaving today as pretty much the last day to get any real work done.

So let’s hit it hard today. Let’s squeeze as many work hours out of this uncharacteristically chilly Thursday as we can. A thorough Thursday makes for a fun Friday - alliteration intended. Hope you have a great day today.

Wednesday, August 14 2019

Dear Journal,

Good morning, and happy Wednesday to everyone. I’m doing today’s journal entry from our proud new dining room computer, which I just finished building last night. I guess “building” is a generous term. I ordered an Intel NUC, a stick of RAM, and a hard drive, and plugged everything in. As per usual, way more time went into placing and wrapping cables - which is absolutely an art form. This morning I’m filling the new machine with games and other neat things. Marissa and I agreed that it really jazzes up the dining room. Just having a computer here increases it’s hang-out-ability by at least a factor of four. We have a nice place to play music, pay bills, browse the web, and of course play games. This weekend I’m going to set up a Minecraft server, so in short, it was nice knowing all of you and the Recker family will see you next year (kidding).

Yesterday was jam packed with meetings, cooking, and chores, but it was a fulfilling day. I finally had a successful gravy recipe. Watching the butter, flour, and stock combine is completely magically - I’m still not even quite sure how gravy works, but the formula is simple and almost feels like alchemy. Just watch - now I’m going to be incorporating gravy into everything. Pizza. Pasta. Hot dogs. Everything is going to get a hearty drizzle of homemade gravy! Also kidding.

I’m really looking forward to the weekend. Not only does my on-call shift end on Friday, but I have a work picnic pretty much all day, and that rolls into a long guys only weekend. My wife will be in Chicago for my sister’s bridal shower, so Rodney and I are holding things down ourselves. And we have a new computer to play with. I think on Saturday we’re going to cook something together, like a deep dish pizza. Lately when I make food in the kitchen, he drags our little step ladder out to join me - which is undeniably adorable, but an extra element of challenge. I need to make sure he feels useful without touching anything hot, sharp, or raw. Making a pizza is very kid friendly, isn’t it? The dough is fun to play with, and grating cheese is pretty benign, from a kitchen safety perspective. It’s more fun for a kid than stir fry. Rodney walked into the kitchen on Monday while I had a hot oily wok on the stove and asked “ladder? ladder?” and I just turned him down, so I owe him a long cook-with-dad session.

So this week, the interns and I are trying out a new thing. We’re doing a pretty old school agile workflow, keeping all the work on hand written index cards taped to a whiteboard. It’s a bit ironic, but I was taught that’s the best way to teach people how modern software teams work. There’s a lot of rules and terminology to learn, and having it all in once place right in front of you without the distraction of software makes it easier. It’s also a real learning experience for me - I’ve never actually had to teach anyone agile or scrum, and it’s kind of fun - in an unexpected arts and crafts way. We’re taping, drawing, and even putting little color coded stickers on things. Welcome to the future, huh?

Well, hope you have a wonderful Wednesday today. Cook with your kids - something other than stir fry.

Tuesday, August 13 2019

Dear Journal,

Good morning, and happy Tuesday! This morning I jumped out of bed much sooner than I usually do and enjoyed some YouTube while I waited for the coffee to finish brewing. I’m seriously considering making it a personal installment in my morning routine. Plus, I’m feeling much more coherent than I’d normally be just rolling out of bed and starting a journal entry.

Yesterday it felt pretty good to get back to work, but it was a really busy day filled with planning and meetings. Lately I’ve just kind of accepted that on Mondays, I don’t have much time at my desk. I might have a free half hour or hour, so once I sit down I try to make a checklist of things I want to get done in that work session and then crank ‘em out.

After work, I took Rodney to the grocery store to pick up stuff to make stir fry. When I got home, he and Marissa were snuggling on the couch under a blanket, and he didn’t want to leave. “No Hy-Vee. Cozy,” he said. But as he heard me putting my shoes on and heading out the door, he changed his mind and ran over to the kitchen to join me.

When we got home, I made shrimp stir-fry with some vegetables. I still have a serious phobia with making rice, so I leaned on my good friend Uncle Ben. The stir fry turned out good, but not great. I was really shy with the sauce. I used to have a problem of adding too much sauce and too many vegetables, making it wet and difficult to heat up, and it appears I’ve over-corrected.

After Rodney went to bed, I wrapped up another leg of the file server project. I got it to the point where I was ready to run the plex server back on. It’s good to have plex back. To celebrate (and kick the tires on the new setup), I watched I Think You Should Leave on shuffle while I cleaned things up.

Today, I’m eager to finally decommission the old server. I’ll re-purpose the remaining final two hard drives as redundancy, then start brainstorming for how I’d like to put to work the two raspberry pi’s I’ve freed up. I’ve had the hankering to play some old video games, so there are good chances that a retropie will be involved.

I’m also eager to try out classic, traditional gravy. I found a good video and studied up, and I’m confident that I can get it working.

Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday today. You can be sure I will report back my gravy and file server success.