Thursday, September 24 2020

trump stress, paint boy, and not liking things

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends, and happy Thursday. Take heart - the week is almost finished. We have two measly work days before we can put on our comfy weekend close, take a cozy weekend nap, and maybe even sit on the computer for a while. Not the work computer - that's the bad one. I'm talking about the good computer where you only do fun things, like surf the web, play with code, and watch YouTube videos. Although, because I work from home now, the good computer and the bad computer are unfortunately the same computer. But when I write code on the weekends, I turn my VPN off, so at least it feels different on some placebo level.

I've had a pretty interesting morning so far. I woke up this morning feeling like I was hit by a train. My body, rife with fatigue, protested every step down the stairs into the kitchen. I had a throbbing, nagging headache behind my eyes. The prospect of talking to humans going through the motions of a day felt unthinkable.

While waiting for the coffee pot, I sat down at the computer and started to fiddle with some code. Normally, I try to avoid writing code in the mornings. I tend to get carried away and lose track of time. But I went with it this morning because I needed to wake up and I was desperate.

I wrote a dumb little python function to subtract substrings from a string one line of text at a time. Not as straightforward as you might thing if you account for empty lines. But by the time I was finished, I felt 100% better and more awake.

Man, I love code. Over the past few months, I've been working on my own markdown parser, and I'm committing to only using the python standard library. Overall the exercise has surprised me in two ways:

  1. I'm not as much of a programming ace as I thought I was
  2. I love writing code way more than I thought I did.

This side project feels different than the others. Normally I fizzle out and move onto the next thing out of boredom. But markdown has proven to be a confounding little puzzle that keeps pulling me back, if anything just out of stubbornness.

I'm having so much fun. If you're like me, and you've never tried writing something ambitious with only the standard library, do it. You might rediscover a love of programming.

I think I've bored you enough already. OK, we're done with the gushing about programming, let's just get on with it then.

Sip. How are you doing today? Have you had a good week? Yesterday, freshly showered and groomed, I sat down at my desk with a piping hot cup of coffee and typed out an ambitious TODO list. Then an outage happened, and that TODO list remained untouched for pretty much the rest of the day while my team went into firefighting mode.

It was only an outage in our staging environment, so no actual customers were affected. But while I was away on paternity leave, our department rolled out some new processes to treat our staging environment like a real environment - outages included.

But outages, even if they don't impact customers, still have a way of draining your life force. The outage lapped up the precious, productive hours of my Wednesday morning. After a blur of investigation and debugging, before I knew it I almost missed lunch.

I handed things off to another teammate and heated up some leftovers with Marissa. She too was feeling rushed, trying to get Miles to his doctor's check up on time.

"Are you going to be back from your Woodman's pickup in... fifteen minutes?" she asked glancing at her phone. "I need the car for Miles' doctor appointment." I glanced at my beer on the table. I had only taken about three sips.

"Sure. I can..." my voice trailed off as I nervously glanced at my own phone. "I better go now," I chuckled.

"Sorry," said Marissa. "I wish I thought about this yesterday, I could have probably picked up groceries on the way back from the appointment."

"Nah, it's OK," I said. "My head is still kind of swimming from the incident this morning. I could use a drive."

I finished out the work day, regrettably capping things of with a short mental break browsing reddit and facebook. Reading about Trump's comments on whether or not he'll accept the results of the election worried me. Catching up on the gossip, trying to find a straight line interpretation sort of riled me up and I was feeling anxious.

"Hey, I think I need a walk," I told Marissa.

"COVID stress?" asked Marissa.

"Trump stress, actually," I replied. Marissa nodded. These days, we talk about panic attacks like we're discussing indigestion.

"It was also some Facebook too," I continued. "The political fights are kind of amusing, but today I saw someone whom I kind of respected get into it and I'm feeling bummed out."

Returning from my walk, I started on making pizza for dinner. Marissa entered the kitchen with Rodney.

"So Rodney wants to play on Nick Jr," said Marissa. "But he's had kind of a Nick Jr. heavy day. Isn't that right dude?" Rodney nodded. "Do you have any ideas, dada?"

"Hm," I replied. "Want to help me make a pizza? Why don't you pull up your ladder and help?"

Rodney just stood still, like a statue.

"Or would you like to come paint downstairs with momma?" added Marissa. Rodney's eyes lit up.

"I LOVE painting," he said, prancing down the stairs behind her.

I would join Marissa and Rodney in the basement a little later while waiting for the pizza stone to heat up. Rodney's face and fingers were speckled with little flecks of red paint. With a brush in hand, he studied his canvas on the floor.

"Dada," he said. "I'm paint boy." Rodney gave a goofy grin and a thumbs up.

"Paint boy?" I laughed.

"Paint boy," he echoed.

After dinner, I put Rodney to bed. During question time, I decided to broach the subject of cooking.

"Dude," I said teasing. "How come you didn't want to cook with your dada?"

Rodney looked conflicted. He was at a loss for words, murmuring something about painting in the basement instead.

"Oh dude," I said. "It's OK. I was just teasing. I think it's awesome that you love to paint."

"Yeah!" said Rodney. "I'm paint boy."

"What other things do you like?" I asked.

"Painting," said Rodney before looking off into his room over my shoulder. "Oh, and playing on the computer. Working outside."

"Dude, what kinds of things do you not like to do?" I asked. Rodney looked puzzled.

"Monster trucks and motorcycles?" he replied hesitantly.

"No dude," I said. "What do you not like to do? What things does Rodney not like?" I could tell that Rodney had never really thought of this before.

"Cooking," he said quietly.

"It's OK to not like things, dude," I said, sensing he was still a little iffy. "We all like and dislike different things. Did you know that I don't really like to paint?"

Rodney furrowed his brow. "What?" he asked. "Dada, you like to paint."

"Eh," I said. "I could take it or leave it. I'm not really good at it, and I don't enjoy it as much as cooking. And I don't enjoy it as much as paint boy does."

"Yeah, but we both like working," replied Rodney. Rodney sat up straight, pretending to type on the computer. "Dada works in there, and I work in here," he said motioning around the corner to my desk.

"Good point dude," I said. "We both like working on the computer, don't we?"

You don't have to like everything. And like in Rodney's case, it can even be pretty affirming to simply acknowledge the things you don't like. Hey - thanks for stopping by today. Have a great donderdag, everyone.