Români din America de Nord II

(tot) VANCOUVER

Urmare la Români din America de Nord, primul capitol.

Cam la două luni după ce am început să muncesc la NetPerform, recruitera m-a invitat la petrecerea anuală pe care o dădea pentru clienții ei. Era modul de a le mulțumi și de a ține legătura personală cu ei. Avea și de ce – o plasatoare ia cam 20-30% din salariul lor de contract sau, dacă e plasat pe o poziție permanentă sau chiar dacă poziția de contractor e modificată de firmă într-o poziție permanentă, mai ia încă 3 luni de salar ca primă. Deși mulți români și-au manifestat amărăciunea sau furia că intermediarul face atât de mult, pe mine nu m-a deranjat niciodată. Deprinzându-mă de ideea (extrasă din pachetul „greaua moștenire a comunismului”) că omul n-are voie să exploateze munca altui om,  încerc să mă concentrez pe prosperitatea caprelor mele și nu pe boala caprei vecinului.

Downtown Vancouver, văzut din SeaBus, cu care treceam zilnic apa, din N. Vancouver.

Nu știam la ce să mă aștept dar am decis să mă duc la această petrecere. Mi se spusese continuu cât de important e „networking”-ul și, eu și soția mea, eram și cam izolați așa că m-am dus gândindu-mă, naiv, că acolo îmi voi face prieteni.Continue Reading

Freedom of speech

Nu sunt credincios. Nu pentru că n-aș vrea – trebuie să fie foarte comod să trăiești în certidune – ci pentru că nu pot. Nu am „osul credinței”. Și totuși am răsfoit Biblia. Nu este pentru mine cuvântul lui Dumnezeu ci o colecție de observații empirice, de nebunie, de platitudini, de filosofie – depinde de ce secțiune vorbim.

Una din vorbele care mi s-au lipit de minte vine din Geneză – „La început a fost CUVÂNTUL…”. Luam fraza așa cum este și nu cercetam. Apoi, într-o zi am realizat ce vrea să spună și de ce CUVÂNTUL a fost primul. CUVÂNTUL stă  între GÂND și FAPTĂ. Deși important GÂNDUL este efemer și personal, fără rostire e nimic. FAPTA fără CUVÂNT e neînțeleasă, prost primită, negândită, inacceptabilă.Continue Reading

Cearta la români…

… nu este ceartă. Este anihilare. Este un război nuclear, total, care nu lasă cărămidă peste cărămidă. Pentru că, pesemite, suntem emoționali. Unii ar spune „lipsiți de educație” sau „nematurizați”, “bădărani” sau “psihopați” dar de ce i-am asculta pe aceștia?!

Războaiele, cred eu, sunt uneori necesare. Cele limitate, în care urmărești un scop. Dar, nu, la noi scopul se pierde foarte repede după începerea războiului. Tot ce mai rămâne este dorința de anihilare. Și când se purcede la războiul nuclear, ce mai rămâne de câștigat?

Dar, suntem oameni și este greu de purtat un război de nimicire cu alți oameni. Trebuie musai să uităm că sunt oameni. Avem resursele și educația necesară, scursă prin ani de la comunism. Una din regulile propagandei este demonizarea adversarului. Așa că-l pastișăm în cele mai negre culori. Îi uităm pluridimensionalitatea proprie umanității, îi ștergem cu buretele orice calități și-l transformăm în demonul a cărui distrugere va fi aplaudată. Va fi aplaudată și noi vom fi Eroii Binelui – predictibil după altă regulă a propagandei – regula simplificării în care toți se împart în „prieteni și dușmani”, „oameni de bine și golani” etc.

Dacă cearta se poartă față în față, curând adversarii nu se vor mai privi în ochi. Dacă ar face-o și-ar aminti că cel din fața lui e frate, soră, părinte, partener de viață sau, ca minim, un alt om. Ne-am pierde inima de a strivi un alt om, așa că trebuie să rămână demon.

Slavă Domnului! Să ne rugăăăăm! Că ne-a dat internetul și nu mai trebuie să ne privim adversarii în ochi. Îi putem împroșca cu toate lăturile fără să simțim vreun junghi de culpabilitate între coaste. Ca și armatele lumii ne-am modernizat și luptăm prin intermediul dronelor din confortul fotoliului nostru.  Desigur, internetul și FB-ul acoperă numai un segment de conflict. Mai trebuie totuși să dăm ochi în ochi cu demonii pe care-i înfrângem. Dar va trece și perioada asta neplăcută.

