Reminiscing on our 10th wedding anniversary

Today is a milestone for me and my wife. 10 years of marriage and I thought I’d look back at some of the highlights and lessons of the last decade of marriage to my beautiful wife and best friend.

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. Wow, 10 years. A lot has happened in the decade since Gina and I stood under that chuppah. Here are a few things that stand out for me. I’ll probably come up with more after this is published so I don’t make any promises that this post captures all the highlights.

When it all began

I met Gina in November 2003. I think it was around the 17th but that remains a little controversial. Our first date was a blind date facilitated by our mothers who met through a widows’ group (Gina’s dad passed away in 2001, mine in 2003). I had recently broken up with a girlfriend and my father had passed away from pancreatic cancer a few months earlier. I decided to spend some time on my own for a while.

My mother called me and told me about this woman she met (Lindy, my then-future mother in law) who, as it turned out, had a single daughter who her mother was pretty keen to introduce to someone. I wasn’t really interested but told my mother than if this girl is/was a Sagittarius, Leo or Ares, I’d meet her. If not, I wasn’t interested.

This may sound very weird or hippy but I’d had a few bad experiences dating people in other signs so this seemed like a reasonable compromise to me. My mother thought I was a bit difficult (she may have said I was “full of sh*t”) but she said she’d find out.

My mother called me back soon after and told me that this girl is/was a Leo. I’d basically committed myself so I agreed and took down her phone number. I called her, introduced myself and we arranged to meet at JB’s Corner in Melrose Arch a few days later. At the time I had a beard and when I told Gina this she apparently thought her mother had set her up with some religious guy (oy!).

Haredi Parade

I wasn’t sure what to expect so I staked out the restaurant from a public square across from it until she arrived. This was more to brace myself in case she wasn’t quite what I was expecting (whatever that was). When I saw her she didn’t disappoint at all. We started talking and didn’t stop until after we were asked to leave the restaurant when they closed. The highlight of that evening was our discussion about how Star Trek: Nemesis really disappointed both of us. A fellow Star Trek (and Star Wars) fan? I was hooked. We had a second date a few days later (when she opened her door she was even more beautiful than I remembered from our first date). That was our beginning.

Then she said “yes!”

We dated for about a year and a half before we finally got engaged. I think about relationships in terms of an ocean metaphor. If your relationship’s depths are calm and life affirming, you’re off to a great start. You’ll need those quiet depths when the surface becomes stormy to keep you grounded and help you through difficult times.

I wrote about how I proposed a day or two afterwards:

We’re engaged!

I really enjoyed our wedding (if you want to really dive into the day, here are the photos).

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Rabbi Rose married us at the Waverly Shul. I’m glad we did it there.

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My bride was absolutely stunning. I think she actually took my breath away when I first saw her in her wedding dress just before the marriage ceremony. I know grooms often say something like this but she really was (and still is) beautiful.

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Our wedding reception was at the HOD Hall in Orchards, Johannesburg.

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We started our new life together with our honeymoon in the Drakensberg. We stayed at the Drakensberg Sun which is one of my favourite hotels/resorts in South Africa. It was a terrific break although I took my laptop in case I had to work (not the best decision but I had started my own business about 6 months before).

Starting a business is tough and I remember when I decided to leave Werksmans and go on my own how Gina supported me. She supported me for the 9 years I had my own businesses, through all the tough times that affected our family. I didn’t always appreciate how much she supported me when the easier thing to say could have been “Stop this and go find a job”.

The early years

I remember at least one conversation with Gina, some time around our wedding, in which she informed me that she expected to be in the labour ward a year after our wedding. I was a little taken aback but my wife can be pretty convincing. As it turns out we fell pregnant (by “we” I mean I made a contribution, she did all the real work) in early 2007. It was possibly during our first wedding anniversary weekend back at the Drakensberg Sun.

Anniversary weekend away to the Drakensberg - February 2007 -  - 194

Aside from going off chicken entirely for most of her pregnancy, it all went fairly well. At least from my perspective.

Sam and Lawrence's engagement party - 29

Aaron arrived a few weeks early and, within the space of a couple days, my great love affair expanded to two people.

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Our first year with Aaron was probably fairly typical for new parents: a lot of panic, having no idea what to do when he cried or had colic and also beginning to appreciate having this incredible little person in our lives.

Scenes from Kate's 1st birthday party - 30

2008 turned out to be a tough year with the Great Recession but we made it through with a few emotional bumps along the way. I think I learned a lot about how to deal with challenging times towards the end of the year and realised (a little more) what an incredible my wife is in tough times that doubtless stressed her out too.

