24 Jul 2000 Qbert   » (Journeyer)

Drinking and Debugging

So I banged out a Perl-Tk program to wrap ipgrab and display its output as a call-flow diagram. It took about three days because I was over-zealous about parsing the SIP and SDP messages, and I made my usual stubborn mistake of writing the whole thing before debugging any of it. Anyway, it was still having some bugs at the Friday afternoon deadline. I was most frustrated.

I felt a little burned out, so I went to the liquor store with Mike and we played Beer Pong. This entails placing an open beer on the ping-pong table in front of you, then playing as normal, except that a hit to your opponent's bottle or can (except on a serve) results in a one-drink penalty for him. Losing a point also brings a one-drink penalty. Hence it is possible to make your opponent drink twice with (e.g.) a shot that hits her side of the table, bounces once, hits her beer, and caroms off the table before she can return it.

In this manner Mike and I got uproariously drunk. Then, around 12:30 a.m., I returned to debugging. To my amazement, I found three bugs in deeply nested code and nailed them in about 40 minutes, bringing the program up to the milestone requirements. I hung around reading till I sobered up, then drove home victorious.

The moral of this story, I suppose, is that sometimes being able to hold the whole program in your head is a bad thing. Just as when you edit your own writing, your vision is obstructed by your mental image of your work; you see what you thought, not what you wrote. A little chemically induced impairment can hobble your brain enough that you see only the code in front of you, bugs and all. Friends don't let friends drink and drive, but you might just say yes to coding drunk. :)

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