Tuesday, April 21, 2009


For those of you keeping track, that's a total of 17,616 lines of source code and documentation committed thus far this year. That doesn't include a hefty amount of wiki documentation and research writing as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Late Night Listening XXIX: Visiting Billalble Therapist Hours Unto the Third and Fourth Generation

The Drunken Housewife has a heckuva post about her blog's impact on her kids and the attention it has drawn. I won't spoil it here, so go read it and follow the link.

As I increase with years, I have come to realize one thing certain of the parent-child relationship. There is not one among the living or dead who has raised offspring in such proper and effective manner that the child is deprived of issues which require subsequent resolution in adulthood.

There is no path so wise that would shelter a child from all forms of trauma. It is part of being human. For inasmuch as I try to avoid repeating the mistakes of my parents and grandparents, the uniqueness of my situation will inevitably bring forth misunderstandings and missteps in my own actions as parent.

I can only hope that my daughters' path might be a short durations of weekly visits and rather than a lifetime of self-destructive behaviors. Sometimes conscientious parents are too hard on themselves, focusing so heavily on the damage, and ignoring how they foster resilience in children.

With that in mind, let's put on a copy of that great modern folk paean to self-discovery, "Closer to Fine" by the Indigo Girls.

Official Sony BMG Video of "Closer to Fine", not embedded because they don't allow it for this clip

Hard to believe it's been 20 years since that track was released, no?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Uncertainty of the Things that are Certain

And I dream of Michelangelo when I’m lying in my bed
I see god upon the ceiling I see angels overhead
And he seems so close as he reaches out his hand
But we are never quite as close as we are led to understand
-- Counting Crows, "When I Dream of Michelangelo", Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

No, your RSS readers don't deceive you. I have returned to my blog to tap out an update of my life's progress. It is not with a pall resignation that I come to visit. I am not ready to declare an end to 2am. But I would be a liar if I said that I haven't been weary over the six weeks since my last post.

As the title of my post suggests, I'm going to open with some discussion of death and taxes, because both themes have been at the forefront of my consciousness.

I almost lost my father on March 20. Since November 2001, he has been disabled by a stroke. It took a pretty heavy toll on him both physically and psychologically. He lost a lot of functionality on the left side of his body, and he is left-handed. He has been fortunate to have good retirement health coverage, so he has been able to get plenty of physical therapy, but there will be a lot of things that he will never be able to do again.

Since his stroke, he has accumulated a sizable number of prescriptions for things like cholesterol, pain, and depression. Earlier that week, his family doctor had placed him on another medication to help him with his anxiety and spasticity. Over the course of that week, he had several falls, and the one he had on the morning of the 20th while getting out of bed was a doozy. A trip to the Small Town ER led to the discovery that he had bleeding on the brain and a decision to send him via helicopter to the neurocritical care unit at a major hospital in the Circle City.

I received word sometime around 11:30 am that day from STBX, who had been phoned by my stepmom because she had neither my cell phone nor my work phone numbers. I notified my coworkers that I was heading out, and I jumped on the earliest bus that I could get that went to the hospital. I arrived just minutes after they had unloaded him, and it would be another hour before my stepmom and her son arrived. It wasn't until after 2 pm that we were allowed to go see him in the ER.

We learned from the doctor and the paramedic that he had become unresponsive on the flight, so they intubated him and then gave him a pretty powerful sedative. The bleeding was in an area near the location where his stroke occurred. They didn't think that there would be much of a problem with that. A bigger problem was the presence of a slight fracture in one of his vertebrae, but they envisioned that being treatable with a back brace. Their biggest concern was what was making him fall. They suspected it might be an adverse drug interaction.

By Saturday morning, he had regained the ability to breathe on his own while sleeping, so they extubated him. He remained in the hospital up through Tuesday. He was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital for inpatient physical therapy. His stay there was not pleasant. The girls and I paid several visits while he was there, and he was constantly complaining about the care he was getting and was convinced he would do better with outpatient therapy because he would be more comfortable.

They released him yesterday. While he had made progress during his stay there, I suspect his release had more to do with him griping about wanting out than it did with any objective metric of physical capability.

The whole experience brought forth a huge mix of emotions, some of which I am not proud to admit. When I heard he had been sent on the helicopter, I had a flashback to early October 1988, when my grandmother had to be sent via the same route for a bad fall down the stairs to the basement. She survived and continued to live for another 16 years, but she was confined to a bed and the last three or four years were especially difficult because of dementia.

I know that my dad had not been in good spirits the past several months. Out of a fear that he was on the verge of dying, earlier this year, he had sought to reestablish contact with his sister, with whom he has had a hostile relationship over many years, but it had taken a really nasty turn in 2004, after their mother had passed away. Because of that state of mind, I can't help but wonder if his will to live is slipping critically toward the brink.

