Thursday, October 29, 2015

After the Summit, there is the descent

After a bit of wrangling, my boss managed to get both of us out to Seattle for the week-long Data Nerd Disneyland SQL PASS Summit. He arrived late Tuesday afternoon for the ‘regular’ sessions Wednesday – Friday, and I got here Sunday so that I could also attend the full-day pre-conference sessions in Extreme Nerdiness on Monday and Tuesday.

Which were FANTASTIC. The speakers were excellent, and the information presented…well, usable. Immediately, directly usable on things that have been bugging me for a while now; and a lot of new information for me, which was tremendously exciting.

I’ll be honest, such things are becoming increasingly rare for me personally; when it comes to the basics of my job, anything that falls in the ‘expected knowledge’ for the DEVI – IV range, I not only already know it, I already know it rather thoroughly.

Put it this way: I actually ditched out of a ‘300-level’ seminar earlier today because honestly I was a bit bored (yeah-yeah-yeah, row vs. page compression, c’mon, I know all this…oh, but, clearly I am just about alone in that, because everybody else sure seems to have a lot of questions about it, ugh…maybe I’ll just check the Warcraft auction house app while they all talk amongst themselves for a bit here…) and getting very sleepy / restless, and also between you and me I fall more than a bit onto the “introvert” side of the personality scale so all this networking has been steadily draining me all week.

I mean, I’m a bit a-typical of the breed in that I actually like other people, and enjoy chatting with new people and getting to hear their stories and such – but I do still have that “one way valve” when it comes to interpersonal energy: Always flows out, never back in.

In fact, I often think that it is actually the fact that I do value and care about other people, and am interested in getting to know more of them, that causes the problem for me: I find it impossible to not be keenly aware of allllllll the people who are around me. I’m reading their expressions, tones of voice, body posture and so forth, and can’t seem to help but notice – and then feel obligated to do something about – even the slightest signs of stress or emotional turmoil.

It’s ridiculous and impossible and not technically “my” problem, but, no matter how carefully I try or how logically I explain to myself that I cannot possibly fix every stranger’s problems or help every mildly ticked off person have a better day, I just can’t seem to actually turn off that valve; the best I can manage is to force myself not to actually take action on the impulse, beyond the very small things like letting someone who seems to need a “win” right now go ahead of me in line.

But, you know – it’s OK. I’d rather care too much than not at all, and frankly I have managed to avoid or defuse situations that could have become very-very bad in a hurry precisely because that hyper-sensitivity to another person’s existence tipped me off that they were a walking time bomb of pent-up frustrations and/or sadness and/or rage, sooooooooooo, I wouldn’t really trade it for the sweet peace of typical obliviousness.

But I digress.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, so I’ve already started the process of packing things up to head back home.

It feels good. It’s been a great conference and I’ve had a fantastic time, but I’m definitely reaching the end of my leash in terms of being away from home.

I can handle 2-3 days just fine; 4 days I’m starting to miss the family pretty badly; 5 days and I find myself getting more and more irritable about minor inconveniences and such.

Much beyond that, and I’m probably going to be spending every waking minute grousing to myself about increasingly idiotic non-issues. Probably aloud to myself while scuttling around on city streets trying to find a fast meal that doesn’t give me indigestion or cost me $75.

For example, my internal diatribe this morning in re: the alarm clock in my hotel room, which went something like this:

Gah, I HATE this alarm clock! This snooze button is STUPID-SMALL, and who the hell designed this on/off switch? Damn thing must either need fingers like SAUSAGES or maybe a pair of TWEEZERS to use…also who makes an ALARM clock that goes ‘meep-meep-meep’ like a newborn chick with a sore throat? I’m a developer, dammit, I need something that sounds like a LIGHTHOUSE HORN before it’ll penetrate the ‘I was up until 2:30 in the morning trying to figure something out’ fog!

Yeahhhhh, that’s a pretty strong hint that I am getting a bit past my max-tolerance for not being home.

Still…Seattle is a cool city, even for a California delta-rat like Your Faithful Correspondent; it feels a lot like home for this San Francisco native, but also has its own unique vibe that prevents me from thinking for even a moment that I’m actually stomping around “my” city, or that the water I can see from my hotel window is “my” Bay.

