I finally finished Bedrock faith, which I read as a part of One book – One Chicago.

I am still thinking about this book. I rated it 4-star, but I would give it two separate grades if I could. One for the quality of writing, and another for the book’s main idea.

The book is very well written. You do not want to rush through; you are not trying to turn the pages before you finish reading and pick at the end. I read it slowly, enjoying the language, savoring each detail, and each of the characters appeared so real!

As for the book’s main idea, I am still hesitant about my feelings. I think that the book manifests it loud and clear that “once a bad apple always a bad apple.” It feels like Stew Pot “was born bad” and acted violently throughout his life because he could not act differently. And I have a problem with that statement. I believe that under life circumstances, a person can become very negative and that their mind might take such a turn that they would constantly think of harming somebody. But it will always be impossible for me to accept that people might be “born that way,” and there is no way to change it. I would love to discuss it with somebody who read it.

Another book I recently finished listening to is Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. My impressions are similar to what I felt after finishing “Color of Law”: I can’t believe it’s happening here and now. Wilkerson suggests that race is social rather than a biological characteristic and compares the position in the society of Blacks with this of untouchables in the Indian society. The similarities are shocking. Also, she describes many real-life situations that are too real, so well-recognizable, and once again, it feels unreal that things like this happen nowadays. 

The Color Of The Law: The Book Review

Just finished The Color Of Law by Richard Rothstein,

Each time I read something about Black History it strikes me how little I know. It seems like no matter how many books I read and in how many conversations I’ve participated in, it is still not enough.
I had no idea that so many discriminatory clauses in the housing regulations were actually spelled out like discriminatory. Like many other people, even those who like me are well aware of housing inequalities, I was still sure that the unjust economic positioning of Blacks resulted in unjust housing. I had no idea that many city zoning codes, state regulations, and even FHA guidelines had explicit segregation statements. It’s mind-blowing, and I can’t get over it. I didn’t know that Black veterans were effectively denied the benefits provided by GI Bill because you could not get mortgages in general.

It’s from that book that I learned about the contract sales of real estate (and I naively thought that the way people buy houses around me, that’s you get a mortgage and you own a home right away, is what everybody does. And the list of what I didn’t know before goes on and on.

I also find every important several comments which were made in the conclusion of the book. I often resent the opinions of some relatively new immigrants who are making statements to the effect of “why I should feel guilty for slavery, why I should sacrifice something to repay the past wrongdoings if my ancestors were not even here when all these things happen? The author cites an answer to a similar question: you were not there in 1776, but you still enjoy a hot dog n July 4. This means that when you come to this country in search of a better life, although you yourself work hard to achieve prosperity, you still benefit from the wealth, from the governmental institutions, from the quality of life in this country, from everything which was built by previous generations. And when you accept all the benefits of living in the US, you accept all the responsibilities for how that wealth was built.

I hear that sentiment (“My ancestors were not here”) frequently, and I know I have a good quote to answer.

Egalia’s Daughters – A Book Review

I do not remember where I first saw this book (Egalia’s Daughters) mentioned, but I remember that a short description intrigued me, and I went to look for it. I found out that this book is not available neither as an audiobook nor as any type of e-book. After some hesitation, I decided to read a paper book ( the thing I didn’t do for a while). Although now my vision is much better than at the time when I stopped reading paper books and technically speaking, I can read them now, it was still a challenge. I excluded paper books from my life several years ago and could not find a place for them:). I purchased this book in July, and I thought I would make it a beach reading. But as I mentioned before, the beach time appeared so tranquilizing that I didn’t want to do anything at the beach, including the book reading. ‘s

Time passed, and I still could not go beyond the first hundred pages until I decided to take it to read on a plane. I read most of it on the flight to Helsinki and back, and after that, I used every spare minute to finish :). 

This book is brilliant. Just brilliant. I had never read anything like this before! If you try to describe this book in one sentence, it will be trivial like “gender-reversed,” but it’s so much more than that! Man wear skirts and obey their wives, and wives wear pants, drink, smoke, and swear – that is trivial, and it won’t be so interesting. What makes this book incredible is that it demonstrates how ridiculous all references to the “natural order” are when somebody tries to justify the subdued role of women in society, appealing to “nature,” “biology,” and “things always were that way.” It turns out that one can perfectly well justify that men, not women, should care for children and that they are “biologically more suited” to that role. That man “won’t benefit from additional education.” That “a man on a boat is a trouble.” That “men should not exercise.” Oh, and by the way, they are not “men” anymore. Because there are “wim” (wom singular) and there are “manwin” (manwom singular). And a lot of words that are derived from “man” are modified in a similar way. 

Well, you just have to read it. Nothing will prove the absurdity of assigning gender roles that the book assigns them backward. Or that IS indeed the right way:)? 

Recent Books Reviews

The Eating Instinct.

I finished this book a while ago, but I am still unsure what I think about it. It is challenging for a book to stand out among millions of books about foods, dieting, and all related. And this book stands out. Having a child who stopped eating altogether in infancy after a serious health threat gives the author has a very personal perspective on a topic. After being through such a traumatic experience, nobody would be able to go as we all do with “calorie count,” “good foods,” etc.

The great thing this book does is returning you to the basics: food is not evil. You should enjoy food; it’s not a crime. Another important thing is that this book shows that one can eat a very limited variety of foods and still be healthy. I do not believe in “miracle foods,” and I do not believe that there are some “evil” foods, and I am glad that this book supports my point of view. However, it is hard for me to agree with the idea that you should not do anything with your eating habits, that any regulation of your food intake is bad.

