april, 2007

Mon 2 Apr 2007 00:42:39 PDT -0700

I broke a dish yesterday morning, one of my square green ones from various Chinatowns across the eastern seaboard. My knee on the rolly office chair, as I scooted across the length of the counter, leaning over to the fridge to get bagel spread, I miscalculated something in the equation of elbows, balance, and torque, and swept the dish off the counter onto the tiles below. I tightened my lips and inhaled; Erica patiently, without prompting, fetched me a plastic bag into which to put the pieces, and went looking for a dustpan.

I've been losing balance, too. Despite the fact that my legs have strengthened from two marathons and a year-plus of yoga, that I can stand on one leg with the other in various positions in the air; balancing on one knee, as I tried to yesterday morning in class, close to the floor on my mat while others struggled to gain the pose, is harder. Much harder.

I'm also misplacing things. My keys, just now; my necklace, from last night; my phone, Friday morning -- all turned up after a backwards search through memory and actions. But none should have been lost to begin with -- I don't lose things. The act of maintaining balance, of maneuvering around in new ways, takes up more of my concentration that is usually spent on the small calculated movements of preparing my morning bagel in a few flashes of action, on putting my keys and phone and jewelry in memorable places.

And I know not to be mad at myself for this. Nothing can come of directing the frustration inwards. Consequentially, I've found myself feeling strangely detached in the last four days -- instead of attaching emotions to getting someplace quickly, to catching the MUNI before it pulls away from the station, I'm patiently watching as it pulls away, knowing that the wait for another will be worth it. That it has to be, because walking the extra block entailed by a wrong train would be too painful, because I'm now on crutches.

Frustration with my lack of healing drove me to press my doctor for an MRI, which turned up a diagnosis quite different from that of "inflamed nerve": tears in the plantar plate, a cartilaginous structure going across the ball of the foot, that ballerinas apparently often injure. Not a neuroma, bitch! With that, the prescription has changed: I'm to stay off it entirely for four to six weeks, in the hope that it'll just repair itself. And in the meantime, I'm to bat my eyelashes at strangers to get them to hold doors for me, and to ask friends to carry my beer (Robin and Matt et al., at Toronado tonight), do my laundry (Dave, in between prepping dinner for the masses Friday chez moi), assemble my lunch (everyone I know at Google). And this for six weeks.

I went to yoga yesterday, one-footed, since the alternative was to sit around feeling sorry for myself. Pilates is high on my list; I may have to suck it up and buy a swimsuit soon. Because this convalescence will be long enough that I can't just sit by and wait for it to heal, developing huge biceps like I did last time. I have to, for my mental as well as physical stability, work through this. (Good news: after four years of relative activity, my good leg is up to the challenge. There has been no waking up in the middle of the night with it spasming from exertion. I may be a bit lopsided after a month and a half, but the quadricep is already built up enough to handle the stress.)

The good thing about this is that at least I finally have a real diagnosis, and a reasonable prognosis. (Why did this take ten months to properly identify?!) More or less crippled I may be for the duration, but hopefully, the time off will heal it entirely, and I can go back to at least two-footed yoga, if not running just yet.

Baby steps. (Pun intended.)

Thu, 12 Apr 2007 18:36:26 -0700

I'm breathing easier today than I have been in the last week or so. (Well, when I'm sitting down -- on crutches, though I'm quickly building strength, after a hobble of a block or two I need to pause, catch my breath, twirl my wrists to excise the nerve-kink that builds up (turns out you weren't meant to walk on your hands), and only then can I keep metallically clonking along the new-green-leaved, tree-lined walkway between buildings at work, to catch a shuttle, or back down Fillmore, from picking up take-out Thai.) All the studying I did over the weekend, the abstention from an evening beer or two, culminated (if not paid off -- I won't know that for another week or few yet) yesterday in my interviews.

Right. Interviews. You thought I had the job; I do, but, trying to officially switch my title from "Web Applications Engineer" to "Software Engineer" (because, y'know, Google Page Creator isn't a webapp), HR declared that I should re-interview. Eight interviews two years ago apparently wasn't enough; because my old team still reports up through the sales side of things and not through eng, I needed to re-do this process, this time through an internal transfer committee.

I could dwell bitterly on politics and bureaucracy, here. There're probably merits to both sides of this issue. Suffice it to say, I haven't been getting what I need, career-wise and promotion-wise from my old position; this process has the potential to benefit me greatly, to correct for a lot of the injustices and roadblocks I've perceived, valid or not, in my time here. It could come out much for the better.

But it could also fuck me over. How many Google engineers, if you asked them to re-interview for their job, would get them back? Every engineer likes to ask different questions; in theory, we (and yes, I mean "we" -- I do these interviews as the interviewer, too!) are all looking for the same analytic ability, to judge that in a 45-minute interview is not, past a certain minimum bar, easy, let alone possible.

