Feb 12 2020

What we do

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 1:30

I’m a software engineer. Not an architect, not a senior, just a software engineer. Level or title no longer matters, I do my job to the extent of my abilities, pushing a little here and there, althoug I preffer not to, because a life-work balance is important for me.

Since 2006 I worked on quite a few projects, in different areas. I would not say my work is meaningless, somebody obviously payed for it and some people made use of it, even if they did not know. But, there rarely was a project that I worked on that I would gladly recommend my friends to use.

A few days ago somebody posted this on twitter, and I must confess  if I look at my professional experience so far, I could say the same.

The first project I ever worked on never passed the demo phase and the company went bankrupt. Although it offered a lot of room for experimentation and turned me into a very creative developer, the code in itself was useless for anyone but me.

The second project I worked on, is being used by a company in South Africa. I think the company that created that application still exists and is still working on it. Again, it offered me a lot of room to grow as a developer, and I’ve played with some algorithms so complicated that would give me a migraine right now. The code is proprietary, if it still exists it is used by no more than a few hundred people. And being proprietary code is hidden away on some git repository and deployed on some private servers. It’s not useless for those a few hundred people, but it is useless for the rest people in this world that do not even know of its existence.

The third project I worked on is in the same situation. If it is being used, it is deployed on a BMW private server and maybe a few hundred people are using it. The code I wrote for BMW was not complicated, it just extracted data from a database and generated some reports.

The fourth project I worked on, all my work on it is definetly still being used. Knowing the company I worked for, innovation is not something they would risk the stability of thier codebase for. So the code is useful, since the project is used to scan and generate codebars for Amazon packages, but it’s nothing extraordinary.

The fifth project, well… I did a full refactoring of the interface, because the original one was shitty. That code is definelty useful for the people using that application.

The sixth project was in finance. I will never understand how banks and insurance companies used that thing. It has so many bugs and the interface was so crappy. If I were to open my own bank and so thier software, I would say Fuck That! and look for an alternative. Adn fi there wasn’t any, I would drop the business altogether. I was working on the backend, I had no influence over how the interface was developed, and on the backend I was working on on product, out of quite a few. In the end, regardless how good the part that my team worked on was, the full produc was still crappy. The code and the architectural changes I did, the documentation written are probably useful to the other poor sould that have to work on that project. But being a proprietary software, it is hidden away on some private servers, so are useless to the rest of the world.

The eigth project, I don’t even want to rememeber. It wasn’t useless, but just a bunch of test frameworks and calling some APIs and forwarding the results to other APIs, it’s not what I would call useful or challenging or rewarding. It was more challenging to get access and proper credentials to call those APIs than writing the actual code.

And now, I’m doing cloud engineering. I’m setting up AWS services to optimize functionality and costs for clients, to monitor thier applications and make sure they stay up at all time. Sometimes I just follow some steps that have already tried and tested by the team I am now a part of. Development when it is needed is fun, and the company is contributing to a few open source projects. It’s the most useful work I’ve done in a while.

The books and the code written for them, were useful for me to grow as a developer and were useful for the developers reading them and using that code as inspiration for thier own code. I really hope the knowledge accumulated from them makes their jobs easier and I hope they write more meaningful code than I did.

I did not write any code for a project that saved the world, or that saved a life, that I know of. I don’t even know what makes code useful really. For me it was useful, it definitely payed my bills and payed for food for my cat.

I’ve had my moments where I realized my code is nothing but API calls  and found it useless and plain boring. But you know what is not useless and boring? Solving problems, even if people benefitting from your solution will never know who you are.

Your work is as useless as you think of it being so. Nothing is useless if it pushes at least one person forward.

Stay safe, stay happy!

Feb 11 2020

Remember when …

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 23:31

… I asked you the disaster question: what would happen to your life if electricity would just stop in your city?

Well, it happened to me, but luckily it wasn’t in the whole city, it was just me.

A week ago, on a Saturday after a serious spring house cleaning, in the evening I happily jumped into the shower. I was all sweaty and in a dire need of a hot shower. But as soon as I pressed the button of my electrical shower the lights in the house turned off. No worries, I would just go to the fuse box and check which switch is down and turn it up.

I got out of the shower, I put a towel on, got in the hallway and grabbed the small flashlight that I keep close just in case something like this ever happens. I get to the fuse box and … all switches were up. So it wasn’t one of my fuses that blew up. So… what was happening?

At this point I decided that I have to get dressed because clearly shower was out of the question and getting my electricity back won’t be an easy task. So I put some clothes on and I got outside to check who else was without electricity. If it was the whole neighbourhood, then it would either be fixed fast, either I was in serious trouble. Fortunately, or unfortunately it was just me. The electricity was out just on my property.

So I went to my utilities cupboard and looked for my renting documents to find the emergency electrician number. I found it and called it. Thirty minutes of chat and photo-sharing through WhatsApp(photos with my fusebox) the conclusion was that the main fusebox was blown and Scottish Power was in charge of that.

