Thursday, December 25 2014
We had our customary Christmas morning ritual in front of the woodstove after Gretchen returned from walking the dogs. I made a pot of coffee and then Gretchen gave me a pair of stocks stuffed with various things. This year there was hardly any candy; instead it was chock full of cans of nuts and other salty snackfoods, as well as extra-fine Sharpie markers (my existing markers are mostly too fat for labeling small objects). Instead of brandy, this year Gretchen got me a small rectangular bottle of Jonnie Walker Black Label blended scotch. I'd come to realize in recent years that, unlike my father (on whom I modeled my early drinking habits) I actually like the medicinal peaty flavor of scotch. Gretchen also got me a belt and a pair of olive-green trousers, though the belt proved an inch or two too short. I'd given Gretchen most of her presents for Chanukah (she is Jewish, after all), but I had one gift remaining: a special attachment for her new KitchenAid mixer that behaves like a double squeegee in the mixing bowl (it looked like something that would be possible to print in a 3D printer).
Eventually I went upstairs and did a bunch of boring programming work on the Lightroom webapp. For scalability, I needed to make it so that individual "vocabularies" for users could be placed in separate databases and (ultimately) on separate servers. But to do that, I had to pass all references to the MySQL tables that make up these vocabularies through a function that looks up (based on user information) and prepends a prefix. The references were numerous and there was no one way to find them all. In the process, I also had to change the parameters being passed around by functions to be sure that the data I needed would be available. As I worked, I found it best to maintain a "stack" similar in function to the call stack maintained by a computing environment. My stack contained a list of functions needing attention that I could add to as I discovered that they needed to be fed data from some other calling function (which might also end up on the stack). Once dealt with, the function could be taken off the stack and put in a completed list. I'm fully aware that a lot of the trouble I'm now having with such major architectural changes would be a lot easier to achieve had I designed the webapp to run on an object-oriented framework, but it uses my nine-year-old Tableform codebase as its foundation, and that's basically a procedural framework.
Sometime after 4:20PM, I started drinking from my little bottle of scotch. But I was so engaged by the mesmerizing dullness of my code work that I took sips at a very slow rate. I always drink very slowly as I manipulate code, and this accounts for why it is possible for me to occasionally stay up until four in the morning coding and drinking without ever getting all that drunk.
For Gretchen and me, the Jewish part of today's Christmas was to be the best-attended in the history of our observance of this ritual. We'd arranged to meet up with nine other people at Kingston Wok, the Chinese restaurant between what used to be my favorite liquor store and what used to be my favorite pizza place (back before I was vegan, when I used to shop more at Lowes than Home Depot). I'd never actually been in Kingston Wok before; not knowing anything else about it, the location always seemed kind of sketchy (which is less of a problem for a liquor store or a pizza place). But Mark and Maresa had told Gretchen good things about Kingston Wok, so we were willing to give it a try (despite the carping of various others in our unwieldy Jewish Christmas contingent, some of whom didn't really get that it was a time-honored tradition). Promisingly, Kingston Wok was jammed-packed with diners, most of whom were presumably Jews. But our contingent was actually a little less than half Jewish, with such notable non-Jews as Deborah, Carrie & Michæl, Sarah the Vegan, the non-Jewish half of the seed library couple, and the person writing about it. We'd made a reservation but still had to wait a few minutes for our table to be assembled. Service was slow and the weird Chinese cocktails weren't very good. Gretchen and one of the seed library guys shared a "volcano," though it seemed that all the alcohol was placed in the hollow of the cone at its center, where it burned away uselessly once we set it afire. The actual beverage tasted like Tang, with so little alcohol that it could have safely been served at a Boy Scout gathering. I made the mistake of ordering off the "Revolution" menu, which meant the vegetables and tofu were lightly steamed. It had looked so good on the menu, but on the plate in front of me it looked like something prepared for a bunny rabbit. Much better was the noodle dish that Gretchen ordered. We had to hurry through our meal because it came late and the movie (the other essential ingredient in every Jewish Christmas) started at 9:00pm at the Hudson Valley Mall.
Only five of us would be going to the movie, and Gretchen would be this contingent's only Jew. The movie was the new Chris Rock (I like to call him "Christopher Rock") creation Top Five, in which Rock plays a comic movie star trying to extricate himself from a brain-dead franchise in which he plays a cop dressed as a bear. Top Five has a lot of funny moments (especially the pre-sobriety flashback to 2003 in Houston with a huckster named Jazzy), but it's got a serious point to make about authenticity. I would say it was perhaps a bit too dialog-heavy and romcommy for me, but Gretchen absolutely adored it, saying she would gladly watch it again right then and there. I should mention that I took occasional sips from my small bottle of scotch throughout the movie. That's a tradition that's got some years left in it.
Back at the house, I took advantage of my holiday indulgence allowance and stayed up until past three in the morning drinking, smoking pot, and even putting something satirical up on Facebook.
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