Me and Gina at a Jewish Entrepreneurs event in 2009
Me and Gina at a Jewish Entrepreneurs event in 2009

2009 was an expansion year. Mostly for me, I seem to have ballooned a little. Gina, on the other hand, was as beautiful as ever.

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One of the highlights of 2010 was a weekend getaway to the Westcliff which Gina won for us. It was quite an experience usually not for mortals like us.

The Westcliff

Of course, 2010 was also the year our family grew again. We found out that we were pregnant again and we dubbed our baby “theSQL” (it is both geeky and a little funny).

theSQL at 26 weeks

Our little girl, Faith, was born in December that year (just a few days after my birthday). She brought a new dynamic to our family and joined her proud brother as my new great love.

Valentine's Eve at Shepstone Gardens-75

Our life seemed to start moving really quickly after Faith arrived. I was trying to build a business and we had two growing kids, each with their own personalities. Just as figuring out how to be a good father to our children, being a decent husband to Gina has been an ongoing process. If anything I have learned how I let my own issues get in the way of a better relationship with my family.

In 2013 I was diagnosed with diabetes and Gina practically changed our kitchen over to diabetic friendly foods almost overnight. My diagnosis was a shock to me but she helped me adapt and probably did more to shift me onto a healthier diet than I even realised.

She helped me bring my blood glucose levels down to normal levels within a few months and I managed to remain pretty well controlled until late last year when something in my body changed and my levels rose again. We’re going back to some basics with my diet and, once again, she is making changes behind the scenes to improve our diet to help me regain control over my diabetes.

Finally home in Israel where we belong

2015 was a challenging year. It was our first year in our new home in Israel and the changes weren’t always easy to process. It was also a year that really emphasised for me just how important my family is to me. My wife and our kids are basically what my life is all about. Practically everything else is in support of our new life here.

Being a husband takes a lot of work. For me, most of that work was on myself because I have a tendency to let my inner Crazy really get in the way of better communication with my wife. Communication really is so important. I see the difference when I get it right. Those are the times when we are back in sync like we were right in the beginning (and many times since then) when we agreed about that Star Trek movie.

This time 10 years ago we were at the Protea Hotel on Corlett Drive trying to stay awake long enough to eat an early supper. We didn’t get through the meal and passed out soon afterwards on our hotel room. The next morning we woke early and drove to the mountains to start our honeymoon and our new life together.

Every morning is an opportunity for me to be a better father and a better husband. I haven’t always made it easy for my family but if there is something worth working for every day, every moment, it is that. I hope we have many more periods of 10 years together. Each of the moments that make up those years are opportunities to spend with my wife and our children and that is what matters most to me.

Happy anniversary, angel. Much, with tons and stuff.

אני אוהב אותך, ממש!

How to beat writer’s block – move your fingers

Sometimes you just have to type or write something to overcome writer’s block, even if it is complete rubbish.

My favourite quote about overcoming writer’s block today comes from Srinivas Rao’s Medium post titled “How Writing 1000 Words a Day Changed My Life”:

The simplest way to overcome this is to put your fingers on the keyboard and move them. Write whatever you are thinking. Don’t stop until the screen has 100 words on it. I don’t know why this works, but it does. Maybe it’s the principle of momentum.

I started doing something similar when I get stuck. Just open a blank document and start typing whatever comes to mind. The output is usually nothing I can actually publish (well, except for that one time) but it helps to break whatever is keeping me blocked.

(Thanks to Kira Hug for the link)

Breastfeeding trolls

Humanity was pretty much made possible by breastfeeding so why are people still disgusted by it?

I’m still amazed that breastfeeding in public is still a controversial topic. I just read a post in Scary Mommy titled “‘Go Tell Her To Put Some Clothes On’: Breastfeeding Mom Harassed On United Flight” about another mother who was harassed on a flight because some troll was deeply offended by her discreetly breastfeeding her baby.

Somehow it is 2016 and despite the fact that it is legal for women to breastfeed, uncovered if they want, women are still being harassed and shamed for feeding their babies in public. That happened to one mother who was quietly nursing her baby on an airplane this week, and she was so upset about the experience that she posted about it to Instagram with the hashtag #MomsDontFlyUnited.

Sure, it is 2016 and you’d think we have evolved our sensibilities to the point where this is not a problem (maybe, just look at how much support Trump has and you may be forgiven for thinking we have regressed). At the same time, breastfeeding isn’t a new thing. Humanity was pretty much made possible by breastfeeding so why are people still disgusted by it?

If anything, the United aircrew should have told the passenger who had a temper tantrum about Juliet Summer breastfeeding her baby to behave, not ask Summer to cover up. If you want a little more context:

… no skin was actually visible below her collarbone, so she assumed everything was fine.

