Roberto Selbach

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Category: Personal

New licence plate

Update: the licence plate application has since been refused. The reason given is that they don’t allow offensive messages. All I can think about is that they misread it as being “GOP HER,” which doesn’t mean anything but they may have assumed it was some code, new slang or something.

I live in Quebec and only recently the province opened registrations for personalized license plates. At first I didn’t even consider it, but this morning I impulse-bought one:

This will of course be a homage to my favourite mascot, Go’s.

I’m sad today

So this is me today.

640px-Sad-pug

Years ago, my wife and I had a friends couple we worked with for some years. Someday they stopped talking to us. They refused to answer our calls or answer our emails. They never accepted out friend requests on Facebook.

We never knew why.

This happened over 10 years ago so naturally life moved on. From time to time, it happens that I see something from them on Facebook seen as we have a lot of friends in common, but neither of us acknowledges the present of the other.

I recently joined a Slack team and to my (and I’m sure his) surprise, my former-friend was there as well. Over the course of the next few weeks, we’d be talking in the same channel to other people but again, never directly to each other. I wanted to but I knew he was mad at me for something and I didn’t want to force it. What I did try doing was to engage in the channel as if nothing ever happened, just like everyone else.

But it was unconfortable. There was always that elephant in the room. So last Thursday I send him a message in private. I told him I never knew what I had done but that I apologized for whatever it was. I told him that he didn’t have to forgive me but I would really appreciate knowing what it was.

But he wouldn’t answer. So today I decided that there was no point in making two people uncomfortable all the time and I left the channel.

In the end, it’s no big deal. As I said, this was something that happened (whatever it was) over 10 years ago. But it makes me sad that I’ll never know what I did wrong.

(Image CC-BY-SA by Wikimedia Commons)

Une lettre ouverte à la madame qui a pointé son doigt vers ma fille

Conscient du fait que mon français n’est pas très bon (j’apprends), je pense cependant qu’il est important de l’écrire dans cette langue, car vous m’avez fait savoir que toute autre langue n’est pas acceptable.

Il y a quelques jours, j’étais chez un restaurant Valentine avec ma fille de six ans. Nous y étions allés parce qu’elle adore leur hot-dog et puisqu’elle avait fait un super effort à l’école ce jour-là, j’avais décidé de la récompenser. Vos raisons pour y être doivent être encore plus mondaines que ça.

Nous sommes arrivés au Québec depuis moins de trois mois et ma fille est toujours en train d’apprendre le français. Et bien qu’elle s’efforce de se faire comprendre par un monde qui ne la comprend pas, elle a encore des difficultés. Elle devient souvent frustrée. Et pourtant elle persévère. Sachez que je suis très fier d’elle.

Elle venait d’entrer à l’école avant les vacances d’été, juste pour apprendre le français. Un jour, les élèves devraient avoir un examen de mathématique et les enseignantes avaient décidé de sortir ma fille de la salle pour continuer à étudier le français. Ma fille a commencé à pleurer et supplier. Les enseignantes ne comprenaient pas pourquoi. Ils m’ont alors appelé et je suis allé à l’école. En y arrivant, nous avons finalement compris : elle se croyait punie et elle ne savait pas ce qu’elle avait fait pour le mériter. Elle implorait le pardon. C’est de ce genre de situation à laquelle elle doit faire face tous les jours.

Encore une fois, elle a six ans.

Elle a perdu toutes ses amies. Elle a dû laisser presque tous ces jouets. En tant que père, ça me brise le cœur de la voir en regardant des autres enfants qui jouent, parce que je sais qu’elle veut jouer avec eux, mais elle est souvent gênée à cause du français.

Je suis certain que vous serez d’accord avec moi quand je dis que ça n’est pas facile pour un adulte, et encore moins pour une petite fille. Mais elle fait un vrai effort là et je suis tellement fier d’elle. Vraiment fier.
Et c’est pour cette raison qu’il m’a fait tellement mal quand vous avez décidé de lui réprimander de ne pas parler français avec son papa.

