Thursday, July 1 2021

imposter syndrome, heisenbugs, and how miles eats



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends. Happy Thursday. It's a beautiful day over in Madison Wisconsin. Even Minnie, our fuzzy, black manifestation of perpetual motion couldn't fight off the warm morning sun that fills the house. She finally called it quits on the morning playtime and joined her more mature siblings upstairs to sleep off breakfast - after leaving a single defiant poop on the carpet, of course.

Sip. How are you holding up? Good week? Bad week? Long week? Long week. But thankfully not much longer. Last night, Rodney and I turned another page on his Paw Patrol calendar in the corner of his bedroom (Chase, the police dog, graces the cover of July), and that means July 4th is right around the corner. There's no stopping it now. That three day holiday weekend is thundering toward us, and by God it's your duty as a red-meat eating American to honor your country's birthday by standing around a grill all day instead of working. I know that's what I'll be doing, once I make it back from Grand Rapids anyway.

It's wedding season. On Saturday, I'm flying out to Michigan for a wedding postponed by COVID. After reading that book about my Dutch ancestors, I see places like Lansing, Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Munster in a new light. Even back in the early 1900s these places were established safe havens for the Dutch. I've never been to Grand Rapids before, but I expect to feel right at home, or at least see a lot of tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed people walking around.

Today is only Thursday, but it's a pretty special day in my career. I start my new position on the networking team today. The colored blocks on my calendar form a different pattern starting today - a new routine.

I couldn't believe it, but I felt a twinge of imposter syndrome yesterday. I don't know bunk about computer networks. I feel totally lost in all the meetings I've been listening in on. Right now I feel about as useful as I did a week after my sixteenth birthday when my new boss handed me a Target employee name tag and told me to go work the floor. But it's OK, because I wanted to feel this way. I wanted something new and challenging because that means there's room to grow. If you set your mind to it, you can enjoy the sensation of being confused.

Yesterday was also our last day with our co-op interns. Ritik, Daniel, Connor, and I have had a wonderful past couple of months together. They showed so much drive and ownership with their work, at times I forgot that they were also part time students, still attending their own classes from their dorms through a pandemic. Even down to the final day of their tenure, they worked feverishly to squash one final bug. I joined the zoom call as their work session was tapering off.

"Our code is... in a state of superposition," Daniel commented. "It's both broken and working."

"Ah, and if you try to fix it, you run the risk of collapsing that state of uncertainty. At least you have something that works sometimes - that's still better than something that never works," I added.

Software behaves mysteriously. It's not as scientific as you'd think - sometimes it feels more like ghost hunting or fortune telling. The heisenbug - a bug in code that is both there and not there - is a common running gag around the office. In software engineering tradition, the only way to cast out a heisenbug is to explain your code one line at a time to a rubber duck. This practice is known as rubber-ducking.

The interns and I met for one final retro. We made virtual sticky notes to help us reflect on the funny moments, proud moments, and big lessons. Halfway through the exercise, Ritik's Internet cut out. We decided to table the discussion until Friday's pizza party at my house, and instead we just played virtual pictionary.

Being the last day on my team, I spent the rest of the work day indulging in some nostalgia. I skimmed through old photos I've taken at work and while traveling to conferences. I was hoping to have at least a few pictures with my teammates, but most of my footage is just me bothering Rob.

"Rob, I have so many pictures and videos where I'm breathing in your face trying to get a selfie with you - I don't know how you put up with me," I wrote him over slack. In most of them, Rob is just smirking or scowling. Rob was very patient with me in my first few months at Zendesk.

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Last night we made spaghetti. On an impulse, Marissa set up her camera in front of Miles and made a time lapse of him eating. I couldn't be happier with the results.

Rodney and Miles are very different eaters. Rodney eats like a choosy bird. He picks the bare minimum out of his bowl. His food can't be too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. Under no circumstance will he ever voluntarily eat a potato, and I find that quite vexing.

Miles, on the other hand, is a monster. He's a marvel of science. He's a German engineered machine that turns food into poop. He shovels food into his mouth by the wave, and if we take too long to reload his plate with more spaghetti, he shrieks. He bangs his fists on the table. He rolls his eyes up and thrashes in his high chair like someone at a faith healing revival. His body is going through its own booming industrial revolution, and we parents are the lowly workers shoveling coal into the ever-burning furnace.

That's what I got today. Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you have a wonderful Thursday.