Friday, November 20 2020

code quality, sushi, and christmas presents



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. I'm pleased to report that today is in fact Friday, and in only a short work day from now you are officially relieved of duty. Welcome to the weekend. I'm looking forward to this weekend. I'm not on call. We're going to be doing some Thanksgiving prep grocery shopping. We're hanging Christmas lights around the yard.

Marissa and Rodney already got a jump on things yesterday. They hung sparkly white lights all around the backyard perimeter, taking advantage of the beautiful day. Apparently yesterday was in the sixties. Clicking through our google photos, I see that even baby Miles got to hang outside in the backyard in his saucer, taking in the beautiful weather. Being the busy dummy that I am, I didn't even make time to step outside yesterday.

Even though we've already begun to hang Christmas lights, don't worry. We're not going to break protocol. Nothing is getting switched on until after Thanksgiving. I have however extended a personal grace period for Christmas music. I started listening to Chance the Rapper's Christmas mixtape over a week ago while I clean the kitchen, just to prime the holiday pump.

Sip. How was your Thursday? Mine was socially stimulating. I was in an out of zoom calls with people all day. In the morning I hung out with Branden, teaming up to grade a take home assignment submitted by a prospective intern. We'd pick it back up again in the afternoon just before my final meeting of the day to check in with our intern Connor.

"So I read something scary," began Connor. "What is this 'intern review' we're doing?"

"Intern review?" I asked. "I don't know anything about that." Connor smirked, and I sensed my genuine ignorance was just coming off as cagey. His eyes darted to another place on his screen, reading a slack message aloud. "Want to pick up on this intern review?"

"OH that," I laughed. "Those are code screens for future interns. You already went through all that, you're done." We got to talking about code reviews, and what exactly makes code good.

"If I'm being honest," I explained. "The most important thing to me is that the code does what it's supposed to do. Most of the time I'm reviewing code, I'm just testing it. Afterwards I assess the way it looks, but that doesn't usually lead to any big discoveries."

"It just sounds like you've been beaten down," laughed Connor. "Doesn't there have to be some kind of standard? What if the code is just a mess?"

"I hear you," I said. "I pay more attention to how they got there. If they were running their code often and being very disciplined about changing one thing at a time, I like that."

"But this is a take home assignment," reminded Connor. "Remember, they consider this finished."

That was a good point, and it got me thinking about how my paradigm for code review may need to adapt to grading a take home test. I can't rely on how they got there if I can only see the end product.

Connor went on to tell me some stories of what it's like being a computer science TA at the university. How it feels when he's handed a mess of code and just asked to 'fix it', or what a struggle it is to pull valuable lessons out of arcane sample code that has been buried in the curriculum for years.

"You've seen a lot of ugly code," I laughed. Perhaps there's something there that explains our different perspectives on code quality. I wonder if just a week of grading undergrad Computer Science assignments would be enough to change my staunch function over form philosophy.

Signing off for the day, I found my way into the dining room. Marissa was on the computer shopping around for eat out places to try. We settled on sushi from a cajun-japanese place near campus. Cajun and Japanese fusion might sound odd to some, but it's actually not the first time we've come across such a combination. I'm pretty sure I've already raved about our favorite cajun stir fry place in the mall.

There was a knock. I retrieved the tied plastic bag from our porch through our cracked front door just as the delivery driver slipped back into her car. I set out the food at the table. Marissa and I divided up the sushi rolls, and on Rodney's plate we arrange some chicken tenders and a small pile of fries.

"Tonight is a little different," said Marissa. "No timer, it's just eat out night and we're trying something new."

"How about this," I interrupted. "You have to eat just one sushi roll." I reached across the table, gingerly setting a single piece of caterpillar roll at the end of Rodney's plate. Rodney obediently picked up the roll, nibbling off the side. Rodney finished the roll with the help of a few more gentle reminders.

2020 11 20 sushi

"I told Rodney he was a good boy for finishing his sushi," said Marissa after he went to bed. "He asked me to make sure that Santa hears about it."

I laughed. "Of course," I replied. "He got lucky. I already talked to Santa, and it turns out that single piece of sushi was the deciding factor for Christmas gifts this year. The mighty pups tower was on the line, and he made the big play when he had to."

As we talked about Christmas presents, Marissa grabbed a magazine off the kitchen table. It was a Bed Bath and Beyond brochure. "Speaking of which," said Marissa tossing the magazine onto my lap. "Circle the things you want, and put stars by things you really want."

I smiled. "I know the drill," I said, thinking we were on the same page. But apparently I took it a little too seriously. After packing up the house for the night, I brought the magazine upstairs with me. I crawled into bed with it and began to page through it. After only five minutes, I reached the end of the magazine, finding nothing to circle.

"So I was really disappointed, I didn't find anything I actually want," I said as Marissa entered the bedroom. Seeing me with the magazine, she laughed.

"Oh no, I'm so sorry," she said. "I was joking. I didn't think you would actually do it. Their magazines are usually just the dumb stuff."

"Yeah," I whined. "This is all just blankets, candles, bath salts... I even brought a sharpie in bed with me. All I circled was this carving knife, and to be honest I think I was just reaching."

2020 11 20 magazine

What a letdown - my Christmas is practically ruined.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful Friday today.