The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism – a Book Review

Since I switched to this blog from my previous one, I almost stopped publishing my book reviews. Meanwhile I’ve read several incredible books in the past months., and now I am going to publish several blog posts about my “summer reading.” For those who are new to this blog and to my life in general – for 99% of the time I listen to the audiobooks rather than read books in any format. This is due to bot my multiple vision issues and my packed lifestyle. When I am listening to the audiobook, it is easier to squeeze minutes here and there.

Now – the the actual book review.

This is the first book I am going to write about is The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

I liked this book a lot, and in contrast to the “Uninhabitable Earth,” there are lots of supporting facts. Probably, part of my liking this book is that “I was there,” and I am aware of most of the facts. The difference is that I am not particularly alarmed with the perspective.

I was always thinking, as long as I can remember thinking about it, that in the hypothetical future, it will be an established fact that anybody can locate anybody in the world, and I do not consider it wrong. Yes, any technology can be used for good and for evil, but this applies to ANY technology.

Same with influencing people’s decisions. Hitler didn’t have the Internet. He didn’t even have television. Yet, he was able to influence millions, and they honestly believed it was their own decision, their personal choice. It has been happening through the course of history all the time. That’s what debates were for. That’s what political speeches were for. You are trying to influence people, and if you are skilled enough, you can.

… After I read this book, I wanted to buy a Google Home device for the first time in my life 🙂

Beets and Goat Cheese Salad

Once again, this is something I hesitate to call a recipe. It’s just that a couple of years ago, I realized that those super-fancy salads with baked beets and goat cheese – I can easily make them at home. You need to bake beets just once – 40 min at 400F individually wrapped in aluminum foil, and then you can peel them and store in the container – for over a week.

New this year – I started to add some pomegranate seeds to this salad. So now I have:
baked beets, purple and yellow
spicy asian greens
crumbled goat cheese
chopped walnuts
pomegranate seeds
and this wonderful balsamic/oil combination from Vompass:

Proportions are entirely up to you, made in minutes, taste priceless 🙂

Recap on Volunteering

And one more thing about volunteering. In just two days, several people told me something to the effect of “now I am retired, and I can volunteer.” And one person, whom I met at the volunteering-related event, responded to my question with “I do not volunteer, I work!” I know that in the latter case, I should skip any reaction entirely, but I almost automatically reply: I work, too!

I guess I do not know why people need any excuses for not volunteering. It’s just … up to you, no justification required. Maybe, it’s just a social situation. Or maybe peer pressure…

What Does Volunteering Mean?

Last week, I had several conversations, which made me first upset, then angry, and then angry at myself that I got angry:). And now, I am trying my best to abstract from particular conversations and to say what exactly was so upsetting. 

What does volunteering mean? It means that you want to do something with no pay. And this includes – possibly no thanks. You want to do something because you believe that this something is important. That somebody’s lives: people’s, animals’, plants’ – will become better if you will be doing this – whatever “this” is. 

You say: I want to volunteer. Great. By the way, nobody “has” to volunteer. I will never criticize anybody for not wanting to volunteer. A person can only decide by themselves, whether this is indeed what they want. 

But want I do not understand, and what makes me mad – when somebody expects to be rewarded for their volunteer work. When they get upset that they do not receive enough thanks. When they wonder why others do not want to listen to them or utilize their expertise. 

I’ve lost count of how many times I had heard this: I want to volunteer, I offered my services, why “they” are so picky and do not want me? Why am I not receiving thanks for helping out?

For me, it means that this person does not want to volunteer. They simply want a payment of a different kind. Because when you volunteer, you just give. You give and never ask for something in return. Sure, it feels good when you hear “thank you for all your do!” but that is not a reason why you volunteer.

Also, when you do volunteer, you do the whole thing. There is no “dirty work.” If you want to support this cause, you will do whatever is required in the current situation. In many cases volunteering activities are scary. Or at least uncomfortable. That is a part of the package. 

Advertising My Friend’s App

Healthy Cooking - Hettie's Way

Several year ago I’ve already advertised an app, created by my friend in Finland. This app is called EasyMenu and has lots of different functionalities, including planning your meals ahead and creating the shopping lists.

That’s what the app’s authors say:

EasyMenu is an application which stores your recipes, plans menus for any number of days or weeks, as well as generates shopping lists. The menu planner allows to plan your menu manually, or generate a random balanced menu, or anything in between!

This saves a lot of time, money and effort. It is also environmentally friendly, because it reduces the amount of food thrown away.

