Wednesday, October 14 2020

old code, hy-vee, braised pork, and our k'nex tower



banners/2020 10 14

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Wednesday. If you have a coffee mug with you, go ahead and raise it as we all toast to making it to the halfway point of the week.

It's a good morning. Today, we're breaking into a fresh bag of our favorite coffee, we've got a full fridge, and the weather has been kind to us. Somehow in a region of the country that is famous for a short autumn and a long, miserable winter, we continue to enjoy what I've been referring to as "post card weather". Maybe you could even call it "Thomas Kinkade weather". However you'd describe the phenomenon in which you can look out any window in your house and behold a scene fit for a water color painting on your Grandma's bathroom wall. Say what you want about the rest of 2020, but at least the weather has been stellar, for what that's worth.

We have a good day planned. Just a quiet day of work, leftovers for lunch, and paella for dinner. Later this evening I have to briefly sign on the work computer to help out with a production change in off-peak hours. But to balance the scales, I might just take a longer lunch, or take Ziggy out on an afternoon date palling around the neighborhood yelling obscenities at squirrels. You know, just daddy-daughter things, you wouldn't get it.

Sip. How was your Tuesday? This week at work I have an interesting, stimulating challenge where I'm taking a chunk of code I wrote a little over a year ago and tweaking it to do something new. While I might have some code out there where I cut corners, fudged the details, and did the bare minimum, I think I did a pretty good job with this code. Jumping back into it now, I've forgotten just enough of it where it all feels brand new, and it's kind of a weird sensation. It feels like I jumped into a time machine and found myself from a year ago to collaborate. You know, Bill and Ted style.

For lunch, we slapped together some turkey sandwiches and heated up some leftovers, then Marissa took Rodney to Hy-Vee for a grocery pick-up.

But Alex, did you say "Hy-Vee"? Are you two back together? What a juicy piece of gossip, right? Looking back on the messy break-up Hy-Vee and I shared earlier this year, I had a change of heart. Hy-Vee is inconsiderate, immature, and probably more trouble than she's worth. Hy-Vee isn't perfect, but who is? Times are tough, and we're all just doing our best to keep it together. So what if Hy-Vee's "best" is 60% accuracy. The great G.K. Chesterton once said, "We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty."

OK, the real reason we're throwing Hy-Vee back into the mix is because pick-up times at Woodman's have been spotty. They're more accurate, and I like the selection more, but the curbside slots get snatched up quickly, and to have grocery success, we need to play the field.

Speaking of food, for dinner Marissa took another pass at her favorite recipe of late - let's just call it "Jamaican braised meat". It was originally supposed to be with chicken, but the closest thing we had on hand was a pork tenderloin, so she went with it.

2020 10 14 pork

"I feel like it still needs to be more tender," said Marissa. "But I took it out of the broth because I didn't want it to get too tough."

I mauled over the problem while chewing a mouthful of soft carrots, corn, and rice. "I'm not 100% sure because I've never done it with pork," I said. "But I don't think the meat is going to get too tough. I think the only danger in leaving it to braise too long is just having the meat fall apart, and start to take on a gross texture."

Marissa nodded.

"Am I being too analytical?" I asked. "I'm trying to exhibit better behavior when you cook."

"Oh no, by all means," she said. "I feel pretty confident with this recipe, and I had a lot of fun making it."

"Oh good," I replied. "Because I bet you would get what you're looking for if you shut the lid and stuck the whole pot in the oven for like twenty minutes. That's what I do with the ragout, and this dish is really similar."

"Am I just going to have to make this every week?" laughed Marissa.

I shrugged. "At least until we run out of ideas. You know you could also sprinkle some flour on in the pot and toss it a round for a few minutes before adding the stock - that would tighten up the broth."

Rodney sat silently in his chair. His bowl remained untouched, his fork still where we originally wedged it into his rice for him.

"Hey," I barked. "You need to eat - I haven't seen you take a single bite yet."

Rodney gulped nervously, retrieving his fork to get to work.

After dinner, we had a zoom session with my parents. Rodney lugged up our newly built k'nex tower up the stairs to show my family.

"Alex made this with him today for 'science class'," said Marissa. "It's funny as the week goes on how his plans for science class get less and less creative." My family laughed.

"Oh yeah," I added. "Last Friday, I had a whole plan to do the egg drop test off a ladder. On Sunday, I was kicking around the idea of going for a walk to find leaves and pressing them into parchment paper. And finally, today I just said screw it, let's just play k'nex."

Later, Marissa and I straightened up the house before hanging out and playing a movie.

"I hope you don't mind that I teased you about science class," she said.

"Nah," I replied. "That's a funny observation. It's true, you have a knack for keeping him entertained and stimulated. I only know how to play with k'nex one way, and that's quietly. Alone."

Like with any structure I build with Rodney, he doesn't catch on to what we're doing until I get at least a foot off the ground. But to his credit, Rodney picked up on the pattern and contributed a few segments to our tower. When we reached a stopping point, he picked it up over his head to prove how strong he was.

"Here dude," I said. "Let me take a picture of you looking through the middle. That will be a cool photo."

It would have been a cool photo, but between holding a carrot in his mouth or making his "hot dog tongue" face, Rodney kept the status quo of silliness.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great day, everyone.