Elle jacassait comme d’habitude quand vous l’avez interrompue pour me dire qu’il fallait parler français au Québec. Ça m’a surpris un peu, mais j’ai commencé quand même à vous expliquer qu’elle apprenait. Vous avez décidé de m’ignorer et de pointer votre doigt à une petite fille et de crier « en français ! »

Je suis un nouvel arrivant et je n’avais aucune idée, à ce moment-là, comment réagir. Je ne savais pas si vous auriez l’appui du reste des gens chez le restaurant ou pas. Mon instinct était juste de protéger ma fille de vous. Ma petite fille qui se protégeait derrière moi, intimidée par une madame qui partait en colère pour quelque chose qu’elle ne comprenait pas.

Et pourquoi ?

Je vous demande, madame, c’est à quoi exactement que vous vous attendiez ? Je comprends que vous considérez votre langue importante. En général, j’appuie l’idée que tout le monde doit être capable de se communiquer en français au Québec. Je pense que c’est absolument juste que personne ne vous demande de parler l’anglais ou d’autre langue, quelle qu’elle soit. Vous êtes au Québec et le français devrait être suffisant pour y vivre. Je suis d’accord avec tout ça.

Mais si ma fille veut parler à son papa en sa langue maternelle, qu’est-ce que vous avez à voir avec ça ?
Essayez de vous mettre dans notre place. Essayez de vous imaginer à un autre pays. Est-ce que vous arrêtiez de parler français avec vos enfants ou votre conjoint ? Soyez honnête.

Je ne sais vraiment pas ce que vous pensiez à réussir, madame, mais ce que vous avez réussi à faire c’est de me faire repenser le Québec et les québécois. Vous m’avez fait me demander si les québécois sont tous des colons. C’est ce que vous avez réussi, madame.

Mais même là, vous avez échoué.

Lorsque vous êtes partie, des gens chez le resto sont venus s’excuser de vous. Une femme a donné à ma fille des crayons et une feuille de papier pour qu’elle puisse dessiner afin d’arrêter de pleurer.

J’ai donc conclu que non, vous ne représentez pas le Québec. La plupart des québécois avec qui j’ai eu le plaisir d’interagir m’ont traité avec respect. La plupart des québécois avec qui j’en ai parlé m’ont dit la même chose : vous, et ceux comme vous, avez perdu la guerre. Vous êtes une relique d’un passé honteux de cette belle province. Vous représentez le passé.

Ma fille est l’avenir. Deal with it.

Best icecream I’ve ever had

Years ago, I was part of a project that went completely off the rails. A little context: we were a services company and we had local offices in cities all over the country. My team provided 2nd-level support which means we often had the PMs call us from those via an annoying Nextel radio.

I won’t go through the details but suffice it to say this project envolved one such branch going rogue and committing actual fraud, with criminal proceedings and all. People were on the edge, and the relationship with that branch was increasingly hostile. There was also an internal power struggle in the company between some directors at that point. In other words, a clusterfuck I’ll always cherish, if by cherish you mean hate hate hate. Anywho…

One time, there was a national holiday on a Thursday and we were going to make it a long weekend. As customary, I communicated with all the PMs about contigency plans. This PM then told us that we could not take Friday off because the customer wanted us to fly over there. We were supposed to be at the customer’s site early Friday morning. That meant we would have to fly Thrusday afternoon. I wasn’t happy.

It immediatly felt arbitrary too. As I said, the relationship was not good and we suspected he was just trying to cost us our days off. I knew enough of the customer to be fairly sure they would not have requested us that Friday. Why did the customer want us then? There was nothing yet on production and if it was just to show progress, surely we could move it to Monday. At worst, can’t we make it over the phone? No, no, no, he said. The customer was adamant that we be there on Friday. Sucked to be us.

So we flew over Thursday afternoon and on Friday morning we headed to the customer’s offices only to find it closed. They too had made it a long weekend and wouldn’t be back until Monday.

Normally I would be furious over the waste of time but to be honest, both I and my colleague smiled at that. It confirmed that the PM just tried to screw us and the customer have never asked for us. We headed back to the local office.

