No TV?!

Another long-overdue thing was finding a way to mount the large monitor I am using instead of the TV. I do not have any TV services for many years, nor do I do Netflix or anything like that. It does not mean I am not enjoying the movies, but it is always a special occasion. I either go to the movie theater to watch something extra special or rent something online and watch (by myself or with somebody).

Still, I need a large monitor to watch movies with somebody. In my old house, I put a large monitor where my old TV set used to be. I could not find a similarly situated place in my new house; besides, I didn’t want a large thing that I do not often use to occupy a significant space and to on the view at all times.

Boris suggested a rolling TV cart, but Vlad rejected it, saying that it won’t help – I will still need to store it “somewhere”. Boris backed up and suggested another desk mount (the one I had could not hold the weight of the monitor). He chose a model, but it arrived after he left. When Anna & family visited last time, I asked them to attach a monitor, but it turned out that this desk mount could not be attached because of the shape of the monitor.

I started to look again, but I could not find any other model high enough and hold the weight. Finally, I decided to change the course and started to look for the TV mount. That is, after two months of search, I was back to Boris’s original idea. Funny story – it turned out that although the attachment was “universal,” it still didn’t work with the shape of this monitor! The only way we made it work was to shift the position of the mounting brackets, so now they stick up like two horns :). But the whole thing works beautifully! The stand has wheels, and in normal position, it stands behind my desk occupying zero extra space. It can be easily pulled forward, and then people sitting in the living room can watch. Or it can be pulled to the sunroom, where there are more electric outlets there, and there is a shelf for a laptop. I can even roll it into the dining room!

Yes, and as for the title of this post… As I said, I do not have television for years, if not decades, but since in my old house there was a large object sitting where people would expect to have a TV set, nobody asked this question, And at my new place, the first thing most people would ask is “Where is your TV?” or just “And no TV?!”

🙂 🙂 🙂

Books About Pandemic

I wanted to mention two books that I recently finished; both are about the COVID pandemic. 

The first one is The Premonition, and the second is The Plague Year. It may feel that it’s “too early” to write books about the pandemic, especially because we are not out of it yet. But I think that both books are very timely. 

As you can imagine, the contents of both books overlap significantly, but even when they talk about the same events, they view them from slightly different perspectives. The first book focuses more on the political side of things, Trump’s inadequate response to the thread, and the health care officials who stood up against it. The second book touches more on science, epidemiology, details of vaccine development. 

Both are very informative. Some things I learned: 

  • that the vaccine was technically “ready” before the start of the pandemic; the scientists had to plug in the genome details; that’s why it was developed so fast
  • that most of the decisions about opening/closing/guaranteeing, which looked erratic at least, were based on multiple AI models. For example, there are certain estimates on the effect of schools closing depending on the level of infections at the time of closing.
  • more detail on the shortage of swabs for tests
  • why there were so many questions on the origin of the virus

And many other things! 

Also, these books allowed me to recall the events of the past sixteen months, how our knowledge about the virus changed, and how and why the health officials’ guidelines evolved. 

A Day Without Deaths

Today is the first day after the beginning of the pandemic when there were no deaths recorded in the state of Illinois. It does not mean that it’s all over. It does not even mean that there were no deaths. And we may wait for a while to see another day like this. But still – that’s the day to celebrate. To celebrate and to remember those who died during pandemic. That’s the day to multiply our efforts to prevent as many deaths as possible. That’s the day to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Oh yes, and the Crown Fountain is operating again 🙂

Half-pandemic May

Today, Chicago and the state of Illinois lifted most remaining COVID-19 mitigation-related masking and social distancing requirements and capacity limits. It isn’t quite the end of an era, but it is a step forward.

But when I wrote a decent chunk of this post (on June 7), many of those limits were still in place, and Chicagoland region was caught in an interesting half-way state that had as much to do with people’s attitudes as anything that was formally required.

I’ve been Chicagoland specifically because the United States, for better or for worse, continues to be a patchwork of restrictions, regulations and approaches. For the past 12 months, I’ve been able to sit down in coffee shops in Kenosha (Wisconsin) and Michigan City (Indiana), but not in Chicago and most suburbs. Masking has also varied – as I mentioned before, Kenoshans really didn’t mask much until the fall 2020 surge in cases.

In the past two months, we saw two major developments.

In late April, CDC issued a recommendation stating that people don’t have to wear masks outdoors – though it still recommended that unvaccinated people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings. Then, on May 13, it recommended allowing vaccinated people to go maskless indoors, except in public transit, government buildings, hospitals and some other congregate settings. Illinois and Chicago specifically adjusted their respective regulations accordingly – which meant, in practice, that businesses and public institutions such as libraries could continue requiring everybody to wear masks, if they so chose.

Continue reading “Half-pandemic May”

Love My Neighbors! Am I In a Bubble?

I talked to the couple from the house next to mine about my future garden. They suggested we come and look at my balcony and draft a plan. While we were busy doing that, a neighbor from the unit next to mone walked out. He said he is going to get a new faucet from Lowe’s 

— Not from Home Depot?

— No! No more Home Depot! Do you know how much they donated to Trump’s campaign?

No more questions asked. That’s my neighbors. Offering to look at my bike and to teach me some basic repairs. Asking whether I need something from Morse Market because they are going. Planning my garden. Neighbors who traveled the world. Neighbors who have more books in their homes I ever saw. Celebrating their child’s first birthday at the courtyard and offering cupcakes to all neighbors. Neighbors with all the right signs in their windows.

