This was a hard choice – it took many months to reach the conclusion this is what I needed to do.
Most people have gone thru strong programming: they think you have to be ‘successful’ at something. Success is externally defined, anyhow (as opposed to satisfaction which we define ourselves) and therefore you are supposed to study in college a certain field, then use that at work to build your career in the same field… and keep doing the same thing.
I was never like that – I didn’t go to college, I didn’t study as an ‘engineer’. I just saw there was a market opportunity to find a job when I started, studied on the job, eventually excelled at it. But it never was *the* road. It just was one road; it has served me well so far, but it was just one thing I tried, and it worked out. How did it start? As a pre-teen, I had been interested in computers, then left that for a while, did ‘normal’ high school (in Italy at the time, this was really non-technological), then I tried to study sociology for a little bit – I really enjoyed the Cultural Anthropology lessons there, and we were smoking good weed with some folks outside of the university, but I really could not be asked to spend the following 5 or 10 years or my life just studying and ‘hanging around’ – I wanted money and independence to move out of my parent’s house.
So, without much fanfare, I revived my IT knowledge: upgraded my skill from the ‘hobbyist’ world of the Commodore 64 and Amiga scene (I had been passionate about modems and the BBS world then), looked at the PC world of the time, rode the ‘Internet wave’ and applied for a simple job at an IT company.
A lot of my friends were either not even searching for a job, with the excuse that there weren’t any, or spending time in university, in a time of change, where all the university-level jobs were taken anyway so that would have meant waiting even more after they had finished studying… I am not even sure they realized this until much later. But I just applied, played my cards, and got my job.
When I went to sign it, they also reminded me they expected hard work at the simplest and humblest level: I would have to fix PC’s, printers, help users with networking issues and tasks like those – at a customer of theirs, a big company. I was ready to roll up my sleeves and help that IT department however I would be capable of, and I did. It all grew from there.
And that’s how my IT career started. I learned all I know of IT on the job and by working my ass off and studying extra hours and watching older/more expert colleagues and making experience.
I am not an engineer. I am, at most, a mechanic. I did learn a lot of companies and the market, languages, designs, politics, the human and technical factors in software engineering and the IT marketplace/worlds, over the course of the past 18 years.
But when I started, I was just trying to lend a honest hand, to get paid some money in return – isn’t that what work was about?
Over time IT got out of control. Like Venom, in the Marvel comics, that made its appearance as a costume that SpiderMan started wearing… and it slowly took over, as the ‘costume’ was in reality some sort of alien symbiotic organism (like a pest).
You might be wondering what I mean. From the outside I was a successful Senior Program Manager of a ‘hot’ Microsoft product. Someone must have mistaken my diligence and hard work for ‘talent’ or ‘desire of career’ – but it never was. I got pushed up, taught to never turn down ‘opportunities’.
First and foremost, I am taking time for myself and my family. I am reading (and writing) I am cooking again I have been catching up on sleep – and have dreams again I am helping my father in law to build a shed in his yard We bought a 14-years old Volkswagen van that we are turning into a Camper I have not stopped building guitars – in fact I am getting setup to do it ‘seriously’ – so I am also standing up a separate site to promote that activity I am making music and discovering new music and instruments I am meeting new people and new situations
There’s a lot of folks out there who either think I am crazy (they might be right, but I am happy this way), or think this is some sort of lateral move – I am not searching for another IT job, thanks. Stop the noise on LinkedIn please: I don’t fit in your algorithms, I just made you believe I did, all these years.
There are no ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toys. Just toys. The gender-aligned toys are an evil invention of marketers. Or maybe to an extent it existed before – dolls were given to girls as they had to get used to the idea of being mums, boys were fighting in courtyards with wooden swords.
But to kids, toys are toys. My daughter joins in the sword fights of her brothers. They partecipate in tea parties with the dolls and puppets. One of my daughter ‘dolls’ is a Dalek (from the Doctor Who serie) that yells ‘EXTERMINATE!’ if you squeeze it.
Dolls and puppets are just means for kids to tell stories. It doesn’t really matter which toy you give them – in fact if there were more ‘gender neutral’ ones that’d be better – but kids will make any toy have adventures and do things together with the other toys, whether they are all coming from the same factory/box/series or not. My oldest sons liked cars – but what he was really doing was role playing with them: the cars were speaking to each other and interacting like humans (this was years before Pixar made the movie ‘Cars’, btw).
The basic need of the kid is to play and replay and practice repeating the type of interactions he’s observed in the world: from his parents, from other people, from the television. The ‘where’ those interaction are copied is not proportional to any fake sense of ‘authority’, as we would like to have it. It just depends on the level of exposure: if a kid watches crappy and shallow television programs all day, that’s the level and style of interaction he’ll absorb, and he will repeat and try to apply in his games with his or her toys, whether these toys were ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ toys.
As a kid, I did have dolls (including a Barbie and a realistic-looking baby with a dummy), as well as cowboy guns and hats, as well as music instruments, cars, Legos… A bit of everything.
