Thursday, December 16 2021

the school-free routine, a painting of minnie, and learning things



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Thursday. May you receive good vibes on this Thursday morning. I'm checking in from the fringe of this bizarre tropical storm currently churning through the midwest. Wide, grey clouds swirl in our sky. Last night's high winds pushed a pile of leaves, branches, aluminum cans, and a few Christmas decorations into the top of my driveway. But inside, if I close my eyes and take a deep breath of warm, humid air, it's easy to pretend it's the middle of summer. Calming, but warm summery air isn't going to cut it today. I need something with a little more kick.

Sip. At least the inhabitants of the upstairs exotic animal corner have enjoyed a soothing respite from our harsh winter. The spiders, especially the smaller ones getting ready to molt, always appreciate a little extra moisture in the air. The roach bin in the corner of my closet has warmed up, and I bet that has given some of the weaker members of the colony courage and resolve to wander out of dark egg crate shelter and finally try some of this "food" that everyone else has been talking up so much.

Last night before parking in front of my desk to play a few minutes of xbox before climbing into bed, I caught sight of Ducky, our leopard gecko. She was perched on top her flat hide on the cool side of her enclosure. In all likelihood, she left her warm cave to briefly visit her poop corner, and on the way back she decided to stop and enjoy the change of scenery. No matter how brief or small, Marissa and I get excited when she independently wanders her habitat.

Speaking of animals, did you take a minute to appreciate the new painting of Minnie? Marissa got it in the mail yesterday from our friend Lauren in lieu of a secret santa gift. She immediately ran upstairs with the painting to show me. We both brushed tears out of our eyes while we studied Minnie's likeness. Painting somebody else's pet is no small undertaking. Sometimes it feels like we know our dogs' faces better than we know our own, and Lauren captured Minnie's likeness so well that I get the automatic urge to clap and yell MINNIE MINNIE MINNIE each time I walk by it, or reach into the painting to pin her ears back and exclaim YOU'RE A VERY NICE PUPPY. OH, WHAT A NICE GIRL. Lauren, the fact that this painting can activate our "weird dog-person mode" is a testament to your skill.

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In other news, Rodney began his winter break a few days early. A slew of positive COVID tests in his class meant the school would close up for the rest of the year, but they only had two days to go anyway. So Rodney is thoroughly settled back into his school-free routine. Instead of gym class and yoga, he's jumping on the couch in his underwear. Instead of math, he's losing himself in his LEGO bin. Instead of practicing letters, he's playing Xbox with dad.

Speaking of which, we picked up on LEGO Jurassic Park again yesterday. We went wandering together around the map in "free-play mode" in search of things to do. We used the Jurassic World genetic lab to make our own hybrid raptor that had the colors of a dairy cow and the head of a Stegosaurus. We went on to destroy everything in the lab, then we took turns punching each other, laughing each time one of us exploded into a pile of LEGOs. We both transformed into T-Rexes and stomped around the food court, then it was time to eat dinner.

How has your work life been? Things have already begun to slow down for me. This week has been kind of a learning week. Yesterday, I finished dissecting a technical blog post, then I watched a conference deep dive - all to the end of trying to understand Istio, a key component of our networking managed by my team.

I wish I were the type of genius that could read something once, and draw it wholly into my brain like the way the SHAM-WOW absorbs cola, wine, and pet stains, but I have to take several passes at the same information before it starts to make sense to me. First I have to answer the question "What's the point of this?" What did people do before this thing, what problem did this solve, and how is it better? Sometimes even these fundamental questions are kind of complicated.

Next, there's the matter of simply figuring out what's going on. While I read or listen, I try to make a crude crayon drawing in my head that captures the basic plot. I give nicknames to things like this thingy or this dude over here, but these are only temporary training wheels to aid in understanding something. Once I'm confident I have the basic version down, there's one more pass to assign the proper names to things. I have to let the acronynms and terminology sink in. Because when it comes time to show the assembled mental picture to an expert, they're not going to know what the hell you're talking about if you're still using those silly nicknames. I can't get away with saying things like these little dudes, they listen on a port, and they're gonna get connections from big cheese over here, as long as this dude says it's cool.

Then the final step is to present it to an expert. Let them sit in the audience and watch your puppet show version. Encourage them to graciously throw tomatoes whenever they find the show is going off the rails. Then you take all the learned feedback back to a quiet place and start over - what's the point, what's going on, and what are the real names for things?

And that's how you learn complicated things - or at least what I do.

That's what I got today. Thanks for stopping by today, have a great Thursday everybody.