The main problem with that was that he did not have their number, so I had to do some internet searching on my phone. Well, I found it and I called it. It was 11 pm and I honestly had no expectation. Romania has taught me so. But surprisingly, somebody answered and after a short chat the lady at the other end confirmed that in their system it showed indeed that there was no power in my property. She then asked me how urgent it is, and if there are kids or persons with disabilities in the house, typical questions I guess in case of an emergency intervention. I told that that is urgent, being winter and all, but not that urgent and we settled to wait for an operative to come by my house in the morning between 7 and 10. She then gave me the ID of my request, in case I needed to call later in case something goes wrong. The poor lady tried three times to make me understand the full number, but after she repeated it the third time, and I still not understood the last half of it, because of her string Scottish accent, I just thanked her kindly and crossed my fingers that I won’t need that id.

He came at 8:30 am and he changed my fuse. By that time there were 15 degrees Celsius in my house, and my cat was sleeping under the covers. So yeah, too cold even for her and she has fur. :)

So, what did I do in those nine hours without electricity? I stayed in bed, clearly. And for two hours I read at candle light one of the books that I was looking forward too for a while. I’ll probably write an entry about it in the near future.

I gotta congratulate Scottish Power though, they were responsive and punctual as a Swiss watch. I think I’m gonna like living in Scotland. ;)

Feb 09 2020

Down de rabbit hole

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 18:36

Whenever I start doing something new or plan to make a change in my life I thend to over-plan and over-research. Moving to Edinburgh was a six month plan. I started looking for a job, a house, how to get my cat there, how to make the change from renting short term, to renting long term, how the taxes are, what the salaries are for my level, etc. And except a few hiccups, everything went according to plan.

It is really difficult for me to get passionat about something, but I have my moments when I over-engage.

A few weeks ago I decided that it is about time to change a few things here and there in my diet and decided to get a blender to make some shakes. And when buying a blender I relied on the internet and a few hours later I decided a Cookhouse 800W Multi Blender was the best compromise between power and price.The good part? On my evil pal’s Amazon site, there was this blender being sold together with a Coffe Grinder. And since I was to have a coffe grinder it was about time to start buying coffee beans and grind them myself. But I did not know what kind of coffe beans I wanted to buy.

I would have loved to be able to by some Amig coffee beans, but this kind of brand is not available in the UK. So, I did the next best thing, I did some research to find out what made Amigo coffee so great and  try to find the closest possibile coffee that could be bought in the UK.  And this led me to find out that there are 120 species of coffee plants, but the two type of plants that are most poluar  are Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora also known as robusta. These two produce different types of coffee beans. But as a coffee drinker there are two important things to consider:

  • coffeine content: arabica has less (1.2%), robusta has more (2.2%)
  • sugar content: arabica has more, robusta has less

Another thing that robusta has more of is CGA, chlorogenic acid which is a significant antioxidant and insect deterrent.

I’ve always preffered arabica, I’ve loved the taste and the smell, and those two are a consequence of the sugar, which caramelizes a little during roasting and give it a very nice flavor. Beside Amigo, my preferred coffee is Lavazza Oro, and now I knew why. It was 100% arabica.

So I could buy Lavazza beans, or I could try something 100% robusta. Apparently robusta is quite bitter so it is rearely consumed pure. That is why Lavazza offers quite a few mixed bends. So as you can imagine my next quest was to find a company that sold 100% robusta coffee. And I found a type of coffee named Devil’s Roast, produced by the Black Donkey Coffee Roasters.

And now, I had the grinder and I had the coffee, all I needed was a way to make coffee properly. And so, I ordered myself a Moka Pot as well.

I know by now this entry sounds like a coffee/Amazon commercial. I just gave you the links in case you are interested and want to buy some tried and tested products.

Anyway, the grinder arrived and so did the coffee. And soon I had my first batch batch of coffee that I grinded myself.

Robusta coffee is not as parfumed or tasty as arabica, but it grows on you. And it grew on me as well. But, I will probaby try a full arabica if I can find one soon enough. Just for the fun of it and the love of coffee.

Stay safe, stay happy!

Feb 09 2020

The one with the appendicitis

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 1:35

So, after a lot of thinking and postponing I joined a gym. I’ve found a cheap one that I won’t feel guilty if I pay for it but end up not going. The first time I went there, I went with a friend of mine and ended up with a full body muscular fever that plagued me for two days.

The second time, I had a free induction session with a personal trainer and I had 30 minutes of exercise. That was this Wednesday. Yesterday, I felt fine all over except a small area closer to the pelvis, the right side, where the appendix is. So I panicked. Because I am soon to go home and an operation like that would probably hinder that plan.

In my panic, I went over all the options. I could go to the emergency then, get the operation, done laparoscopically should heal pretty fast. I could call a few people to find one that would take care of my cat. It could be done, there was nothing to worry about.

And then, in my panic it hit me… my pain was not only on the right side, and it was upper than it should be. And it hurt a little on the left side as well. It wasn’t my appendix it was my damn ovaries, because I’m a female of this species and I have two of these. The reason they decided to hurt in unison at this time is because I stopped taking my contraception pills. Why? Because I’ve been taking them since I was 20 years old for a hormonal unbalance that left me with painful heavy periods that lasted for seven days. And I usually choose a month during the year when I do not take them, just to give my ovaries some time to function normally. Well, functioning normally also means that they hurt like hell.

