Baba Ania

Today, as on most Sundays, I had coffee with mom at my house. When I was dropping her off by her place, she asked me whether I remember what day is it today. I told her: yes, Baba Ania’s day. And she continued – and also your fathers’ birthday.
I was hesitant for a while about whether I wanted to write posts like this in this blog, but after talking to my children, I decided I should do so. This is my first attempt to write about difficult things.

Baba Ania, my mom’s mother, passed away on September 20, 1967. She was fifty-five. And to be honest, the only reason I remember this date is that it is also my father’s birthday, and my mom told me several thousand times that my father would not remember that this was a day Baba Ania passed away. So when I finally memorized my father’s birthday, and after I heard mom saying this a thousand times, I finally memorized the day of her death.

Now, mom always says it in an accusative tone with the underlying meaning that I do not remember important dates. But the truth is that she is a precise reason I do not remember these dates.

I can never forgive mom that she didn’t tell me that my grandma passed away. I loved Baba Ania very much, and there was some idiotic reason like she didn’t want to upset the poor child or whatever it was. Honestly, I do not know what she was thinking. I was four, and I was smart. But she told me that Baba Ania is ill and is in the hospital (and at that time, almost no hospital visitations were allowed). I believed her. And then when I asked, she was keeping saying that Baba Ania is still in the hospital. Again, I have no idea whether she thought I would forget or not, but she kept saying this.

And all this time, I was visiting Deda Fedia with her, and they kept pretending for months. And then once, I was there, with Deda Fedia, visiting the neighbors, Aunt Lida and Uncle Paulusha (they were not our relatives, but that it was a custom for the kids to address people they new Aunt and Uncle). So we were visiting, and Aunt Lida casually asked me: do you remember your late grandma? At first, I didn’t even understand what she was asking and stared at her. She repeated: Do you remember your late grandma, Baba Ania?

I never told my mom, but I was so mad that she didn’t let me to grief, that she didn’t let me live through this loss. What was the point of grieving after many months of Baba Ania being gone?
I said that I never forgave mom; it does not mean that I am mad at her about this even now. I am not mad at her now because she is old, and I want to take good care of her, and there is no point discussing this because she is a different person right now. Not the person who made this horrible decision fifty-three years ago. I can’t forgive because this is something that can’t be fixed. But it just does not matter anymore, and there is no person I can hold it against.

March 1967

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.

East Riverwalk Walking Tour

As I’ve expected, being just one a half-day past deadline with the previous chapter made me fall behind with the next one. I gave myself a half-day off last Sunday because we had our family gathering, and because I just needed to do something except for writing. And then, I went on this tour with Igor, and then I did a little bit of writing on Tuesday, and I had PUG on Wednesday. Long story short, I know exactly what to write in Chapter 6, but I am falling behind again.

So, because I need to take a break from writing the book, I want to write about this tour.
The Chicago Architectural Foundation resumed some walking tours back in June, but their schedule and mine did not agree for several months.

I still wanted to attend, but I didn’t want to go for the sake of going; I wanted to go on the tour I never been before. And the one which does not start at 10-30 AM on a weekday.

Finally, I signed Igor and myself to attend the East Riverwalk Tour. The Riverwalk is a new thing, and so is to tour, and I enjoyed it immensely. I took at least fifty pictures, which I had no time to process properly. And since I still want to show them, I am dumpling several Instagram posts from last week. The good part of inserting the Instagram posts is that each of these posts contains multiple pictures, so you can scroll them using the arrows on the left and right sides.

One of under the bridge passages, on the second photo, there are reflections of Igor and me 🙂
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Thursday’s Plane Crush

For those who were asking – it was, indeed very close to my house. Not at the intersection as it was initially reported, but pretty close. I heard the news helicopters, but could not figure out what’s the deal, and then my neighbor rang my door. I even walked to the intersection, but there was only police over there, plus the traffic closure. So the picture is from the news, not mine.

Funny story – another plane of similar size crushed almost at the same place ten years ago, but back then it literally landed on the car driving along Quentin 🙂

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Last night, all my devices rang simultaneously, just like it was when Senator McCain died, and I looked at the closest of the devices, my Apple Watch, to read the news.
Today, there is no other topic on the news, except for the death of RBG, at least that how it feels now, that I am almost four hours in my day. To tell the truth, I would rather hear more of her, then memories about her, but there were just one or two excerpts from the old interviews played on the air.

I do not feel like I can write anything lengthy or anything new, which I didn’t say earlier about her. Like many people, I feel the void, which won’t be ever filled. Because even if/when other amazing people will come up, she will always be the one, unmatched, incomparable.

Its probably not worth saying here, but even Trump’s first reaction on the news of her death was: she was an amazing woman!

I am sorry that she didn’t live to see this presidency over. However, her impact on humanity is enormous and will never be undone,

Bitemporality in Practice

The World of Data

Yesterday marked a significant milestone in the life of the pg_bitemporal library. Five years ago, when this project started, we thought that the first practical application of that concept would be in accounting. Indeed, when I explain to people who work in finances what benefits this approach can yield, my explanations usually receive an enthusiastic response. However, when it comes to reality, i.e., doing real financial reporting, people tend to rely on more familiar approaches. After all, the financial reports are too important to mess them up. But through all these years, I hoped I would be able to demonstrate the usefulness of the bitemporal concept and the productiveness of that approach.

