The Valley of Debugging

September 4, 2021

All journeys of significance have high points and low points. Debugging a difficult problem is no different.

I’ve been at this for a while, but the thrill of fully understanding a problem and the solution after a debugging journey has not worn off yet. Or as a friend puts it, “the one part of this job that never gets old is when things go from not making any sense to making sense again.”

That point is the peak. But to get there requires grit in the valley.

In the valley, things still don’t make any sense. Often it seems there’s no way out.

Press on.

Because as soon as you have exhausted every possibility and absolutely cannot figure it out, you’re close.

On Marshal Yanda

July 8, 2021

Robert Mays, in a 2017 profile of Marshal Yanda for The Ringer:

He also is a man of ingrained habits. To hear Wagner tell it, players don’t need a clock to know what time it is in the Ravens’ facility. All they have to do is locate Yanda at a given moment, and it’s obvious. “Hot tub, breakfast—it was the same thing every day,” Wagner says.


Listening to Yanda talk about the league’s best interior rushers, it’s clear that his homework goes beyond due diligence. It borders on obsession. Each week, Yanda downloads his upcoming opponent’s previous six games to his iPad. With no need for internet connection, he’s able to consume game tape anywhere. “In the corner of the hotel, or the training room, or at lunch, he always had that iPad,” Wagner says. Yanda’s favorite spot is the cloth recliner in his living room, where he takes in about a game a night while his wife, Shannon, watches Nashville from the couch after their three kids have been put to bed. “You never want to be surprised by a guy,” Yanda says. “I want to know every single move that he does. When it’s third down, and they’re down by seven points, and they need to win and get off the field, what is he doing to win? What has he naturally done his entire life?”

Let’s ignore the fact that Yanda played for a bitter rival of the Steelers.

A theme from it has stuck with me since reading it years ago: Yanda’s craftsmanship.

Yanda, now retired, was dedicated to being a great NFL guard. His discipline and his willingness to embrace the grind were exceptional. And while professional football is a wildly different career than software development, craftsmanship translates universally.

The craftsmanship ingredients are always the same: discipline, habits, and focus.

Embrace the Grind

July 6, 2021

Jacob Kaplan-Moss:

People said I did the impossible, but that’s wrong: I merely did something so boring that nobody else had been willing to do it.

Sometimes, programming feels like magic: you chant some arcane incantation and a fleet of robots do your bidding. But sometimes, magic is mundane. If you’re willing to embrace the grind, you can pull off the impossible.

This is the most important trait of a software developer. The willingness to embrace the grind, every day, is more important than technical knowledge or skill of any kind.

(Via Daring Fireball.)