the best is yet to come

Blocks of butter and blocks of code

My neighborhood grocery must think that I’m insane.


Over the past week, I’ve bought:
  • A fifth of Jose Cuervo
  • A 500 gram bag of instant yeast
  • A block of cheddar
  • A bag of kettle corn
  • One red onion
  • A dark chocolate bar
  • And half a dozen eggs

The last time I was in the store, while standing at the checkout, the owner insisted on throwing in a block of butter for free, based on the fact that I’ve been coming there a little too often. Now, this was alarming for two reasons: The first being that butter is an extremely expensive commodity in Shanghai and if he was giving it to me for free, there must have been something wrong with it; the second, is that I am apparently a girl who looks like she can eat a whole block of butter (which, to be fair, I am).

Why the 500g of yeast? To make my first batch of ginger beer in six months.
Why the 500g of yeast? To make my first batch of ginger beer in six months.

This week has been difficult. I am still struggling to adjust to my new schedule and to work as a full-time developer in China, a country where downloading a 5.2 megabyte email attachment can take almost 15 minutes. Now, as a result, that means a few things:

  • I alternate between moments of complete concentration and utter confusion. This Monday, I very decisively took the absolutely wrong subway to work (to be fair, that morning I woke up at 6:45am, my body still racked from a weekend of catching up on sleep). Mentally double-checking that I indeed needed to take Line 1 (because seriously, there is never any reason to take Line 11, since I can easily walk to Xintiandi), I marched straight into the station, albeit still slightly dazed (the morning caffeine still hadn’t kicked in) and boldly boarded the first (and wrong) train. Well, technically I ended up boarding the second train. The doors of the first slammed on me, briefly trapping me between them as I managed to wiggle out and escape onto the platform.
  • I have been overthinking everything at work. This is very unnerving, because in life, I rarely overthink (in fact, I so rarely think before I do), but when I am programming, I need to re-evaluate every move, carefully consider the consequences, double-check everything, triple-check, do integration testing, look for missing commas, and then still be frustrated when things that work so well on development don’t work in production.
  • I am trapped between large-scale grand ideas and minute bugs. This afternoon I spent two hours developing an entire framework and three hours trying to get a page to paginate properly. It’s frustrating, because, I feel like I have nothing to show for the effort that I’ve been putting into this project. I’ve been working sixteen-hour days trying to get a version ready for production for next Friday, but I’m not sure if what I have will be ready in time.
  • At the same time, as I’m beating myself up over these little things, I’m finally becoming okay with programming again. This is a skill I picked up almost reluctantly, one that I refused to develop for years, and now, well, here I am. Doing this kind of work is evoking so many memories: 493 College st, and the dumbwaiter in the old io, East Rock and Inception-themed dinners during the summer, cheap beers in the basement of the Lightweight House.  I’m definitely a different person when I do programming and I don’t know if I like the person I am becoming.


7 thoughts on “Blocks of butter and blocks of code”

  • I try and post with a sense of dread as every previous attempt on your previous blog failed. Do the Chinese not ‘do’ dairy products? If so it does make you wonder where your butter is coming from. As for the cheese is that British then? It seems strange but I know that’s the way of the world. This week I bought eye drops that were nothing more than water and found they came from India.

    Oh and another blog I follow has a picture of Shanghai as one of her pictures of the week. Looking a little like Blade Runner for real.

    https://alexautindotcom.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/images-of-the-week-w03-15/

  • Yeah, I really hope the commenting issue has been resolved! No, dairy products aren’t really a thing in China. People here drink also usually drink yogurt through straws, which I’ve always found a bit bizarre. Most of the things like butter or cheese are imported from Europe, so you have to pay an arm and a leg for them (the cheddar was Irish I believe)

    Do you mean the photo with the smog? The air here recently has been pretty awful.

    • Yes, that and the smog being 20 times the safe limit! A lot of our local foods, named after a place, are protected and can only be made in that place. It seems, checking now, that Cheddar Cheese is not one of them. Cheddar’s in Somerset in the south of England.

      On your previous page in the end I was getting a white screen with the message: “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!” The brief version of what I was trying to post there was:

      Housekeepers aren’t big here anymore I don’t think unless you watch Sherlock. When I looked it up on google the big top result is Ayi.com which is an American (I think) dating agency and so I then thought that “your Ayi” turning up was… That’s why I could understand how it might have been a blunt personal question I was asking.

      I was also surprised you have a Hooters and that that picture with the trees is not the mind picture I had of Shanghai and I think it looks quite European.

  • Yes, that and the smog being 20 times the safe limit! A lot of our local foods, named after a place, are protected and can only be made in that place. It seems, checking now, that Cheddar Cheese is not one of them. Cheddar’s in Somerset in the south of England.

    On your previous page in the end I was getting a white screen with the message: “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!” The brief version of what I was trying to post there was:

    Housekeepers aren’t big here anymore I don’t think unless you watch Sherlock. When I looked it up on google the big top result was an American (I think) dating agency and so I then thought that “your Ayi” turning up was… That’s why I could understand how it might have been a blunt personal question I was asking.

    I was also surprised you have a Hooters and that that picture with the trees is not the mind picture I had of Shanghai and I think it looks quite European.

  • I hadn’t realized Cheddar was named after a place. That’s quite interesting!

    Haha yeah, I understand how it may have seemed awkward. Ayi is actually the general word for ‘auntie’, so I can see how that can potentially skew towards a particular dating sub-genre. Here, housekeepers tend to be common for westerners, and the way people treat them really depends, but I really enjoy talking to mine (chiding notwithstanding haha)

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