Mar 06 2020

Kudos for The Man

Category: MusicIuliana @ 14:18

So, a while ago Taylor Swift decided to finally open up and show the world she is a real person that has real opinions about the world around her and that she is willing to stand by them even if this would affect her career.

When I was a young girl I had the tendency to be a rebel and opinionated. My favourite question was “why?”. Because I started speaking before the communist regime was out, my mother tried to shut that down by telling me that “the mouth gets the ass beaten” so I should be careful about what I say. Which annoyed the hell out of me, because if it was the truth why did it have to be hidden, right? I guess it was difficult raising and educating a stubborn child under a communist regime; you want your child to be truthful, but what about truths that are inconvenient to the regime? How do you educate a child to be truthful always, but except a few cases?

Thus, although Taylor Swift is not one of my favourite celebrities, it’s a question of my taste in music really, I truly understand what she went through and the risk she took by speaking out loud and deciding to own her “inconvenient” opinions.

You might be wondering at this point, what is this blog entry about and why am I mentioning Taylor Swift so much? Because the video for a very powerful song is out.

This is the first song she has produced that I like, and the reason for that is because I finally empathize with her.

I couldn’t empathize with with the young girl born into money and with supportive parents. I couldn’t empathize with the perfect beautiful innocent in-love girl getting her heart broken. I couldn’t empathize with the powerful woman turned confident sex symbol that was finally accepting that her long streak of failed relationships were a normal occurrence and nothing to be ashamed about. But this Taylor Swift, the one that asks if her road to success wouldn’t have been easier if she were a man, this is finally a version of her that I can empathize with.

And now let’s talk about me, because it’s my blog so it’s kinda expected.
Continue reading “Kudos for The Man

Mar 05 2020

Employment brokers

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 13:09 did not want to write another entry about this, but it seems I have to.

I have a professional profile on LinkedIn, the same as I have a personal profile on Facebook. I do not use Facebook very much since I am not really obsessed with having a virtual persona. I do not use LinkedIn very much either since I’m not actively looking for a new job. But LinkedIn does not seem to care about that and insists on spamming me. So here and there I go in LinkedIn and I either accept some readers of my books into my community of followers and refuse a few recruiters.

And like I said, I did not want to write about this again, but here I am.

Before I moved to the UK and even after that I’ve received job offers and there are a few things that have and still do piss me off.

First thing first, offers are made per year and the sum is before tax. I cannot for the life of me understand why that is. In Romania, when you negotiate a salary, the potential employer tells you the exact sum you are going to receive every month. The UK has a tax system that hasn’t changed for years, I don’t think it is difficult to calculate based on your offer how much a person will be actually payed each month. Sure 2500 GBP per month, does not sound as good as 50.000 GBP per year, but then again if you’re not good with math and you are not raised up in the UK and familiar with their tax system, you might be effectively tricked into accepting a salary that you will be disappointed with. Who wins in this scenario? Because a company will end up with an unhappy employee that will have no respect for the potential employer and will probably not be motivated to “go the extra mile”. That employee will still look for a better opportunity and leave as soon as he or she finds it. Honestly, the way salary negotiations are made in the UK are misleading, disheartening and damn right humiliating for the employee. And the practice applies to internal bonuses as well. One of my managers, a year or so ago told me that I will be receiving a bonus of 700 GBP. It wasn’t much compared to the bonuses I had received at the company I previously worked with, but then again I wasn’t a manager anymore, so I thought to myself “It’s better then nothing”. Imagine my surprise when I got my salary that month, and my bonus was about 80% lower, and all that because my manger did not mention that the sum was before tax. Why would anybody do that?

How the hell somebody has convinced people in the UK that this practice is normal and fair is beyond me and it is infuriating.

Unless you are considerably rich, and taxes actually stunt your income enough that it motivates you to look for ways to avoid them and you have the means to do so, I cannot see any reason you should be interested of your income before taxes. Banks are not interested when deciding how much to loan you. Doctors are not interested when you need medical assistance. Nobody really cares except the state so it can take its share.

