Pride and self-congratulation before the Idiot Tax (we’ll laugh about this later)

Last week, while my family was in Eilat for a long weekend vacation, I made my way to a shopping complex just outside my city.

I was there to do some research for our daughter’s birthday party (check!), look for running shoes (nope!), and one or two other errands.

While I was there, I thought I’d pick up a spare SIM card, just in case (… one of our kids lost their phones).

I thought this was admirably forward thinking on my part, especially given that this was the only place I could buy this SIM card nearby (in some respects, we’re pretty backwards here in Israel), and it usually involves a nauseating 30-40 minute bus ride to get there. 🤢

As it turned out, when my family returned home, my wife informed me that they had left my daughter’s phone in Eilat.

Not to worry, I thought, we could replace her cheap Nokia feature phone (an 8 year old really doesn’t need a smartphone), and it just so happens I have a spare SIM card! 😁

I’m sure you can imagine how proud I was that I had the foresight to buy that spare SIM card!! 😊

My wife and I went off to the mall so I could get a snappy haircut. While we were there, we bought our daughter a cool, new Nokia 3310 phone.

When we returned home, I went online, and activated the new SIM card. I placed it into our daughter’s new phone, and congratulated myself once again.

Not long afterwards, our son emerged from his bedroom with his phone, and casually asked me why his SIM card had stopped working.

It didn’t take me long to realise what I had done. 😱 Pride gave way to shame, and dismay. I had switched our son’s number over to the new SIM, not our daughter’s.

Oh, and once a SIM is deactivated, you can’t reactivate it.

And I was fresh out of SIM cards! 💩

I took a quick look at my calendar, and realised that the only time I had to journey back to that store for a replacement SIM card was, well, today.

So, I tucked my pride, and sense of wonder at how well prepared I was just a few days ago, and started the journey back to the store.

I bought two SIM cards, just in case.

Thankfully I managed to activate the SIM card for the correct number, second time around. All it cost me was my Idiot Tax for not taking a couple extra seconds to check which phone number I was activating the first SIM card for, as I was basking in the warmth of my self-congratulation.

Chanukah 2018 memories

Chanukah (aka Hanukkah) is my favourite festival on the Jewish calendar.

Hanukkah (/ˈhɑːnəkə/HAH-nə-kə; Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה‬ ḥanuká, Tiberian: ḥanuká, usually spelled חֲנוּכָּה‎, pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew, [ˈχanukə] or [ˈχanikə] in Yiddish; a transliteration also romanized as Chanukah or Ḥanukah) is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights (Hebrew: חַג הַאוּרִים‬, ḥag ha’urim).

Wikipedia
A neighbouring building has this wonderful box at their entrance.

There are a few reasons for this. One is that I just love the candles, and seeing my neighbours add candles each night, and these growing pools of light in Israeli winter evenings. I also love that stores and businesses also light candles, and display them in their windows. It’s like a thread of candlelight that links us all.

Another reason is that Chanukah usually takes place in December, which is around my birthday, which is always my favourite time of the year.

Yet another reason why I enjoy Chanukah is that we live in the city of the Maccabees who we remember in this festival, Modi’in. We also arrived in Israel on the first night of this festival, so that makes it even more special to us.

Each year, I take photos of our candles, and show our progression from the first candle, to the 8th. This year, I decided not to go with my standard view of our menorah with each day’s addition.

Our son also helped us light the candles this year.

Our son was really into capturing each night’s candles with his phone. I noticed he was experimenting with ISO, and shutter speed on manual settings. Definitely some photographer Dad pride there! 📸

Of course it’s not just about the candles. This time of year is also a time for amazing donuts called sufganiot, and fried foods such as latkes. I especially enjoy my wife’s potato and sweet potato latkes!

43

Chocolate birthday cake

Another year has passed, and it’s my birthday again! 🎉 Quite a lot has changed in the last year. Last year, I looked back on 2017, and where my path had taken me.

42

I pretty much ended my retrospective with the following:

While I don’t have all the answers (not even remotely), perhaps being 42 brings a few answers to the questions that I haven’t been able to answer so far.

42

Becoming an Automattician

The highlight of this year has been joining Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. When I wrote my 42 post, I had just been informed that I’d be joining a group of applicants in January 2018 to do a Trial for four weeks. It was a pretty intense four weeks, and when I emerged with an offer to join Automattic full-time, it was an incredible feeling.

Working at Automattic has changed my life in so many ways. To begin with, I work with incredible teams (both my immediate team, and the broader Automattic team) every day. We have a remarkable diversity of perspectives, opinions, skillsets, and backgrounds. In those times when I imagined what it may be like to work at Automattic, I don’t think I ever really anticipated being exposed to such an amazing team (you can join us too, we’re hiring 😁).

Automattic at Orlando in September 2018

Beyond the team I get to work with, I work from home, and I’m able to choose my availability for the most part. This means I can structure my days around my family, while taking into account where I can contribute more to our overall effort to provide high quality support to our customers, 24/7.

