Friday, January 31 2020
ginseng, ramen, and bonsai trees

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Friday, and likewise, happy last day of January. This morning, I hope you are all feeling as good as I am. My soar throat is a distant memory, and at this point I’m just dealing with a booger situation.

I felt well enough to go to work yesterday, but I was still teased for showing up. Catching me making sniffling sounds at morning stand-up, the team gave me some light harassment about coming into work and threatening their health. “No seriously, I feel great - I wouldn’t be here if I did,” I contested. “Are you sure?” replied my boss. “Because you even look kind of sick.”

“Well now I have no choice but to be offended, since this is what I look like when I feel good,” I shot back. I still did my best to keep out of peoples’ way, opening doors with my feet and washing my hands every time I passed the sink. That coronavirus must have people on high alert for any kind of disease. In fact, my work just announced that anyone who has been to China recently needs to work from home for the same amount of time. Luckily, I didn’t have coronavirus.

After stand-up, my coworker Fong kindly offered me some ginseng. Fong is from China, and I’ve come to learn that the Chinese take tea very seriously. I’ve written before about team “tea time”, in which Fong shows up her elaborate ritual for brewing matcha. She handed me a small silver tin with a dozen little brown twigs rolling around inside. “Pick three good ones, put them in some hot water, and add a little bit of honey,” she instructed. The tea was so powerful, I could have sworn the inside of my mouth went numb, and all at once I felt a tremendous burst of productive energy. I spent the rest of the morning writing code at my desk, enjoying the clean caffeine buzz of pure ginseng before I got up to make some lunch.

I heated up a bowl of Korean instant ramen in the kitchen and returned to my desk. I hadn’t had this ramen in a while. Korean ramen activates memories of working at Healthgrades. Before I cooked so much, I used to fill my cubicle cabinet with packets of instant Korean ramen, each with their own interesting colors, graphics, and seasoning packets. I still enjoy it every once in a while. Unlike the cheap maruchan stuff you’d buy at Target, Korean instant ramen is closer to a real meal. I took the bowl of spicy noodles to my desk, enjoying some YouTube videos, then winding down with a bottle of iced tea.

I had some meetings, then concluded the day with a short coding war room, where Fong, Alex, and I performed a data migration that was on the complicated side and needed more than just one set of eyes. I ducked out just in time to jump on the bus homeward.

Back at home, I triumphantly rolled my backpack on the ground and collapsed onto the couch, where Marissa was sleeping with Ziggy under the blanket. I proceeded to surf some YouTube videos, soaking up the extra time between coming home and going out to eat. Marissa awoke to me watching an interview with Jay Cutler. “This interview was dissapointing,” I griped. “I don’t know why everyone was going nuts about it on reddit, it’s just Jay Cutler bragging about how he would probably be really good at olympic handball.”

Rodney awoke, and after I got him out of bed, he too joined us on the couch. We packed the dogs away and jumped in the car, bound for Portillo’s. “I haven’t eaten much this week,” I said to Marissa while we were waiting in line to order. “I think I’m going to get the ribs.” Marissa smiled in approval.

After finishing up at Portillo’s, we jumped back in the car and drove to Target. Marissa needed to return something, and I suggested we pick up a gallon of milk. As usual on Thursdays, we also decided to tool around the toy aisle and let Rodney check out the monster trucks and nerf guns. His eye was drawn to the shoulder mounted sniper rifle nerf gun, which in the box, was about as long as he is tall. “Rodney, if you can pick that up and point it at me, I’ll buy it for you on the spot,” teased Marissa. I very much wanted to holder her to that. I’ve always been a fan of Rodney owning humongous toys that are inappropriate for his age. You might recall that I bought him a Xena Warrior Princess sword that made sound effects when he was only two. And just as a two year old with a sword amused me, so did Rodney owning a high powered nerf sniper rifle. But despite our best efforts, I couldn’t get him to hold up the heavy rifle, and we had to leave it at the store.

We headed home, and after putting Rodney to bed, I practiced Dutch, knocked out my push-ups and sit-ups, then trotted upstairs to rewire my IT shelf. After discovering that the software I was using on my router could run off of a tiny USB stick, I realized I didn’t need the bulky metal case around the motherboard and could throw away the cheap hard drive. I unboxed a new much simpler open case, which was just a piece of Plexiglas and screws that held the motherboard an inch above the shelf. “Wow,” remarked Marissa as I was assembling it at my desk. “That looks so much better.”

I spent the rest of the evening installing the software and wrapping cables, making an effort to demonstrate more patience. Instead of wrapping every cable in tight coils around my fist, I tried to compromise with where the cable wanted to lie naturally, and I think it made the whole set up look more relaxed and free. It sort of reminded me of the scene from Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi is showing Daniel how to prune a bonsai tree. Wrapping cables is much the same.

I booted the wall back up. Fans whirred. Lights flickered. “Plex is working,” Marissa hollered from downstairs. I raised my hands above my head in satisfaction. “Practically a perfect game,” I boasted. I just love it when you can turn things off and on, and they go back to doing what they were meant to do.

I hope you all have a wonderful Friday. I’m looking forward to hanging out with Rodney this weekend while Marissa is at an agility trial, and of course watching the Superbowl this Sunday. Godspeed, Jimmy Garoppolo. I know you’ll make the northwest suburbs proud.