A Metal Shoehorn, by Pro_Fotographer, via Wikimedia Commons

Shoehorning

Why is everything on fire?

I describe a programming culture anti-pattern through a short parable of the holiday season. If the shoe fits…

“Shoehorning”
Trying to fit something in that doesn’t belong, forcing it anyway, and the unexpected results of doing so without proper precaution.

Friction.

It’s another hectic thanksgiving at your Gram-Grams. Cramming four generations in a small house is always hard. To be honest, no one really enjoy cooking there, not even Gram. Space was tight, and almost everything had to be done by hand. She didn’t even have a microwave.

1950’s sitcom “I Love Lucy”

Gram’s kitchen was meant to be pretty, but not used. She always adored the vintage aesthetic, sacrificing modern conveniences for style. The layout was centered around a cute little fridge. One of those old fridges — you know, the kind that basically looks like classic hot rod — COBOL blue & just the right size for Gram’s modest living. But with everyone packed together trying to cook, it looked more like something out of a 1950’s sitcom.

Much to everyone’s surprise, this year is going well. We decided to start a day early. So it’s the day-before-thanksgiving, and you’re busy with meal prep.

Flow.

You’re busy prepping for tomorrow’s breakfast — cutting up ingredients and pre-mixing it with egg to make omelette. On the side you’re stuffing all sorts of interesting things into a hand made sausage machine. Jo-Ann is mixing up a ton of pudding & pumpkin pies. Bob is cranking out a batch of his green bean casserole. Jim & Martha are making sure the dish pile doesn’t reach critical mass and gum up the rhythm. Even the kids are helping with decorating some sugar cookies. Gram is in the veranda playing cards with Papa — she’s already finished making her famous (and your favorite) ice cream.

Unlike last year, with Uncle Wilson’s failed attempt at timing a roast, it all is going like clockwork. Wilson wasn’t allowed to help this year.

A classic style fridge, By Infrogmation of New Orleans via Wikimedia Commons

Chaos.

You open the refrigerator door for the 100th time today, to grab some carrots for the omelette.

It’s not cold. That can’t be right? The light isn’t coming on. Hmm…

Oh no!!! All the extra stress of going in and out of fridge has caused the compressor to go.

You tell everyone in the room. The calm flow of food prep grinds to a halt. Everything is bad. Pudding pies that need setting, can’t set. Milk for the casserole smells putrid. Gram-Gram’s hand cranked sriracha-bourbon ice cream is starting to melt!

“OH GOD, THE TURKEY IS THAWING!” you hear martha gasp in exasperation. Jim’s face turns pale.

“Didn’t Uncle Wilson bring a chest-cooler with beer?” Jo-Ann chimes in, concerned about her pies.

“Quick! how much can we shove into this temporary ice box?”

We swarm over the problem, like a well oil’ed team.

Jo-Ann’s pudding pies? Yes.

Bob’s homemade cranberry sauce? Yes!

Even a couple of Uncle W’s beers managed to fit. YES!

By pulling out a couple of bags of ice we’re able to salvage everything that hasn’t already gone bad.

…Except, you forgot about your omelette. And the sausage.

Worse, the turkey won’t fit. And it’s nowhere near time to begin cooking it.

Martha curls up into a ball on the floor and Jim begins sobbing.

Everything is ruined.

Shoehorn.

You look around the room calmly. Nothing seems to have phased you. You see, in your day job you’re a programmer! Emergency situations are your specialty.

In a state of zen, you call upon your training in the dark arts of Jugaad and come up with great little hack. It’s an outside-the-box solution, or rather inside-the-box…

The oven is basically a giant box lined with insulation, it would make for a great stand in ice-chest. You quickly put all the extra bags of ice from the cooler in the oven alongside the frozen turkey, and balance what’s left of the ingredients for the breakfast on top.

“That should keep things cool long enough!” you say, “at least until Uncle W comes back from the store with fresh milk and a bigger cooler.”

Looks are exchanged and Wilson heads for the car. Thankfully he hasn’t cracked open any of the beers yet.

Great going! Problem solved… and with any luck, Papa & Gram-Gram will be blissfully unaware of the chaos. We can tell them about the fridge tomorow. Enough stress for today.

“Now where are the spoons?” You say, grinning as you motion everybody to the dining room to start early on the ice cream.

Bob heads out to invite Gram-Gram and Papa to our little ice cream social.

Everyone is happy.


Consequence.

Some time passes and the ice cream starts dwindling. You start scooping some into a bowl to save for Uncle Wilson. He shouldn’t be that much longer.

While scooping, you look over at Gram and smile.

“Thanks Gram! This ice cream is lovely, your best batch yet! Did you do anything special?”

She smiles back.

“Oh it’s nothing, darling, I just added a bit of pumpkin spice. I know how much you kids love that new aesthetic.”

Papa chimes in.

“Speaking of new, I am looking forward to that new glaze you put on the turkey!”

Everyone’s eyes go wide as they ask in unison:

“What new glaze?”

“Gram said the turkey had a new glaze when she turned the oven on.”

The fire alarm starts beeping. It smells of plastic bags.


Everything is on fire.
In a state of zen, You look around the room calmly.

Martha curls up into a ball on the floor and Jim begins sobbing.

Nothing seems to phase you. You see, in your day job you’re a programmer! Emergency situations are your specialty…

Document your hacks. Do it for Gram-Gram.

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