În timp ce alte culturi escalează, avansând treptat cearta la armele nucleare, la noi se trece la ele imediat după anclanșarea conflictului. Nimic nu este sfânt. Nici o vorbă nu-i prea grea, nici o lovitură nu-i prea murdară. Lovim adânc, cu orice ne stă la îndemână. Reamintesc – scopul nu e de a obține ceva ci de a nimici demonul. Orice sensibilitate devine un punct critic în care inamicul trebuie lovit. Un copil cu handicap, un divorț dureros, o boală, un eșec la slujbă – toate devin dovezi ale nimicniciei adversarului.

Și-l călcăm în picioare. I-o spunem. Nu numai unui străin dar, poate cu precădere, și unui om apropiat, unei rude sau unui prieten. Fără rețineri, lăsând mânia să tropăie peste cele mai frumoase și puternice legături din lume. În dragoste și-n război totul e permis, nu? Noi alegem războiul. Și folosim termeni absolutiști, nedrepți, acuzări care nu stau în picioare în fața celei mai elementare scrutinări.  Și rupem relația și rupem prietenia și ne creăm premizele întâlnirilor penibile în cercuri sociale comune sau chiar în casă. Nu contează. Așa e la răzbel.

Și, după ce furia ni s-a potolit, ne simțim de rahat pe dinăuntru. Ne simțim atât de rău că trebuie să mai retrăim o dată, sau de zece ori, scena bătăliei ca să ne convingem că nu puteam evita baia de sânge. Trebuie să-i demonizăm și după ce s-a terminat. Pentru că altfel, dacă încetează să fie demoni, ar trebui să le cerem scuze, să spunem că ne pare rău… și asta ar fi un semn de slăbiciunie, semn că am greșit. Și noi nu greșim. Niciodată. Când greșim, recitește propoziția anterioară.

Să ne imaginăm că nimic nu s-a întâmplat.

Noroc că orice sistem, inclusiv cultura noastră „emoțională”, trebuie să născocească un mecanism de suportare, de supraviețuire. Acesta este „a te face că plouă”. O zi te acoperi de fecale apoi, peste 2 săptămâni, când ambele părți s-au calmat, se fac că plouă. N-ar putea face altfel – cel mai adesea nici una din părți nu a ales drumul decenței, a răbdării demne și, astfel, nici o parte nu are „mâinile curate”.  Și totul se reia, se spun glume, se trece peste jenă, se cer scuze-nescuze (gen „nu trebuia DAR nici tu n-ar fi trebuit”) și totul e spălat.

Așa se crede. Că dacă te faci că plouă, ieși spălat. Nu ieși! Ieși trist, cu amintiri, cu vorbe poate spuse la mânie sau poate gândite, cu relații slăbite și mai singur.

Evaluare Kawasaki Vulcan S

După “Bye-bye, Honda” și “Hello, Kawasaki“, în final ajung la subiect – primele mele opinii despre Kawasaki Vulcan S.

Apoi am dat peste un Kawasaki Vulcan S 2016 demo, la un dealership din Sainte Julie (o localitate obscură de la sudul Montreal-ului). Avea doar 196 km, era echipat cu scaun de pasager, venea cu garanție completă și cereau numai 7050$. Fără nici o sumă extra pentru freight și PDA și altele. Adăugau doar 13% taxe. Iar diferența dintre modelele 2015, 2016, 2017 la Vulcan S sunt doar… culorile disponibile și, desigur, anul de fabricație. Nu pot cuantifica economiile dar estimez că am scăpat cu măcar 1500$ mai ieftin, pentru o motocicletă cvasi-nouă.Continue Reading

Ce n-a reușit Ceaușescu…

… au reușit cei ce ne-au condus în 24 de ani amărâți. Există un curent anti-corporatist de care Ceaușescu, Stalin, chiar și Mao – care se sucește acum în mormânt văzând transformarea Chinei – ar fi foarte mândri.

Anti-corporate
Nu contează ce corporație! Noi suntem CONTRA!

    Ieri, la o postare ironică care includea brand-urile Chevron, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, RMGC, Walmart, o prietenă – bună, deșteaptă și simpatică, de altfel – a comentat grăbit vorbind de goana lor după profit. Cuvintele mele s-au pierdut, în fața ochilor ei rămânând numai această programare anti-corporatistă. Concluzia e clară: românii urăsc capitalismul și, astfel, urăsc numele mari care sunt, în ochii lor, exponenții acestui capitalism.Continue Reading