They say that in the suburbs, you live in a bubble. I feel like I like in a bubble right now :), and soon, I might forget that the rest of the world is not so perfect …

Is It Really Too Extreme?

Some time ago, a friend of mine emailed me one story about one prominent journalist being fired from the job he holds for many years based on the accusations of insensitive conversations and offensive remarks. My friend asked me whether I feel that “cancel culture” goes overboard. I told her that I would read this story more closely and tell her my opinion. 

This conversation happened a while ago, and first, I wanted to go over the details of the story she sent to me. But then I thought that the problem I want to address is not in the specific story of a specific person but rather this whole attitude of “well, I can agree with some of that, but that is way too overboard!”

Years ago, I thought the same. I thought it is OK that I have to be twice brighter as any man applying for the same job because I have to balance out the fact that I might have to take time off for a sick child. Years ago, I felt OK when men would hold the door for me or take heavy bags from me because they can carry them:). I even liked the hand-kissing thing.  

Years ago, I didn’t see anything wrong in presenting the Africans in the children’s books virtually naked and carrying spears.

The awakening moment for me was realizing that I belong to one of the “stereotyped” groups of people in the US. I know that some people are OK with that, but I never was. At my first job, when I didn’t have a car yet and could not drive, people were taking turns to drive me to work and helping me to pick up Vlad and Anna from the daycare. I realized that I hate the question, “who is picking up Russian kids today?” Why it’s important that they are Russian? Why are they not just Hettie’s kids? I hated the joke “Russians are coming!” when Yuri and I would enter the office. You might say that I was over-sensitive. Probably, but it was very difficult not to be annoyed with the “Anastasia” cartoon and to know that people indeed believe that’s who you are. 

There are tons of good books about racial and gender discrimination. Many people said it way better than I can. Still, I know that my friends want to know my very personal opinion: it’s all fine, Hettie, but what do you think?

First, I think that whatever “general population” considers “overboard, too much, too extreme” is just right. For many years, it never occurred to me to imagine how people on the receiving end feel. I never thought about whether “little black people” would like their images in my children’s books. The thought never crossed my mind. I was guilty across the board of stereotyping people by national origin, race, and gender. I think that people feel “too much” just because this way of thinking breaks their default patterns. “it’s not a big deal,” because it’s not a big deal for them.

And second, I think that people have a right to be “too sensitive.” because it is not “too sensitive,” it’s defending their dignity. I remember my Jewish friends in the Soviet Union reacting with pain on any display of antisemitism. Some people could also say: what’s a big deal? Nobody means anything bad, really! That’s just a joke! Back then, I would say the same thing: they had a right to be over-sensitive. Jews in the Soviet Union were indeed discriminated against, and their reaction at each and single case was justified. 

It is wrong to mock “too much of political correctness..” SImply wrong. Try to imagine yourself on the other side of the equation. 

We Are Moving Again, My Friends!

Today, I gave the news to Katia and Misha. I hugged them tight and moved them upstairs into my bedroom. I am getting the first floor ready to be painted, and I need to remove all the small objects. Of course, Katia and Misha are not objects, but the painters don’t know.

When I picked them up to take them upstairs, I realized that I didn’t tell them that they would move to the fourth home in their long lives.

They feel so real, especially Katia. I do not know how a real cub would feel in my arms, so I can’t be sure about Misha. But when you hold Katia, you have a complete feel of holding a baby. She is as real as she could be. I touched her nose with mine and then kissed her on her cheek. We are up for another adventure, friends!

***

I told mom about the move and about everything I know so far about the house and the neighborhood. I told her that she would feel better there because there will be sidewalks and people on the streets and parks with benches. However, she kept saying: all that matters is that I will be close to you. It feels really sad. She is saying that she is my fourth child now, and that’s pretty close to reality. I was trying to tell her that all I want for her is to live a happy and peaceful life. But wherever the conversation goes, it comes to the point that she can’t be away from me, just like a small child. The only thing she worried about with our timeline was how long she would have to stay in Palatine after I move.

Nothing I can do about it, but it makes me think that there is a sad irony in this situation. When I was a child, she did everything she could to cultivate my unhealthy attachment to her so that I could not be happy when she was away. And now she feels the same way. And I know that I could even yell at her, and she won’t protest. It does not make me happy. I wish she won’t be such a controlling personality when I was a child and that she would be a happier person now. But it is what it is.

About People’s Interactions

I liked how my Wednesday’s meetup went. I only regret that I didn’t put enough time into advertising, and there were not many people attending. The talk was brilliant. It was new Bruce’s talk “Democratization of Databases,” where he talks about opensource products and how their development is different from commercial products. 

Our discussion ended up being rather political; that’s why I am not posting it on my professional blog.

But you know, I think it was very appropriate. There are times when you have to be political, times when you can’t enclose yourself in your professional world. And now is that kind of time. 

On another note, I started to assemble my team of volunteers. And now, when I started, I do not know how I lived without any help! I felt so good when people responded to my call. When they started to reach out telling me that they want to help, to give back. One of the people who reached out told me: I want to compensate for all these times when I would just come and sit in the corner, listen to the talks, eat pizza and go back home. 

I can see now how many things we didn’t do to give us more publicity. Interestingly, when I talk to other people about giving their enterprise more publicity, I name all these things I didn’t do myself :). I hope that by the time of the next meetup, things will start to look different.

This week was very intense. I had many things going on at work, and I also had to talk to many people for a very long time :). I can’t recall this level of interactions I was involved in since the pre-pandemic times. I am tired, but I also feel very good. I feel empowered by people’s responses.