But in short, I was allowed to explore and not be bound to gender roles.
Not always – I remember I did have to ask and work on convincing my mother to get me that Barbie – I was already ‘older’ and she was afraid I would get teased. I surely would be, but I didn’t care. After all, all those other action figures and ‘boys’ puppets I had found it kind of boring for it to be in an all-men party. The good of the community must come before my own, I thought.
Just around this time at the beginning of August, twenty years ago, is when I first met Jyothi. 20 years is a long time, of which we have been living together for the last 14 and have been married for 12 and a half. As we approach our 40 years milestones (I turned 39 in March, Jyothi in July) we have now known each other for more than half of our lives. I am so blessed I met my soul mate, my lover, my best friend and the mother of my kids – and I would have certainly never imagined what booking that cheap holiday in ’95, after I had passed my high school exams, would have led to. The best things just happen, you can’t stage them or set them up. You need to be in the flow.
While this post is obviously an open Love letter to my wife, you have to be warned that the rest of this article is NSFW (Not Safe For reading at Work). Read on at your own discretion.
As I was thinking about writing this piece and how to best explain what our relationship means to me, I stumbled into this article on the Huffington Post, which describes a relationship that looks just about the opposite… it’s so far from my views of how a relationship should be, that I’ll use it to explain by contrast what both marriage and feminism – and respect – mean to me, instead!
If I should summarize the article in a single sentence, I would probably do it like this twitter comment. But this post contains the extended version.
In the article, he author (a guy who has an ‘open’ relationship) mounts an articulate argument to attempt to preserve his self-esteem while his wife happily screws other men twice a week (and he’s also allowed to but doesn’t do it as much as she does…) and he is the ‘stay at home dad’ and he’s obviously very bothered by it but he’s trying to deny it and say he’s fine and he accepts this cross because he’s a Feminist ?! Sorry but you guys are doing it all wrong. This is not feminism. This is American capitalism: you guys have chosen quantity over quality.
What I get from the story is that the author seems sincerely convinced he’s doing the right thing, but there is an underlying lack of respect for him in all that she does – or what he lets us know about it – and he lets her get away with everything. To me it doesn’t sound like it’s really working: you don’t sound happy. It sounds like she enjoys the other guys more, and you are losing her. You guys should talk and dig deep and understand what’s she finding in those other men that you don’t seem to give her, but you should also make her stop hurting you. It’s also not clear why you really chose to make your relationship ‘open’ – there is a short explanation but is very simplistic. You should dig deeper there to analyze what led you to that moment, and how you felt there.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become” – Buddha
Either get back in touch and try to heal each other, or maybe you should even question why you are still together. It’s not necessary that one of the two people in the couple has to take it all but then plays the martyr role. There is a lot of passive aggression that transpires from that article, while stating that he’s fine with all of it. Is also not clear how the kids are taking this – they sound like a ‘burden’ to you. I am not sure how they are living what they see and what they are learning from it. I would think maybe – just maybe – two independent but fully happy parents might actually give a better example in this case than what you are showing them here.
But why did I pick on this article? Well, it got me thinking because the topic of ‘open’ relationships has been another cause of bother in our permanence in the United States: wherever we went, we kept ending up meeting/hearing/reading about many ‘open couples’ and poly-amorous relationships – and we have even been offered (and gently but firmly declined, albeit temptations messed up our minds for months…) to do exchanges and swaps and orgies from people we’d never expected such proposals… never happened in Europe, seriously. Yes some people do those things, it’s known. But not that many, really, and from our recent first hand observation I believe the phenomenon is way bigger in the United States than I had ever known or suspected. We were not prepared for that.
Now you would think we are bigots. Moralists. Old fashioned. It’s not the point, we are actually quite open – I am not saying people shouldn’t do those things. They like what they like, and that’s OK if it really works for them and makes them happy. But I am, anyhow, stating polygamy and various degrees of ‘openness’ in relationships aren’t something for us, because we think they don’t work in practice, and everybody gets hurt. One of my past girlfriends cheated on me once, and she told me, and I was very hurt but I forgave her. But I think she was unconsciously trying to push me away, and the relationship was never the same again. Then she cheated again, then eventually we split up and she went with her new guy, who incidentally was my band’s new guitarist – I had lost my girlfriend and my band at the same time. Neither the sexual nor the ‘professional’ relationships of that guy with my ex girl and the band lasted long, but it hurt like hell, and it took me a while to put myself together. Jyothi’s ex husband used to cheat on her too (and he didn’t even tell her but was pretty obvious/under the sun). He also gambled and made them end up with debts. She took the hit for a while, but she eventually kicked him out and divorced him.
