Apr 04 2020

Hope is the last one to die

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 14:46

The title is a rough translation of a Romanian idiom, and it represents the country I was born in more than I’d like and it is heart breaking.

Although one of the countries with the best internet in the world, one of the country producing the best doctors and software developers, Romania is still viewed as a third word country by most. In my opinion, a lot of things are better now, and being third is not such a bad thing, because to my knowledge there are a few other levels that are a little worse.

Nevertheless there are two things in Romania that from my point of view make it a third world country in the worst way: the education system and the health system.

You might be inclined to say that the education system produces all those good doctors and software developers that the rest of the world knows about, how does that make sense? Well, excelling at something against the system is not the same as thriving because of it.

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Apr 03 2020

More quarantine thoughts

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 2:21

I was born in a poor family, a normal traditional Romanian family, where the father was the bread winner and my mother was the home carer. Well, my mother kept the home but she probably hated most of it. That is why as soon as I was able to, she started to share the work with me. Which is ok, this is how children learn to be adults and she did make it fun here and there. Also she always joked that since I am a girl she is teaching me everything so I will be a good wife. And I was a kid and I guess I wanted to be a good wife, since I assumed that was in my future. If I was gonna be a wife, might as well be a good one, right?

It is said that if you want to make god laugh, just make plans. But there is no god, and plans are subject to chance.

I always thought I would meet somebody, settle down, have a kid maybe two. I just thought that was how everybody lived their lives.

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Mar 31 2020

The 18th day of quarantine

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 22:10

The end of March is here, and of course it is time for the monthly beer, offered this month by Juan as well.(Thank you Juan!)

He donated the money and although there is a beer picture in this image, I’d like to think that the money from him are included in the 20 GBP I donated to NHS.

And since I have a beer and some blogging time let’s see what how my life has been in quarantine.
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Mar 27 2020

Brave New World: The Year of the Covid-19

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 21:59

A few weeks ago our life was still somewhat normal and the Wuhan tragedy was thousands of miles away. It was a distant world hit by a tragedy and it was just a story for us, one of those things that we were mildly curious and sad about. I was reading the news while preparing to fly to Romania for three weeks and I could not imagine I will not be able to do it.

But now it has become our reality and in a desperate try to slow the spread and protect our most vulnerable members of our society we have isolated ourselves in our houses and we are risking our mental health in doing so. And that is what this entry is about, mostly, how to manage your own mind and keep from going crazy while locked in your home and worried about a billion things.

Start by making a list of friends and family members and video call at least one of them daily. If you are not going crazy because you are a loner and used to being by yourself, most people are not. And they might be crazy with worry themselves and not even know how to deal with it. So be a decent human being and be there for people that do not even know they need you.

Be especially careful with your children. When humans develop they need routine, routine means security. Having a fixed routine helps them feel somewhat in control of their life, while learning to live in our society and helps them become confident. This pandemic has disrupted their routine so it is up to you, the parent, to enforce a new one. The initial disruption in routine will make them do crazy things. On the inside they are probably scared, they know something bad is happening, they might even feel your anxiety about this new situation and they will react to it in ways that will surprise you. This is the time to have that serious chat about feelings with your children. It is time to tell them that it is ok to be sad, it is ok to be angry and restless, but lashing out and breaking things will not help and it will not change things. It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to get a pillow and kick it until your knuckles bleed, but hurting the ones closer to you is not ok. Also, keep reminding them them that is not forever and help them cope by helping them to keep in contact with friends and relatives as well. Keep them busy, but also allow them to be alone from time to time. If it looks like they are out of control just punish them by sending them to their room for 30 minutes. Maybe they will box that pillow, maybe they will cry, but they will have time to think and hopefully they will get out of the room when they feel like it and maybe realize the craziness of their behaviour. Of course this works with kids that are over four years old, for smaller ones … you are doomed. But hopefully you are a good parent and you made it this far, so trust yourself that you will make it without scarring your children for life. (How do I know so much about kids? Simple, I never really grew up. :D)

Keep busy. Obviously if you have kids, that part is settled. :D Take advantage of this period being locked inside your home to get to know yourself. Although the TV, and/or Netflix, or Amazon Prime, etc offer a lot of distractions, they also offer a lot of noise. This noise keeps you from thinking and acknowledging the situation you are in. You are locked between four walls. And you probably are in fear for your job and salary. Think very well what you want to do about this. If the company asks to accept reduced pay, you might want to take it. If you are happy with the company you work for, you want to help keep it alive, so you will have a job after this disaster has passed. If you know that the company you work for is danger of shutting down, you have to think fast. Do you have savings? How long will you be able to go on living almost normally until they end? Could you get another job? What else are you good at that you could make money of? If you have garden, it is time to become an expert gardener. Being able to grow your own food is an invaluable skill.