Searching for happiness

What do people want?! Happiness. Such a vague thing which can mean, pretty much, anything. For some is plenty of food and a place to sleep, for others is a Mercedes or peer recognition. “Know thyself!” is the commandment written in the pronaos of Temple of Apollo in Delphi. “An unexamined life is not worth living” goes Socrates to extremes. I would gladly give up examining my life and others, finding similarities and discrepancies, if only I could find happiness. But, then, how can I find happiness if I don’t know what it means to me and how can I achieve it, if it’s ever achievable.
A huge part of happiness is made of satisfaction. In my case (although it could be possible in other cases as well). Well, how can one be satisfied?! What is satisfaction?! A dictionary said “the fulfillment of desire”. Step by step, generalizing, then pulling back to particular, being a very unsatisfied young man, raised by people who were never satisfied with his performances, I reached a simple law which I will share with you. To me the satisfaction is given by this simple concept: “Always get more than what you give”. It applies to anything – from job, to personal relationships, to all the earthly things.
I used to be a person who was unhappy in the professional life. Accompanying me to Canada was this completely wrong mentality that I was coming to the land of Capitalism, where the more you give, the better you are professionally, the better you are seen, people respect you and cherish you, your voice is listened and a pat on the back will calm your ego. I used to spend nights learning and testing new things, getting professional certifications, never saying “NO” to anybody, going well beyond the call of duty. I thought that was the way to professional satisfaction, to this forever elusive happiness. I ended up, every time, frustrated – people still saw me as the “tinkering guy”, I was never happy – overworked it is difficult to be a happy person, always on the run, always in a rush, and I made quite a few time the list of laid off people, while the “office plant” would stay behind and get a paycheque. I was getting infuriated when projects I tested for weeks, for which I prepared perfectly, were being sunk in the conference room by people who didn’t know much, didn’t care much but had “concerns” which weren’t even very well articulated.
A moment came in 2007, when I worked for Wells Fargo, when this truth was revealed to me. For 2 months I worked hard, asked for work, fought a well-established system. I was coming from a startup where I had wore every hat, from sys admin, to security expert, from dba to helpdesk etc. After a few kafkian scenes, I gave up and I said “If they are upset on me for working too much, let see them upset over me not doing anything”. I started making excuses (very good ones) for not doing my job, start postponing. I was pretty much by the pool all day, doing nothing but replying to 2-3 emails. I didn’t react when a full-time employee (I was a contractor) stole my work and presented it, in my presence, as his work. I stopped caring and I kept on being paid a humongous salary for this attitude. I thought that soon it will come to an end. To my surprise, after a month, in the daily team meetings, I start being… praised. Yes! “Andi is a solid member of our team”, “Good job” (for almost nothing) and so on. It hit me! It wasn’t them – it was me. I was trying to invest too much, making many people look bad.
In short, here are the two solutions to satisfaction – either you invest a LOT and then you will expect a LOT (and this almost never happens) or – the sane and better way – you invest only as much as it is required and any reward is welcome and makes you happy. Since then, I dropped the towel. I kept my mouth shut, I gave 20-30% of what I knew I could give and when “shit happened”, I took it in stride, thinking about how much undeserved money I got.
Unfortunately, shortly after this lesson of life, I had another one. Yes, it doesn’t rain, it pours! My wife asked for a separation. I found myself in the dating world. I said to myself “OK, that applies only to professional relationships, not to personal ones” and, like a teenager, I start locking onto every good woman I could find (believe me – while there might seem plenty out there, there aren’t as many as you think; just like good men). Every time, I gave lots and lots. I didn’t keep any resource behind, what good it would have done to me?! I thought that giving would have enticed the other person into giving as well. After all, I had been, in my first youth, a person who had been taking. Taking and taking and never saying “Thank you!”. It caught up with me and I was set to change my ways. Unfortunately, when one gives a lot, people take it for granted. The more you give, the more you are asked to give. After all, you volunteered to give so much. What is the cost for you, emotional, financial – doesn’t matter, because they do deserve it, isn’t it?!
It would have been great and maybe it would have worked, should I have been naturally an altruist. Unfortunately, I am a selfish person and after giving a while, I start asking myself “Am I getting my investment’s worth?!”. I got it… for a while. And then, instead of keeping the wheel of giving spinning (I give you, you give me), I found myself giving and getting aloof “Thanks”. I felt cheated and I spoke up. I was told that I have been unfair for asking something back. That I should keep silent and don’t ask for anything in return. The giving had come to be taken for granted and I established the precendent: “You give, I take!”. No, no, no – I give if you think of giving back. And no, dont throw a smile or a good pet on the head now and then! And no, good sex doesn’t make up for everything!
I had broken my own rule. I invested a lot and asked for a lot in return. People are NOT capable of doing this. Everyone wants to take more than they give.
I remember something else somebody said. When prepared by a catholic priest for marriage, she was asked “What do you expect from this marriage?”. She said “I want to be happy. I want peace. I want prosperity” etc. The priest listened to her and then proceeded to explain that marriage is not for yourself, is the dedication to your partner. I loved this story because I really believe that this should be the way to a wonderful relationship. Giving and receiving. I know – an article on BBC said that counting who does what is the way to ruin. But then again, a too great imbalance is not to be desired. I have witnessed couples based on: “I take, you give” and I know that would never work with me.