We all have had fantasies. We all have our weird thoughts and fears. Our animal bodies and senses, especially in this over-stimulating society, always crave for more. We are stressed and try to fill a void in the absurdity of our societies and workplaces. We are exposed to all sorts of programming and are actively ‘targeted’ by marketers who want us to always desire more, to buy more, to feel that we have never enough. This extends to desire for more sex, or more love. There are even folks who start movements and write that they have ‘more’ love to give and one partner isn’t enough for them. Well, you know what? You might think you can handle it – and maybe you can, for a while – but I see you are spreading too thin. You could spend that time better to strengthen the relationships you already have, if you think they are worth it, rather than starting all sort of new ones. Aren’t we all already spreading too thin by time slicing seconds here and there for friends on social network, over life on this side of the screen? But in relationships you need to tackle the issues you have, and you have got to make some choices. You can fight for and fix those issues when you care for it, or otherwise it sounds like you have already given up but can’t dare to admit it. Either way, you cannot want it all and want it now and throw a tantrum like a baby and get away with it, that’s not how life works.
The guy of the Huffington post article mentions that when his wife was sleeping with other men he once got worried when she didn’t even come back late but stayed out all night. Gosh, I would die at the idea my wife is out for ‘fun’ on one of those dates! But this is not feminism, she’s walking over you! Feminism is about equality and fairness. It shouldn’t mean that women now should emulate and repeat all the bad/stupid bossy behaviors they endured for centuries from men. It’s bad and disrespectful behavior regardless of which side does it.
I remember with a lot of pain and solitude the many nights I spent out of the house, and not for fun, in a period years ago when we were living in Italy and I was travelling for work a lot, visiting customers all over Europe and Middle East. I spent those many lonely nights in (sometimes fancy, sometimes crappy) hotels, often working extra hours not knowing what else to do, sometimes masturbating if I could not hold my hormonal levels, but eagerly waiting to get back home and make love with my wife again. And she spent those same lonely nights at home too, in the same frame of mind…
Did I have occasions to cheat? Plenty – the company I work for even hosts to conference in places like Las Vegas (what is more terrible is that this is a place where Americans families – with kids – go on holiday):
But I never cheated.
Many nights in those hotels I really missed ending the day together with Jyothi, after the kids are asleep, when we can sit or lay together and talk about how our days went and the things we want to do together, and everything and nothing… and when we are together we do make love, yes we do enjoy quite a bit of sex with each other, that really I don’t think any of us would even have energies to spare and go with someone else… without taking energy away from what we have. And we don’t feel the tradeoff is worth. And even on the days when we don’t make love, we talk, read, we feel life together, we enjoy the little things. We really enjoy being together.
Now, when we moved from Italy (where my work was the one that made me travel so much) to the United States, I was hoping the new job to be done ‘at the office’ (as opposed to travelling to customers) would give me the time to be more present – not less! Turns out I was physically present almost every single day now, not travelling every other week anymore… but after a while I fell trap to something else: my job’s rhythm became so intense that I stopped being ‘mentally’ present: for several months my head was just focused on the project I was working on, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, and I stopped having a life… and I was ruining what we have, because I was becoming absent. Sure, I was working 80-hours weeks and therefore paying the bills, but I wasn’t doing anything else anymore, and I was growing distant and grumpy. Jyothi helped me see what I was doing, we talked about it, and she helped me remember who my better self was and how he looked like. Because that’s what you do when you care for someone – you fight for him or her, you don’t just let that grow more and more distant down any slippery slope. It was a very painful period, and Jyothi also got sick due to all the stress of having to do more alone than ever in a country with no other family or support system, and of what I talked about in the previous three posts on this blog. I dropped some balls, I delegated more, we moved back to Europe and scaled back on the pressure. But in the end we both grew a hell of a lot stronger – and self aware – together, rather than falling apart.
I am a feminist, and I respect my wife by spending as much quality time with her as possible, whenever possible. Every night is a date night for us. This doesn’t mean we need to go anywhere or do anything fancy and spend a fortune; I just mean we are present for each other with emotional intelligence, which is what human beings really need. Also, we share the load of things like cleaning, cooking, etc – those are not ‘mine’ or ‘her’ jobs, they don’t have anything to do with who works in an ‘official’ job and who works at home running after 3 kids… we are pretty fluid in that and naturally take turns – but it’s based again on being there and understanding the other “I see you are tired, today I’ll cook”, things like that. I am sorry for a period I didn’t do this anymore, when I had lost myself.
I am a feminist, and I respect my wife by not cheating, even if my dick sometimes does feel otherwise (and I won’t deny it). But those organs tend to have a mind of their own. Especially if your colleagues fed you Vodka at the company event and you normally don’t even drink coffee, let alone alcohol… But it’s safe to assume that pussies have the same impulses, and here’s the trick: you can actually ignore those impulses like you can control shopping frenzy. You can, right? Because *that* is exactly the problem, and that is the point I am trying to make – in all this flourishing of ‘open’ and ‘poly’ that we have seen in America and keep hearing about on the media, the problem is that people are not in touch with themselves – and with others. They think they can just ‘shop’ for happiness. Get more quantity. Bigger burgers! More dicks! More pussies! More everything!
