August 2007 Archives

Finding bugs


Peter worked in QA (Quality Assurance--finding bugs in software) for a while in the mid- to late-'80s. He always said that he had a talent for finding bugs.

I think it was while he was working for Mead, testing LexisNexis, that he told us about one of his bug-finding techniques: lift both hands in the air, and drop them onto the computer keyboard, pressing a bunch of random keys at once. Apparently in a fair number of cases, whatever software he was testing would immediately crash.

If I recall correctly, his manager at the time felt that that wasn't a severe enough bug to be worth fixing, because it was unlikely to come up in real use. I guess this was before the days when cats and babies regularly had their way with keyboards.


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Various of my friends have had babies in the past few years, which has given me plenty of opportunities to remember something Peter used to say when we were kids:

"Milk is the perfect food--for a baby cow."



One night when I was a kid, I couldn't get to sleep.

I had a songbook of folksongs, one of which was "Jesse James." There's a line in that song that goes "The devil will be upon his knee." And I don't know what got into me, but that line kept running through my head. I would close my eyes and I would feel a weight on my knee, and I'd open my eyes in a panic but there was nothing there.

I finally got up and went out into the living room, where I found Peter. He asked me what was wrong, and I told him.

I think some parents would have assumed that a kid in that circumstance must be feeling guilty about something. (As it happened, I wasn't, but I was worried that Peter might think I was.) But Peter did what was, for me, exactly the right thing:

He told me about the history of the idea of the Devil.

He told me that "Lucifer" meant "light-bringer." He told me something about the history of the word and concept of "Satan." One could argue that he was intellectualizing something emotional, but for me that helped; and anyway, I'd say it was more that he shone light (both metaphorical and literal) on something shadowy that had been distressing me, and let me see that it wasn't something I needed to be afraid of.

And after we had talked for a while, I went back to bed and fell asleep easily.

How should I begin?

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This is a blog about my father.

Peter Hartman was killed in March, 2005. For a couple of years now, I've been thinking about starting a blog where I and other family members could post little tidbits--memories, anecdotes, jokes Peter told us, observations he made.

A lot of my memories of Peter are good ones, but not all of them. And I want us to be able to post some of the less than complimentary things, mixed in with the good things; I want to remember him as he was, not an idealized perfect version of him. But everything here will be from people who cared about him; even if we post some things that don't show him in the best possible light, it should be understood that everything here is posted in loving memory.

My biggest remaining hesitation about this project is that I suspect Peter would not have been happy with it. He was, in some ways, a very private person; and even though he worked in the high tech industry for decades, I don't think he was ever very comfortable with the Internet.

But I'm going ahead with this project for now, with some trepidation. I'm justifying it to myself by saying that Peter's gone now, and that memorials are as much for the living as for the dead. It's possible that in a few weeks I'll just get too uncomfortable with this project and abandon it, but I think it'll be helpful to me to have a place where I can post this stuff. And I'm hoping that other family members will contribute.

My plan is to post regular (perhaps once a week) brief tidbits. I'm hoping others will join me in that; of course you're welcome to also post long rambly entries (like the ones I'm prone to posting in my main blog/journal), but I'd like the main focus to be on short items.

Anyway, welcome to the blog.