Cooking & Talking: the Magic of Baked Salmon

One more time -I thought I published it on Wednesday; I did not, but do not want to edit the dates now, just imagine, it’s from Wednesday :).

I have lots of things to worry about at the moment: I need to find a replacement for my leaving DBA. I need to complete the end-of-the-year reviews for my team and myself. I worry that my glasses are not ready yet, which can put my surgeries dates in jeopardy. For the next week’s conference, we were asked to shorten our presentation to 18 minutes. 

I have a lot of things to worry about, but I am not going to. Because what I am thinking at the moment is the last night’s dinner in the Open Door Shelter. 

A Baked Salmon is always a hit, along with mashed potatoes, and when I make baked salmon, I always purchase it myself and bring in to the shelter in the insulated bag. 

When I entered the kitchen, it was empty except one girl who never showed interest in cooking with me, and would always make her meal, when I was making dinner with the others. 

— Hi, what are we making today? – she asked. 

I realized that, like many others, she didn’t want to compete for my attention and approached me only when there was nobody else around. I pretended to be not surprised, and we started peeling potatoes together. Later, other young people arrived and joined us. My most favorite staff was present, which always makes my job easier. 

All the easy tasks: lay the foil in the baking sheet, cut the lemons, chop the onions, make it easier for multiple people to feel that they are included in the process. Even now, on my way to work, I am smiling recalling their yesterday’s exchanges:

— Is it ready? Shouldn’t the salmon be darker?

— Shut up, she knows what she is doing! She is a pro! 

— Can’t you wait? Do you thin I don’t want a second? But I am waiting. We need to make sure everybody got a piece, and then go for seconds!

As always, there were a couple of people who tried salmon for the first time, and as always, the fish was gone fast, with only aluminum foil left 🙂

Another treat was that the girl who was in the program last year came in to lead a group activity. I was thrilled to see her. Most of the time, I have no idea how it turned for those who graduated from the program. It was a delight to learn that she is attending college and that she is giving back.

We sat and talked about the goals for the new year, about plans and hopes. And then there were hugs and goodbyes, and see you next time. 

The staff walked me downstairs and even outside. And as much as I am annoyed when my mother says she will wait till I turn around the corner, it feels different when leaving the ODS.

Chicago PUG January Meetup – Great Start for 2020

I posted that on my professional blog and on LinkedIn last night. Just an hour before the meetup started, I realized that it has been three years! What a journey! I can’t even comprehend how did it happen! From “please help to spread the word” to the “third-largest in the Western Hemisphere.” In three short years! You know – that’s why I believe that when there is a will, there is a way, and there is no limit to what you can achieve.

The World of Data

It has been for three years now, that Bravinat is hosting Chicago PUG meetups. Today we’ve rung in 2020 with two excellent presentations and very productive follow-up discussions.

I want to thank one more time all the user group members who joined us today.

Looking forward to another great year ahead!

Engaged audience

Our speakers

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I Do not Want to be an Influencer :)

Livejournal sent to me a sort of “please come back” message:

That’s because I reduced my activities there in the middle of the year, and apparently the first half of the year was pretty active. I do not even know what in the world “an influencer” means. Well, I know:), but the problem is I can’t really influence people and their behavior, and that’s what was frustrating recently. I got a homophobic comment even for posting a picture of me with my kids after Mom’s birthday party…

As for the boo… what I am writing now, is a book. For those who would like to read it, but mostly for my future generation 🙂

March for Life, and a Very Small Protest

It is hard for me to write about Saturday’s events because I feel like we (pro-choice activists) lost miserably. I am going to copy the summary of the even from Igor’s Flicker album: 

Album description

Every year, on the second Saturday of January, pro-life groups organize March for Life in downtown Chicago. This year, one new addition was a pro-life organizations convention and an evening banquet at Congress Hotel. (You had to pay to get into the banquet, but the convention was free, but you had to register ahead of time)

This year, the pro-life groups assembled at the Daley Plaza for a rally featuring several pro-life speakers. Then, they marched toward the Congress Hotel, where they had another rally and some prayer circles out front, even as some marchers slowly but surely headed out, and some groups boarded the buses to get to… whereever it was they came from.

