That’s Great, But, What Have You Been Up To LATELY?

Biking around Oakland all day like some punk-ass deadbeat hipster has been lots of fun.

Also, visiting my parents and sisters and nephews during my time off has been totally awesome.

Don’t worry, there was no permanent scarring. Heh heh heh.

Not to mention the vacations with Erika. She took a picture of me finding … (band hit) … A SHRUBBERY !!!

Our adventures also reached the dizzying heights of … (wait for iiiiit) … SHOPPING FOR PANTS !!!

Should Garrett buy these? Y/N?

In total, I can surely say it was an Excellent Adventure and a Bogus Journey.

But lesson learned: I need to work on big things I believe in, or I feel rudderless. That is why, after a few rounds of interviews, I began working at the Joint Bio-Energy Institute in Emeryville. Contrary to what the name implies, they do not spend all day rolling joints and flailing about spastically. It’s all about alternative fuel research and genetics, yo.

The JBEI is a 20 minute bike ride from my house. Flippin’ sweet. Yesterday I picked up my badge:

I also got a tour of the place. You know those tacky commercials where some actress puts on a white lab coat and stands in front of some complicated beeping machines and glassware to convince you that Bob’s Double-Nose Enhancement Pills are the one true path to enlightenment and skipping merrily through fields of pollen, and also they are definitely not rat poison? The grain of truth in the stereotype is that the white lab coat and the hardware convey REAL SCIENCE, right?

Well, I am now apparently surrounded by REAL SCIENCE.

There are huge rooms here at the JBEI where people in white lab coats stroll around in front of complicated beeping machines and glassware. Tons and tons of glassware; acres of it, with strange liquids writhing inside. There are other rooms filled with thunderous air-conditioning and rows of industrial freezers, with digital readouts saying things like “-80 C”, and signs tacked on the wall reading RADIATION HAZARD and MUST USE PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR.

While I was getting the unofficial walkabout tour from one of my co-managers, I heard a polite voice behind me calling, “Excuse me! Please; excuse me!” I turned around to see a short woman in a lab coat and glasses, with a huge embarrassed grin on her face, and an enormous glass bottle cradled in her arms with some mysterious clear liquid tumbling about inside. She said:

“Can you open this? Like, just loosen it, but not take the lid off? Please?”

Then she handed the bottle. It took a few seconds of careful macho twisting, but I got the cap to turn, and handed the bottle back to her. “You got it! Thank you!” she said, grinning some more, and then turned around and strode back into the lab.

A charming omen for a first day. Like my first day at Apple, when I encountered Steve Jobs in the cafeteria. This omen illustrates the general tone for this new chapter in my working life: I like helping scientists!

The rest of the day was spent setting up my build environment, then diving straight into a thorny mess of code. Afterwards I was dead tired, but Erika gave me a ride to the Soup Restaurant of Deliciousness, and I perked up over the meal. We had an excellent time.

That night I prepped the recumbent in the living room:

Inflated tires, oiled chain, tightened bolts, and reattached storage bags.

The bags contained items to customize my work area:

  • Six dark chocolate peanut butter cups.
  • A box of dark-chocolate covered walnuts.
  • Three Hawaiian shirts with matching plastic hangars.
  • A framed painting of a striped kittycat that has been on all of my office desks since 1998.
  • A pair of shoes
  • A hefty bike lock
  • My newly minted badge
  • A toothbrush

Some time after I packed it up and rolled sleepily into bed, Erika sent me an Emoji version of how my next day would go:

She got it spot on. The ride next morning went perfectly, and the recumbent sparked a conversation in the parking garage, and I made a new friend, then another in the elevator on the way up to the fourth floor.

The second day: Eight hours of A-game hacking. By the end of the session, I’d learned a ton of new things about Java, Tomcat, Ant, and Indigo, and I’d come up with a good strategy for untangling the design flaws in the my newly-assigned project.

Awwww yeah.

Then I rode home, fed the cat, grabbed some laundry, rode to Erika’s, and we dashed out to catch yoga. An hour-and-a-half of balancing, stretching, and serene, focused movement. An excellent Tuesday ritual. Between this and the bombastic expression of Karaoke I think I have a good thing going.

Let’s see where it takes me!

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