I think that we can’t expect our eating instinct to be all “natural” when the lifestyle most humans live is not exactly “natural.” Since I moved to the city three months ago and started life without a car, I can feel how much my new lifestyle is better for my health. The moves are naturally embedded in my everyday life; it’s not “exercising,” it’s “living.” And with this new lifestyle, I do not have a pressing need as I had before to count calories and the number of steps per day.

Many people live differently, and many people objectively can’t “exercise 60 min a day”. I do not think that “do nothing” about your eating habits is a good idea. And although I strongly dislike the
the word “dieting,” I think that a person can change how they eat and not feel deprived.

Sure I will be your black friend,

This book disappointed me. Based on the reviews, I was anticipating something deeper, if not more analytical, at least more thoughtful. I expected conversations about common stereotypes, which were hinted at by the names of the chapters. The book ended up being just another autobiography (for at least 90% of it).
In addition, while I was reading this book, the question continued to pop up: how all the people the author mentions reacted? It is true for any autobiography, but when a book is written by an older person, it’s easier to “abstract” from the characters inhabiting the book and to think about them as somebody in the past. But in that case, the author is young, and he writes about events that happened just a couple of years ago, or even later. I would not like to be any of these people he writes about! Even if there are no bad things said.

The Warsaw Orphan

For a couple of weeks, I was reading five different books simultaneously, and this week, I finished two of them. The first one was The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer.

The last chapters of the novel were the most unexpected, and most touching to me. While I read enough literature and memoirs of people who survived the Holocaust and the Warsaw Uprising, the part I never understood was how the same people came to terms with the Soviet occupation and feel Poland being their country even under the Communist regime. I tried to understand it when I visited Poland, the country of my ancestors, in the late 80s and 90s. I read this novel as a story of the souls crippled by the horrors of the war, about healing, and rebuilding their lives in the less than ideal circumstances.

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. 

Packing Books

Where did all these books come from?! I didn’t buy any paper books for years!!! Most of the bookshelves were half-empty. Why are there so many boxes?!

Vlad and Dylon took two large boxes of books to the library. It was a blessing that the library started to accept donations again.

Igor spent more than four hours in my house today sorting books. He took two suitcases and one backpack of books with him. He also threw away tons of stuff. After he was done, I filled another four boxes with donation books and three more boxes to take to Fargo. And I am not done yet! There are several boxes worth of books in the library; I only packed a small fraction so far – one bookcase out of four.
I have every hour of my Saturday scheduled (and I know that I won’t have enough time to do all I need:))

The Book Is About to Go Into Print

Yesterday, I approved a cover proof of our book:). Our editor told us that it will go in production on March 8 and will be available on May 7, which is very exciting.

Also, our technical reviewer published a blog post about the NORM methodology, and it raises a lot of interest (as I can tell by the number of people hitting my GItHub repo. I know that my friends in tech follow me on LInkedIn, but still I will post the link here as well:

Maid: A Book Review

This is not the real review, just the short note, since I want to mention this book to my friends who are following what I read.

Another book I finished last week, was Maid by Stephanie Land.You might want to say that “that’s what Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about in “Nickled and Dimed,” except for (as she herself said in the foreword) that’s FOR REAL. Stephanie is not role-playing. it’s not a game, it’s survival.

Working hard is not enough. Working multiple jobs is not enough. Trying your best is not enough

My takeaway from this book is: people who are struggling, need help. They need help from organizations, funds, and people. From individuals. Otherwise, survival mode will stay forever.

Laziness Does Not Exists: A Book Review

I especially liked the first half of the book. I’d say I would give 5 stars to the first four chapters and four stars for the rest. I felt like the second half was partially repeating the first, and at the same time, it felt less convincing and slightly off-topic. But what I just said does not diminish the fact that this book is AWESOME! For me, it was also extremely timely – just when I felt completely burned down.
Interestingly, I knew most of the things this book is talking about many years ago. I knew that even when we have an 8-hour workday, the actual time we can produce the intellectual results is not more than four hours a day. I knew that switching from time to time your attention to something which is not “work” helps the thinking process. I knew that when you work too much and too hard, your body becomes less immune and more prone to all sorts of illnesses.
I knew it all, but after I joined my current company, where I really wanted to do all the things I wanted, and it was too much of these things, I started to think that if it is not “somebody” which makes me work more, but I, then “it does not count.” I do not know whether anybody can make any sense out of the last sentence :), but at least I know what I meant to say :))

Another thought which resonated with me a lot was about “me” and “everybody else.” Devon Price says that most of the people he interviewed for this book would agree that “people in general” are not lazy, but they would say: but I am REALLY lazy. For me, it was “nobody has to work overtime, and it is unproductive anyway,” but “I” CAN work long hours, because “I” have a very special attitude, and since I WANT it, not like somebody MAKES me, I will be productive. Maybe now that timing was right, but I took it in this time. Even before I finished the book, I resolved to make changes to the way I work now, monitor how many hours I spend working, and not allow my direct reports and people around me to work long hours. It is unproductive and sometimes dangerous.

And the final takeaway from this book was about stopping “saving” people. Once again, I knew for a while that I rush into “saving” people way too often. Recently, I started to distinguish between people who need just a little push or simply encouragement and people who need me to listen to their complaints about everything that goes wrong with their lives. It’s nothing wrong with complaining; I just started to realize that there are people who are not looking for ways to improve their situation but need to complain just for the sake of complaining.

To summarize, by the time I turned the last page, I had a whole bunch of resolutions, and I also liked the author’s personality and writing style a lot!