I am a selfish person fighting hard its selfish part. I deserve something in return 🙂

Just sunshine, wind and speed

If one reads my blog would be left with the idea that all I do is bitching… and it would an approximately correct impression. I wish I was blind, I wish I could simply enjoy life and not care what other people do or think… but that would just not be me. I always envied and blamed my father for having a quality that enhanced his life: being oblivious at everything that went around him. He would tell me often “Why do you get in fights with your mom? Can’t you just do like me: get a face appropriate with the topic, nod and just think about your projects and things you want to accomplish?” Well, the answer is NO. Now I know why – he probably has Asperger Syndrome, just like my son – and what he thought it was a developed trait it’s an inborn one. The only solution for me to be like him would be living on a desert island… and, with my luck, probably dying of appendicitis or something trivial, before I can get to a doctor. And yes – I used to blame him for withdrawing in his inner mind and letting me to deal alone with my mother’s nagging and dissatisfaction.
But no more bitching! Life is – as I often describe – interesting. No, you “shinny happy people” it’s not beautiful – sometimes is sad, other times is tumultuous, in spots is dramatic or happy… but it’s damn interesting.
Recently, as most of my friends know, I purchased a motorcycle. I had some money I was getting back from a credit card, the time is right and prices were very convenient, motorcycles attract women and I am a single dude… so I didn’t honestly was on the edge of my seat due to impatience. I was thinking also about all the hassle for the rider’s license, high-insurance for a new rider so I had my doubts. You imagine my doubts when, after a break of 13 years from the last time I rode, I had to take my new motorcycle home – I was yellow with fear, spun around a close-by parking lot until people thought I was crazy. But then it all came back to me… from the mist of my lost youth (don’t tell me that you found it!) the joy, the exhilaration of being in the wide open, fighting the wind, leaning in curves… I find it hard to describe the happiness that after just 1-2 days dawned onto me.
I was amazed how a simple object – I never believed in buying happiness – could bring so much pleasure, confidence in what is and what will be, and sheer happiness. When I sold my motorcycle – I think it was 98 – it was just like all my dreams of adventure, of open spaces, of the world being my shell had ended. I remember that when my ex would try to talk me into having a child I would tell her: “There is no 3rd seat on the motorcycle”… and then I would bend under the burden of my selfishness. And yet I sold it for all the correct reasons: I am a married man, I can’t kill myself, it’s not practical, it’s not comfortable. When I came to Canada, I flirted somewhat with the idea… but then I gave up. I used to joke (somewhat bitterly): “You know how I figured out that I am getting old? When I came to Canada my wish-list was: 1. Motorcycle; 2. Boat. Then I thought about the wind, the rain, the hassle… and I compared with the tranquility of the boat on an empty lake… and the new order has become: 1. Boat, 2. Motorcycle”. If I was true then, maybe it’s true now and maybe I found the perfect time-travel machine: the motorcycle. When I zoom across empty roads, my mind takes me back to the University’s campus where friends and I used to loiter on a fence and watch the spring wind blow up the girls’ skirts… It takes me back to a time where there were no deadlines, no real obligations or responsibilities. And then I leave the city and get in the middle of nowhere and the cool evening sends in my helmet the smell of “sinziiene” – flowers my grandfather had in the country side… and of dung… In a blink of an eye I am back to my childhood and all those enormous days of summer that ended in a story and listening to politics on a radio with lamps. And these memories are more like feelings than thoughts because I have to stay focused on the road ahead, scouring for rocks or potholes or some animal that might came out the woods.
If somebody thinks that I made a bad investment, think how much you would be willing to spend to be young again?! It’s all there, bottled in that V2 engine and it gets released into my body as I’m sprinting amidst the orange shadows of the sunset.
Yes, it’s true that after 1h of riding my buttocks are starting to get numb, I have a stabbing pain in my back but I simply cannot thing about them.
I am simply happy again. Not as happy as I could be if everything would be perfect in my life but enough to make days at least bearable if not even more enjoyable. I normally go to bed late and wake relatively early and that makes me somewhat grumpy. Now I am going to work with a smile on my face because I get to ride my motorcycle (although the morning rush can be quite unnerving).
Many people are asking me “Aren’t you afraid? So many accidents”. I am afraid – less now that when I purchased it but still the anxiety is somewhat high. Still, I ask rhetorical – why do only things that you are comfortable with? How can we become with new things, feelings, actions if we don’t experience them ever? I like challenges. Just like I love to do only complicated, presumably impossible things in my job, I also try to face any fear that my mind or my body flutters in me.
Yes, I am aware it’s still early to make long-term judgments. It might be that in 1-2 years the rain, the cold, the insurance or even a wipeout, would show me that motorcycle is not really for me. But then I will be able to lay in its grave my youth dream without regrets, love it and remember it if for what it was – a whim of crazy youth – instead of carrying it inside me as a frustration: oh, I could have been so happy if only I had the guts/the money/the X to do it.
I’m going back on my steps and maybe it’s not so wrong to look for happiness in things.

