Mar 03 2019

The Case of Edinburgh

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 23:10

I’ve first visited Edinburgh in 2016. I don’t remember the address exactly, but it was somewhere around Holyrood and really close to Craigmiller’s castle. The apartment I rented with my friends for a week, was at the ground level, it was quite old but well maintained and across the street from the building there was a big green area, where kids would play football and adults would walk their dogs. It was really cozy and gave you the impression of an area where you would want to live when you retire. It was clean and green and about 30 minutes walking distance from the craziness of the city center. I loved that little neighborhood, I loved the Holyrood Park and I even loved the noisy city center. I loved Edinburgh just enough to conclude that I could live there. And three years later I made the move.

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Feb 20 2019

I met David Duchovny again

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 23:11

I haven’t been writing for a while, but the main reason for that is that I was on vacation this time. I was in Dublin for 4 days to a David Duchovny concert. I’ve done this before, in 2016, so why do it again, especially since he is not really a great singer?

Well, he is one of my favorite actors. I grew up with X-Files and I fell in love with the character of Fox Mulder because of his interpretation. When he started singing, I was a little bit puzzled. But then again, if Britney Spears can do it, anybody in this world can. Especially a guy that studied at Princeton and Yale, a guy that took a year from his career to learn guitar and a guy that has been in the business of show-biz long enough to know what to do to continue  having a career and being in the spotlight.

I’ve seen other blog articles writing about how going to his concerts left them disappointed and such, I won’t even bother search for the article and link it. But if you are going to a David Duchovny for his music, at least appreciate the effort involved, even if the end result is not pristine. David Duchovny is no John Mayer, don’t get me wrong, but he also just started singing at 55. So for somebody doing this only for three years, I think the result is quite good.

Here is what I’ve noticed after two of David Duchovny’s concerts. In Dublin he engaged his public more than he did three years ago, he was way more approachable during the Meet & Greet. If three years ago I was told not to speak to him, this year I got to hug him, and he was smiling and being charming. Three years ago in Amsterdam, I was afraid I get ushered out by security if I touched him.

The Meet & Greet was better organized then the last time, but the paraphernalia was non-existent. At the previous concert I got a CD and a signed picture of him. Then again, nobody really uses CDs these days, and because he is also an author now, most people prefer getting his signature on one if his books. But yeah, it would have been nice if the picture was the default for people that were flying economy to be there, as I did, and did not really have space for a book in the small bag Ryanair allows.

But never mind, let’s move on from this. Let’s talk about the music. David Duchovny’s voice has a specific inflection that is quite sexy, but he’s no super-duper-vocalist. And he’s not lying to himself or to his fans about this either.

“I’m not a real musician,” he says. “I mean, I can play guitar well enough to write some songs on it, but I’m not a player. I didn’t even play on my own album. I’m not good enough.”

So if you go to one of his concerts, don’t expect him to be. But he is singing live, and jumping around and is obviously enjoying being there, and singing for the people in the room. And is doing this at 58, and he started doing this at 55. So appreciate the work and the effort. And then there’s the band, 5 very talented youngsters, probably half his age which he adores. During his concerts he talks about them a lot, and makes sure the spotlight is on each of them. And they are amazingly talented. Considering the struggle to make it in the music business, I think having David as a front-man ensured these guys will have an audience. So, if you don’t go to his concerts for him, go for these guys, because they are amazing.

If you want to go to his concerts and do not know what to expect, here is a snippet about his latest album.

“Every Third Thought” is David Duchovny’s follow up to 2015’s “Hell or Highwater” that Rolling Stone called “a likable, lyrically tart, vaguely Wilco-ish debut album.” The album moves away from the folkier vibe of the debut set into more rock territory.

I like his music because the lyrics of his songs are stories of a man that lived his life well, that has made mistakes, acknowledged them and learned from them. I like his lyrics because they they bloody exist and make sense. You won’t hear many yeah, oh, ah from him, because he fills the pauses with real words. Call me old-school, but I like songs that tell a story.

As for my encounter with him, well, meeting him temporarily turned my brains into mush. I wanted to tell him that I’ve read his books, that “Bucky Fucking Dent” is my favorite because it depicts a non-shiny life, with nothing extraordinary in it, because it depicts how love can grow in the most deserted places and because that book is a raw depiction of human relationships. I love it because it depicts a non-romanticized idea of love, love just is, just happens and will change your life in ways you could have never imagined. But all I managed to do is jump up and down smiling while telling him how thrilled I am to see him again. Which probably meant nothing for him because he definitely does not remember me from three years ago.

