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October 20, 1998
a year ago

Sucked in by Work

Whoooie. It's what day? oh. Right. Tuesday.

Came out of a debugging haze today and realized that I was about 37 calls deep in the call stack and my eyes were bugging out and my brain flappin' in the breeze. Oooof. I got the bugger, though. Damnit.

It's a visceral thing, for me. Bug hunting. Especially the really hard ones, the ones that go that deep, that thick, that nasty. Because it's the entire system that's at fault, small things here, a bit of lack of data there, a small thing that goes wrong at the beginning slowly snowballing into the overall effect. It's hunting, looking for all the clues, all the behavioral scents of what's actually going on, what should go on and what isn't happening is as much important as what is.

The slow building of a holistic view of data flow, and I have to get deep into the system, how everything in it works, talks, plays with everything else when it's that nasty a bug.

As Trip noted and John acknowledged, the easy bugs always go first. Well, they're easy, you know? So they get killed off quick, evolution of the fittest or something, so near the end is when the harder bugs get tackled and that's when the brain starts to burn. I've been in burn mode for a while, not really writing about it much as it just is...

Spent most of the weekend trying, desperately, to not think about code or work and giving it all a rest, or else I knew I'd just burn out big time. That's the trick to staying alive as a programmer, I think, knowing what it's going to take to completely burn you into a crisp and finding ways to cope, and to avoid it. Keep the craft alive.


I did a lot of cooking over the weekend. Saturday had a big chuck taken up by the kids' soccer game. It was just miserable out, rain slanting down in quick showers while we walked the sideline. A dad lent me his golf umbrella and I hung onto it happily as it was nearly as big as a tent. I amused myself by fitting nearly entirely inside my PVC jacket, looking like a little girl in a way too big green coat. That was kinda funny.

The boys, again, played their hearts out. I keep wanting to play more as I watch 'em run and run and run and play and throw their bodies into the game. The joy of it just squeezes the heart. Not that they think of it that way. It's just fun. I'm impressed by the number of parents that showed up, too, and braved the wet sideline and stood in the rain and watched and cheered and stuck up for the kids. That was so cool.

Uhm... hrm. Common failing for all soccer games, I guess, but I can't remember the score for the life of me. All I remember was the play, which they did well with.

Beforehand we had just enough time to stop by Victor's and I bought four shots of espresso because of a cooking experiment I wanted to do that afternoon. Pepin has this lovely boiled meringue recipe that uses espresso and cocoa powder in addition to the sweet meringue that makes an absolutely astonishing taste. It involves boiling sugar to a candy point and then pouring it into beaten egg whites. The first time got messed up as we didn't keep beating the stuff as the hot sugar really cooks the egg whites, so the stuff started separating badly. So we tried it again, and the second time I used bittersweet Bernard C. chocolate to flavor it. Even bittersweet was just a touch too sweet with the sugar. So we have one batch with excellent texture and one batch with excellent taste. We're going to have to try that again.

Dinner was a red wine chicken, with pearl onions, mushrooms and a fairly quick prep, actually. I also found out that I can take a whole chicken down to parts in less than fifteen minutes, now. THAT was cool to know. The dish turned out savory and lovely and... well... purple. John loved that it was purple, but I guess I didn't quite brown the chicken enough to begin with, so the red wine turned everything dark grape purple. I added fresh pasta noodle, and a healthy serving of broccoli and that was dinner along with some nice bread.

Sunday started with an apple Dutch Baby, and the apples cooked long enough this time for the whole thing to be tender and well baked and really good. John also started some sourdough bread from a Flecheman's Ready To Use Sourdough Starter, which kinda boggled my brain, but it seemed to work okay. Then John, Fezzik and I piled into the Stoat and headed East on an Adventure. Not really with any idea where we were headed or what we were going to do or when we'd be getting anywhere. It was just Out.

We just headed Out. In the cold, clear, utterly gorgeous day that was a shocking contrast to the day before. We could see everywhere, and as we headed into the mountains there was plenty to see. The Cascades were as dramatic as I've ever seen them, all the deep dark green of the evergreens interlaced with the flame reds of wild scrub oak and the yellows of other deciduous trees. The mountains themselves were grey, craggy, a few of the high peaks brushed with snow.

We got out as far as a lake by the freeway, which is actually a reservoir, and by this time of the year, it was really, really low, so much of the surface of the bottom of the lake was visible for everyone to see. Many of the locals call it Stump Lake in this time of the season because there are thousands of stumps of trees that died when the water came over them. Turns out that there were a number of let-in's, boat ramps that would normally have gone down into the water, and in this season were basically ramps down to the odd lake bottom mud.

We drove on one of the gravel ones out to the very end, and then hopped out to walk around. Fezzik immediately splashed around in the streams that ran across the lake bed, going to the other side of one of them and getting about knee deep in mud. He looked a bit started by that sudden drop but managed to get back out without needing our help. Thank everything. But he was a good barometer of where the mud could support our weight and where it couldn't as he roamed in all directions. That was very keen to see.

The lake bottom felt so odd. A soft texture to the piled up silt that was pretty much exactly like the feeling of the spring loam around the trees around our house. Rich and soft and molten under the foot. It was a very strange surface to walk on and looked about as blasted as a desert because nothing grew there and it was flat as far as the eye could see. Fezzik ran off in one direction after something we couldn't see or hear. He eventually turned back towards us, but he was, by that time, small with distance. It was so odd to see that, and know that, and know that he could see us to come back as well as hear us.

We got home late in the afternoon. I actually slept most of the drive back, and then I sat down to watch the Pepin video on how to debone a chicken. He had it done in about ten minutes flat. It took me a good half an hour, but it was half frightening how easy it was to take the bones out completely. I'm figuring on doing a Far Side Boneless Chicken Ranch Dinner sometime...

The stuffing was wild and brown rice with dried Chanterelle mushrooms, leeks and onions, it turned out chewy and lovely to the bite, savory and rich with the mushrooms and the chicken stock, complimenting the meat exquisitely. The boneless bird roasted much more quickly than a normal roast chicken, and came out moist, juicy and perfect. The bones from the day before made a savory stock that was used in the rice and in the gravy that I made from the de-fatted pan drippings. Along with some of John's sourdough bread, it was marvelous. While watching John, I got completely obsessed with sourdough, which has been, for the last two days, a welcome respite from work. Something that I could get into that would shake my brain free of code and get it to think about something else while still solving problems subconsciously.


So I found like twenty different references on sourdough on the Web, including a place that sells sourdough leavenings from the Red Sea, the Gaza strip, and the rumored location of Eden. It's pretty keen, and also has some of the more modern strains as well. I like their thoroughness.

Also got pretty amazing numbers of facts and cool stuff from rec.food.sourdough and their FAQ and references. Enough stuff that I'm actually growing John's sourdough culture and seeing if it actually works tonight for biscuits or something.

The last two days have been pretty boring, work on a massive scale, dreams each night, and food when we can.

Gotta friend going in for nasty surgery tomorrow. Half confused as to whether I should call or not, and thinking that they'll get all the calls they can handle anyway, and maybe just a cool gift and a visit afterwards. Something nice. Anyway... prayers in the morning, if anyone wishes to lend a helping thought or wish. They go in godawful early, around 6:30, but there's a few hours of prep and then they go. So around 8 or 9 Pacific daylight savings time.

I did, however, finish my last bug tonight. The nasty one, so I'm writing again. Nice that. And nice John, who's willing to stay just a bit more so that I can get this spill out.

So. I guess this is the other side...

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