There's a blog post that snakes through the programming community every three months: the one about only hiring programmers who program in their spare time.  It's always the same person who writes it, too. 

He's a sequentially numbered employee at a company with a well-tracked ticker symbol, and his only outlet of authority is sweating down some poor sod in a windowless interview room, asking questions about sorting integers in linear time.

The truth of it is, after a day of writing JUnit tests to achieve the corporate-policy-mandated code coverage metric, you don't need to go home to a Haskell compiler.  You need to go home to a tall drink and a depraved presentation of human sexuality.  Corporate coding sucks, and if there's no vice to counteract it, you'll be dead of an aneurysm by age forty.  They'll find you on the toilet, pants down, your copy of Design Patterns unceremoniously splayed open on the floor.

Programming isn't a glamorous job, and pretending that it is won't make you any better at it.

I've been studying some techniques for decompressing the tension built up by JBoss and WebSphere in my personal lab for quite some time now.  I'm not a corporate coder anymore, but when I was, I studied ways to make it easier on the head.  I'm now ready to share my results with the scientific community.


Alcohol is the most obvious medication because it's cheap and readily available.  Parked on the couch, racing your way to the bottom of a highball glass of Chivas Regal is a fantastic way to forget that the hour you spent in a meeting watching two type-A personalities fiercely debate Scrum versus XP is one hour less of the life you wanted.  The downside is that one drink usually leads to three or four, and you waste the drunkenness on an early sleep because you need to get up early the next day and do it all over again.

Alcohol interrupts your sleep, and if you're going to stay sharp at work, you need a good rest.  If you're one of the damned souls like me, you get vicious hangovers, to the point where swimming in drink for a night isn't even worth it, if you're going to spend the next day wishing that you'd died of alcohol poisoning.

That being said, at some time in your programming career you need to go to work with a severe hangover, out of sticking it to the man by way of martyrdom.


Here's where the process gets dicey.  When you wear a button-down shirt to work, you're not the usual type of person who ends up in county lock-up on a possession charge.  Marijuana is certainly a better option than alcohol in every way, shape, and form, but like it or not, it is illegal.  There are some exceptions here in California, but you're still rolling the dice  Getting pinched could mean getting fired.

The scary shit comes as rocks or powders.  Again, being the khakis-and-necktie crowd, nobody really expects you to be shooting black-horse heroin in the shower.

There is a convenient edge case when it comes to drugs, though.  Prescription painkillers, when used appropriately, really take the edge off of reality.  Again, you run the risk of upsetting John Q. Law, so make sure it's legit.  While they make for good entertainment in the evening, there's a real possibility that you can get addicted, and once a vice starts interfering with your work, then you're fucked.


If you're the type that easily takes to strippers, you had better come ready to peel of the cabbage: this vice doesn't come cheap.  There's also a simple but unrelenting set of rules you need to learn to keep from getting your ass kicked by a bouncer.  It's the kind of thing you'll pick up as you go.

For the programmer or IT professional, strippers are an excellent choice.  You usually show up to the gentleman's establishment with a bit more money than any of the other clients, so you'll be Mr. Popular.  Just be respectful of what's going on: it's not so much a smut show as it is a first hand demonstration in a loosely regulated free market.  The dancers are there to make a buck, and don't you forget it.


Tobacco is a great vice for the programmer because it's a performance enhancing drug as well as an escape.  I recommend either cigars or smokeless tobacco to avoid the growing anti-cigarette movement.  A cigar is gangster, and chewing tobacco is stealth.

After putting down a nice stogie wrapped in Connecticut shade, you'll feel like it's time for action.  Nicotine is a fantastic stimulant - better than caffeine.  If you're the work-from-home type, smoking a cigar twenty minutes before you start will send you on your way in a hurry.  Avoid the dregs, though: don't buy a cigar in any place that sells gasoline.

Chewing tobacco is often overlooked.  Yeah, you say it's more of a staple with the Nascar crowd, but that's really just a stereotype invented by the Nascar crowd, designed to keep you damned hoity-toity folks from driving up the cost of a can of chaw.

The key part about dip is that you can do it at your desk.  Spit into an empty Coke bottle.  Nobody will come by to bother you.  Plus, think of how authoritative you're going to be at a meeting when you start it off by lipping a fat digger out of a tin of Skoal.

Just Keep It Within Reason

You can judge any vice on two dimensions: how good is it, and how likely is it to interfere with your work.  Once a vice becomes more than a vice, you're going to wish you were that guy who goes home to code Haskell.

However, there is a convenient side-effect to the addictiveness.  If you are aware enough to see your vice getting out of hand, it's probably time to quit your job.

Just don't do anything illegal.