Join Automattic, see the world

Another benefit of working for Automattic is more frequent travel for our team meetup, and our annual Grand Meetup. This year our team met up in Rome for a week of workshops, sightseeing, and generally getting to know each other better. It was the first time I had met my team in person, and my first time in Rome. I enjoyed the trip tremendously.

Posing outside the Colosseum

In September, I joined several hundred other Automatticians in Orlando, Florida, for our Grand Meetup. It was an opportunity to meet even more of my colleagues, listen to inspiring speakers, and experience more of our company culture.

One of the many highlights of this trip included meeting Matt Mullenweg, our CEO. Another highlights was our evening at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Actually, there were so many highlights from that week, I’d probably need a longer list to do justice to the trip.

Automattic at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

An addition to our family

We also expanded our family earlier this year. Gina and the kids had been asking me about adopting a dog for a while. I’d postponed the discussion for various reasons including the fact that we both worked at offices (at the time), and a dog would be alone for too long.

That reason pretty much went away when I started working at Automattic, so Gina found us our new furry child. Her name is Nessi, and she’s a rescue who was found with her litter near their dead mother when they were just a few weeks old.

Nessi

It took a while for her to adjust to us in the beginning. She soon became Aaron’s best friend, and she adores Gina and the kids. Her rough start has left her with some pretty deep anxiety issues, and she’s scared of just about everyone outside our family.

It can be challenging at times because her response to a perceived threat is to become aggressive. We’re working on training for her, to help us better understand her, and how to reach her better. When her fear doesn’t overcome her, she’s cheeky, smart, and really playful.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

With everything that’s happened in the last year, I feel like I’m only just getting started with, well, almost everything.

My role as a Happiness Engineer has expanded beyond our core email and live chat support to one to one video support, buddying for new hires who do a support rotation when they start working at Automattic, and even buddying new Trials hoping to join us as full-time Happiness Engineers.

We don’t have a conventional hierarchy at Automattic, so you can pretty much choose your career path. It turns out I have a talent for training, as well as being a support professional. The work is varied, I’m always learning new things, and I have constant opportunities to apply skills acquired in my past careers to my work.

I love that I get to spend more time with our kids. I see them off to school in the mornings, I’m home when they return from school at lunchtime, and I’m around to help them out with homework in the afternoons (well, I’m still working on this part – it’s really easy to become consumed by my work).

Interestingly, even though we could literally work almost anywhere (we just need a relatively quiet workspace and a good Internet connection), I much prefer working from home. The thought of working at a coffee shop has a sort of romantic appeal, but I like being in my space. 🏡

As 2018 winds down, I’m looking forward to growing more at Automattic, becoming better at differentiating between work and my family time so I can spend more quality time with my family, and continuing with my efforts to learn to code that I started in earnest last year.

My focus has been on learning Python 3 the last few months. I really like the language, and I’m trying to build some consistent learning time into my regular schedule.

Next year is bound to bring more challenges, experiences, and rewards. I’m looking forward to it!

Winter colours at sunset

Sunset colours as Winter sets in

Winter is settling in here in Israel. I noticed a particularly pretty sunset today.

A pretty early Winter sunset

Tweeting to preserve history

D Sami Reindeer 12

I suppose Twitter still has its good use cases. Tweeting to preserve history isn’t one of them. I came across this fascinating Twitter thread by Marina Amaral about the Sami people, who’ve been living in what’s now Finland for thousands of years:

The thread runs for several tweets, and it includes wonderful resources such as maps, old photos, and more recent photos that illustrate how these people have adapted to a modern world.

As much as I enjoyed reading Marina’s wonderful overview of these people’s history, I couldn’t help but wonder why she chose to tweet this, instead of blogging it? She has a remarkable blog that covers a range of historical events, and themes.

When it comes to digital preservation of these sorts of cultural and historical legacies, surely publishing it to a blog would be a far better medium?

Photo credit: D Sami Reindeer 12 by Michiel van Nimwegen, licensed CC BY NC ND 2.0

Reading Twitter updates, the world looks like a pretty dark place …

I don’t use Twitter all that much lately, and I use Facebook even less. My reasons for using each platform less are different, though.

I just scanned through my Twitter feed, and I closed the app feeling the world is a pretty dark place at the moment.

I’m not sure if that’s more about the people who I follow, or just the things that people tend to tweet lately.

Israeli national anthem played in Abu Dhabi for the first time ever

The Israeli national anthem was played in Abu Dhabi for the first time ever, at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam. Israel’s Sagi Muki won the gold medal.

https://twitter.com/AviMayer/status/1056562140914556930

In previous tournaments, Israeli athletes couldn’t compete under our flag, let alone hear our anthem play when they won medals.

Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

How Humans first walked on the Moon in Apollo 11

Aldrin Looks Back at Tranquility Base during the Apollo 11 mission

Vox has a terrific video that explains how the Apollo 11 mission worked, and how the astronauts that took part in the mission made their way to the Moon and back.

If you’re into old footage of historical events like this, also be sure to check out the CBS coverage of the lunar landing (also courtesy of NASA):