I've also been thinking a lot about my own death. Granted, I hope I have several years to go, but my tolerance for being disabled has dwindled to almost nil. Having seen my STBX's dad confined to a bed in a nursing home since May 2005 and the slow deterioration of my father after the stroke, I can't see myself wanting to live through something similar. I'm not a fan of the notion of physician assisted suicide, but I believe that I will have a do not resuscitate order. I don't want to be a burden on my children, and I don't want to have to deal with the loss of dignity that sometimes comes with it.

I've also wrestled with lingering resentment toward my parents. As much as it should be the right thing to do, I couldn't see myself wanting to step forward to care for them if they were disabled. I hate feeling that way because that's not what forgiveness is supposed to be about, and for years I have worked to let go of the fact that they essentially dumped the responsibility of raising my brother and my on my paternal grandparents. The strength of these feelings is stark enough to convince me that I have not been able to fully come to terms with it.

On a less severe note, but certainly a grim topic nonetheless, one of the developers in my group was fired just a couple of days before my dad was sent to the hospital. I had seen it coming.

His performance over the year that he had been with us was lackluster. He was not thorough in his work, and it showed with lots of bugs and emergency fixes. He did a poor job of documenting his work, oftentimes leaving flippant remarks in his comments rather than useful information.

In February, there was a week where, in addition to doing my own work, I was finding, and sometimes fixing, one bug per day in his code. His departure was jarring for the other two guys in my group, leaving them with fears that they might be the next to go.

Work consumes a huge amount of my bandwidth these days. We've had two very busy development cycles that saw me writing tons of code and documentation. The total line count since my start date is 41,413, and there will be tons more to come.

One of the things I worked on during the sprint was JavaScript autosave manager that would routinely save draft versions of content every often, provided enough changes had happened to the content since the last save operation. My boss was impressed enough with my work in the waning days of that release that he sent me a personal note and gave me some extra paid time off.

I see myself starting to fall more naturally into the lead developer role, which is something my boss has been encouraging me to do. Indeed the last couple of quarterly reviews have listed as improvement areas the need to stop being so reluctant at assuming leadership.

I'm feeling more confident in my design decisions I'm starting to feel more creative in my work. For the first time in all of my career, I feel like I am in a really good groove and the growth just keeps coming. While I still have much to learn, I definitely feel more comfortable in considering the more challenging development roles that I was shy to interview for some two years ago.

The downside of all that work has been that I have been remiss in housework. While it's true that the kids do quite a number on the household entropy, I make a sizable contribution to the clutter. I am slow about getting dishes washed. I get books out and don't put them away. I let junk mail and bills pile up on the kitchen table to the point I have to bulldoze them off for the kids to have a place to eat or play with Play Doh. I spent this morning and afternoon putting a dent in the housework backlog, and the house looks a lot better now.

Another thing that I have been avoiding is tax returns. I had a suspicion that with the sale of some investments to pay off debt from the separation, we'd wind up owing on taxes. Although they withheld federal taxes on the money, they did not do so with state and county. So I kept putting off doing the returns, probably to the irritation of STBX, but I just couldn't bring myself to work on them.

I finally got around to doing the returns this weekend, and it was a mixed bag. It turned out we had plenty withheld for federal, so we got a couple grand, but the state/county bill was just north of $700, which was a couple hundred more than what I expected. Fortunately, I have replenished my savings so that I can cover that number easily.

My daughters are doing well. My older had her first dance team competition a couple weeks ago, and they did great, getting a very high score. I attended the performance and was amazed at how well they did with a pretty complicated routine. She's also enjoying being a Daisy Girl Scout. We spent one Saturday afternoon helping to sell the last batches of surplus cookies at the entrance of a grocery.

My younger daughter is an aspiring artist, going through the crayons, coloring books, and drawing paper like they're going out of style. I had to restructure my refrigerator front because she had tacked so many pictures to the doors with magnets that I couldn't open the doors without one falling to the floor.

I've taken a couple days off to spend extra time with them. One Friday, I took off to take my younger daughter to preschool and then pick up my older daughter from kindergarten because STBX was buried with commitments for a PTO fundraiser. This past Friday, I kept them for the night because they were on spring break and I took them to see Monsters vs. Aliens at the really big screen movie theater. My older daughter had a blast, but my younger was not a fan of the special 3-D glasses.

Tonight, I'm taking it easy. The indie rock station in town has a great show lineup on Sunday evenings, which includes a syndicated show called eTown, which airs at 9 pm. Tonight it's Bruce Cockburn and Joan Osborne, which should be awesome. And on that news, I'll close out with a clip of Cockburn singing "Wondering Where the Lions Are", the lyrics of which I interpret as a positive coming to terms with one's own mortality, which is something that seems oh so difficult a grasp at the moment.