Friday, January 17 2020

january, runbooks, roux, and waterboarding



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to wish you a happy Friday. I like to make a big deal out of Friday. Even though it occurs every week, I think making it through another week is always something worth celebrating.

Another week in January, no less. Isn’t January brutal? There’s nothing to look forward to in January. The weather punishes you for going outside with biting wind and treacherous ice on your stairs. Your car takes longer to warm up, and ice and salt collects around your wheels. In season fruits like tomatoes and watermelon are a distant memory, and you really have nothing to look forward to - and yet you have to carry forward all the commitments you made on January first. Maybe you’ve committed to eating healthy. Maybe you’ve committed to drinking less alcohol. Maybe you committed to picking up a new skill or hobby, and in this time of January it seems you have to stare it in the face and have to ask, “Is this really something I can do.” Anyone can commit to anything during the Holidays. January sucks because you actually have to follow through with these things. So I celebrate Fridays. We made it through another work week. Our society is still functioning, and we can all relax this weekend before trying again on Monday.

At work, I finally wrapped up the document I was working on. I don’t know if I mentioned this yet, but I was preparing a runbook for a test we’ll be executing today. A “runbook” is kind of an industry term for an instruction sheet intended for someone who is already familiar with the overall process, so it’s going to be skimpy on the context and explanations, but curt and copy-paste friendly. Later this afternoon (on a Friday night of all times), one of my teammates will sign on line to intentionally take down our service in our isolated staging environment. He’ll run the commands right out of my runbook while communicating to a number of other teams throughout our company so they have a chance to see how their service tolerates the outage. And if I did my job right, he can do so while barely paying attention. It’s a Friday night, after all, I think he deserves that much.

But needless to say, I was proud of the completeness of the document. My role at my company has changed over time, and I’ve had to walk through a lot of shoddily documented procedures for services which I wasn’t even aware of. I’m more specialized these days, but my long tenure as a general operations person allowed me to develop good taste when it comes to writing instructions. Keep things simple. don’t explain why - stick to how. Make it easy to copy-paste - but also make it easy to pull apart and figure out where something went wrong.

Spending the morning typing, my back was starting to feel a little sore, so I went for a walk. It was far too cold to walk outside, so instead I went for a stroll around the office. I walked up and down the stairwell, walked along the outside windows, and stopped to stare at the capitol building.

I worked through the afternoon, then joined some of my coworkers on the eighth floor for happy hour. I finished a half pale ale while we chatted, then left to catch my bus. Back at home, Marissa took me up on my offer to go to Hy-Vee together as a family. “I just cleaned our fridge last night, and we could use some new snacks,” I said, knowing that there was little chance a second trimester pregnant lady would turn down that offer. “Can you drive? I want to eat a muffin in the car,” she negotiated.

We strolled around Hy-Vee, picking up potatoes, kale, bacon, and mushrooms. I usually make stamppot with sausage, but following Marissa’s wishes, I decided to try it with mushrooms instead. Back at home, after unloading the car, I got to work peeling potatoes, slicing bacon, and washing kale leaves. Rodney helped in the kitchen too, scooting our sturdy kitchen ladder over to the stove where I had some butter melting for a roux. “Now you need to keep the roux moving,” I warned him, wrapping his small hand around the whisk. “Keep it going until it’s the color of coffee.” I knew there was zero chance he was following along, but I think he took to the sense of urgency. He wildly flung the whisk around the pan while I supervised.

We killed the heat on the roux and shifted focus to drain the potatoes. I handed Rodney the potato masher, and he looked visibly relieved to work with things he understood. “Just smash the potatoes, dude. There’s no wrong way to do this,” I said. Rodney wildly slammed the masher against the bottom of the Dutch oven, sending some chunks of moist potato flying across the stove. “That’s no big deal dude, just mash ‘em,” I goaded.

We sat around the table and ate dinner. It had been a long week for me and Marissa. We quietly wolfed down our dinner. Rodney was the only one at the table keeping a steady conversation going, delving into his favorite topic of taking his cousins to a water park.

After dinner, I gave Rodney a bath, changed him into his pajamas, and read him a story. Just before bed, he asked for a glass of water. Fearing we were about to begin another long round of bedtime filibustering, I urged him to stay in his room. “Just stay here - I’ll get you a cup of water and you can drink it in bed,” I said leaving his room. Rodney hesitantly reached for the glass and swiftly tipped it at his mouth, but being in bed, he miscalculated the angle of his head and sent water all over his head. Tears were had, but after a quick pajama swap and some bed sheet re arrangement, we were back in business.

“Did he accidentally waterboard himself again?” Marissa asked as I trudged down the stairs into our living room and slinked onto the couch. “Yeah… poor guy,” I replied.

I spent the rest of the evening on the couch. As I lie under the blanket, it was almost as if the tired muscles in my back were singing praises, knowing their job was done for the day. Ziggy climbed into my lab, and I coaxed her under the blanket with me for a long nap.

Hope you all have a wonderful day today.