What happened yesterday was that my very first report, which used the bitemporal framework for accounting, went live. And the way it is using bitemporality is just how I envisioned it five years ago.

I am a scientist…

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1996: My Last Job In Russia

My life in 1996, as it started, was pretty much the same as in 1995. Being a research associate at the University paid very little, and I always searched for additional gigs. One interesting thing in 1996 was that Urbansoft moved to one of Boris’s research lab rooms. John ran out of money (I am not even sure whether he had any investors by that time), and I forgot whether Boris was the first to come up with this idea of it was John, but the idea was the following. Boris and John signed the contract to the effect that Boris’ lab will perform some research for Urbansoft, and Urbansoft will pay for this research, but in reality, it was rent. It’s just that the University was not allowed to lease its space to anybody. It was all the sequence of really awkward situations: John didn’t know that Boris and I were in relationships and that Vlad and Anna were his children. And then he realized that Boris knew all this story about the key and me being fired. So there was a lot of awkwardness!

For several years, however, it was a good collaboration. 

As for me, I still needed some other work on the side. The Smolny thing was over. The bank gig was over. 

I do not remember what I was doing in winter, but it was Stylus, Prompt Corporation by spring. The first Russian Automated Multi-language Translator. Looking back, I have a lot of respect for their leadership. They were trying hard to build a healthy business model. At times, when working for any private company was considered a risky business, they would not hire part-timers. They insisted that if somebody wanted to work for them, they should focus on Prompt one hundred percent. 

It sounds trivial, except that in post-Soviet Russia, it was almost revolutionary. They were paying five bucks to anybody who would find a bug in their product, no matter QA or not. They catered lunch for the whole office every day, and that was unthinkable. 

In terms of full-time employment, they made an exception for me. I had to write documentation for Stylus, yes, documentation again! Once again, I do not remember who invited me there, but apparently, they knew “that I could write.” I brought with me some excerpts from the HighDoc documentation, and it was found to be acceptable. We negotiated the price and delivery schedule, and I started.

The documentation had to be in the RTF format. Once again, when summer arrived, and I had to go to the University boarding house, I was left with my primitive laptop with MS-DOS and Norton text editor and 8K RAM. 

I had some pieces of documentation which I already completed in WordPad. I used them as examples and pieced together the next parts, putting all the markups in manually. Once a week, when I went back to the city, I copied these files to my desktop and tried to correct them if they ended up being non-readable. 

On the second time, something went wrong with my desktop. I can’t remember what exactly, but it was the whole sequence of unfortunate events, and I ended up not bringing the next portion of documentation. I can’t even remember whether only some of the new parts suffered or could not put together anything. In any case, I came to the Prompt office and told my supervisor what had happened. He told me that he was sorry and understood that there were circumstances beyond my control, but since I didn’t deliver what I was supposed to deliver, there would be no pay. I do not remember how I lived for the next two weeks, and where I managed to find money, but I remember my feelings walking down Liteynyi Prospect: what I am going to do?! I can’t say anything in my defense; I didn’t turn in my work, but how will we survive

I worked for Prompt almost until the very last day in Russia. I told them that I am leaving when my work visa was granted. They were mad because their previous technical writer left for America several months before that (and that’s why they hired me). But there was nothing they could do. That was my last contract job in Russia.

As for my position with the University, I didn’t have the courage to quit. After all, I was still in the “I may come back” mode. But since Igor was a special needs child, I had a right by law to go on unpaid leave “to take care of the child” until his 16th birthday. Then theoretically, I could return on any day and get my position back. 

Now, I need to san a hundred pictures from our last summer, because somehow that last summer is very well documented 🙂

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.

Matter Does Not Disappear!

At the beginning of April, when all the world was in the lockdown, and I thought that Boris and I would never see each other again, I mailed him a parcel. I put in it several small items that he purchased on Amazon for the upcoming biking season and which he was planning to pick up during his March trip, which did not happen. Also, I put some cookies that I baked for Easter and some vitamins, which I meant to give him to take home. And I mailed it, expecting it to travel slowly.
Well, it was sitting hear in Chicago for a while, it moved from one facility to another, and finally, it left O’Hare on May 5. And then I lost a trace of it.

I asked Boris to contact the Finnish postal service, but he didn’t feel like doing it :). He re-ordered some of the things which got lost, and I brought them with me at the end of July. And then, a week after I left, he received a notice from the Finnish customs. It turned out that somebody swapped the street number and the apartment number (I wrote it correctly on the envelope, so it might get messed up in the system). They actually wanted Boris to pick it put at the customs, but since they were trying to contact somebody else all that time, the parcel was marked as not claimed, and the day Boris got the note, the parcel was sent back to me.

I got it today. As expected, the cookies were gone bad, and I guess all the bike parts are still good :).
I am glad that “matter does not disappear,” it would be worse if the package would never be found, but still…

We Did It!