This is caused by stress of a life that goes too fast, by being bombarded with horrible stimulations about how you should live, and conditioning of consumerism only seeking to make more money but give out all the wrong values and messages.
Why should you spread thin and handle multiple half-ass relationships, when you can have one that is just amazing? You can do a million things and do them all crap. Or you can try to juggle a lot less and maybe do each thing you do properly. Relationships don’t “just work” – you have to actually be involved in them and spend effort on making them work. From both sides. And the growth you get – together – is wonderful, and totally worth it.
When a hooker in Vegas tried to get my attention telling she would make me spend the best night of my life, I smiled and continued along my road, thinking the best night of my life had been the night my daughter was born and I had to argue with and shout at the nurse to be allowed to stay with Jyothi in the hospital. I helped her as much as I could, at least with my presence, hearing and feeling her go thru the pain of the delivery.
That’s why I am a very lucky man. Because with Jyothi we spend time together and enjoy the little things, and we are a fantastic team. Of two.
This is one more post about things that disturbed us in America, and eventually led to the decision of coming back to Europe.
No, I don’t mean to say everything about America was bad. It wasn’t. We have learned a lot. We did amazing things, met some incredible people and visited places and nature that is so beautiful it can’t be described with words or pictures: my limited attempts to portrait the beauty of that continent are on my photos on Flickr… but in real life it is so much more fantastic. I loved to see Eagles flying over us; I enjoyed camping like primitives among huge trees that have seen an ancient world and shared those spaces with the Native people, in harmony; it’s not in many places in the world nowadays that you can drive thru forests or deserts or prairies so beautiful that take your breath away for hundreds of miles; I even had a good laugh when the occasional raccoon decided to climb on our tree at night and eat all the plums (which sounded like a Pig was stuck on the tree, by the way – another strange night episode, but actually funnier that the one with the police I wrote about in my previous post).
But we also experienced a society that, weighting all factors, is not the one we want our offsprings to grow in, and after the first euphoric and exploratory years we couldn’t really see ourselves growing old there.
So, here’s another story that happened to us. And – as the pain it caused is starting to heal – I am still grateful it did happen and life manifested itself this way, because it truly opened our eyes.
One day in November Sara said to my wife: “You know, mum? I have a friend called Sara – she stays out of school, and Sarah enters the school. Then we meet again when I come out.”
Sara and Sarah. A trailing ‘h’ and a fairly different pronunciation (you’d pronounce it ‘Sara’ closer to ‘Zara’ than how you say ‘Sarah’ with an American-English accent). But wait, it’s not just about the name – the kid was really telling us she was not allowed to be herself – Sara – in school, where she has to pretend to be someone else – Sarah (the only way people in the States were able to pronounce her name), to meet expectations and handle the pressure in school. The name was just a label for the different ‘roles’, but this was to us a wake-up call: hearing this from your 5 years old, as a parent, deeply hurt my wife (and myself, later).
Sara had always been a very happy and nice little girl. But she was telling us she had been wearing a mask, doing everything according to the book in school, while she was being deprived and denied in her own self-image and esteem.
This was her first year in kindergarten – previously she had been in a ‘cooperative’ pre-school, which had been a relatively nice experience, as basically all the mums were co-teaching the toddlers, so my wife could really be involved in her education and have a clear idea of what was going on. But at the public school, the school year had only started for a couple of months, and we didn’t really know what to expect – sure, Luca, our older son, had started school in America when he was 7 – before that he had done kindergarten and began elementary school in Italy – and his first couple of years had been largely ‘English full immersion’. With Joshua we had seen junior high and high schools. Lots of math, largely, I wasn’t particularly happy of the programs either… but with Sara we saw the public school system from the start and that made us even more unhappy.
We expected that 5 years old kids, even if they had to start learning something ‘mental’, would still be allowed to play and to interact to some extent with each other. That is not what we found: it was more of a crash course in obedience, submission and a rat race to learn things way too fast and way too early, that completely stressed out our kid.
In the photo below you can see how she had developed an eczema from continuously biting her lower lip – basically respecting the ‘stay quiet’ and ‘listen’ and ‘don’t talk unless you are asked to answer something’ she was given as rules. You can also see she was forced in a stiff ‘standard’ type of smile, not natural at all. If it wasn’t that the topic is about my daughter and it hurts, it would almost be ironic this is the ‘official’ picture for the picture book of the year… so the school can keep good record of how they did that year…
What were they asking of her, you might be wanting to know.
Well, we found it pretty intensive that in 12 hours a week (3 hours a day for 4 days):
The kids were supposed to learn to read, write, and count and do math with numbers under the 20 – way too much ‘logical’ thinking at that age, too fast, too soon.