The second thing that pisses me off if that recruiters seem to make me the same offer as two years ago. And that is weird as fuck. Seriously now, I have almost 14 years of experience in IT, most of them working a full time job and a part time job, I’m a renown technical author in my field, how can these idiots offer me the salary of middle-level developer??? I am Romanian, I am a woman and I am not a British citizen, but how desperate do you think I am? Or do you think me so naive I do not know my own value?

Let’s assume that the employment market is a stable and rigid as the tax system is. And maybe the salaries I’ve been offered the last two years in the UK is just the normal one for my age and experience. (Bullshit, people do talk about thier salaries.) If every company offers me the same sum of money, why would I ever quit my current job? For the benefits? Because in this case I will probably retire in the company I work now. Because no other company would probably beat the benefits I have here. And no I will not list the benefits here because the value of the benefits is subjective. The benefits I have here are extremely valuable for me, for somebody else they might be … “meh”.

And back to payment, if all companies offer the same salary for a certain professional level, the only factor that will decide if somebody will work for a company or another is chance. We assume here that everybody is competent enough to deserve that offer just for the sake of the argument. And if all companies offer the same salary for a certain professional level, recruiters get their bonuses based on chance as well. So their job is a gamble, their value as professional is not a factor, and the chance they will get me the a job that I will actually stick to it’s … slim. And companies leave thier work force value to … chance. So you pay a fixed price to a recruiter for … a chance? Like the lottery? What the actual fuck?

Think about it this way. I’m going to climb a tree to pick an apple. All apples are red, about the same size. If I’m really hungry or really-really feel like I want an apple I will pick the first I can reach. If I’m not, it depends on how much I like to climb trees, maybe stop and pick the one after I hear a branch crack, maybe I just pick that the looks better from the angle I’m looking at it. Or maybe at some point I just tire of climbing and again I pick one at the level I am at and that is close to my dominant hand. Which apple I will get, doesn’t have anything to do with its nutritional value, or taste, or if it has worms or not. It’s just so random, the whole choosing process becomes pointless and the apple becomes so bland that I might decide to eat it just because of the effort I’ve spent on getting it or just take a bite and throw it away.

The reason I had to write all this is because I’ve made the mistake of writing a smaller version of this entry yesterday on LinkedIN. And the only conclusion the recruiters have drawn was that I was looking for a job and thought that it would be good idea to start spamming me again with offers with the same damn salary I’ve been offered for the last two years. They did not seem to notice my disappointment in the process of recruiting. And they dare call themselves HUMAN resources specialists… It sickens me. They should call themselves employment brokers. Because that is what they really are.

Stay safe, stay happy!

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Feb 29 2020

Gym hate :D

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 19:10

With a little bit of delay and a long pause on my writing on my blog it is that time of the month when I have to write something to make sure I am worth the beer my dear reader Juan is buying for me.

This month this is the beer:

I do have a penchant for Pale Ale beers, so when I found this German Pale Ale, I had to try it. Cheers to you, Juan!

As for the reason I’ve been so busy… I’ve joined a gym. And a ceilidh dancing class. And I’m reviewing a book. I’ve been to yet another concert in Glasgow. And I am quite busy with work. But I’ll expand those topic one by one in due time.

Continue reading “Gym hate :D”

Feb 17 2020

Just a thought

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 16:59

There is this repeated narrative between my fellows peers using the internet that the titans of the industry have AIs that analyse the content you produce in order to customize ads and urge you to buy exactly what you need. As a technical person I would like to reassure you that isn’t so, but I really can’t.

And since I use the internet, I fell victim to these Ais too, because soon after my relationship ended, I got bombarded with messages to watch this guy: Matthew Hussey. If you want to watch his videos go ahead. He’s basically a relationship expert, giving advice to women on how to “Get the guy”. Take it with a grain of salt. I must confess he isn’t speaking shit and most of his advice can be summarized to: “Just be a decent human”. Watching his videos is a nice experience since he is really, really easy on the eye as well. But a while ago, on the social network we all love to hate, I saw this little wonder of a statement.

It makes sense, right? If you want a good life surround yourself with good, positive people. Well… I have something to say about this. I used to think that way and assumed the problems in my life, my petty bitter life were caused by others, those greedy, selfish and unkind people around me that he mentions.

