Thursday, May 27 2021

plans, sandwich analogies, and skating practice



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends of the dot-com. Happy Thursday. I’m sending you positive vibes on this chilly, overcast morning. May your coffee be hot and fresh. May your calendar be forgiving, especially around lunch. May your email inbox be scant and your software updates speedy.

I’ve got a day off tomorrow, and that proved to be a good decision because the whole work force gets a day off on Monday for Memorial day. That goes to show that sometimes when you request a day off to help your wife with an art show, the universe shows its appreciation by giving you a four day weekend. Whether you have a three or a four day weekend, I hope you’re teeing up a relaxing break from work. Break out the barbecue. Eat chips. Maybe drive to St. Charles and buy some art from my wife. All this week Marissa has been getting ready for the big show. Tomorrow, we’re driving to Illinois, dropping the dogs of at their respective baby sitters, dumping the human kids off at my parents’ place, and setting up Marissa’s booth. It should be a good time, and it will help to have a Monday to recuperate as well.

Sip. How are you feeling today? I’m tired, but I got enough fumes in the tank to get me through one more work day. Yesterday was a fast day, with work trickling my way from multiple places. I paired with the interns. I debugged another team’s secrets configuration. To borrow a phrase from my teammate Derek, I felt busier than a termite in a sawmill. I also gave my canned hour long training session to a group of new engineers, so I was wearing my chipper “Welcome to Zendesk” face throughout.

It was a quiet group. They contently listened while I droned about cloud providers, regions, and databases. I was taking them through a slide that provided an anatomical slice of the Zendesk customer pod, and I decided to ad lib.

“If you think of the Zendesk pod like a sandwich, CloudFlare is the bread…. and kubernetes is the cheese.”

My voice trailed off, realizing that the analogy wasn’t going anywhere. If our CDN were the bread, then we only have a slice of bread on top of a pile of cheese, meat, and whatever other ingredients, and that’s not a sandwich at all. I backed out of the botched analogy with a quiet chuckle. “You’re engineers - you don’t need an analogy,” I said.

There is this one slide in my deck that has always confused me. We show engineers a projection of a world map speckled with little blue dots, representing all the endpoints from which we distribute static assets. One of the dots hovering near Finland is bigger and brighter than the others. I’ve often waxed about my own confusion for new groups. “I don’t know why this one is bigger,” I say. “It can’t be the headquarters, because that’s in San Francisco. For some reason, this map just chose to highlight Finland I guess. Maybe that’s the cool endpoint like with beer on tap and a ping pong table, who knows.”

Yesterday I learned from a colleague that the map was a screenshot taken from CloudFlare’s website. On their website, the map is animated. The dots blink randomly. Whoever took a screenshot for our slide deck must have taken it while Finland happened to be lit up. A small bit of trivia, but I feel like a burden of explanation has been lifted off my chest.

The work day preceded, and soon it was time for Rodney and I to begin our ice skating practice ritual. We changed into warm clothes. We jumped in the car. We listened to track one of the Enter the Spider-Verse soundtrack on loop while our car rambled along side streets to the big grey building. We parked. I reminded Rodney that even though he brought several toys, only the small rubber spider could secretly join.

As a side note, I always wonder what would happen if I actually allowed Rodney to bring all his toys into the rink. Imagine if he feebly took the ice, carrying a baby giraffe, a stuffed corgi, a dinosaur, a cup of slime, and a Highlights magazine cradled in his arms.

While waiting to head in, I broached the subject of skating by himself. “What do you think about Daddy standing off to the side again?” I asked.

“Um… no,” said Rodney. “I like Dada on the ice.” He bobbed his head to track one of the Enter the Spider-Verse soundtrack.

To both of our shock, practice began with the teacher pulling the parents aside. She asked us to leave the ice. Rodney’s eyes scanned the building, but once he spotted me along the boards, a simple thumbs up quelled his worries.

Watching from the side lines was a much different sort of practice. It was more amusing. The parents all chuckled while we watched our kids tottle around the ice.

I’ll say this - I don’t think I have ever felt older in my life. I’ve been the kid on the ice before, but I’ve never been the parent standing off to the side partaking in small talk. What’s your son’s name? How old is he? Is he going to try hockey? Oh sure, I’m worried about concussions to, but what can you do? Shrug. Nod. Observe. Repeat.

Meanwhile, the teacher used a thick marker to draw a long, wobbly line on the ice. She instructed the kids to follow it, like a race track. They each spun in a slow circle when the reached the loop-de-loop, and they dipped low when they got to the X.

It’s truly remarkable watching how clever Rodney’s teacher is when it comes to teaching kids to skate. They play games. She keeps their focus. She switches things up moments before they get bored or frustrated. It’s almost like they’re being tricked into developing the balance and discipline themselves while being completely distracted from it.

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