Apparently in my eagerness to start the year, and do many things, including getting back into shape I forgot I stopped taking the pills. And the pain of remembrance hit me with full force, only I’ve confused it initially with appendicitis.

The funny thing is that this is not the first time this happens. Once every few years I forget that I’m off the pills and get scared I have appendicitis. Next time, I swear I’ll make a note and set myself a timer when to start taking them again.

The male readers of my blog have no idea how lucky they are not to be blessed with ovaries. I envy you so much.

Stay safe, stay happy!

Feb 03 2020

The wonder of a human mind

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 0:24

When I started my new job I joined a few IT official channels, one from Dublin and one from New Zealand. I must confess I cannot keep up with all the produced content, but sometimes there are memes and discussions that attract my attention. On Friday on the Dublin channel the topic of aphantasia kept the members quite occupied. If you do not know what aphantasia is, you might want to read this entry. It is exactly what you think it is, the lack of fantasy. Reading Blake Ross’ entry I realized I have no idea what it means to lack fantasy. He says in that entry he cannot see pictures in his mind, and this baffles me, because pictures and movies is all I see. I cannot imagine how it is not to do so. Let me tell you how my brain works.

I think I owe my imagination to my mom. I do not remember my dad spending too much time with me, but my mom is the one that taught me how to read to keep me busy and to allow her time to read. And because I was a child and it was difficult for me to just read without the reality of the events and characters I read about, I started being creative. Really creative.

When I read a book, I make up a movie in my mind. I’ve been doing this since my mother taught me to read when I was four. Back then, in all my fairy tales, I was always the central character, people I did not like were the villains, and friends and family, naturally were the friends and family of the character. As I grew older I started getting very creative with my movies. I’ve “seen” the whole Game of Thrones movie after the first season, because I read the books. That first season did help me put faces to most of the characters though. The same happened with Hunger Games and Divergent.

50 Shades of Grey, well… I did that from scratch, because the movie was not out yet. The main female character looked a lot like Jessica Alba and the male character looked a lot like Jonathan Brandis, an older version of him, anyway.

Actually, the problem I have is the opposite of the one described by Blake Ross. I slip way too easy into fantasyland. I make too much use of it. I have trouble sometimes staying in the present and seeing what is in front of me because my mind just wanders off and creates its own things. My past is a dramatised version influenced by a few tragic events. It might sound weird, but sometimes I have doubts about what I remember and what really happened.

And when it comes to dreams… I dream in colour and I dream intricate scenarios, sometimes spanning over decades. Sometimes my dreams involve scenarios so real I wake up in the morning and have difficulties discerning between a dream and a real event. I dreamed I enrolled on another master class after thinking about it for a while in real life. Only in my dream, my job got a little strenuous and I kept skipping classes. So I woke up terrified that I would fail my exams.

When it comes to romantic relationships, being a fantasist is pain in the ass. It’s bad. It’s so bad I stopped dating and I am doing my best to stay away from persons I am attracted to. Because the persons I am attracted to are just a seed for my out-of-control imagination. When I am attracted to somebody, I fall in love with an idealized version of them. Every interaction is perceived through a distorted lens, that amplifies everything. There are so many scenarios I go through, how should I act, where I could meet them accidentally, how our interactions would go, what I could say to flatter them and deepen their affection. Sometimes when I interact with somebody, if the universe is in my favour, everything goes according to one of the scripts I already reviewed. Usually the interactions leaves them feel great about themselves, but for me… it’s just not as magical. I am just happy that it went as planned.

Example: I once told a guy I had a one night stand with that he had an Adonis body. This left him thinking about that night for over two years. He was a beautiful creature, I give him that and my metaphor was not a lie, but he did not have the effect on me that he thought he did.

Also, my first true love had perfect white skin, and he was tall and slender, with square shoulders, strong arms that have held me in my dreams so many times it still feels real.

The problem with loving an idealized version of somebody, is that they will probably never raise up to that ideal standard. And when they make mistakes and disappoint, they taint that image so much it’s … heartbreaking.

My heart was broken so many times and I come to the realization that they did not break it. My own fantasy and expectation for them to meet it did. I know now I did it to myself. They were just human and so different from that polished, sanctified version of them I fell in love with.

When I was younger I used to get lost in my reveries in the middle of classes. As an adult I’ve gotten better of controlling them. They do not affect my work and thank the universe they do not hinder my driving. :)

What is the conclusion of all this? Well, it seems I am very creative and I have a vivid imagination. One day I might have the time to start writing novels, and the world will be richer because of it.

Stay safe, stay happy!


Feb 02 2020

January Beer

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 22:57

It has been a month since the beer button was added to this site. And the harvest is upon us.

Thank you for the beer, Juan!

Jan 31 2020

When I start my day like this …

Category: TechnicalIuliana @ 11:43

… it just makes all the sleepless nights that went into that book worth it.

Thank you for your feeback, Peter!