I, Robot!

Last night, although tired, I got stuck in front of the TV watching Star Trek – First Contact. No, although I don’t have much of a life, I am not a fan Star Trek – I was just cleansing my brain (already pretty well scrubbed by the exhaustion; but, you know, one can never be too meticulous about these things).
I was watching quite bored The Borg assimilate humans when suddenly a weird thought came to my mind. Nothing new here – the antithesis between the humans and machines is used and over-used for decades if not for centuries. Who is better? Stupid question! From where I stand it looks even worse – as an IT worker, for me the machine is a machine, a tool to perform some tasks. Am I better that a hammer?! WTF? Still, for some reasons this issue has risen to the level of a real obsession – books are written, movies are made, scientific or pseudo-scientific articles are published… Very few of them come to bring anything new to this conundrum. Last night, somehow, my mind managed to overexpose this (fake?) issue over what I think it is a collapse of the responsibility in society and it got me thinking. I believe that, indeed, there is a collapse of individual and collective responsibility: very few people still want to do what is right, very few people want to live by rules, hence the rejection of religion (people, religion is not equal to sexually abusive priests, to “don’t eat pork” etc.), of academic rigors, of systematic parenting and so on.
What if – pause and think for a second – what if all this behavior, this shedding of responsibilities has a fundament in us trying to make a clear-cut statement: “I am not a machine. I am not a robot.” Yes, I know it sounds far fetched but, incidentally or not, I can find many arguments for this. Technology has reached a level where it suppresses our individuality. While very often claiming to boost individual personality and liberating ourselves, technology – and modern society as a fact – does quite the opposite. Instead of a big fish in a small pond, we more and more identify ourselves with a tiny, tiny fish lost in the pond of globalization, of Facebook, of huge corporations. Yes, we communicate more and world has become a village but it’s a humungous village and we really feel lost in it.
Society managed to impose those rules within relatively confined spaces. Social rules are always much harsher and inflexible in smaller communities than in large ones. In face of technology and of this globalization that tries to change us into little robots, the self defense mechanism might kick in and it might try to assert itself by doing silly things and continuously trying to break the mold.
Even the dullest of persons will not agree that they are boring. We used to distance ourselves from accountants but that is so passé – now we are trying to distance ourselves from The Borg and as it becomes more and more difficult to do this, we are forced to become more and more inventive in doing so. 30-40 years ago stating that you will not marry every was enough to be stamped as different. Now, wearing in public thong, declaring that you are gay, live in a commune and will adopt children would probably not even get a shrug.
This is probably the dichotomy – our desire to be accepted vs our desire to be different. I used to wonder what the heck is with youngsters who, after covering their body with piercings and tattoos, complain that they are not accepted. You made this to be different and when, as different, you are treated differently by the society, you say it’s unfair. We should all understand the truth that lies in “one cannot have the cake and eat it too”.
Technology makes us embrace it by making us believe that we are different. Everybody seems to brag about their GPS, HDTV, PVR, Shine vs iPhone vs Chocolate. At the same time, our strong association of technology with The Borg makes us behave in more and more irresponsible and aberrant ways, trying in a futile and childish way to distance ourselves from The Borg. Sometimes I really yearn for the age when grandmas were baking cookies and telling stories, not getting plastic surgery, marrying men 30 years their juniors and jumping with the parachute.
The dichotomy above presented is present even in this article. On one hand, I come up with this idiotic idea – we are irresponsible because we want to draw a line between us and the machines – and on the other hand I really want people to say “Wow! I never thought of that! He might be onto something” (ok, you may lose the “wow” – there are so many words in English to describe amazement).