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!

Reading Sophia Tolstaya Diaries

Some time ago, my friend posted several blog posts about Sophia Tolstaya, Leo Tolstoy’s wife’s Diaries. These posts prompted me to start reading.

It is a massive book; the diaries cover all her marital life, and at first, I wondered why I even started reading it and whether it is worth finishing. I never hesitate to drop the book if it does not feel engaging; that’s why my booklists end up being relatively short.

I had a completely different impression about Tolstoy and Sophia Tolstaya and their family life than my friend did. At some point, I thought that “I already got it,” and there is no reason to keep reading over and over about similar activities day by day, about the visitors, etc. But to my surprise, I found myself drawn to that book, and the more into the book, the more I got interested.

Continue reading “Reading Sophia Tolstaya Diaries”

The Book Is Official!

I will write more on one of the subsequent days, but I really want to share my news, which one of my former co-workers called “the next most important news of the day after inauguration.”

Last week, our book became official, we are on Amazon, and we will be published at the end of April.

Here is it: Amazon.

I made an official announcement a today’s meetup of Chicago PostgreSQL User Group. Also, we officially announced the open source database postgres_air, which we developed to illustrate the concepts from the book. But it ended up to be more than that, and we decided to give it to the community as our contribution.

I am happy in all possible ways ๐Ÿ™‚

Here is the recording, if somebody wants to hear a lot of me :). Tomorrow, there will be LinkedIn blog posts, and I will upload the video there as well, but not everybody follows me on LinkedIn ๐Ÿ™‚

2020 Reading

When Goodreads sent me my 2020 report, to my surprise and astonishment, I found only two books there! 

I know that I didn’t record everything I read, but it was definitely more than two!

When I checked my books on Goodreads, I found that because most of the time, I’ve recorded my reading way later than I read the books, I almost never put the date when I finished reading, and thereby Goodreads omitted them. 

I had to go back to my list of books and fill in the approximate dates when I finished them. It ended up being twenty-five books. It does not sound like a lot, but I do not record the books I read in Russian, and I do not record the books I do like. Full discloser: most of the time, if I do not like a book twenty percent into it, I just drop it. 

The last two books which I finished last year were Wildwood Creek and Redlined. The first didn’t quite meet my expectations. The beginning of the story was auspicious and expected a lot, but then it somehow ended abruptly, in a hurry, with some threads abandoned. At least, that’s how I feel. 

Igor recommended the “Redlined,” and I liked it a lot! I like the whole real-life plot: after both parents passed away, their children found their dairies, where they described the same events each from their perspective. Also, the first-generation immigrant family, and also – Chicago’s West Side transformations. Maybe, this book is not so meaningful for those who do not live in Chicago, but I enjoyed it a lot!

I am now finishing the Promised Land, and also listening and reading a couple of Russian books. They will be my first reads of 2021. 

Listening to “A Promised Land”

I started doing audiobooks instead of real books first because it became difficult for me to read and because I could listen on the go. After all the eye surgeries of this year, I can read the regular books again. However, I already got hooked on the convenience of listening, so more often, I listen. 

As for this particular book, Obama’s “Promised Land,” there is an extra incentive for listening: Barack himself narrates the book. 

Thirty hours of listening to the voice we do not hear that often anymore! Small suppressed laughs here and there. And the ability to travel back in time and relive all these amazing years again! 

I remember it so well – exactly how he describes it in the book! I remember this feeling: now it’s the time! I remember how everybody was saying: it’s too soon, and at the same time the feeling was mounting: now IS the time!

I remember everybody in the City of Chicago building where I was doing my consulting work saying: he is our future president. Before anything happened, before Springfield. I remember Anna happily telling the story of her encounter with Barak on Melissa Bean’s campaign trail: you are still above us, but we appreciate the gesture! She was so happy that she made Barak laugh.

And I remember this cold February night, the night before the announcement. I remember her calling her coach: can I be excused from practice tomorrow? There is somebody who can drive me to Springfield! And I remember the silver bells in her voice: Thank you, coach!ย 

Continue reading “Listening to “A Promised Land””

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 โ€“ 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 โ€“ among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident โ€“ 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 โ€“ 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.