The cities are more like siblings than twins, you know? Similar, but also very unique. Very walk-able, lots of interesting shops and unexpected splashes of color, and Puget Sound is a wonderful place to rest your eyes after a day of staring at computer screens and such. Watching the sun set over the water as ferries scurry to and fro carrying their precious cargo home is somehow a very satisfying way to spend an idle hour. Much more entertaining than whatever the television might have to offer, for sure.

I don’t think I could live here, given that I am solar-powered and prone to “inexplicable” bouts of vague “I dunno why, I’m just kinda blue” sensations when I’m not getting a fair amount of sunlight every day; but it’s definitely a place I could visit again and again without complaints.

And with that, I’m going to get back to packing up all my cords and cables, books and handouts, and other scattered possessions. See y’all back in California tomorrow…

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Keeping my eyes peeled

Soooooooo, it’s apple season and I’m cruising the recipe sites for ways to combine carbs and fats and sugars with apple chunks healthy nutritious snacks for the family, and I run across Chewy Caramel Apple Cookies and I’m reading through the recipe and I see in the ingredients the following:

  • 20 caramels, unwrapped

And I went, “…wait…”

And I read it again. Yeah. It actually specifies, unwrapped.

For a blissful moment, I snickered as I imagined someone taking twenty plastic-wrapped caramel candies, dropping them into a saucepan and stirring madly to melt them into a glaze.

“Nice cookies, but the glaze has a weird, I dunno, burnt-plastic-y finish…”

Then I suddenly realized: I would totally be that person. I mean, I would love to poke fun at my imaginary noob pastry chef and pretend that I was just far too clever a cook myself to ever do such a thing, but…


Not terribly long ago, I made this shrimp-rice thing for dinner. You know, one of those “fancy” recipes with the (relatively) expensive sweet sticky rice and Jasmine-hinted blah blah blah almost-a-risotto deals. I was all like, “Yeahhhhhh, that’s right, I could totally win one of those cooking-as-a-full-body-contact-sport deals, ka-POW!” and totally impressed with my own prowess and all…


…I realized I had made a teeny-tiny oversight in the preparation, which was because I thought the shrimp I bought were already peeled.

They were not.

For bonus points, I did not notice this until I was trying to plate up dinner. So there I was, trying to pick the shrimps out of the very hot and sticky I might add rice so I could attempt to peel them after cooking them.

Have you ever tried to do this? I thought not. It takes a special level of inattention to detail to end up in this kind of situation. And also a high pain tolerance, because hot-hot-hot-OW-dammit-hot-hot-HOT!

I have to wonder: If the recipe I was(n’t really) following had said, “1/2 pound whole shrimp, peeled” – would it have helped? Would it have triggered me to, you know, check, before tossing them into the pan?

I’m honestly not sure.

I just…really believed that the package I bought had said “peeled” on it, somewhere. With the kind of absolute faith usually reserved for the kind of people who would stand there with an actual-literal alien sludge-beast gnawing on their face going, “There is no such thing as alien sludge-beasts! Because they aren’t in the Bible! Ha! CHECKMATE!”

I checked. It totally did not say that. Not even under the big red “50% OFF” sticker.

And yes, I was that desperate for vindication around my unshakeable conviction that those were “supposed” to be pre-peeled shrimp.

I honestly have no idea what exactly goes on inside my own mind sometimes. “Gosh, maybe I had x-ray vision at the time and the ‘pre-peeled’ label was under this one!”? Really, Me?

The tiny sliver of consolation I have is that it did say “E-Z Peel” on the package, which is practically the same as pre-peeled except for the shrimp being TOTALLY NOT peeled at all, and I’m sure it would have been quite an E-Z job if they hadn’t been like red-hot little bundles of super-heated steel nestled in vast quantities of boiling-oil hot sticky sweet rice and finely diced vegetables at the time.

Sigh…well, at least they were deveined.

So, I had that going for me.