[…] Critics argue that the focus on standardized testing (all students in a state take the same test under the same conditions) encourages teachers to teach a narrow subset of skills that the school believes increases test performance, rather than focus on deeper understanding of the overall curriculum. For example, a teacher who knows that all questions on a math test are simple addition problems (e.g., What is 2 + 3?) might not invest any class time on the practical applications of addition, to leave more time for the material the test assesses. This is colloquially referred to as “teaching to the test.” […]
They only had a break of 10 minutes each day: 10 minutes are not enough at that age they still need to run wild and play spontaneously…
Even in those 10 minutes, they were NOT even allowed to eat anything. Because of other kids with food allergies. About this, we even arranged for her brother Luca – who was in the same school but a higher class and was having break at the same time – to provide her snack in the courtyard. The teacher ‘closed an eye’ on it, until someone found out and complained to the Principal of the school. No, really, my kid needs to eat, and even eat something healthy, *especially* if you expect them to be able to focus and use their brains. They won’t offer them to others, and it’s easy to implement some slightly more tolerant policies (i.e. please don’t give you kids snacks of some categories that cause allergies. Albeit a future post on food allergies – and food in general – in the States is probably something I’ll write in the future.). I know that when I am short on sugar, I get grumpy and I can’t think straight myself – good sugar is actually good for your brain
There was, however, time to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (almost) every day. If you don’t know what the pledge of allegiance is – it’s because you come from a (even if only slightly) more decent country like myself. Also, if you are European, you might have studied that the Americans came to rescue us from the evil Nazi’s in second world war, so you might have this feeling that Americans wouldn’t do the same things as the Nazi’s… would they? Well, you can read about the pledge on Wikipedia but essentially it is a ritual where you swear your loyalty to the American flag that you’ll love it and respect it and be a good robot citizen, to say it my way. The whole thing is coupled with holding a hand on your heart, or with a military salute. There is an interesting photo (and its comments) you should read
A photo of a child is titled: “little girl giving the Heil Hitler salute 1934.” It is so funny to read comments from U.S. citizens (and others) remarking that the photo is disturbing because it shows how pliable children are. No one is aware that it was the salute used in the U.S. and originated in the U.S. (see the work of the symbologist Dr. Rex Curry). None of the U.S. citizens is aware that the photograph could be of a U.S. girl (and not a german girl) and the commentators would not know. The thought has never entered their minds. They cannot even make a comparison to the modern Pledge of Allegiance ritual and gesture in the U.S.
[About similarities in the american public school system and the Nazi schools, you should also watch this Disney movie, which ironically was part of American’s Anti-Nazi propaganda during World War II]
No real ‘playing’ as kids are not really allowed to touch/get close to each other during play – everywhere they stress about respecting ‘personal space’
Kids were given ‘rewards’ when performing what we would consider simple normal tasks – i.e. putting back your chair next to the table (rather than leaving it a mess in the middle of the room) is something we do expect kids to learn early on and do simply out of respect and courtesy. Not something that has to be specially ‘awarded’ like having been heroic or patriotic. Especially if the reward is this stupid bottle with more Stalin-style (I compared to the Nazi – let’s use a different totalitarian example) propaganda:
Kid’s behavior was tracked and also ‘rewarded’ with stickers and ribbons and tickets every week – green, yellow and red. I think it’s what they use in some prisons in Europe, not in toddler schools:
The above list should have given you an idea. And I am sure I am missing and I have forgotten about some details.
If the above looks ‘normal’ to you – it doesn’t have to be like this. It’s not like this across the ocean in many countries.
And by the way – we were not leaving in a ‘bad’ or ‘poor’ area either – this is one of the ‘best’ school districts around Seattle, where a lot of educated people live who work for big companies such as Microsoft, Google, Nintendo, Boeing, Amazon, etc…
I broke down when I understood what I made my kids go thru, by coming to work to the States. Thru this and to other episodes.
I am convinced that many people – both Americans from previous generations (when schools were better) or even immigrants like us – don’t even *realize* they are exposing their children to this type of programming. Largely because life is frenetic, work is demanding, and both husband and wife both work.
We (me and my wife) like other school systems and methods, like Waldorf, or even Montessori (for some kids it works well, albeit not for all) – that place an emphasis on raising individuals that can be critical thinkers and self-standing humans, not obedient calculating machines. Anyhow, I didn’t even like a ‘mitigation’ such as sending them to a private school of that kind – they do exist, but private schools are *so damn expensive* that they are really only affordable by a very small rich segment of society. If I had one kids, maybe, but with three – 20 thousand dollars a year per kid are just not something many families can get by, and those are the prices… but even if I could afford it, I believe that gating access to ‘better’ schools thru money just makes the school environment an ‘elite’ one: not only unfair for those who cannot afford to access it, but even detrimental for the students who can, as they get no exposure to ‘real’ society and are raised in a ‘bubble’, which kind of defeats the purpose and premise of those schools’ supposedly more ‘open’ views. This is of course also what allows some people to go to ‘prestigious’ colleges and get jobs easily, while others can’t even try getting close to the bottom of the ladder. But higher education and access to workforce – is another topic I might look at in a future post, not right now.