But it wasn’t just them. It was me. People are not born greedy, selfish and unkind, they become so because they have been dealt a shitty hand. It would be easier to just let them go, and keep close only positive and lovely people. But is this really the way to go? Following this logic, I would not have any friends. Because I am one of those people that got dealt a really shitty hand. And it has affected me in ways that I started quite late in life to investigate and fix. I have had periods in my life when I was greedy, selfish, bitter, hurtful and quite mean. All that was fuelled by insecurities caused by other people being shitty to me and … depression. If my friends would have abandoned me for being all that, I would be alone right now.

So yeah, that advice right there pissed me off. Because it seems like he advises you to let go of people that need some positivity in their life the most. I’m not saying to you that surrounding yourself with greedy, selfish and unkind people is the way to go. But just make sure to not give up on some of them so easily. Being kind and good to a good person is easier than doing the same for a bad person, somebody that has been hurt, taken advantage of and is now defensive and looks at you with any of these questions painted on their face: “Why are you being nice to me?”,“Why are you doing this?”,”What’s in it for you?”, “What do you want in exchange for this?”, etc. But damn, the feeling you will get when you manage to turn a person like this into a good, positive person compares to nothing. And they will be in your debt forever.
It might not always be the case, there are people that are irredeemable, just use your instinct and decide which persons are worth your time. But do not give up on people.

Call me crazy, but people that are too good, that seem to fart rainbows are incredibly infuriating, because they act sometimes as the world is theirs and they are entitled to it. And when everything is going well for them they become quite boring. Spending time with them is reduced to having tea to have small talk about small nothings. So having that one friend that does not know how to deal with their problems and has difficulties seeing the light at the end of the tunnel gives you an actual empathy challenge, an empathy and support quest if you will. And there are rewards when you manage to solve a quest like that. But that’s just me, and I’ve been educated to appreciate more the things that need more work.

And I really have to end this entry by saying this: I am so blessed to have such good friends. I love each and every one of you, and by not giving up on me you have won a best friend forever. I do not care if we do not talk for many years, when you need me I will be there.

Stay safe, stay happy!

Feb 16 2020

A Keeper

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 15:07

As I’ve mentioned here before I have cancelled my Netflix subscription a while ago. What I did not tell you is that I have had Amazon Prime for two months. I’ve recently cancelled that as well. I do not want to make a comparison, but the quality of Prime series surpasses the quality of the ones on Netflix by a long shot. And that is why Prime had to go. I have an addictive personality and I tend to get hooked on things easily. Not alcohol and drugs fortunately, so I got that going for me which is nice. When it comes to series if I start seeing one I have to know how it ends and fast. I just can’t have a story without a conclusion. Maybe this is linked to the fact that I started my reader’s life with a lot of fairytales which were quite short and had the same conclusion: And they lived happily ever after. Or because some of them were Romanian fairytales, there was also the darker version: They all died. The end. So, now I just can’t stand series that take forever to come to an end. That is why I read GoT books after the first season, I just couldn’t stand not having a conclusion. And George R.R. Martin fucked me there.

Back to the point I was trying to make. I have no medium to watch movies and series now. So, all is well with the world. Well, not really. Because it is the beginning of the year and my brains shifted into writer’s mode. This means … insomnia. I cannot fall asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning. I am not writing a technical book yet, so there’s no reason for this hellish routine. Theoretically I should be fine, I’ve lived with less than 6 hours of sleep since I was 16 years old. Problem is … I am getting older. And in my youth a strong cup of coffee and a run would wake me up and got me in a functional state. This does not work anymore so I need to bloody regulate my sleep. That is why I disabled all notifications on my phone and cancelled Prime just so I won’t have series to binge on.

And because I needed something to put me back to sleep I started reading more.

And this entry is about the last book I read. It rarely happens for a book to make me cry, but this one did. As I was reading the last chapters last night, tears were falling from my eyes for one of the main characters, regardless of how much my brains was telling me that the story is not real and he does not exist.

The book is called “A Keeper” and was written by Graham Norton, yes … that one. I am not the kind of person that buys books written by famous persons, I don’t like to think of myself as a mainstream hipster. But I also intended to buy Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale(don’t even get me started on that one, because this is a book that ends in a cliffhanger and it is infuriating) and if I bought another book I would get two for the price of one. So the choice was quite easy, because Graham’s book had a lot of favourable reviews.