In related news, this morning I caught a bug in a system I have absolutely zero direct connection with because I happened to see an error go by in the log files I was checking for another reason altogether.

Over 200,000 records I was scanning with my eyeballs looking for one specific set of keywords => that error jumped out at me and I was all “whoa-whoa-whoa, what?” {scroll-scroll-scroll back up through the text file} “…huh…that’s…a weird one…” {typity-typity-typity} “…ooooooooh, uh-huh, I see what happened there…” {opens new email} “hey guys, you’ve got the framework set up to think Field57 is an INT, it’s actually a GUID, you should probably update that because yeahhhhh, you kinda got blown out of the water last night and got zero updates in your delta, only the inserts and deletes that don’t use that field in their comparison script, you’re welcome.”

This has got to be some kind of super-power. The “ability to simultaneously be a person who will see ‘operand clash’ go by in a blur of fast-scrolling through a log file while looking for ‘XML’ and/or ‘illegal’, and yet, turn right around and be a person who spends a good twenty-thirty minutes enthusiastically stirring a pot of shrimp and rice without noticing the shrimp still have shells and legs on them” power.

Probably one with a big fancy Latin-sounding name I won’t be able to spell.


Saturday, October 03, 2015

Could Only Happen To Me, #1744…

Soooooo…I have a confession to make: I haven’t really played my harp in literally years. I dust it whenever I notice it needs it, and usually tune it to itself at the same time (translation: it has been nowhere NEAR a ‘concert A’, tuning-wise, for a very long time); very occasionally, I’ll sit down and fumble through a mockery of something I used to be able to play with my eyes closed and my mind elsewhere, and that’s about it.

It’s a combination of time, and pain. I don’t have a whole lot of the former, especially not in the “have both time and energy” bucket; and unfortunately, things like playing the harp / piano / guitar fall into the grim category of Stuff That Tends To Set Off Flare-Ups on both my hip/back and my shoulder-nerve-damage.

Undaunted by the fact that this means that a) I cannot play actual music on it anymore due to lack of practice and b) told him in as many words “OH HELL NO!” when he first brought it up, the husband went and volunteered me to play at a wedding in a couple weeks.

In a couple weeks.

You can imagine how rattled I am.

Since I’m apparently not going to be allowed out of it, I moved the harp into my office and started using my lunch hour as practice sessions instead of what I usually use them for if/when I actually get a lunch break, which is doing little chores around the Den. (No. You can’t use our bathroom. Seriously, you will prefer to use the nearest truck stop, it will definitely be cleaner. And more likely to have toilet paper.)

The very first morning after my very first damage assessment practice session, I came downstairs to find that a string had snapped. A nice BIG bass string.

Oh, fantastic, just faaaaaaaantastic. {grumble-grumble-grumble}

So I replaced the broken string and began the tedious process of getting it through its initial stretching period; it takes a couple days of frequent tuning before a new string will have worked out all its “extra” stretch and starts holding its tune well again, and often the 2-3 strings on either side of it experience a milder but still annoying adjustment period as well.

Now, I told you all that so that I could tell you this story: SO THERE I WAS, sitting in a late afternoon meeting. I had been in back to back meetings for a good four hours already, and my primary headset – the one with the noise-filtering microphone – fits rather snugly on my ears. It’s great for an hour or two at a time, but when you wear it continually, especially when you also wear glasses, it becomes painful.

My ears were killing me.

So, I’d stopped using the headset and had switched to using my conference-call mode…something I can really only get away with when all the Denizens are out of the house and the cats are napping, because the microphone on that deal is the opposite of my headset for the ‘filtering’ thing and will pick up the sound of a cat sneezing from clear across the house. And somehow amplify it so that the sound of my voice two inches from it will be completely overwhelmed by the dumb cat’s allergy attack.

We were in the middle of some intense negotiations, wrangling about current release items and going over the stories for the next release. I’m right in the middle of explaining in my best Trust Me I Am A Professional voice that such-and-so can’t be done like this because of reasons and blah blah blah performance and etc. etc. etc. when suddenly…the C string right next to the B that broke earlier…snapped.