And acknowledge the novelty of this situation. There will be people who will have it worse then you. Help those who you know are worth it and buy a baseball bat to defend yourself from those who will not ask for help in a … friendly way. It’s scary, but you can only start solving a problem once you acknowledge it. So let’s acknowledge the fact that we really, really do not know how long this will go on. Most governments never expected for our civilized society to deal with a pandemic of such magnitude, and they will not always make the best decisions. They will not be able to save, protect and help all of us. So let’s acknowledge that if we do not help ourselves, it is quite possible nobody will. We are all in this together and we will deal with it in different ways. And unfortunately when survival is at stake, being a decent human being is no longer a priority for most people. So acknowledge that too and decide what you are willing to do if worse comes to worst.

I do not want to scare you more then you already are. But most of us have been sleeping comfortably on the pillow of civility, in our decent communities for so long we forgot that for some people laws are just guidelines. Most societies remain civilized not because their member are unable of doing uncivilized things, but because they choose not to. In an uncertain situation, when resources are limited being civilized is no longer a priority.

I really hope for a miracle, and I hope in three months we will have a vaccine or the virus will just mutate into an innovensive form. And I really hope we as a society will become better because of it. But … hope is just a thought. And thoughts are just thoughts. Only actions shape reality.

Stay safe, stay healty and stay sane!

Mar 24 2020

The Apocalypse by Simpsons

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 11:40

Somebody sent me this funny video.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this episode, but the scene is funny as hell. If we were to exagerate and say this pandemic is an apocalypse, that video doesn’t however reflect the situation in Romania. And this is what I want to tell you about.

Looking at Romania right now that scene is far away from the truth. In Romania the only people that are allowed to urge/inspire people to gather together at this time with no legal consequence are the priests. And they are doing it. In Romania there are people still going to churches, kissing the same icons one after the other in a queue and still being given the Eucharist from the same damned silver spoon.

As for bars, if you have a bar and you open it during the pandemic you are going to go to jail. Double standards much?

As for me, since I was 18 years old, the chance to find me in a church dropped to almost zero, the chance to find me in a pub increased to almost 100. And during the pandemic both are dropped to zero, because the only way I’ll be leaving my house right now is to go try and get some food. I don’t feel any urge to go to church. Why would I? Being religious and going to church has rarely ever helped me much. I don’t think that will change now. Unless churches are converted to supermarkets, then you’d find me there from time to time.

Stay inside, stay safe, stay happy!

Mar 22 2020

Friends and readers, I need your help

Category: TechnicalIuliana @ 14:51

I never thought I would be writing this kind of entry, but here we are. My new book is getting thrashed on Amazon by 5 ratings under five, given by 5 people that could afford to spend more than 50$ on Amazon; because, this is the condition to be allowed to post a review on Amazon. Which makes sense, but it doesn’t mean it’s fair.

I’m not looking for a definite 5 rating for the book and I do not ask for praises that are undeserved. I just want people that actually read the book and found it useful to have a say in it. Which won’t happen on Amazon, unless the people will buy the book from Amazon. Which will make Amazon profit, but Apress and me won’t.

After reading those reviews, I thought that maybe I shoudl stop writing technical books. But then again, it’s just 5 people. And there are many others that liked the book and started shifting my thinking. Maybe the way I write isn’t for everyone, maybe I have trouble expressing some ideas; maybe some people just don’t like the way I write. It’s perfectly normal and expected. But, to trash a book just because you weren’t able to understand it, that’s unfair.

I have tried to read a lot of technical books that people recommended and I ended up just reading the chapter I needed for the topic I had an issue with. Technical books are not always easy to read. I know. But I never went online to trash a book or an author. Especially now, that I am a technical author myself and I know what it takes to write a book and the rewards you get. Which are mostly not financial. I’ve written about how much money I make from my four books before, here.

Also, people are more prone to voice their criticism than praise. I know, I’m Romanian, my people likes to complain, criticize and satirize a lot. I’ve worked for companies where I was doing my job and working extra hours, and I never received a pat on the back. But the first time I made a mistake, my head almost got snapped off. Figuratively, but you get my point.

Like I said, I do not want undeserved praise, but that rating and the comments are unfair. How do I know? Because I have a lot of messages by people adding me on LinkedIn because of my books. When I first started receiving messages from people buying my books I was shocked. I never even considered sending a message to an author, even if I loved their books. These people must have really benefitted from my books to make the effort. I am humbled by their messages and it was a slap in the face. Because I never took the time to say thank you to an author I liked, a mistake which I plan of correcting from now on.

And since we’ve talked so much about the LinkedIn messages, I’m gonna post a few screenshots. I haven’t asked these darlings for their permission so I’m gonna delete their names. But I’ll leave their titles as proof that some of them have enough technical expertise to be taken seriously. Some of the messages are about the previous edition of the book, but still. There are more in Romanian, but I really did not have the time to translate them all. And there are more I did not get to answer to. I asked some of them to help me with a review. Most of them tried and they were blocked by the Amazon rule of being a good spender. There are more, some of them are about my other books, but I’ve taken enough time to write this entry and I do have other things to do.

