How I was Fired from Urbansoft

I always say that I never been unemployed for a single day, which is only partially true. There was a day when John called me to the hallway and fired me on the spot.

I mentioned earlier that it was virtually impossible to fire anybody in the Soviet Union. It continued to be the same in Russia on our “official jobs,” which were holding our “labor booklets.” But our official jobs would pay very little for most of us, including me. Urbansoft was probably the only place of work in the whole city, where you would be paid on time, and that money made most of my budget.

G. was in a sort of leadership position in the company. He was the one to call me to say that I am hired. As it turned out, he lived in a house next to mine, which is why he was a person who installed a modem at my place. He would also bring my code to the office on a diskette when I was not able to come to the office.

Continue reading “How I was Fired from Urbansoft”

Working Remotely in 1993

Summer was approaching, and it was time again to apply for summer sessions at the University boarding house, but this time around I had my part-time job at Urbansoft. John was still OK with me working remotely, but I didn’t have a modem in a boarding house, in fact, there was no landline.

That’s how it worked. I would write my code without the option of debugging at the University, using our department computer and copy my work to a diskette. G. would come and pick up a diskette and copy my files to his computer. Then he would try to integrate his work with mine. At the designated time, I would call his house phone from the payphone in the lobby. He would read for me the errors he was getting, and I would tell him how to change my code, and then we would continue this remote debugging until done. It sounds impossible, but it worked!

On the topic of the time management, 7-30PM was the bed time for the kids, and then my workday would start. Till whatever I could last with 6-30 AM wake up time:)

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

My Ups and Downs at Urbansoft

At the end of December, John went back to the US for Christmas. I was still working at that “it’s great!” project and on my makeshift database. And I came up with something cool. Something I was very proud of. 

I did most of that work at home because it was time around the holidays. Although I did have a modem, that was before the times you could email a bulk attachment, so usually, I would compress my code with tar command and copy a .tar file to the diskette, and take this diskette to the office. 

The next day John should have to be back, and I was anticipating my triumph. At about 9 PM, when kids were already long asleep, I started to make my final .tar file. 

Nowadays, even some of the younger IT people might not know what the tar command does, yet along those of my readers who are not programmers. The fact is that the tar command has positional parameters, the first one is the name of the file, which is the destination of compression, and the rest of the file names are the files which you are compressing. My project consisted of one huge file with the actual code, and two smaller files with some addition. So I am typing this tar command and hit enter. And the next thing I realize is that I’ve omitted the destination filename! You figured out what had happened – the actual file with the code was used as a destination to compress two smaller files, and thus my code was deleted! 

Yea. Its was bare Linux in 1992. No Time Machine. No UNDO. It was gone. And it was 9 PM of the day before I wanted to show my progress. And it was a week’s work. 

I was going to have a sleepless night.

I found a several days old version of that code and started debugging all over again. It was easier the second time because as soon as I saw a bug, I could remember how I fixed it. But still – that was quite a work. By 3 AM, I was done, and I was still able to bring this code to the office the next day and still had my moment of triumph. But since then, I am very diligent in saving my work. And these days, when anybody is embarrassed with a mistake they made, I am always like – that’s fine, you can’t even imagine how many mistakes I’ve made!

The Confrontation

Igor wrote an article about last week’s rally, which was finally published a couple of days ago. When being at the rally, he took a lot of pictures, of which I wanted to show these two.

Pro-life and pro-choice activists face off
Pro-choice counter-protesters move to a pedestrian island

Can’t stress enough – it’s scary when there are fifteen of you against the five hundred. Marching with thousands feels good. Standing against the big crowd requires courage.

Open House Chicago -Part 2

Continue to be a tourist in my own city – the first post is here.

The next stop on our Southside tour was Windsor Beach Apartments Co-Op. It was amazing that people allowed strangers to visit their apartments for two days in a row, and I extremely appreciative of that. The building dates back to 1928. The building is shaped as Maltese Cross, and in each “line” of the cross, apartments are shaped differently. The most interesting part is that each apartment has a separate room (and a full bathroom) for live-in servants. They had access to the kitchen but were not allowed to enter the main part of the apartment, unless they were ringed for.

The rooms are 100% – noise isolated from one another. Everything inside is so gorgeous, I can’t even tell!

The apartments are very cheap, because of the location – the SouthSide has a stigma, which is so wrong it this particular case! The building has security present at all times, and it owns a large property around the building and private beach.

Continue reading “Open House Chicago -Part 2”

Politics – in Anna’s Words

Last week, there was a 23rd anniversary of my coming to the US. Since I already told the story of my coming here, I am not going to repeat it. However, it reminded me that I almost stopped writing my historical posts, which I consider the most important part of this blog. So I promised myself to post three of them in the next couple of days, all related to three different periods of my life.
Meanwhile, I was going over my youtube videos in search of one very old interview of my kids were talking about their Mother:). I didn’t find it, but I found three recordings of Anna talking about politics. That was the time when she was working in the GQR consulting during the second Obama campaign. Most of my friends didn’t have any idea what her work entailed but was ready to stamp all politics as ‘a dirty business.” In this interview, Anna talks about what political consultants do, and I think it is very relevant nowadays!

BTW – I think that the bast thing I did for this country is that I brought Anna here ๐Ÿ™‚

Open House Chicago – Part 1

Open House Chicago was taking place last weekend, and once again, no matter how busy I was, I wanted to go. And since the counter-protest took a big portion of my Saturday, we (Igor and I) decided to go on Sunday.

This year Igor planned for us to see the South Side locations. These days, people often think about the South Side as a dangerous place, which they would try to avoid by all costs. Meanwhile, historically, the center of Chicago was way more to the south than it is today, and the South Side has a very fashionable place (with no blacks allowed, of cause).

Unfortunately, I have no time to write in detail about all the places we’ve seen, but I am going to mention some highlights.

That was my first time visiting the Southshore Cultural Center, and for those who ever been there, it would be understandable that I was stunned.

Continue reading “Open House Chicago – Part 1”

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin – a Book Review

One more from my summer reading: Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder.

I could give this book six stars if this rating were available. Extremely informative, great explanations of all “whats” and “whys.” I know the history of this period better than many, but still, there was something new to me.

Also, there were two historical facts, which I only knew from my grandaunt tellings, but never saw them in writing. Being from a family of the “enemies of the nation,” I learned about large portions of the country’s history from the stories my grandaunt told me. At that time, I was sure that they would never become parts of the official account. But after 1985, and especially after 1991, a significant portion of this history became public. There were several facts, however, which I never heard mentioned officially, so I was not even sure whether I remembered them correctly.

To mu surprise, I found the mentioning of these events in the “Bloodlands.” The first is the mentioning of the nationality-based “cases” in the 1930s. My grandaunt told me than my grandfather was prosecuted”as a part of the Polish Case,” but since it was never mentioned otherwise, I thought I might have imagined it. That was the first time I saw it in print.

The second fact was the description of Polish Jews sent back from the Soviet Union to Poland after the war. My grandaunt was a professor at the Leningrad State University at that time, and she was telling me about one of her students who were afraid to do back.

My grandaunt told her: why? It’s now free Poland without Hitler. There will be o antisemitism or anything alike. She remembered how this student shook her head and said hesitantly: I am not so sureโ€ฆ My grandaunt said, she could never forgive herself that she sent her away. Once again, that’s the first time in my life, I saw these facts in writing.

I gave this book to Igor for his 34th birthday:)