Back to the specific effect this school experience had on Sara: I showed the ‘stress lip’ physical sign above, but there were also deeper psychological effects on her (not) growing up – in fact even regressing in some sense. For example, the summer before she started kindergarten, she was starting to draw more detailed ‘puppets’ – not just a head with ‘sticks’ – she was starting to add bodies and fingers and more details… and then, only a couple of months in kindergarten, she was only drawing heads again. And small ones.
Guess what happened once we moved to the Netherlands and she started attending a (public, tax-funded – here it’s normal) Waldorf school? In this last couple of months her drawings ‘evolved’ again, and they started featuring bodies again (in fact, the body is now drawn before adding a head on top of it – and it even gets a belly button!) and hands and feet have become more detailed due to the stimulation of being immersed in physical/practical/interpretive activities as opposed to just ‘mental’ ones like it was the case at the public school in the states. Besides drawings, she has had a growth burst – she grew a few centimeters all of a sudden, and started changing not one but FOUR teeth, and she’s literally blooming with vitality.
And the imaginary friend? We have not heard from her again – there is just the real Sara now:
If you are here for IT content – this is not one of those posts. It also doesn’t feature any new song and it’s NOT politically correct. But it is a true story that happened to us while living in the United States.
It was Friday night. Or you could call it Saturday ‘morning’ – basically it was fairly late, like quarter to 2 AM in the middle of your weekend, after a very hectic week – we were finally relaxing: we had had dinner, watched a movie, the kids had all gone to sleep, me and my wife had made love and we had been talking in bed and we were finally starting to fall asleep. We both were in that in between state between darkness and wonder, when you aren’t completely in Morpheus’ arms yet but not fully awake either. But pretty damn relaxed and almost ready for some great night sleep… …thump… I start hearing noises – are they from outside? A car? People? Not sure, I try to ignore them but they kind of broke the spell already… Is anyone with military boots walking in my dream or in my front yard? Are those our crackling wooden steps to the door that I hear? I have never been scared for burglars and the like – we simply don’t own anything that is worth stealing… wait, are they knocking at the door? I realize my wife’s breathing has also changed, she is half awake too, I ask: “Is that our door that they are knocking at?” – and they knock again, harder – this time we are sure we heard it right. Is this a nightmare? I try to crawl out of bed, put something on (I was previously naked)… the knocking continues and my temper starts raising as I get worried they – whoever it is – might be waking up my little daughter (or her older brothers, but she’d be more effort to then calm down again if she wakes up with nightmares…). I walk thru the corridor, down the little stair (the house was on a split level) and reach the door – still in the dark. I ask: “Who’s there?” and I receive a thunder in return: “Police!”. Not sure I can recollect all that went thru my mind – now even more confused if this was some kind of nightmare I was in – and my heart started racing. I froze. I have done nothing wrong, I thought. What could they possibly want at this hour of the night? I try to mumble something like “I am trying to open the door” – which was indeed what I was trying to do, but I was still in the dark, incapable of thinking straight and finding the light switch. I fiddle with the doorknob and lock enough and eventually I manage to open the door on a gap – I am still in the dark indoor, and the outdoor lamp is still on and blinds me from behind two tall, dark, male figures with weapons et all… I am frightened but I nonetheless attempt to pull out a straight face and say something. In the absurdity of the situation, the only thing that comes out of my mouth is: “Whatsup?”. The police officer does not seem amused, and he asks for Joshua. I think a million things again – has he done something wrong maybe? He’s such a good boy… I say I am not Joshua, that my son is downstairs, in his room, presumably sleeping. I hear in the back that now my daughter has woken up from the noise (and the tension in the air) and my wife is attending her, trying to calm her down. The officer explains that there is no time to lose, that they had received a call from a very good friend of Joshua and she thought he might be committing suicide because he was not returning her messages and had turned off his phone (!?). It takes me a minute to register what I just heard – did he just say that? Suicide? Joshua? What does he know about Joshua anyway? Since when is it a felony to switch off a phone? I am the teen’s parent, I have seen him grow up, he’s a stable boy (especially when I see other teenagers). Whatever ‘very’ good friend – since we had only been in the states a couple of years at that point and Joshua had changed schools in between – is probably just some hormonal teen who wants attention, I think – but I of course I don’t say this. I just say “yes, I know that he broke up with his girlfriend, but we talked about it and he seemed pretty fine with this, almost relieved. I don’t think he would commit suicide; certainly not for this.”. As a matter of fact, the counselor and principal of the school had spoken with my wife about this during the day, and they had informed us they knew about the ‘break up’ and that they had spoken to Joshua and he seemed fine (and may I admit that this thing *already* looked like over-protective and privacy invading to us?).
But the police men insist they have received a call and they need to perform their duty and make sure he’s fine. My wife also comes by, I tell her something quickly about what’s going on, but basically we have to walk down and make an entrance into Joshua’s room, and turn on the lights and brutally wake him up and have the office verify that indeed he seemed quite fine. Joshua explained he had just turned off his phone as he wanted to sleep. Thank you for coming by. They eventually concluded there was no evident risk, and left. Nothing happened, no ‘formal’ consequences… …but I didn’t sleep that night until 3 hours later, and I think the rest of the family slept uneasily too. And I have slept crap since that day for the couple of years afterwards, and I never felt safe in my own house again. Or anywhere.