On Sunday, we finally submitted Chapter 5, and I feel so good about it, I can’t even describe it! In the past ten days, I was so focused on that chapter that I could hardly think about something else.
I mean, I did many other things; I saw two movies, and I was at the Art Institute, and I went to the shelter, and yes, I worked. You can say that I did a variety of things, but to be honest, I felt guilty doing “anything else.”

I could not understand why this chapter takes so much time and effort until Saturday when I looked at the page count and realized that this chapter was almost as long as the previous four! No wonder!
I felt better right away :).

I have to admit that I didn’t challenge our delivery schedule because we do not have that much wiggling room until the end of the year anyway. I thought that a day here and a day there does not make a difference. And I hardly looked at the estimated chapters sizes.

The most time-consuming part was that I had to rework all of the examples, and several times through this process, I would find problems with our generated data. Then, I had to stop building examples and ask Boris to generate new data, and then I had to reload several tables and start over. And Anna had to do all her edits after we are done, and we were not done until the last moment. I am so thankful to Boris and Anna for their heroic efforts in the past several days!

We did it! And we did it well!

And we have eleven more chapters to go :).

Back To The Open Door Shelter

On the same Thursday, another important thing happened – I went back to ODS (Open Door Shelter) for the first time since February. To me, it is the most important volunteering activity I am doing, the one where nobody can replace me. I mean, the plants in the prairie won’t care who will be fighting invasives, and the clients of the Family Planning Clinic need to be able to get to their appointments safely, no matter who is standing there in a pink vest, helping them to get through the hoard of antis. 

It is different with The Night Ministry. It took me a long time to find a way to make a difference in the lives of the youth in challenging circumstances. But now I know that I can. It’s OK to miss a week of working in the forest preserve. It’s different when you mi a week in the youth shelter. 

This time, it was more than six months, the months when life was more challenging than ever. When our volunteer coordinator reached out to me, he acknowledged that “morale is low,” and I knew very well what it meant. I asked whether there is any youth in the shelter at the moment, who knows me, and he said – all are new. I was prepared for the worst, and as a part of this preparation, I decided to cook baked salmon with mashed potatoes:).

At 5 PM, I left the office and walked to the Blue Line station – I didn’t take CTA since February. I got out on Division and looked around like I did four years ago, getting confused for a moment in which direction I should go. 

I passed the Polish Cathedral and rang a familiar doorbell. And answered the buzzer: That’s Henrietta! – Who? – Henrietta! 

And then it all felt unbelievingly normal: a counselor coming to greet me at the door, explaining to somebody: That’s Ms. Henrietta, she came to cook with us. In the kitchen, I saw a pizza which looked straight from the oven, and I thought: oh, well, familiar story, and who is going to make dinner with me! But even before I started unpacking, I saw the movement and heard: Ms. Henrietta! You probably don’t remember me, I am… – Maribella! – Yes! 

Not only she, everybody else was so surprisingly alert and ready for a conversation, and so-so-so alive. Girls are always more suspicious than boys, but this time, girls would come up to me and talk. 

I announced that dinner is ready. Often, I need to call several times, but this time, Maybel was already wiping the table, and everybody lined up with the plates. I served the food, and nobody went to the corner with their plate; everybody headed to the table and made a social distance. And they were waiting for me to sit. I was so not expecting it on the first day that I didn’t even realize it right away. It took me nine months the first time around. That is when I came as a volunteer for the first time and had these naive ideas that my love and understanding is enough. Now that I think about it, maybe they are enough. Maybe back then, I simply didn’t have enough love and understanding.

So we sat and talked. We talked about going to the Art Institute as a group, and about the possible Architectural tour, and everybody thanked me for a meal – multiple times. 

Our volunteer coordinator, who joined us for dinner, told me that he knew that I would be the first to come back and that he didn’t doubt.

I don’t know what else to say. These two and a half hours were built of dozens of precious moments. Like when one of the girls turned to me after she tasted salmon and said: it’s so good! And I said: thank you! I am so glad you like it! And then another girl said about me: looks how happy she is! 

I made a promise to myself that I am only doing one volunteering a week until we are done with the book, but I will be coming to ODS every other week. Because we need each other

Monet In Chicago Exhibit

The Monet Exhibit in the Art Institute opened last week. I didn’t have time to attend during the members-only days, but I was also hoping that the second week won’t be so crazy. 

It turned out that although the line outside was small, the virtual line for the exhibit was massive. I came in only twelve minutes after the museum was open on that day, and the first hour of each day is a member hour. 

I guy with an iPad was standing at the entrance, and he asked whether I was planning to visit the Monet exhibit and if yes, he can put me in the line. There was already 30 minutes wait by that time!

While waiting, I went to a permanent Impressionists exhibit. It is one of my favorites, if not the most favorite collection. The room, which usually exhibits Monet’s works from the permanent collection, was vacant for the time of the new exhibit, and I was thrilled to see that it was repurposed to show tons of Toulouse-Lautrec works! I don’t know whether any of my friends love Toulouse-Lautrec art with the same passion as I do, but let me tell you, it was a real treat! I am posting just a couple of works, which usually are not on display. 

Continue reading “Monet In Chicago Exhibit”