At the Children’s World

The picture below was taken in the Children’s World during the first Month Vlad and Anna were attending; somebody from the staff took it and gave me way later. Vlad and Anna liked it there.

Their teachers’ names were Miss Kelly and Mister Brian; they were very young, fun, and caring and loved the kids. First, I was surprised by the small size of the place and by the fact that they were just pulling out tiny camp beds for nap time and didn’t have a separate room for the “quiet hour” ( “tikhiy chas”). I was also surprised that there were so many unstructured activities. And I was grateful for the meals.

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.

Our First Month in Palatine

This whole concept that 1) kids go to school when they are just five years old and 2) they still need daycare because school is in session for only three and a half hours for the five-year-olds was new for me as well as the fact that school has more days off than the rest of people.
The great thing was that for several years, their school started pretty early. The bus would come to our stop at 7-15. Val would drive from Barrington and wait in the car for me till the bus would come, and then we drove to work. The kids and I had breakfast before we left the house, and then they had lunch at the Children’s World and a snack after their nap.

I could not go anywhere during the workday. I would always have the same lunch with me: one sandwich with the Polish ham and Romania salad, and one with provolone cheese and a piece of tomato, and an apple and a banana for a snack.

Our workday was officially over at five, and somebody would drive me to the Children’s World to pick up Vlad and Anna and would drop us at home. I would start making some dinner at home, and Vlad and Anna would start talking: they just started to learn English and had nobody to talk to during the whole day!

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How I Ended Up Being Away For Home For Thanksgiving

First, we were planning for a very small Thanksgiving, even probably in shifts. Even back in September, Boris and I were talking about him finally coming our way. By that time, I felt sort of in control of the situation and was sure that I know how to navigate the current situation, how to be safe, and what we can and can’t do. 

The last time Boris saw anybody except myself was last November, and he never saw Kira. So we drafted a plan, how to connect “in shifts,” and then cases started to rise, and then I think we all just got scared and were afraid that “it can become worse.” We all talked to each other for hours, and I am not sure who finally convinced me, but the result is that I am now in Helsinki. 

I got the ticket just five days before departure, and I booked it at the Lufthansa website directly, thereby not paying attention to who operates the flight. And even when I received my reservation confirmation, I didn’t look into details – there was a Lufthansa logo on the reservation email. 

On Sunday evening, when I realized that the check-in email didn’t arrive, I went to the Lufthansa website, and to my horror, saw the message: redirecting to the United website! Only then I realized that the flight number starts from UA! 

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Strangers In Their Own Land – a Book Review

I listened to the book Strangers In Their Own Land a couple of weeks before the Elections. And that was very appropriate reading for that time! The book description from Goodreads says:

In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country – a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Russell Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets – among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident – people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Russell Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream – and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Russell Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from “liberal” government intervention abhor the very idea? 

The idea of this book resonates deeply with me. I am often faced with questions from outsiders, especially from people who live in other countries, how people in their right minds can support Trump? I always say that it’s not like these people are cruel and inhumane; it’s just the see different sides of Trump’s policy, and that there may be reasons why they find these policies appealing, and why they find government interventions bad; and it’s not like they are stupid. 

I really liked this book for the conversation’s calm tone, for the author’s willingness to listen and understand. You can’t change people’s mind stating that they are idiots; if you want to convince people to your views, or at least plant a seed of doubt, you should clearly understand where they are coming from and converse with them on their territory.

Once again, some of the people’s stories in this book reminded me of my grandparents’ generation point of view. They might seem to be on the opposite pole of the political spectrum, but I remember this pride of always providing for themselves, always doing their best at work, never being late. Interestingly, somehow they never considered any government assistance, like pensions, the housing they were “given”, things like free education as “assistance.” And probably rightly so, because all these things would never compensate for what the government effectively took away from them in the form of reduced pay, budget redistribution, etc. In any case, I was surprised to hear my grandfather (and to some extent, my mother) in these voices from the American South. 

Did You Hear About PostgresBuild 2020 Conference? If Not, Keep Reading

Yes, it’s like I do not have enough things to do 🙂

The World of Data

2020 was a year without conferences. And it felt heavy for all frequent conference attendees like me. As for academic conferences, most of them ended up switching to the online format because pandemic or not, but everybody needs publications.

The situation was different with Postgres Conferences. Live communications were always vitally important for the Postgres community, and it was with excruciating pain that I watched the New York conference being first postponed, then canceled; then the last glimpse of hope for the first PG Day Chicago vanished. It didn’t come as a surprise that PostgreSQL Conference Europe was canceled with no attempts to move it online, along with my plans to contribute.

That being said, when several weeks ago, I received an email with a call for contributions toPostgres Build 2020, I jumped on this opportunity.

Needless to say, that now I am busier than ever, but I’ve…

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While America Aged: a Book Review

While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis is a relatively short book with a long title. At first, it felt boring, and I wondered why I am reading it in the world, but it ended up being very enlightening. 