And then there is this young woman, a student, new to programming and I made sure she gets a copy of my book for free, because she needs it the most. I am almost sure she is not shopping on Amazon too much and she won’t be able to help with a review. But if my book helps her become a better developer and gain confidence in her skills, that is better than any book review.

I owe my own career to some technical authors like Adam Bien, Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides, all the authors on Baeldung.com, the guy behind mkyong.com (that sometimes post scode and configurations that do not really work, but he has the right idea and it just points me in the right direction) and all developers confident enough to answer technical questions on stackoverflow.com.  And I feel so proud knowing that for some people, I’ll be in the same list with these guys. I am grateful for each and every line of existing text, code or configuration produced by these guys that helped me become better! But they wouldn’t have been where they are if they would have been brought down by a few bad reviews. So I won’t either.

I would like to end this entry by saying thank you to all of you that have bought my books and that have provided feedback. And if you are kind enough to provide an Amazon review, to try to correct my score there please do so, otherwise just post your reviews on your blogs, write about it on Twitter, send a feedback to Apress, or just leave a comment on my Books page and hopefully Google indexing will take care of the rest.

Thank you again for your support and for the people dissapointed by my books, I am really, really sorry, but if  your negative reviews cause Apress to break up with me and I would stop writing, I’ll never get a chance to make it up to you. Oh well, it is what it is.

Stay safe, stay happy!

[Later edit:] One of the reviews on Amazon says that the book is horrible because the formatting is bad. I have to agree, I don’t like it very much either. I’ll have to check with Apress and see how that can be improved in the future.

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Mar 22 2020

I caught it

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 11:47

Yes, I caught the COVID-19. It was only expected really, since the colleague sitting next to me at work is constantly using the bus to come to work. I started feeling sick just a few days after he did.

On Thursday I started showing the first symptoms. I woke up with a very bad headache, I took an ibuprofen and went to lay in my bed to wait for it to take effect. At that point, I just thought I had a headache. I woke up three hours later with a mild fever, shortness of breath and still feeling very tired. The cough was not that intense. I could barely stand because I was feeling dizzy and if I insisted in doing so, in about 30 minutes the headache came back with a vengeance. So I went back to bed. I’ve spent the most of 24 hours in bed, getting up just to feed my cat, eat or brush my teeth. I know the headache is not a symptom that is usually mentioned, but some people do get it. I can only suspect that my brains figured out pretty fast there was an intruder and started intensively working to find a solution. Because almost three days later, the headache was gone, and now on Sunday morning, except some obvious weakness I am pretty ok. Breathing still takes some effort though, but I guess this is expected.

The first two days, the ones where the headache was almost always present were the worst. The last time I felt the headache was on Saturday morning during my sleep. And I dreamed that I was diagnosed with a brain tumour that was pushing against my eyes, and was big enough to affect the cerebellum. That explained the fact that light seems to bother me and the dizziness. I woke up  that morning quite late and the headache was gone. So was the fever. I was still pretty tired and breathing was a little bit weird. I mean, you shouldn’t “feel” your lungs when you breathe, that is not how a healthy person breaths.

I was not officially diagnosed, from what I’ve read on the NHS site, isolation is the first step. Calling 111 is the next if things turn ugly and 112 if things turn really ugly. I guess three days in bed was not ugly enough for me to seek assistance and the online moral support from my friends was just enough to help me ride it.

Anyway, although I still feel pretty tired, I was able to write this article without getting a headache, so I think I’m out of the woods.

I really hoped I wouldn’t catch it. I wanted to believe myself this wonder woman, strong and healthy and able to do anything. But if there’s something I’ve learned about myself in the last two years, is that mistakes from my past, done when I wasn’t smart enough to take better care of myself came back to bite me in the ass. I am more fragile than I would like to be. A flu tends to put me to bed now, my knees become weak after a 20 mile bike ride and the left one sprains very easily.

The good part in catching this virus so early is that I’m done. The symptoms were quite mild, except the three days in bed nuisance. And hopefully now that I have antibodies for it, I won’t get sick again. This means I’ll be able to get back to my normal life and maybe get out a little and help others in need(I do live in an old neighbrohood after all), unless UK panics and makes staying indoors a law.

What else can I say? Since I’m not a doctor, if this was a different bug and not the COVID-19 I will be very very disappointed. If it was and any of you gets the form with headaches that I got, be brave. Sometimes it will feel like your head will pop like a piece of popcorn and ibuprofen doesn’t work. But be brave, it will pass. If it doesn’t, call a doctor for advice. In the UK call first the 111 number  and you will be advised what to do.

This being said, I’m back in business.

Stay safe, stay happy, stay healthy!