I do not know how to tell you about this book without spoiling it for you. But I’ll give it a shot and feel free to use swear words in the comments if you feel I have’t done a good job.

The book is not named by anything related directly to the main character; in the end of the book, maybe a little though. It’s either named by some events that happened in the main character’s mother or her grandmother. In the end of the book the main character, joins the team, sort of. The book is masterfully written, you peel the layers away from the mystery one by one together with its main character. Actually, for the main character there is at least one mystery that is never revealed. But the author made sure that for you, the reader, everything is resolved, which was really liberating, even it it brought me to tears.

Although the whole story makes you think of all the different existing shades of grey, this book will make you want to visit the coast of Ireland. I’ve already been there in a few places, but I will definitely return. I’ve mentioned the different shades of grey because I’ve mentioned in a previous entry how I read books. This book made my imagination struggle a lot to find lighter and darker shades of grey to paint the buildings, the trees and the characters. Up until the end of the book I just could not imagine sunshine, or anything else resembling light. It was all grey, blue-ish grey, green-ish grey, black, kaki-grey and so on. I wanted to add colour, but I just couldn’t, there were always clouds, old buildings, dirty roads and angry seas. There was always wind, the weather was humid, there was mud and everything was so sad and grim that it was hard to put colour in the film I was making in my mind.

I think what brought me to tears the first time was the mention of a picnic two characters were having and that is the first happy moment in the book. It is a happy memory and there is sunshine and light green grass and wild flowers of many colours, and is the only happy memory that is given to the reader from the life of a character that is introduced right from the first chapter with the following question: “What right had he to expect happiness?”

Ok, that’s it, I can’t tell you anymore without spoiling it. If you want to clean your eyes the natural way, read the book.

Stay safe, stay happy!

Feb 15 2020

It was Valentine’s day

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 15:53

Friday was a decent day for me. My insomnia caused me to be a little bit dysfunctional at work, which means I have to recover that sometime soon, but I managed to get my car to the dealership for the annual MOT. (check-up and fix-up to make sure the car is still safe to be driven on public roads) Surprisingly although I have seen some problems here in there, there was nothing so bad that needed fixing that was not included in my warranty.

I got my car from the dealership, cancelled my plans for a board games night with friends and decided to head home and just crash into bed hoping that I will drift off to sleep. Considering my eyes and head still hurt because of barely sleeping three hours the previous night, it should have been easy-peasy.

But no… there I was squirming in my bed, unable to read and unable to sleep until 3:00 am. Again. I finally went to sleep and managed to wake up at 10:30 am. Seven hours and a half is better than three hours of sleep, but still, it was far from enough not enough.

To summarize: I worked and I squirmed in my bed and slept all throughout Valentine’s day. Not the ideal way to spend Valentine’s day, but hey considering I am a spinster, there could have been worse ways.

Anyway, my cat’s birthday is on the 14th of February. The irony is that cat love is basically rape driven by nature’s way of making sure the species survives. It’s not her real birthday. Since I adopted my cat when she was two or three years old, and she was a stray until then, there is no way to know her real birthday. Her birthday was decided at first day at the vet when I got her sterilized. I know, even more ironic, right?

This year in May, it will be six years since my last relationship ended. Before, when I were in a relationship I was terrified of being alone for too long, and even one year without a partner seemed inconceivable. My fear was probably rooted in my low self esteem and it was fuelled by all my insecurities, especially the ones related to: not being attractive enough, not being womanly and lady-like enough, not being young enough to attract a valid mate. It is so liberating to realize I do not need a valid mate -fucking hell, not sure I know what that even meant for me back then, and I clearly have no idea what that means now.

Luckily that time has passed, I am not saying I am not insecure anymore, but I am unsecure about other things that are not so superficial and vain. I am unsecure about things that I could change if I was willing to deem them crippling enough. And I am no longer in a quest of finding a valid mate. Because if I would find it, I would have honestly no idea where to go from there.

I hope you had a chill Valentine’s day!


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!