There are usually counter-protesters, and, this time, they assembled at the southeast corner of Dearborn/Washington. My mom, who was there earlier, mentioned that there were speakers, and a number of pro-choice activists attended. But by the time I crossed to the pro-choice side after taking the photos at the Daley Plaza, most of them were gone, and Revolutionary Communist Party members and affiliates took the position. They mostly chanted about kicking out Trump and Pence, and about no war in Iran, with only occasional pro-choice chants. When the March for Life left the plaza, the pro-choice chanting (and some pro-choice taunting) started at its earnest. While a few pro-lifers did try to talk to the Communists, and some pro-lifers clearly wanted to shout at the Communists, it didn’t get beyond shouting.

Also, there was a “patriot” group at the southwest corner of Dearborn/Washington. While RevComm shouted some anti-war slogans, members of the group shouted something along the lines of “no war in Iran, save the babies!”


So – yes. I knew about the counter-protest, but the weather was miserable, actually, let me put it very miserable. For a moment, I was not sure whether I am going to go. Still, after all, I did, and I am glad I did! 

Yes, there were speeches, and I recorded a couple, but I was really upset with the low number of pro-choice activists that showed up. The picture looked horrific, and Igor’s pictures look even scarier… I can’t understand why so many people are … just not getting it! 

Continue reading “March for Life, and a Very Small Protest”

Mom's Birthday Celebration

On Friday, my Mom turned 85. I started to think about how we will celebrate that day way-way in advance.

Most of the time when somebody is celebrating the 85th birthday, there are lots of friends and family members who can take part in the celebration. But Mom immigrated to the US less than two years ago. Moreover, she is extremely reluctant to develop new connections, and she firmly believes that she does not understand people around her. There are very few of my friends with whom she interacts on a more or less regular basis

I knew that an essential part would be having all grandchildren there, and because of that, everything depended on Vlad’s schedule. First, he said he will be able to do Saturday, but turned out that January 11 was going to be his first day back to work after nine days off. He suggested that we do Friday night, and I said it had to be in Palatine. After all, it turned out great, because it was easier for everybody, including Anna.

It was almost a surprise party for Mom. I told her that we would do “something” for her birthday and that she should be ready by 5-30. She did not know until the very last moment, that all of her grandchildren and her great-granddaughter will be there.

Continue reading “Mom's Birthday Celebration”

What is Art in the Perspective of a Two-year Old

Anna and Nadia were visiting me last weekend. We asked Nadia whether she wants to see art, the dinosaurs in the Field Museum, or the whales in the Aquarium, and she said – art! So we went to the Art Institute.
Anna wanted to see Andy Warhol e

xhibit, but Nadia refused to acknowledge it as an art :). After being there for ten minutes, she started to ask, “can we see the art now?”

We went to the Ryan Educational Center to do the family project – a shadow box. Then we went to see Chagall’s “American Windows.” To our surprise, Nadia liked them a lot! She was sitting on her knees by the first window, then running to the second one and sitting there, and then moving to the third one. She spent at least ten minutes there, and would probably spend more if we would let her. So you can’t even say that an abstract art in not for toddlers. Go figure!

"The Guarded Gate" by Daniel Okrent

That’s one more book which I want to rate “six” instead of five, from one of my favorite authors, Daniel Okrent. It describes the darkest pages of American history, I could not imagine, such views were common, acceptable, and even praised. 

We all know quite a bit about slavery; we know something about the prosecution of Americans of Japanese descent. Perhaps, we heard about antisemitism at some stages of American history. 

As for the rest, I do not know about you, but I was clueless about the triumph of eugenics in the US in the good first half of the 20th century. I did not realize that there was an official policy to grade immigrants based on which European country they were coming from. That not only Jews and Eastern Europeans were undesirable, but also Greeks, Italians, and other Southern Europeans. That officials were trying to prove that these people are more inclined to be involved in crimes and other unlawful activities. That’s all is pretty horrible. 

I liked this book review from NY Times, and I hope it will persuade you to read this book if you didn’t do it yet. It starts with the numbers:

Immigrants arriving between 2000 and 2010 constituted approximately 3 percent of the United States population, while those arriving between 1900 and 1910 constituted 8.9 percent of the population

As usual, we should know our history to avoid repeating it. Especially in times like this. 

Pedro Almodovar: Pain and Glory

Just watched it in the Siskel Center. I’ve not been to the movies for all these past two crazy months. What a movie! I was holding my breath for all two hours, and I am still shaking. What a brilliant film! From the very first to the very last second!

I am posting an official trailer, although as somebody from audience mentioned when leaving the theater, it goes not tell how awesome the movie is.

Igor could not come with me today, and I was not sure whether I want to go by myself – I am so glad I did! There as a huge line, and the theater was packed, but fortunately not sold out. Maybe it just resonates with my current state of mind, but… WOW!