How do they dare to think they know our son better than we do? How can they listen to a report of a hormonal teen and just raid into people’s homes like that? What a fuzz, and what an annoying invasion of privacy – into my son’s private life as well as in our home! American citizens worry for the NSA but they don’t worry for this kind of behavior. Most don’t even seem to ‘see’ the issue here – the scariest thing of all is the reaction of some of our American friends once we told them this story: some of them were along the lines of “how good/nice that they came to check! Makes you feel safe, doesn’t it?”. And they were not being sarcastic – they positively thought that was a good thing. You can keep that if that makes *you* feel secure. It make me literally pooh-pooh my pants. I felt I (we, all) were at the mercy of total randomness and we had to be scared of the people around us, because they could easily be following their paranoia’s and get us into trouble, with no proof whatsoever needed to initiate the process.
I had never heard of or lived anything like this. Besides in the stories of the people deported by the Nazi’s to the concentration camps – in no country in Europe you get the police at your door in the middle of the night for something like this!
This type of situations is one of the reasons that made us really stressed and sick (call us over-sensitive) in the last couple of years we have been in America, and we eventually decided it was not the place for us, and we moved back to Europe. I will be sharing some other stories and reasons in future posts… stay tuned.
One thing that we (both me and Jyothi) miss in the States, are markets. Flea markets, 2nd hand markets, veggie markets, spice markets… all kind of open air markets. You must think we are nuts – there ARE markets here, after all! Well, yeah. Sort of. I mean, if you consider the various famers markets, thrift stores, garage and yard sales and various other markets (i.e. today we went to the Freemont’s Sunday Market for example), yes there are various places where you can get either the market feeling and/or rummage in between old junk and find hidden treasures. But… the biggest ‘but’ we have is that all those things are either geographically dispersed (you need to drive miles in between each of them) and even in the case of those markets… they are SMALL. You can see the entire Freemont market above in 20 minutes. It’s nice – I even shopped! – but by the time you start having that cozy market feeling… you reached the end of the street, you have seen it all – that WAS it. Seriously. EVERYTHING in America is big, but markets here are really nothing for us spoiled Europeans who have been visiting Portobello Road, Porta Portese and the Bazaar in Bewerwijk. I mean a MARKET. in ALL CAPS. One that you get there at 10 in the morning, you walk around a section of and around 12 you get some lunch, some tea/coffe, then you walk some more… then by 3 PM you still have not managed to see it all, and you finally give up, happy and exhausted, and head back home… American friends – where are you keeping the good markets hidden? Do you even know what I am talking about?
This one you are reading now, instead, is more “philosophical” than technical – I think that, going forward, I’ll keep more of this distinction by posting my rants here on my personal blog, as they are only partially related to the products and more about my point of view on things. The reasons explained below are just those that I perceive and what drives me – I don’t mean in any way to be speaking on behalf of my company, our strategists or product planners.
I have heard statements from customers such as “AVIcode is a developer tool” or “APM is for QA/Test environments – if you need it in production you have not done your QA work well”and similar statements. People asked why we did bring together the two, for example, on the TechNet forums. Sure, it can be useful to employ such a tool also in a development and QA/test environment… but why not in production? With frequent deployments that the agile business demands, change control alone can’t slow down the business and sometimes bad things happen anyway – so we need solid monitoring to keep an eye on the behavior and performance on the system, exposed in a way that can quickly pinpoint where issues might be – be them in the infrastructure or in the code – in a way that enables people to efficiently triage and resolve them. Sergey points out how APM in OpsMgr 2012 is much easier to setup, simpler to configure and cheaper to maintain than the standalone AVIcode product ever was, and hints at the fact that a comprehensive solution encompassing both “traditional” systems management approach as well as Application Performance Monitoring is a good one. It is a good one, in its simplest form, because we have a simplified, unified and more cost-effective infrastructure. It is a good one – I add – because we can extract a lot of useful information from within the applications, only when those are running; when they are down altogether, APM is not very useful on its own, when it is not complemented by “traditional” OS and platform checks: before I wonder if my application is slow, I’d better ask “is IIS actually up and running? is my application running at all?”. Operations Manager has been historically very good, with its management packs, in answering those questions. APM adds the deep application perspective to it, to provide rich data that Developers and Operations need to have an overall picture of what is going on in their systems and applications.