Not that this should matter but it just highlights how crazy the passenger’s objection was.

Gazing into the cosmic abyss

Well this is a sobering thought:

http://blazepress.tumblr.com/post/139054506454/let-that-sink-in

It’s ok to dislike your writing, just not yourself

I really like this piece of advice from Neil Gaiman to a writer. We all write stuff and dislike it immensely for different reasons. Often, the work doesn’t meet some expectation we have and that’s ok but don’t dislike yourself for having written it.

I came across this great piece of advice from Neil Gaiman about how it’s ok to dislike your writing but you shouldn’t dislike yourself for writing it.

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I may have a story in progress somewhere and I often wonder if I can write fiction well enough to be worth publishing. Being able to separate my feelings about my work and my feelings about myself for producing work that doesn’t meet my expectations of my work (as if I could actually have remotely reasonable expectations when I am still learning how to write well) makes it easier to treat the whole process as a learning experience and keep going.

The Pirate Bay is ruining BitTorrent for everyone

BitTorrent is an amazing technology and can be used to really grow and maintain the open Web. By promoting irresponsible uses of the technology, The Pirate Bay is harming the open Web and ruining BitTorrent for the rest of us.

Sites like The Pirate Bay and other services that facilitate copyright infringement are ruining BitTorrent and the open Web for the rest of us, although not for the reason you may think. Sure, copyright infringement is a problem and it probably has a negative impact on many artists who rely on legitimate channels and royalty payments to earn an income off their work. That said, copyright infringement isn’t necessarily the Ultimate Evil that the entertainment industry would want you to think. There are many examples of artists who have thrived when their content was “pirated”, but that is another story.

This post is about a development that bothers me because I think it is ultimately harmful to the Web we would want to have. The Verge published a report today titled “The Pirate Bay now lets you stream torrents from your browser” which describes how the infamous torrent search engine/tracker has added support for the Torrents Time browser plugin that will enable users to stream content from TPB in their browser.

The best-known torrent site in the world now streams pirated content too. The Pirate Bay has added support for Torrents Time, a plugin that lets users stream torrents directly inside their browser. There’s no need to download the torrent itself, or a BitTorrent client, or even the actual content — then lets the whole process run inside Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Chrome, on either Windows or OS X. The system is currently in beta, and has all the usual problems of pirated torrents (namely bad image quality and the need to wait for peers to seed the content), but it’s still an extremely simple system.

BitTorrent is not inherently evil

The plugin itself isn’t a problem. Neither is the ability to stream content using the BitTorrent protocol in your browser. In fact, it is a very good thing. What is problematic is that this comes from TPB and “Pirate Bay” is synonymous with “piracy” (it isn’t an accident that it is called The Pirate Bay).

Torrents have become associated with content “theft” (a poor metaphor but it works for the entertainment industry). More people probably associate torrenting with “free” downloads than associate it with a legitimate and powerful peer-to-peer distribution protocol that can, and does, empower content creators. The tragic result of these associations includes instances like this:

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I was connected through public wifi on my train when I started writing this post and I couldn’t connect to the BitTorrent blog to reference an article I mention below because the url included the word “bittorrent” and the server blocked my access. The blog is perfectly legitimate but perceptions intervened.

In a recent blog post explaining what magnet links are, BitTorrent shares part of its vision for how its protocol could help power the Web in a very legitimate way:

As our beta users will know, our peer-to-peer browser supports this mission by making the opening of content published as torrents very simple. One of the ways that it does this is by treating the BitTorrent protocol just like HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), so that visiting a Torrent is just like visiting a webpage.

You see, HTTP is great if your web page is simple text and small images. But the volume and size of data is vastly larger on today’s Internet than when HTTP was first implemented in the 1990s. The key advantage that BitTorrent has over HTTP is that it handles the heavy lifting – moving large sets of data – without reliance on a central server. This provides faster data transfers, better network management, and no single choke points.

Unfortunately the range of legitimate uses for the BitTorrent protocol are largely ignored because of the protocol’s bad reputation. BitTorrent Sync, for example, is a terrific option for sharing files securely. It is a peer-to-peer service that bypasses the cloud and is pretty fast. It can be used to share infringing content, sure, but it works really well to just share files between devices; share photos with friends and transfer large files between production machines.

What are the legitimate uses for BitTorrent?

So what has been happening is that the entertainment industry has been making a lot of noise about all the “piracy” that is going on using BitTorrent and the inevitable conclusion the industry has been pushing is that BitTorrent is a bad technology. It’s a bit like the arguments that VHS was evil because it allowed people to record TV programs. It’s a convenient argument because people do use BitTorrent to download stuff they shouldn’t be downloading but there is more to it.