Main features of EasyMenu 3.0

  • Cookbook with advanced search by name, ingredients or tags
  • Menu planner is available on both computers and mobile devices (iPhone, iPad or Android)
  • New recipes are easy to add and edit
  • Add your own ingredients
  • Add new or…

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The Counter Rally Against Pro-Life Activists

The first political protest I ‘ve organized happened on January 2017, and that was a very successful one. But back that everybody was freshly angry with Trump, and in three days it grew from four people going to come to seven hundred people who came. But again, it was back then. And a reason for the protest was an elected official who didn’t want to meet with his constituents. 

That time was different. Only 15 people had shown up. And a protest itself was different.

***

Igor forwarded to me this facebook event more than two months ago. The pro-life people were planning a big rally in my hometown. My first reaction was: I can’t stay silent. I thought that if I don’t speak, any woman in Palatine who faces abortion will feel like committing a horrible sin. My second reaction was: that’s my hometown. A small one. Everybody knows everybody. I knew the rally was going to be huge. I felt scared to stand against my neighbors. 

And then, this email was sitting in my inbox for quite a while. And after quite a while, I forwarded it to one of the escort leaders. She replied – thank you! We will send somebody. And then again, nothing happened. Then I’ve sent it to the leader of the women section of the local OFA. 

Things finally started to get in motion, and I saw that the counter-rally began to appear on the calendars of many progressive groups. At some moment, I was still not sure whether anybody would come. As I’ve said, there were only 15 of us, and when the pro-life people came, they blocked our signs, and we had to move to the opposite side of the intersection. Their rally was massive. We learned later that many of the rally participants came from other places, but it felt like the whole town is against us. 

We are getting ready
Continue reading “The Counter Rally Against Pro-Life Activists”

Be Careful What You Wish for…

 In the course of the past couple of weeks, several things have happened in my professional life. Although I am trying to separate my professional blogging and my personal one, sometimes they are very deeply intervened. 

First thing: I had a great meetup of the Chicago PostgreSQL User group. It was not easy to organize three speakers, and I am very happy I did. Also, with a tremendous amount of help from my fellow co-organizer, we secured two great speakers for our November PUG. I can’t even believe that I got these speakers:). And now, I need to plan their entertainment in Chicago, manage attendees, etc. Leading a User Group takes a lot of effort and time, although it might look like it is “just finding a speaker once a month.”

Second thing. The last paper I got accepted for the real CS conference was in 2016 (the actual acceptance was at the end of 2015). Since then, I tried to submit my work several times, and each time it got rejected. At the end of August, Boris and I submitted a paper to yet another conference, and finally, it got accepted! For me, it was like breaking the curse:). For those who are interested in my professional updates, I will post more in the World of Data. For this blog, the important thing is that it was accepted as a short paper, so by October 28, we need to make it 1/4 shorter. Considering that we already made it almost half shorter from its original size, that task is virtually impossible to complete. Boris suggests we just remove three random pages or one section out of it:).

Third thing. Back in summer, I emailed the organizers of the 2Q PG Conf conference in Chicago a couple of my suggestions of what I would like to do for the conference. First, my training was accepted, and instead of 4 hours, which I planned, it was announced as a full-day training. Yes, Boris and I wanted to have “a good reason” to consolidate our 30 years of training :), but this is just a little bit more work on top of our regular jobs. Especially counting the fact that my talk with Chad about bitemporality was also accepted, and Boris’ talk on Postgres and Academia was accepted as well.

All that I wanted :). Except now, I am not sure how I can fit it all in my life. Oh, and also, I have an important deadline at work on October 28. And my team was recently assigned extra responsibilities, but we do not have an extra person yet. 

How I Learned About THAT…

In support of those who walk this path alone …

This blog post was originally written in Russian about ten years ago. In the information vacuum of nowaday’s Russia, it was reposted multiple times and hopefully helped a large number of young gay people and their parents to navigate life challenges. 

I thought that at the present moment, this post is valuable only from the historical perspective. But to my surprise, it turned out that many people are still not completely aware of what it means to be homosexual. And I decided to write this post again, this time – in English. Here it comes.

***

People often ask me when did I learn about Vlad’s sexual orientation. The short answer: shortly after he had figured it out about himself. Which was a little bit after Anna suspected that it was the case. At that time, he was a couple of months short of being fourteen, and I’ve noticed that he looked sad and concerned for several days. I was bugging him with the questions, what was wrong, but he brushed off my concerns. That could not deceive me; I was sure that something serious is going on. Finally, I got a chance to talk to him one night when everybody else was out.  

I asked him to share with me what was wrong. He started: you are going to be very disappointed with me. Perhaps, you won’t love me anymore, but I need to tell you something. I think that I am gay. 

Continue reading “How I Learned About THAT…”