If you’ve never heard a thick bass string snap on a harp – it is not a particularly gentle event. And my office was set up to be well-insulated from exterior noise, which perversely makes it a rather live room, sound-wise.

The initial snapping of the string sounded like a gunshot. POW!

And this was immediately followed by a ghastly series of hisses, hums, and almost sizzling noises as the broken string flailed around on its way to eternal rest, striking other strings and the soundboard as it went. The entire harp was vibrating from the shock.

It’s the least harp-like sound a harp will ever make outside of something like being dropped from a moving vehicle, an unmistakable yowl of protest. A sweet, classy lady shrieking obscenities. Just. Plain. WRONG.

I jumped about five feet into the air and came down biting off curse words. I was startled on the way up, and already knew what it had to have been before my backside returned to my chair.

Sure enough, I look over and the C string right next to the new B had given way. Damn, should have known THAT was gonna happen…

My teammates, however, had no idea what that noise could possibly have been. It was just as loud and startling for them as it had been for me, and they were all talking at once, asking what had just exploded and was that a gun and was I alright and OMG WTH?!

So I explained what it was. But this is ME we’re talking about. So what I said was, “Oh. Yeah. Sorry about that, guys. Looks like my 29/C just went, nothing to worry about.”

Gosh, thanks, Tama, that makes everything clear, because obviously everybody there totally already knows that a) I play the harp, b) I currently have the harp in my office with me, c) by “29/C” I mean “string 29 of 36, the lowest-octave C”… {face-palm}

So there was a weird little silence while everybody tried to make what I had said make sense, during which I realized that I had just made no sense, sooooo, I tried to clarify.

While still being, you know, me. So instead as coming out in a sane and sensible way, it came out as a too-quickly-spoken babble similar to what I’d hear from a Denizen who was trying to explain why they got a lousy grade in something I know full well they are intelligent and skilled enough to ace.

With bonus All Statements Will Be Phrased As Questions phrasing.

“Oh, yeah, so, I play the harp? And I’m supposed to be playing for a wedding in a couple weeks? So I have it in the office, and, well, the 30/B? one of those big thick nylon-wrapped-nylon bass strings? broke the other day? So I replaced it? But sometimes? when one string breaks? and another one? is sort of thinking about breaking too? it will go ahead and break? because the tension gets all weird? So, yeah, that was the string next to the one that broke yesterday? Breaking?”

{more silence while everybody processes this, which causes me to get anxious so now I want to somehow make this completely OK…}

“But hey! At least it was still just a nylon string! When one of those metal core ones goes, man, now that is really an ugly noise! hahahahaha…hahaha…haha…ha…ahem…


I bring these things on myself.

If I could just be a normal person, if I could just have a normal person’s view of the world, or maintain a normal person’s sang froid about things, or even if I could just remember that so many of the things I do are not ‘Average American’ things and not toss them out in casual conversation when amongst Average Americans, these horribly awkward moments would not happen.

But I can’t, so they do, and I always seem to be having conversations with people that involve phrases like “I didn’t know that was even a thing” or “you…wait, you literally have a {harp, greywater hose, ‘curtain’ made of scarlet runner beans, etc.}, in your house?”

But at the same time, you know…I have to say…the people I work with right now are a true gift to me. They don’t just tolerate my Crazy, they embrace it. They almost celebrate it. They laugh with me, they accept my insane exuberance about everything from being able to make something run better in our application to having gotten a really awesome deal on eight bushels of apples from a neighboring gentleman farmer that made kick-ass applesauce.

They accept me, even when I’m charging around putting a weird, quirky spin on things that require them to readjust their thinking.

Without them, I would “merely” enjoy what I do all day long; they are what make it something I love, they are the reason I have so few days at work that are just kind of meh…they make the hard work we all do feel more like one extremely long play date with my besties.

Case In Point: Instead of just going, “Oh. Alllllllll righty then. Moving on…” – this group goes, “Oh. OK. Well. I think that what we’re going to need here is some validation…” – and that was how our meeting ended up going ten minutes over, so that I could replace that broken string and play them something.

You know, so that QA could sign off on my fix.


I love those crazy-accepting guys, and I hope our play date never ends.