But no matter, I got to hug him, so all is well with the world. And if he continues singing, and keeps the Meet & Greet tickets at acceptable prices, probably I’ll go hug him again next time. :)

Stay safe, stay happy!

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Feb 17 2019

Brave New World

Category: English postsIuliana @ 1:41

No, this entry is not about the dystopian novel that we all know and love. This post is about how me, a person that has lived more than 30 years of life in eastern Europe just clashed with the reality of a more civilized country.

When I lived in Romania I never had to justify my income. I started writing books for Apress and I started receiving payments form US in my ING account and nobody from the bank called to ask me where is that money coming from and if it was taxed. The reason for that is that Eastern Europe is quite relaxed when it comes to a lot of rules, which gives people a sense of freedom, but people with bad intentions use this to their advantage, that is why there is so much corruption in the official institutions.

Well, here I am in the UK. And things have changed. As I’ve probably mentioned here, before I left Romania I installed Revolut, the wonder money-management application that helped me swim across the turbulent and diverse system that is the banking system. Until yesterday 4:00 am I was their biggest fan and preached to everyone who wanted to listen how advantageous using Revolut is. But, all good things come to an end. Go get yourself a big coffee, because this will be a loooong read.

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Feb 09 2019

Good soul, skeptical mind

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 23:51

The thing I love most about moving to another country is the fact that I get to fully immerse in its culture and get to know people with a different core of fundamental values. There are philosophers that say that people are born bad and society conditions their malevolent impulses and there are philosophers that say the exact opposite. I’m not a philosopher, I’m an engineer and I believe people are born as pure as a blank canvas and their environment shapes who they are. Their environment  and their experiences sculpts their characters and determines their thoughts and their actions. So somebody raised up and educated in a country where survival of the fittest and competition are core values is fundamentally different than somebody raised up and educated in a country that has survival of the pack and cooperation as core values. Sure, the work on your character never ends and changing your environment might cause little or big changes here and there, depending on how open minded you are, but some building block of your character such as you instinct fro survival, are hard to re-program.
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Feb 06 2019

Maybe you too choosy

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 14:18

The title is not grammatically correct, I know, but I did not come up with it. How did that title come to be? Well, it was the reply to one of my tweets. I know, who still uses Twitter these days? Well, a lot of people that do not like Facebook. And I do not like Facebook. Here is the thread.

I posted on twitter the following sarcastic affirmation:

If men would be as attracted to me as IT recruiters are, I would either have a very active sex life or I would have been married with a lot of kids by now.

Yes, I know I fucked up the grammar on twitter. When I wrote that tweet, I was actually positioning myself in a post-very active sex life timeline. :D Between then and now I realize that I might have been mistaken. Anyway, ignore the grammar, let’s discuss the reactions. Actually there is one reaction I want to focus on, the reaction that is now missing from the thread, because the tweet reply made me so sick that I blocked the author.

The tweet reply did not upset me, or made me mad, it’s just the sort of thinking I do not want to allow to propagate via my twitter account. A person from an underdeveloped country(Zimbabwe), calling himself educated replied to my joke with, you guessed it: “Maybe you too choosy”. I underlined the underdeveloped country idea, because on some level, the country I am originally from(Romania) is considered underdeveloped too. But deciding to be a decent person is not influenced by how undeveloped your country is. So yeah, your origin is not an excuse for being a narrow minded cunt.

So, I am too choosy because I do not have a very active sex life or I am not married with kids by my age, in his narrow, traditionalist, sexist mind. Let me tell you why I am in this situation. I might not have been born in Zimbabwe, but that does not mean I do not know what being poor feels like. Being poor and  being treated differently by people around me for being so is what motivated me as a child to do all I could to well.. not be poor someday. Being poor and being born a girl, meant I had to do house chores at a very young age. So I learned what work was and the value of money very early. So I worked. I worked to support my family and put food on the table. I worked to win some little extra money so I could buy myself an extra pair of pants from the thrift store down the road. I learned to sew so I could fix the said pants when they were torn because of being worn too much. During college while my other female colleagues were hitting the pubs and going on dates, I was washing my clothes by hand and I was doing projects for extra money hoping that one day I would save enough to buy my own computer so I would not have to spend my weekends freezing my ass off in the faculty laboratories anymore.

And then I graduated. And I got myself a full development job and a part time teaching job, because I wanted to save money to buy a car. And I ended up not buying a car but fixing my teeth, that were in very poor shape because of the poverty in my childhood and adolescence. And even if I had two jobs, I decided to spend my weekends helping take care of animals for a non profit organization, instead of, I don’t know … going out I guess.

After a lot of time working two jobs, I could afford the car as well. And that opened up the possibility to travel.  Mind you, I did all these above things while keeping a house  and practicing some sports as well, because to healthy body, healthy mind, right?

And then I moved to Sibiu and when the satisfaction of working in IT started diminishing, I bought a piano and started learning to play it, because I needed a constant hobby and music was always it. It was about damn time I would invest some time in it.  While living in Sibiu, my job kept me occupied, sometimes delegated to various places and I also started writing technical books.

So, when was I supposed to meet somebody and dedicated the time to nurturing a sane relationship? Well, there was time for that, but looking at my romantic history, the only conclusion is that I was not choosy enough.

And then I moved to Edinburgh. I am still keeping a house, I commute for about  1h a day, I am still writing technical books, I am still having a full time job as a software engineer, I am still learning to play piano and I am playing football once a week. And every weekend now and then I spend it with friends.

How am I choosy? What does that even mean in his mind? Because to me it seems the only thing I am is … a fucking adult, a quite grounded one if you ask me. So yeah, apparently living a normal adult life makes you choosy. And you know what really grinds my gears? He could have said that maybe I am a workaholic, maybe I’m too selfish with my time. And although none of those sounds like a compliment either, I would have not have blocked him for any of those. Because those two are closer to the reality than being choosy. You narrow minded, simple thinking shadow of a human being! You can shove your opinion where the sun don’t shine.

So, the conclusion is, if somebody ever tells you that you are “choosy” and uses it to judge your marital status, fuck them. You go live your life the way you want to.

Stay safe, stay happy!

Jan 30 2019

Technical Muse

Category: English posts,PersonalIuliana @ 2:35

If you do not know what a muse is, here are a few definitions:

1. Greek Mythology: Any of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, each of whom presided over a different art or science.
2. muse
a. A guiding spirit.
b. A source of inspiration: the lover who was the painter’s muse.
3. muse Archaic:A poet.

The most wide spread meaning, aside the band of course, is a source of inspiration. And it is usually used when talking about artists. The Romanian national poet had quite a few muses, and being a heterosexual white men, clearly they were women. His romantic poems are hymns to their beauty and how they made him feel. Ask the members of Fleetwood Mac who their songs are about, or ask The Beatles members or John Mayer. Their best creations are about a person that they either loved or admired so much that the overall feeling was one of worship. The subject has been even approached in Californication series in season six. The best creations of artists are born when a muse is involved. It is not always have to be a woman, it can be a heart-shattering event or a drop of rain if the artist is in the right state of mind(or high enough :D). But, in my later years I noticed that muses are not present(and necessary) only in the art world.

Fortunately I don’t need a muse for my work, but I do need discipline, time and the right state of mind. But I’ve had an epiphany recently, while talking to a good friend of mine.

You know how in IT there’s a technique called Rubber Duck Debugging, which involves talking to another person or a rubber duck if there’s no one available trying to explain the problem you are having in multiple ways, to gain new perspectives with the final goal of finding a solution? Well, that rubber duck, or the person can only help you so much, it cannot really inspire you, or maybe they cannot ask the right questions, or provide the incentive you need for you to properly focus on solving the problem. But you know who can do all that? A muse.

Well, for this friend of mine, I’ve always been a technical muse. The irony is that even if we both work in IT, he is working in a slightly different area, but I still can ask the right technical questions, provide the appropriate advice and inspiration that help him find solutions and keep him engaged in his work. He is the one that made me realize I am good at this. And because of my strong technical background, I can actually provide some real technical assistance too. He started joking that he will hire me as a muse and pay for my services, but I am still like… what the actual fuck?

That is until another person asked me for help with a project. Initially I was, like: No, I don’t have the time, Don’t pay me, let’s see if I have any idea of what you are trying to do here, etc. But slowly, I was able to provide the technical help and advice necessary to make the project happen. And because he was in a difficult situation at work, a lot of managers and architects involved, each with their opinion and reasons for putting their mark on his solution, with little valid technical arguments I might say, I also advised him what to say in order to make things happen his way. And apparently it worked.