One thing that puzzles me is the difference in the pension systems between the US and the rest of the first world. I knew that many big American corporations had pensions in the past, but by the time I entered the US workforce, they were eliminated everywhere except the governments. I learned how pensions in big corporations, like GM, were first established and how they played their role in attracting workers in the absence of Social Security. Later, the pension design flaws led to the financial crisis. 

When the US car manufacturers were in a severe crisis ten years ago, people would say that American cars cost more than Japanese cars because American workers “cost more.” What never occurred to me was a notion that it’s not that American workers were paid more, but that American car manufacturers had to invest huge sums of money in the workers’ pensions. At the same time, Japanese companies do not need to do so because they have government retirement programs. 

Some parts of the book made me think about the Russian pension system. In Russia, the retirement age for women is fifty-five, and for men – sixty, which is so early that I can’t even wrap my head around it. 

When a couple of years ago, the Russian government announced that they would increase the retirement age, everybody started screaming. What is worth noting, though, is the fact that in Russia, people file for retirement when they reach the age of fifty-five or sixty respectively, and they continue working, receiving both the salary and the retirement benefits. And when I try to explain that that’s wrong, they say that “pensions are so small, you can’t survive on a pension alone, you need to work. I do not understand how it does not occur to anybody that pensions can’t be bigger if people only work for half of their lives. 

When I express my opinion that pensions are designed to provide income for those who can’t work any longer, that it is something like insurance, people are telling me: no, we are entitled to receive a pension after we reached a certain age. 

I just gave up on understanding :). But the funny thing is that in this book, when some municipal employees were receiving both their salaries and pensions, it is described as something outrageous, like the lowest possible morale :). When the workers were given extra shifts or better positions during their last year before retirement, the schemas were described as fraudulent, but that precisely what everybody was doing back in the USSR. 

Very interesting reading, I am telling you 🙂

First Move In the US

When I wrote this post, I thought I would write a couple of follow-ups right away, but then there was an Election Day and waiting and the new COVID surge. Three weeks later, I am finally back to that part of our family history.

I was always vague about why we had to move from Des Planes to Palatine and all the surrounding events. I didn’t want to bring this story to a public view and only told it to some people privately. Now that I am writing our family’s full and complete history let’s layout all the details.

If you recall, a person who introduced me, or rather a notion about me to VIN.net CEO was G, the same guy who lived in the building across from mine in Saint Petersburg, the guy who was fired from Urbansoft, and because of whom I was fired a month later. He emigrated, he worked in the consulting company, and he told Pam about me. As a result, we emailed each other pretty intensely during these months before my departure. He had a seven-year-old daughter, and his wife was not working, so it was “assumed” that I will live in the same apartment building as they lived and that his wife will help me with the daycare. 

At some moment, Chris, the HR/office manager/secretary in VIN.net, emailed me saying that G’s wife “agreed” to watch my kids on the school days off (I didn’t know that schools holidays in the US were different from everybody’s holidays); that she will cover if they are sick, and I do not even remember the whole list. When I forwarded this email to G, he replied that this is not true and that his wife needs time off as well. I could not figure out what was going on, but again, knowing nothing about American realities, I could not understand the magnitude of the problem.

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“Portland’s Burning Heart”

Incredibly powerful!

Yip Abides

Portland’s Burning Heart uses a combination of iPhone footage, on-the-ground photography and haunting voice over to tell the story of Portland’s ongoing street protests from the perspective of a woman who knows them well: Emmy-winning photojournalist Beth Nakamura of The Oregonian. Beth is the burning heart at the center of the film, and over the course of its 13 minutes we watch as she evolves from local reporter to teargas-dodging, stab-vest-wearing conflict journalist.

“Commissioned by the Dutch public network HUMAN in anticipation of the 2020 US elections, the film is a collaboration between Nakamura and the Tim Hetherington Visionary Award-winning filmmaking team Jongsma + O’Neill.”

I’ve been wondering if sending Federal “law enforcement” to Portland was an attempt, in a general sort of way, for Trump (or perhaps his minions) to emulate Ronald Reagan and Peoples Park. Just asking for a friend…

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Suspended Volunteering

Today, I received an email from our volunteers’ coordinator at the ODS saying that all volunteering will be suspended till the end of March. Those were excruciating news. Although, when I was at the ODS last time, which was just nine days ago, I thought that the activities might be suspended for some time, but I honestly thought it would be till mid-December at the most.

Now the activities are shut down for almost five months. And now I am thinking about every minute of last Tuesday, how it was usual: you want to go? – I do not want, but I need to. And now I think that I should have stayed longer, although I know that thirty minutes extra won’t make up for the five months ahead. 

I waved and waved, and I was saying: I will be back! I am not sure when, but I will be back. And now, for so many of the youth, it will be –  never