But enough dwelling -- they're over. My interviewers were good, and the questions interesting (unlike those of poor Mike, interviewing on the peninsula the same day, who recounted a less-than-stellar experience with his); it was (of course) hugely useful (despite the fact that I was unable to not perceive it as being a bit sophomorically demeaning) to have reviewed big-O analysis, logarithms, and basic data structures and sorting algorithms the weekend before; I even got some good questions I'll probably use in the future. I displayed no dazzling moments of brilliance; neither, I think, did I prove my utter moronicity. Unlike last time, there were no thick accents to cut through, and, having done a fair number of these from the other end recently, I kept my cool enough (though I didn't end up needing my habitual shot of espresso beforehand; nerves sufficed). Hearing back will take a while, I'm well aware; until then, it's back to being on call for a production service, being a Python readability reviewer, and pushing releases live. Ironic. (/me smiles thinly.)

I haven't allowed myself to post at all for fear of, if not jinxing myself, giving sway to my fears about what would happen if this doesn't end up turning out the way I want it to. Left in a weird limbo, it's unclear what a failed transfer would mean to my position on Page Creator. I think it doubtful that I would retreat, tail between my legs, to my old team. That doesn't leave many options but leaving the mothership, which upon examination (not that it needed it), I confirm that I'm loath to do. All this talk about my postponed, paused, deferred musical career? Just that: talk. This wouldn't be an opportunity to dive back into that; it would force some sort of self-examination: am I cut out for software? Am I not analytical enough? Not entrepreneurial or visionary enough? Plain ol' not smart enough? None of these is a question I really want to have to examine in depth just now.

Note that I don't think a negative outcome of this transfer application particularly likely. I've got all kinds of advantages, coming internally; my peer feedback, self-evaluation, and internal résumé should speak volumes in addition to my interview feedback. I'm just, y'know, what-iffing. And it was freaking me out for a solid week, there. Like, in an existential kind of way.

But now, the parts over which I have control are over. Lookup is O(1) in a hash table, O(log n) in a binary tree. Mike & I slowly decompressed over mediocre noodles in the Haight-y Citrus Club (culinarily unamazing; ambiance-wise, I find it joyously oh-so-old-skool-SF) and then over things made with bourbon and bitters at the Alembic. But he knows this is his career. I've conveniently put off introspection of that level thus far, not having had to, with a marketable degree.

Here's hoping to put those questions off for another few years.

Mon, 23 Apr 2007 20:48:15 -0700

I had one of those moments again, Saturday night, at the symphony with Justin, my soon-to-be-ex PM. We'd tarried in the parking lot, ending up too late for the first-on-the-program Le Tombeau de Couperin, but I drank a glass of champagne in the lobby as we waited with a whole slew of also-tardy couples, listening to the orchestra piped in over closed-circuit TV. Crutched up stairs and down to the loge just in time for Beethoven's second piano concerto.

Part of it was realizing that the pianist, Yuja Wang, born in 1987, was twenty, max. Part of it was the sativa (Humboldt County be praised), talking to the twenty-year-old in me, reminding me of that afternoon I played Brahms with Daniel in the sunlight in Lang, redeeming, in my mind, a senior year spent more in the robot lab than the practice room, and how he commented -- a refrain throughout my serious musicianship -- that I could do this, if I wanted. Recalling further back to Diedre telling me, sometime in high school, that if I could be happy doing anything but music, by all means, to pursue that other thing.

Lord knows I've tried. My current lifestyle ain't half bad, to put it, um, mildly. And Justin's wrong that a failure case in following any dream is better than a success case in keeping the status quo: teaching C-G-D-A to suburban fifth graders and playing weddings just to keep myself in rosin is less desirable than a successful software career. Which is precisely why, though I can up and move to California, cutting the umbilical cord to my cushy major isn't the easiest cliff off of which to throw myself.

But I think I've got to, eventually. Justin sat and grinned (perhaps a little over-maniacally, but he could be excused, given the circumstances) as I commented at intermission "wow, I still have perfect pitch!" (which, though really a given, is no longer something I realize on a daily basis. Sad, I know). Said that he felt the same way about programming that I do about music.

The next day, Luke suggested we actually read through that Mozart double concerto we'd bought sometime soon. I jumped at the chance -- at least I can trim the six of my fingernails necessary for this, begin to play scales again. Committing to finding a teacher is probably premature -- how many times, after all, have I resolved in these pages to enter a conservatory by such-and-such a date? (Answer: more than I've followed through on.) But at least in DC, I succeeded in finding a teacher and a quartet when it mattered to me. Slowly, hopefully I can edge my way towards this, vesting stock options as I go.

As for now, if you'll excuse me, I have kernels to upgrade in these damned Linux machines.

all this Šnori heikkinen, April 2007

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