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   Visiting Days: New York City
Thursday, April 11 2019
Today's career-related headache came from the Python computer language. These days Python is sort of an it programming language. People like the straightforward brevity of its syntax, which depends on indentation to provide the scoping information that in C-like languages comes from curly brackets. I like things about Python, but not everything. While I prefer a more imperative approach, with intermediate steps broken out into individual lines where variables can be examined or steps commented out, Python seems to encourage developers to write single-line instructions that do many things with very little code. Here's an example of something that I was trying to migrate from Python to TypeScript today:

for justify, section_size, padding_char in padding_data:
   new_sbl += justify(''.join(next(sbl) for _ in range(section_size)).lstrip(), section_size, padding_char)

What does that even mean? One of the variables appears to be "_" because that's apparently allowed. Meanwhile, it's hard to tell from the syntax where one phrase of the instruction stops and another begins. When steps are broken out into lines, that sort of thing is obvious. Not knowing precisely what pattern of Python I was looking at (I think it was list comprehension, based on the fact that the output of a comprehension was immediately being joined, which is something only done to lists, aka arrays), I tried to implement a test of the code at the Powershell command line. But this was when another of Python's annoyances kept manifesting: its use of indentation as a syntactic element. That seems good in theory, but when you're pasting code into a command line tool, it's easy for the indents to get lost or jumbled, which makes Python throw errors. I found myself having to manually copy and paste each line of code from a Python library into Powershell to avoid these. Maybe there's a better way, but it wasn't obvious, so I was stuck manually doing things that are really best done by computers.

I left work at noon so I could begin today's big activity: driving down to the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the New York City stop on Gretchen's national tour promoting her new collection of poems, Visiting Days.
Over an hour passed between when I got home and when Gretchen and I set out for the City. We both got kind of dressed up, with Gretchen putting on a black and grey dress and me going for my new slightly-more-flamboyant look: brown skinny pants, maroon shit with white polka dots, and my reliable old brown corduroy jacket. Evidently I'd worn that same jacket to Dina's wedding in Tel Aviv back in October of 2005, because when I was going through the inside flask pocket (I wanted to carry a flask of gin), I found a bunch of tickets with Hebrew and Turkish writing on them.
We'd decided to drive down in the early afternoon so as to avoid traffic, and the plan worked perfectly. This may have been the first time I'd ever gone into Manhattan without getting stuck (at least briefly) in traffic. We even found convenient parking on the street.
The venue tonight would be an independent bookstore named Book Culture. That was our first destination, where we dropped off a box of books and met the various members of staff Gretchen would need to coordinate with. Then we went to Marissa's place, which was very close by. We arrived there just as Marissa and her two little kids were returning from the library. The kids were on little three-wheeled scooters. I hadn't seen the kids in a while, and though the youngest wasn't any older than maybe three and half, they both seemed surprising mature, with better language skills than I expect from kids their age. The oldest (he's like seven) is going through a phase where reptiles and "bugs" are a primary interest, whereas the youngest is in a phase where she enjoys impersonating a baby, something she actually was only a year or so ago. This act is helped by the recent discovery of a pacifier, which (since I was a baby) has been renamed in our culture to "binky," much as "butt" has been renamed to "booty".
After about a half hour, Gretchen and I went to dinner at Blossom, the fancy Upper West Side vegan restaurant. We sat in the same corner booth we'd sat in last time we were there, the one with the mirrors where it's possible to take a picture such that it looks like a chandelier is forming a halo over the head of your date. I always forget how good the food at Blossom is, and today was no exception. I started with the shitake tacos, which were crammed with an astonishing level of umami per cubic centimeter. Other things weren't quite that good, though we finished with seitan and mashed potatoes, a gourmet vegan take on what is generally served to the unadventurous at steak houses, and at Blossom that's never a bad decision. Gretchen did not, however, like the dessert she ordered and actually sent it back. Meanwhile I drank two Two Hearted Ales and Gretchen drank only water. One of the topics of dinner conversation was my recent interest in true crime, specifically YouTube clips of interrogations, which I find perfect audio entertainment in my workplace.
After dinner, it was time for the reading. So we walked back to Book Culture and dawdled around while people dribbled in. Most of them were from earlier parts of my life with Gretchen, and a few were from the part of Gretchen's life that preceded my entering it. I chatted for awhile with Wendy, the only client from Gretchen's old organizing days whom Gretchen still occasionally works for. Wendy wanted me to explain the relationship between carbon, carbon dioxide, and greenhouse warming. So I explained that carbon in carbpn-based fuels is a high-energy form that gives up its energy potential when it reacts with oxygen, a process that produces carbon dioxide, an unreactive low-energy molecule that makes the atmosphere behave more like glass than it otherwise would, allowing in light but being opaque to infrared heat.
Eventually all the seats in the reading area were taken by the 30 or 40 people who had turned out. This included five or six people from the NYC vegan scene, five or six formerly-incarcerated men, and even the wife of a man whose is still incarcerated. As always, Gretchen did an amazing reading. She's such a natural with it, from her timing to her balance of banter with material, that it's humbling for those of us whose excellence is in other things. The reading was followed by a Q&A, and then Gretchen moved to the front of the store and signed books. The final tally was something like 29 books sold, two of which were Kind, her collection of poetry focused on animal rights. Near the end of the signing, I was chatting mostly with Rabbi David and his sister Anna about how Gretchen likes to dress me in olive drab. I hadn't talked to David since the last time he visited us back in the summer of 2013, a visit that had ended in several meltdowns.
After the reading, a group of about eight or nine of us walked to a bar called Frank Mac's Pub. It was a pretty mainstream kind of place, with a table of dudebros louding watching a hockey game on one of the flatscreens. They were all wearing white shirts pulled over their regular shirts, and this additional shirt was emblazoned with the Ice Cats logo. I was at the table with the former BPI student Robert and his boyfriend Jorge, talking with them mostly about renovations, renting houses, and house flipping, the latter of which Robert and Jorge have been doing in Florida with modest success. They're making a profit on the house they're in the process of flipping, though the profit isn't sufficient to replace the salary they would've gotten had they not been flipping houses.
Meanwhile, I drank some sort of very good IPA after finishing a Thomas Collins. Gretchen was delighted to find the Impossible Burger on the otherwise vegan-unfriendly menu, and she and I ended up splitting one for "fourth meal."
Eventually all our friends except Eulalia left but then we were joined by the vegans (Amy, Erica, and Justin), who had been off dining at Blossom. I'd been up since 6:30 and didn't really have it in me to be present for this phase of the evening other than to make a few jokes at Amy's expense, the crux of which were that we were older than the others at the table. One of the jokes had Amy being the only one familiar with the game involving a hoop and a stick.
The original plan had been for us to spend the night in the City, but then it turned out Gretchen had a prison class to teach tomorrow, so we had to drive back home tonight. Happily, we had some hilarious old episodes of Two Dope Queens to listen to.

Gretchen reading poetry today.

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