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October 20, 2000
two years ago
three years ago

Working At Home

I felt John get up around 6:30 AM, and, as usual, I turned around and went back to sleep. Ever since the beginning of the pregnancy I've needed more sleep than he has, so I've gradually learned how to get back to sleep even if he has decided to get up and do something. Today I didn't have to do the half-hour commute into Boulder, and I had other plans.

I got up around 8 AM, put myself together, and immediately hopped into the Passat and drove off for the Conoco. I picked up three doughnuts, one chocolate, one twist, and an apple fritter. I arrived home to find a very surprised Fezzik, who ran over to greet me, and followed the doughnuts into the kitchen. He sat next to the counter on which they rested, while I got the coffee roaster out. I wanted to try the Yeman mocha, so scooped one scoop of the beans into the roaster and took the entire assembly outside onto the porch by the barbecue. There was an outlet there that we used for the rotisserie, so I plugged in the roaster, set it to a medium roast, and let it run. It was actually somewhere in the 40s outside, so I wasn't too surprised when the roasting cycle ended to find that there were still some yellow roast beans, so I just cranked the timer over to add another two minutes to the overall cycle and ended up with some very nicely roasted beans. They weren't nearly as dark as John likes them, but the more delicate mocha really wouldn't have stood up to a super dark roast. I was good, and only measured out one cup's worth of beans into the grinder and actually found a one cup coffee maker from my college days, discovered the filters for that size of coffee maker, and made myself a single cup of very flavorful coffee. I put the rest of the now-cooled beans into a little, glass, air-tight container.

It was nearly a crime to drink that coffee with the sweetness of the doughnuts, but it tasted just so good. Fezzik got most of the twist and part of my apple fritter. I carefully ate the entire chocolate donut for myself, no chocolate for dogs. The coffee gave me an instant buzz. The darker roasts lose more caffeine when they're roasted so long, and I'd forgotten just what a real coffee buzz feels like as I'd been avoiding most coffee unless it was something I could really appreciate for the price of avoiding anything with caffeine for the rest of the day.

Quite a way to start a day.

Maybe that's why I did so well with the morning's work. The installation of NaturallySpeaking 5.0 went really smoothly, and all of my old vocabulary transitioned smoothly to the new software. The training period was short, and since I didn't have all of the Microsoft extras that needed to be installed for the tutorial, I skipped the tutorial completely and just immediately jumped into dictation. The new software is astonishingly accurate. And when there are mistakes, the new correction capabilities allow me to forge ahead for awhile and then go back and correct what I've seen. The old Point & Speak correction capabilities only allowed correction of the thing that I just said, so I have a bad habit of pausing to see how the last phrase turned out before going onto the next one. I don't need that habit anymore, and it slows the rate of dictation down considerably.

With the new software I was able to get through my first set of minutes before I even left for lunch. I had expected to go through the entire afternoon before getting everything done, and here I was already half done before I left for lunch at 11:30.

Everyone had left for China Gourmet at 11:30 from work, and I knew I had to go further distance to go, but I relied, somewhat, on group dynamics slowing them down a little bit. I arrived a little bit after they had finished ordering everything, and John had somehow miscounted the number of people that were there. So he sent me up to the counter to order another two orders of scallion pancakes, I also managed to snag the empty teapot and get that filled while I was up there. By the time I got back to my seat, the soups had arrived.

What followed was a very fine feeding frenzy. As the dishes were put on the table by Cary, they were passed around and quickly devoured. I was very impressed by the speed with which people ate, as all the dishes disappeared very quickly. That was a Hunan chicken, a hot pepper eggplant dish, a lovely scallop and black beans, large fish chunks in a hot sauce, the Mongolian beef, the two orders of scallion pancakes, and two tureens of hot and sour seafood soup. All in all it was a very impressive spread, made all the more impressive by the fact that it cost only nine dollars a person. Everyone ate their fill and there was only a little bit left over.

I am always comforted by the food at China Gourmet. It isn't super fancy, but it's authentic, more home-style cooking than the fancy restaurant dishes. They use no extra MSG (soy has a small amount naturally) and serve brown as well as white rice when asked.

I sped home afterwards. Today was just gorgeous, the sky was completely clear, but the air was cool and the sun was warm, so when I discovered that the house still smelled of the finishing agents for the floor, I just opened all the doors and windows. I turned the heating off, and left the house to air while I went back upstairs to finish my work. Fezzik followed me and he also followed me back down, napping while I worked. I finished the minutes fairly quickly, and went back down stairs with my design book to do the drawing and thinking I needed for some of the design work I need to do the next few weeks. It was very nice to be able to just sit and think for awhile without any interruptions whatsoever. Fezzik even decided to just stay outside on the porch, occasionally barking at people that passed by.

When the sky darkened and I finally needed some light, I close all the doors, turned the heat back on, and found that it was nearly 6 PM. I went back upstairs, then, and wrote a few journal entries using the new software because my hands weren't doing too well. John called to say that he was coming home, so I decided to make dinner.

Fezzik and I went out to the mailbox, and found two gifts from Geoff. One was for Fezzik, and was a book off monsters for some sword and sorcery game system. Geoff had based one of the evil, lawful creatures on his conception of Fezzik which has almost nothing to do with the real dog. Then again, I guess magical creatures don't usually have much to do with mundane creatures. Fezzik completely ignored the book, but I had fun looking up the Kiffez and peering at the twists. The other thing that arrived in the mailbox was Geoff's very thoughtful birthday gift for me. It's something I can't get here, and was something I couldn't get in Seattle either, something that, of all my friends, only he and possibly Rick Floyd had access to buying direct from a local grocery store. It was 10 pounds of White Lily flour. The self rising stuff. The stuff that makes making biscuits really really easy, and is the only ingredient I was missing to make real Southern fried chicken. Yes, Geoff was cool enough to send me ten pounds of flour through the mail as my birthday gift. Hoorah! So I decided that we would have biscuits for dinner.

I just measured out some flour, added shortening, and then worked enough buttermilk into the mass to make a very soft, sticky dough. The process was so quick the oven hadn't heated up to 500 degrees, yet, so I waited just a while longer before sliding the biscuits into the oven. I had marinated two chicken breasts in Penzey's chicken jerk spices earlier, but wasn't in the mood for fried chicken. Once the biscuits had risen and started to brown I decided putting the breasts in while the oven was still that hot would do a good job the searing the outsides of the meat. It did a great job of that, but the biscuits weren't done as quickly as I had hoped. I had to pull the chicken out while the biscuits finished browning, and then turned the oven down to 350 before putting the breasts back in. It didn't take long for them to get cooked through, just long enough for me to nuke some French cut string beans. It all made for a very tasty, satisfying meal.

After dinner I brought the little glass container over to John and cracked the lid of it open for him to sniff. Immediately after roasting, the beans mostly smell a little scorched, all the flavor goes into the coffee not out into the air. But with a little time on the shelf and in the air-tight container, these beans had developed this incredible aroma, deep, rich, with just the hint of chocolate background that mochas are famous for having. The scent alone was wonderful.

The evening was very low-key. And really, truly, it is wonderful to work for a company that emphasizes home life. To know that my entire weekend is for me to rest, relax, and do what it is I want to do is such a difference from even a few years ago. I understand started hours for a startup, but I don't understand big companies that ask people to work ungodly hours. It might help the company in the short-term, but I think it does untold damage to the environment and the quality of work in the long-term, simply from the perspective of human cost.

Sleep is good.

Brought to you by Dragon System's NaturallySpeaking version 5.0

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