This is why honest users pirate music

The industry should recognise the role it has played in creating a marketplace that is fairly hostile to its consumers. It is changing, very slowly, but it still remains very much a balkanised marketplace where geographical restrictions limit what consumers can pay for, even when they pay. Look at the recent discussion about Netflix and its campaign against VPN services as it opens its service up to more countries. Ultimately, I think technology will render the current distribution models largely irrelevant and force a more sensible change.

BitTorrent is an amazing technology and can be used to really grow and maintain the open Web. As a decentralised and peer-to-peer technology, it is enormously empowering and flexible. Artists are already using BitTorrent Bundles as alternative content distribution options and offering fans direct access to the content they love. Fans, in turn, support these artists and the entertainment industry’s claims that it is slowly dying because of all of this “piracy” is shown to be a lie. Techdirt covers many of these sorts of stories, including this case study from almost 2 years ago titled “Artists Embracing, Rather Than Fighting, BitTorrent Seeing Amazing Results”.

The Pirate Bay is peeing on the Commons

So, back to The Pirate Bay. By enthusiastically embracing and bragging about how it is enabling users to download unlicensed content (what the entertainment industry prefers to call “pirate content”), it is reinforcing the very well-funded industry perception of technologies of BitTorrent as being metaphorical tools of the devil and a big target for law enforcement and legislators.

Sure, this is a business for TPB but they are basically peeing on the Commons and ruining BitTorrent for the rest of us. We need BitTorrent and other technologies because they help make the Web more open and connected. They keep the indie Web alive and a measure of control and privacy in users’ hands. BitTorrent also enables indie artists to create and share their content and earn a living from it. Sure, you can use it to “pirate” music, movies or other stuff but that isn’t all there is to BitTorrent.

The Pirate Bay and others like it are becoming just as much a threat to the open Web as poorly informed regulators and closed platforms.

The open Web is a “global public resource”

The Mozilla Foundation has, as one of its principles in its manifesto, this statement: “The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible to all.” Let’s keep it that way and protect the open Web.

Mark Surman has published an important post on the Mozilla blog titled “The Internet is a Global Public Resource” that is worth reading:

We believe the health of the Internet is an important issue that has a huge impact on our society. An open Internet—one with no blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization—allows individuals to build and develop whatever they can dream up, without a huge amount of money or asking permission. It’s a safe place where people can learn, play and unlock new opportunities. These things are possible because the Internet is an open public resource that belongs to all of us.

The open Web is tremendously important and it’s something we should all do our part to protect, however small. I like Surman’s environmental movement analogy:

Consider the parallels with the environmental movement for a moment. In the 1950s, only a few outdoor enthusiasts and scientists were talking about the fragility of the environment. Most people took clean air and clean water for granted. Today, most of know we should recycle and turn out the lights. Our governments monitor and regulate polluters. And companies provide us with a myriad of green product offerings—from organic food to electric cars.

One way you can protect the open Web is to use it. Create a blog or personal space on the Web outside social networks. Something that is yours and that you can use with social networks, not sacrifice for social networks.

If you want to read a little more:

The Web we need to save

The story behind the Belter language in The Expanse

One of the features of The Expanse is the Belter language or dialect which adds a whole dimension to the story that would ordinarily be lacking without it. Ars Technica interviewed the linguist who helped create the dialect used in the TV show.

We’ve started watching “The Expanse” and it is definitely worth watching if you are a sci-fi fan. One of the features of the show (and the books) is the Belter language or dialect which can be a little challenging to understand at times. At the same time, it adds a whole dimension to the story that would ordinarily be lacking without it. Are Technica has an article about Nick Farmer titled “Nick Farmer knows dozens of languages, so he invented one for The Expanse”, the linguist who helped create Belter creole. Interesting to watch if you are curious about how languages are developed for TV shows and movies.

If you haven’t watched The Expanse yet, here is a trailer:

I’ve been reading the books and there is definitely a difference between the books and the TV series storylines. They seem to proceed more or less in parallel but there are features in the TV series which are sometimes at odds with the books. I’ve pretty much decided to treat the two storylines as related but distinct.

If you are really curious, you can also follow Nick Farmer on Twitter for more insight into the language he helped create:

If you also enjoy the show, take a look at my previous post about it and the article written by Martin Rezny about The Expanse’s value as a hard sci-fi show:

“Meanwhile on Stargate, 95% of planets are Canada”

Image credit: Hubble Feathers the Peacock by NASA’s Goddard Flight Space Center, licensed CC BY 2.0