[…] On most projects I’ve worked on, the project team is split into developers, testers, release managers and sysadmins working in separate silos. From a process perspective this is dreadfully wasteful. It can also lead to a ‘lob it over the wall’ philosophy – problems are passed between business analysts, developers, QA specialists and sysadmins […] The Devops movement is built around a group of people who believe that the application of a combination of appropriate technology and attitude can revolutionize the world of software development and delivery […] these people understand the key point – we’re all on the same side! All of us – developers, testers, managers, DBAs, network technicians, and sysadmins – are all trying to achieve the same thing: the delivery of great quality, reliable software that delivers business benefit to those who commissioned it. […]
[…] The DevOps movement is a modern push from the software industry to instill better interaction and productivity between development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops). Instead of throwing applications “over the fence” blindly to operations, a fluid and much more effective DevOps process inserts transparency, efficiency and ownership into the art of developing, releasing and the production use of critical applications. It also binds the two traditionally siloed teams together. […]
When it comes to the DevOps ideas and concepts within Microsoft products, for what I can see, some customers really “get“ it, and would like to see more in this sense. For example I found this interesting blog post by James Dawson:
[…] The bulk of my work revolves around the Microsoft platform and to put it bluntly it is very much a second class citizen in terms of the available tooling.
Now I’ve fanned the flames, let me put some context around that. I don’t mean that as a criticism, in fact I view the status quo as an entirely natural result given where the movement grew out of and, to be frank, the mindset of the typical Microsoft IT shop. In a Microsoft environment there tends to be far greater reliance on big vendor products, whereas in the Linux/BSD world it is far more common to integrate a series of discrete tools into a complete tool chain that meets the needs for a given scenario. […]
I think James is right when saying this: he “gets” it, but we also have a vast user base of more “traditional” enterprise customers where the concepts have not been digested and understood yet. When it comes to traditional enterprises, what sometimes happens is well explained in this other article by Paul Krill:
[…] To protect the infrastructure, IT ops can put in place processes that seem almost draconian, causing developers to complain that these processes slow them down, says Glenn O’Donnell, an analyst at Forrester Research. Indeed, processes such as ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) that provide a standardized way of doing things, such as handling change management, can become twisted into bureaucracy for its own sake. But sometimes, people "take a good idea too far, and that happens with ITIL, too." […]
And I think that is exactly one of the reasons why, even if many of our teams “get” it, we need to talk more of the DevOps culture in those places where it hasn’t arrived yet, so that these integrated products are more successful and can help them solve problems – because some of these customers haven’t yet realized that it takes a culture shift before these new tools can be adopted. DevOps does not have critical mass today, but could have it tomorrow. Even Gartner says:
[…] by 2015, DevOps will evolve from a niche strategy employed by large cloud providers into a mainstream strategy employed by 20% of the Global 2000 organizations”. […]
So, back to suggesting that Microsoft produces more of this “goodness”, James again writes:
[…] I want to see the values espoused by DevOps spread far and wide, including the quietest backwaters of corporate IT, where Windows, Office and IE 6 reign supreme. To that end, the Microsoft infrastructure community needs to take a similar approach as the .NET community did and start bringing some of the goodness that we see in the Linux world to the Microsoft platform in a way that facilitates adoption for all and actually takes advantage of the platform’s innate richness and strengths. […]
So do I. And, for what I can tell, we are actually trying to bridge gaps and push the culture shift – integrating APM in OpsMgr is definitely an effort in this direction. But it might take some time. Is it too an “utopian” a vision? I don’t think it is; I think we can get there. But it will take some time. As this other article was saying:
[…] The DevOps approach is so radical it will take some time to cross the chasm, and indeed it will be actively resisted by many organizations where it threatens traditional delivery models and organizational structures. […]
Let’s get Dev and Ops talking to each other, also in the Enteprise! I am all for it.
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If you are one of those few readers interested in following what I do, instead – I can tell you that I am loving the new job. Lot to do, of course, and that also applies to the private sphere – did you know that relocating to another continent takes some energy and effort? – but we are settling in nicely and things are going very smooth overall.
I have been in Premier Field Engineering for nearly 7 years (it was not even called PFE when I joined – it was just “another type of support”…) and I have to admit that it has been a fun, fun ride: I worked with awesome people and managed to make a difference with our products and services for many customers – directly working with some of those customers, as well as indirectly thru the OpsMgr Health Check program – the service I led for the last 3+ years, which nowadays gets delivered hundreds of times a year around the globe by my other fellow PFEs.
But it is time to move on: I have decided to go thru a big life change for me and my family, and I won’t be working as a Premier Field Engineer anymore as of next week.
But don’t panic – I am staying at Microsoft!
I have actually never been closer to Microsoft than now: we are packing and moving to Seattle the coming weekend, and on July 18th I will start working as a Program Manager in the Operations Manager product team, in Redmond. I am hoping this will enable me to make a difference with even more customers.
Exciting times ahead – wish me luck!
That said – PFE is hiring! If you are interested in working for Microsoft – we have open positions (including my vacant position in Italy) for almost all the Microsoft technologies. Simply visit http://careers.microsoft.com and search on “PFE”.
As for the OpsMgr Health Check, don’t you worry: it will continue being improved – I left it in the hands of some capable colleagues: Bruno Gabrielli, Stefan Stranger and Tim McFadden – and they have a plan and commitment to update it to OpsMgr 2012.