I sometimes feel frustrated that I can't talk about the details of what I do for a living with most people, except in the most general terms. Why? The details of my job here at Company O. are obscure and peculiar within the general scheme of things, and the effects of what I do are well-hidden from the public. Just to give you an example, here's what I did yesterday: I edited the context free grammar describing a Lookahead LR parser to eliminate shift/reduce conflicts that arise while reading the configuration file for a software program that mathematically simulates the workload of one of Company O.'s main products.
See? I can feel your eyes glazing over, from here. No one outside of the computer industry knows or wants to know what that means. A few people are probably even afraid of me for even mentioning it -- as if understanding what Backus-Naur Form or Chomsky Normal Form or Deterministic Finite Automata somehow makes me incapable of sitting down, drinking a beer, and talking about how the war in Iraq is causing the needless destruction of historic antiquities, how I'm glad that Pamela Anderson no longer seems to be on television much, or the great start that the local baseball team is having.
Some people do not have this problem. Girlfriend S. works with kids all day. Everyone understands kids. So, when I hear from her every night, she can tell me in exhausting detail about exactly what happened during her day... who did what to whom, which parents she had to deal with, which parents she doesn't want to deal with, and so on. When she gets around to asking about my day, I can't say "well, I solved fourteen shift/reduce conflicts that were preventing the compilation of my language parser because I was using left recursion instead of right recursion" or "I discovered that the installation on our test cluster was failing because of a bug in the NFS automounter; it worked fine after I recompiled the module with an -O1 optimization flag instead of the usual -O2 flag." Nope. Saying like that has the implicit expectation that it will somehow be understood. Only other members of the geek priesthood understand stuff like that, and while Girlfriend S. is many things, a geek she is not. So, I'm stuck telling Girlfriend S. "well, things went fine today."
I also think that there's little point writing about my job here. Other diaries I read are by artists, writers, and aspiring actors. Those are jobs I can in some way relate to because even though I don't do them for a living, I've written a 145 page dissertation, studied music for many years, and I used to think that finger painting was WAY cool back in grade school. I'm sure other people can relate to that as well. Me, I think my diary is pre-determined to be a more meditative collection of essays... rather than any kind of day to day document of my working life, simply because most people wouldn't understand what I do, even if I told them.
on 2003-04-16 at 3:23 p.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond