Apr 13 2019

My first crush

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 8:14

I’m not sure when I first saw “The never ending story“, but I loved the idea behind it. I cried when Artax, Atreyu’s horse, drowned in Swamp of Sadness, and at the time the analogy for the mental illness of depression was not lost on me. Even if it was not as loved as the first one, I loved “The Neverending Story II” as well. Probably because I had the appropriate age. Bastian was growing up, making mistakes and atoning for them. Bastian was becoming an adult, but learning not to lose his imagination either.

And Bastian was played by Jonathan Brandis that probably was my first crush. I liked his blue eyes, his dimple chin and the way he smiled, by pulling the corner of his left cheek a little harder than the right.

I remember having posters with him on the walls in my room. I definitely had this one.

And then Seaquest happened. I loved that series and I used to wake up at night to watch re-runs. I loved seeing him grow up from a kid into a beautiful young man. The fact that in the series they paired  him at some point with a hacker named Julianna might have been the moment when I decided that maybe being a software engineer is possible for a girl. I was so fascinated with him that I remembered writing letters to some papers asking them to write articles about him and print pictures with him. And they delivered.

I re-watched Seaquest during my faculty years, because I just could not accept that he was dead. He killed himself in 2003. I had access to internet by then and I Googled him from time to time. The news broke my heart, and it was very difficult to explain to my boyfriend at the time why. For him, he was just an actor, one of many. For me, it felt like we grew up together. There are a lot of assumptions about the reasons behind his suicide, and it is so sad to read about it. He was a single child of good decent, hard-working people and I am so sad for his parents, because they must be inconsolable.

Every year, around the time when his birthday would have been I remember him and watch an episode of Seaquest to remember his blue eyes and his voice. And I wonder how he was as a person. What kind of pancakes did he like most? Did he even like pancakes? What did he like to do on Sunday mornings? Which book was his favorite? I dreamed of meeting him one day and asking him all these questions while sharing my own preferred things about this world. I really, really wanted to get to know the man that brought my favorite character from Seaquest to life. But I guess every teenager with a crush of him at the time wanted the same thing.

Rest in Peace, dear Jonathan. I am glad you were part of my life through your work. I only wish you would have stuck around, because we might have ended up meeting one day.

[Later edit] And for all of you fighting suicidal thoughts, just you wait. Things are never as bad as you think, and reality beats movies when things start going right. I’ve had suicidal thoughts since I was about 10 years old. I made it to 32 and finally won the battle. You will too and there are people willing to help. And feel free to drop me an email if you feel the need to talk about it. Just hang on and stick around, don’t rob someone of the pleasure to meet you.

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Apr 07 2019

Is Spring still relevant?

Category: TechnicalIuliana @ 13:39

This Friday I’ve had a debate at the company with a colleague of mine which is known to be a straight up genius about the topic in the title. Obviously, I was arguing that Spring is still relevant, and my colleagues was arguing that it is not. How did I end up in this position? Well, since I’ve written so many books about Spring, why not? I’ve written books about how it can be used, explained its under-the-hood internals to others, I could talk to others about it, right? Well, turns out… not really. I am really bad at debates with geniuses, that happened to study computer science. Because I’m an engineer, I’m practical, I get down in the dirt to make sense of things and fix them up. I build things from scratch, and although I do overthink and design things, my overall direction is practicality. And this is what being relevant is for me. Can it make my work easier, faster, stable and can in the end produce revenue? Then it is relevant. So yeah, for me being needed and being useful means being relevant.

For him, being relevant, means change, means driving the domains toward innovation.

And because, our definition of relevant was different, the debate was a cluster-fuck. Funny as hell, but a cluster-fuck nonetheless.

Here is my take on this.

Continue reading “Is Spring still relevant?”

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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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Dec 23 2018

Your duty is to try

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 14:36

As you’ve probably figured out by now, from what you’ve read here, my family is the typical broken family, with people scattered all around the world, all of them trying to detach from their past so they can start new and do better, because if you do not want to get cancer the smartest way is to move farther away from the power plant. Don’t stop reading, this will not be a sad blog entry, I promise!  From time to time members of my family do manage to meet after years of not seeing one another and is fascinating for me to discover the people they have become.

I have a cousin that has become a wonderfully strong woman that is hell-bent on fixing this family through acceptance and communication.

I have a cousin that is torn between his duty to a small part of the family that raised him up and gave him a career and the girl he loves that happens to live in a city too far away from where his life is built so nicely.

I have an uncle that is learning how to live at fifty four, because more than half of his life he spent taking care of his parents in a place that kept him isolated from the real world. And he is the guy I want to talk about. Because he found a type of wisdom in his simple life and his duties that people rarely do. And I consider myself lucky to know him and to be able to learn from him. He got dealt a bad hand, but he did his best and at some point in my life, I decided he deserves more and I set up to help him live the rest of his life the best way possible. I won’t tell you his full life story, I will just list here a few things that I know about him that are really impressive to me.

He quit smoking after thirty years of this nasty habit. He was stressed by the fact he did not have much money and I guess he was thinking about quitting for a while, but one morning he woke up, burned the rest of cigarettes in the house and decided he won’t smoke from that day on. He just acknowledged that smoking is a toxic and costly habit, that he did could not afford anymore and he quit, just like that. It was not easy to break a habit like that, because he went through rehab alone, not in a specialized centre, there were no nicotine patches, no other dugs to soothe him. He was living in the countryside so he worked the field, drank a lot of water, went to sleep when he felt sick with headaches or feeling nauseous and in two weeks the nicotine was out of his system and he never smoked again.

He was convinced to leave his job and move to the countryside by his parents, well his mother basically, because she was the head of the family. She told him he should move back close to family because there is money to be made in agriculture, that they had land to work that could produce a lot of crops that could be sold, but they were old and needed help. And for some reason, he believed it and gave it a try. And here and there there were little successes. He made enough money to buy a horse – that was a nice and gentle horse, by the way, I’ve met him, it was love at first neigh – working the fields became easier for a while. He bought himself a motorbike and he taught himself how to ride it, but never got a license, because he never got too far out of the village on it anyway.

He tried getting married, but after getting his heartbroken by his last fiancé, he gave up on the idea altogether. He said that his life is miserable and he had nothing but misery to offer, and who would want that? Years after I found out from another cousin he confides these stuff in, that he was in love when he was younger with somebody that went on and married somebody else and he never got over her. Apparently, after he restarted his life, he met her again and she was divorced and they are starting something –  so life finds a way.

When his parents started to get too old and needed care, his life started going down the drain. People in my family judged him for drinking now and then. Because the expectation was for him to become an alcoholic like his father, so if he even got tipsy, the hate would flow. But during one visit I talked to him and told him about my university experience and how I drank to forget, to detach myself from a life I did not like, from the me I did not like. The conclusion was that if alcohol is the curtain we put between us and the part of us we do not like, but it is not the solution. If you don’t like yourself and the life you have you have to stop hiding from it, you have to stay awake and find ways to change it all. And I saw his face lit up. For the first time he was not judged, he was not considered a despicable drunk like his father, somebody saw him exactly as he was, a man in a difficult position, a life that was not satisfying to him and a person he did not like. He had accepted the fact that he won’t have a life of his own until his parents died and he accepted the duty to care for them until that moment. There was no way for him to fight it or run away from the responsibility that he realized he took upon himself when he decided to move back in with them.  So he graciously accepted it and fulfilled that duty the best he could. Sure he drank one too many now and then, but he wasn’t and most probably he will never be an alcoholic.

Last year, February his mother died. His father was long gone. I’ve have visited him before and noticed this guy never smiled and  I realised he was plagued by the family disease of bad teeth. So I offered him the opportunity to get his teeth fixed. Told him to go ask a doctor for an estimate and the money will be wired into his account. The next time I saw him he had a smile that could light up a room. You probably have no idea that smiling makes you look at least ten years younger. I did not know it either. Now you know why I look so well for my age. :)

Long story short, he fixed his teeth, and since the whole thing cost him half as estimated, with the rest of the money, he got himself a new set of clothes and a ticket to Italy. And the rest is a happy story, how he got a job and he is amazed by how much his work is valued and how beautiful Italy is. He has plans to visit the whole country and take in all the beauty Italy has to offer, but he is putting money aside to pay me back and build a self-sustaining clean energy house one day. And when he came back to Romania on vacation, he asked out the woman he loved, because now he was confident that one day he might have something else to offer than misery.

One of the most important thing I heard him say and got stuck in my head and probably gave me a little nudge here and there to try absurd things, is that as a human being you have the duty to try. Ofcourse at the time he was talking about girls, he was quite young then and hadn’t totally given up the idea.

So no matter how ridiculous is something, how absurd, how unreachable,  if you really want it, it is your duty to try. So if there is something to take from this entry, this is it.

Stay safe, stay happy!


Oct 28 2018

Edinburgh in autumn

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 1:00

The title says it all. There is nothing that I can say to describe how beautiful this city is, especially dressed in the colors of autumn. So I will let the following pictures do the talking.
Gallery not found.

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Oct 22 2018

The Midas principle

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 22:11

A few years ago I was working in a company that had an application used for quite a critical purpose all over the world, but that had the ugliest code I’ve ever seen. Nonetheless, the application was a necessity, as it was and probably still is the only one on the market that performed that specific function, and not using it meant that you had to hire hundreds of economists to make and validate the computations the application did automatically. The specifications for the applications were provided by a validation entity, that also defined when the said computations and validations should be completed and going over that deadline made your entity eligible for some serious fines. Yes, I am talking about a banking application. Anyway, the code was bad, because when the deadline is not negotiable, the new specifications deviate from pre-defined patterns and data to test the changes is almost missing, or anonymized so that sensitive details are hidden, but that makes it no longer relevant for your tests, you are put into the position of writing crappy code. Because maybe you started with good code, but when you are required to do changes to fix something that needs to be delivered in a few hours, so the client does not get fined, sometimes you have no choice.

The code being so bad, it was the ideal company to work for if you liked doing improvements. There were a few managers that over the years realized that the technical debt will probably be the reason why the company will go bankrupt and there were some managers – like my direct manager and my mentor – that dared to take some risks and take some heat to try to reduce the technical debt. This is where I come in the picture. In 2014 I was on the run from a heartbreak and on run towards a career. And boy, I was given the opportunity to do so! Anyway I pioneered quite a few changes in that company, took the risks and took the heat together with my mentor and not all my work was exemplary, but I did the best I could with the resources I was given and within the context I was provided.

One of the things that I did was to present to a group of 100 developers or even more, I think, how to properly think your solutions and your code in the difficult position we all were. Because technical debt is demoralizing for people that like their job. And I had to be optimistic and assume people were doing that job because they liked it at some point. So, I started with motivational quotes, book recommendations, basic common sense about how to work in a team, but I needed something new because all the things I mentioned could be found in any presentation about clean code and competent solutions.

While struggling to find something relevant to our company and to our code, it hit me. Our development style so far has been like fixing and adding new features to an airplane while it was flying with all our customers in it. And the quickest method to develop in this case was copy-paste. We even had managers that believed it so. Problem is, that sometimes people were copying code that was crappy and thus propagating crap; new hires, people less experienced and in the heat of the moment even experienced developers were doing it. Obviously, we were not in the position to ever get rid of this behaviour, but what we could do was to improve our code when working on bugs, as to turn it into code worthy of being copied. Because copy-pasted good code, is still good code, even if the Don’t Repeat Yourselves principle has to suffer.

So I named it The Midas principle: every time you develop something, you leave your mark, you transform it. When your work is shared with your colleagues, your style of working gets propagated. If your work is gold, that is what gets propagated. So, when you are working on an existing functionality, turn it into gold.

Sure, this is 90% similar to Robert C. Martin’s Boy Scout Rule: “Always leave the code behind in a better state than you found it.”, but I like Greek mythology more, and I just love the legend of King Midas.

So there you have it, something older than a boy scout rule to compare your development style to.

Stay safe, stay happy and propagate gold!

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Oct 11 2018

Back to my old shenanigans

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 1:53

Some time ago when finances became stable, I started fulfilling some of my childhood dreams. Might seem ridiculous, but as an adult, I’ve felt quite frustrated that I did not know how to ride a bike or swim. So as soon the opportunity showed itself, I started “fixing” those frustrations one by one. There is the TODO list on this blog of course, but there are more small things that I never got to do that feel so fulfilling when I get to do them. I learnt to swim when I was 27, learn to ride a bike when I was 28 and about the same time I got my driving license. The first two were denied to me because of lack of money and lack of opportunity when I was a child. The third – is one of those things I never even dared to dream about because well, I never expected to own a car. You have no idea how good it felt the first time I went to work on my bike. You have no idea how awesome it feels to swim confidently in the sea after yearning for the experience for so long. And my vacation during which I drove 2000 miles across US, is still the best one so far.

Anyway, my biggest passion is music. Unfortunately, because my parents never thought I was worth the investment, my only experience with music was the 18 years of the church choir. I used to be a soprano then, no idea if I still am. I now own a piano and a guitar and plan to learn to play them both by the time I am dead. Because I cannot create music myself, I am an avid music consumer. For me, music is rarely background noise. I like to analyze the sounds, identify the instruments, change in rhythm, voice inflections. I get lost in good music. And yes, when I reproduce I get creative too.

My tastes in music vary, the only two genres that I don’t really enjoy are Latino and Oriental. Otherwise, I have favorite singers and bands, based on the in instruments they have, voices or the lyrics they sing. For example, Darren Hayes is one of my favorite singers because of the perfect combination between meaningful lyrics and beautiful music. I love all his songs and probably know the lyrics by heart for each of them, and yes probably I could sing them as well. I like B.B. King, Santana and John Mayer, because of the wonders they can do with a guitar. I love Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Seth MacFarlane because of the jazz/blues sound, multiple instruments, very diverse voice inflections. I love Akua Naru for the voice and meaningful lyrics. And I love Rock music because it is the music that sets me free. Rock music is to music, as Linux is to operating systems. There are so many styles that I couldn’t list them all. But the one I love the most is alternative. I fell in love with this genre because, a long, long time ago, in a country far far away in East Europe, where good media could only be procured by not so legitimate ways, I found a list of MP3s sets named Alternative Collection. There were hundreds of them, and while I was a student I had them all written to CDs and listened to them a lot. There were a lot of American and Canadian bands, the rest of the world didn’t even know existed, but they were amazing.

The last Rock experience that I had was in 2015, when I went to Wacken with my dearest friends. Nothing compares to that, but the concert from two days ago reminded me how good for the psyche is a proper headbanging and scream singing. Well, proper and responsible adult headbanging, that does not leave you with destroyed neck muscles for two days, because as an adult I still have to work the job that provided the resources used to purchase the ticket. :D

Three Days Grace, Glasgow, 2018

This is the first concert I went to since moving to Scotland, and the taste for this kind of experience is back. Expect some more entries about concerts form now on. And if you are curious how they sond live, I prepared a little mash-up for now. I don’t really like to take pictures at concerts or record too much, because I really want to enjoy the moment, to get lost in the music, sing out loud and dance. Enjoy!

Stay safe, stay happy!

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