So here I am, apparently I am a technical muse. I know how this sounds. And I know this sounds just as ridiculous as Technical –  Evangelist, Monk, Champion or Guru. I never liked those terms, because IT is a logical domain. And regarding those terms – it’s not a religion, it’s not a belief.

For me it’s something I enjoy a lot doing.I ‘m passionate about it, I am engaged, I am driven. But I would never try to “convert” someone to this domain or to the programming language I work in. Mozart made music for people to listen and enjoy, not to transform everybody into the genius that he was. He could probably teach someone his songs, but their interpretation and creations would be their own, and marked by their own inspiration and talent. I’m a bad ass at what I do. And it’s not just Java. It’s Software Engineering. I can share insights, I can direct a person in the right direction, but their path is their own. And I’m very good at this too.

So yeah, I’m a technical muse. Apparently. But I won’t use this term in the technical world until I get more than two people to recommend me as such. ;) So anybody out there needs a technical muse? :D

Stay safe, stay happy!

Jan 25 2019

Mental health

Category: English posts,MiscellaneousIuliana @ 3:14

A few days ago the company I work for organized a mental health workshop with the purpose of teaching people how to recognize signs of depressions and other mental disorders and how to provide support to their colleagues. Although the workshop should have been more interactive, because you cannot recognize signs of mental ill health in somebody if you do not talk to the person, it did its job.

One of the nice ladies started the workshop telling us that Mental health is important. Well, we were all functional adults, some of us with kids, outside and inside(one of my colleagues was pregnant)   and most of us were probably engineers so dhooh! we know how important it is.

Although in a very diplomatic manner, the other nice lady said what I’ve been believing for years: to support people with mental issues, you have to start by accepting that you might not be sane yourself. Because it is the only way you can empathize and be less incline to be judgy and avoidant. The nice lady actually said: if it were up to her the whole world would be in therapy.

It is important to prevent mental problems from appearing, but at 20+ years it is a little too late. Gratitude and kindness are always good for people, but sometime people also need a mental reset. And a reset is not always pleasant. I’m all for rainbows, and happiness and good things, but they don’t always get you where you need to be mentally. Especially when your mind is already broken. And I am sane enough to admit that there is a likely possibility.

We can nurture our mental health through exercise, nutrition, hydration, medical self care and rest. But you know how else we can nurture it? By learning to care less, just don’t give a fuck once in a while, especially when it does not directly affect you and you cannot affect it; whatever that it is. Chances are if you are reading this blog entry you are already 80% luckier then the rest of the planes population. So just allow yourself to dwell in that for a moment.

Work is stressful and stress can lead to mental disorders, but the solution is not always green walls, ambient music and more light. The solution is to make the work itself more engaging, make it so it brings satisfaction and makes people feel like they are doing something meaningful.  Because we all want to leave a mark on this world, and sometimes just spreading our genes is not enough. But hey, we all know that is rarely possible, so yeah, a green wall will do.

The stigma of having mental issues was discussed. Would you mention at your interview that you are fighting depression? Would you mention you are bipolar? Would you mention you have ADHD? Probably not. Because any company wants employees that most times can work at their full capacity and are predictable. A mental illness can make you unpredictable. So we all lie, because one cannot declare himself mentally healthy. And we take the commitment of a contract and then we support each other through any storm that comes our way. The key to mental health in the workplace is to be there for each other, in our best days and in our worst days.  The key to mental health is to treat each other as children. Children get a lot of free passes because they are children and do not know any better. Guess what? Adults are just kids with big hairy bodies.

I would have like to see more interactive exercises, that enables require us to know each other better. Because even if I speak to some people in the office quite often, I still do not know their names. I can tell you the color of their eyes and what they like to do, but names – nope. The bonus here is that when I find out their names by embarrassing myself, it will never leave my brains. I would have liked to see more emphasis on people behavioral patterns and how we should pay attention when they change, because this means that person is going through something. But then again, the whole workshop was only four hours long.

My conclusion is that, we are all mad one way or another and we do not have to feel guilty about it. We are what this society enabled us to be. So, be kind to one another, do not put the asshole label on a person forever just because they happen to have one bad day or more of them.  Do your best to listen and show some support, and the world might be a more tranquil place for all of us.

Stay safe, stay happy!

(Image source)