Before coming in, we both bought ourselves some icecream. My friend stayed in the little garden in front and I went in. The PM immediatly saw me and demanded to know why I wasn’t at the customer yet. I didn’t answer. Instead I grabbed the Nextel radio and headed back out with the PM following. I then sat down on the grass and called my director. Smiling and staring at the PM, I told him about the office being closed. The PM’s face froze when my director asked to talk to him.

We sat outside under the sun, enjoying our icecreams while the PM got shouted at. It was the best icecream I’ve ever had.

Avoiding Avoidance Behaviour

I am currently trying a new approach to deal with my social phobia. Basically it involves avoiding avoidance behaviours. You see, people with social anxiety tend to avoid problematic situations and run to metaphorical safe places. After a while, the avoidance behaviours become almost automatic, almost imperceptible.

Almost but not quite.

We behave so without thinking but we recognize the behaviour while we’re doing it. And that’s exactly when we have to force ourselves to avoid avoidance. It is very difficult and the temptation of avoidance is almost irresistible. The problem, of course, is the more we avoid things, the harder it is to stop doing it later in life.

Last night I posted something to Facebook —

The voices of social anxiety immediately started working in my head. “FriendA will mock at you,” they shout. “FriendB will think you’re pathetic.” And so they went. I came this close to deleting the post before stopping and forcing myself to ignore the voices.

It is not easy. It is so not easy that I am writing a blog post about it. Social phobia makes my mind work against me: it constantly attacks me, my self-esteem, and my confidence. It would be so much easier to just delete the post.

Dealing with social anxiety involves many counter-intuitive measures: it forces socially anxious people to go against what our own brains tell us is not the safest route.

I need to keep working on it. I’ll need to continue to force myself into doing more of what I desperately want to avoid. Let’s see how it goes.

Goodbye, Mr. Spock.

Leonard Nimoy

I am sad. The New York Times

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

I am actually sad. As much as Star Trek was a part of my life, I had not felt this way when other cast members passed away in the past.

I suppose Nimoy was different somehow. My theory is that as Spock, he would (almost) never smile and that made his rare smile that much more important. When I think of Nimoy/Spock, it is his smile that I picture in my mind. When out of character, he was always smiling. This contrast forces an emotional connection or something. I don’t know.

What I do know is I am sad. For whatever’s worth, Nimoy was a part of my life.

You’ll be missed, Mr. Nimoy. I have been, and always shall be, your fan.

My social anxiety screwed me royally this week

By Christopher Walker (Sadness) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A few years ago I wrote about how social anxiety makes me use fake accounts on the web.

I love coding. I have done it since I was a kid and it’s the best thing I know how to do. And then there is open source. Open source projects should be the perfect venue for me to have f un. Except I am scared stiff by the idea that someone might laugh at the code. It came to a point where it is impossible for me to contribute. Then I’ve come up with a solution: an alias. For the past several years I’ve lived two different lives online: one as myself and another as an alias. I keep them strictly separate.

Actually I today use more than one single separate life. Looking at my Chrome identities menu I count four (including the real me), but I actually have more around that I have abandoned.

It has allowed me to do what I like to do. I don’t have to be afraid because I know all I have to do is abandon one account and start over with another. It’s a good solution but it has some issues.

I have been offered this great job in the past by the manager of someone I’ve worked together. It was one of the Big Tech Companies, a place I really would love to work. All great, right? Except the offer was not addresses to Roberto Teixeira, but to one of my aliases. Tough luck. I’ve soon abandoned that alias for good.

So yes, it sucks. But not as much as it has sucked this week.

I—under an alias—have been working with a developer of a big open source project out there to try to solve a problem we were having at work. And I found a solution that was pretty clever. That developer checked it out and thought it was great and then we both wrote a proposal and submitted it. And it was accepted and our change will be part of their next major release.

I’m not saying it was something revolutionary or anything. Still, it was something I am very proud of. And there will be a name there in the changelog/release notes/whatever but it will not be my name.

This happened the same week I learned that someone I–the real me; real name and everything–interviewed with a few months ago had dismissed me for not having open source contributions.

In short, I am sad and angry. Fuck social anxiety. 🙁

(photo: Christopher Walker (Sadness) / CC BY-SA 2.0 / via Wikimedia Commons)

Why is Change So Difficult?

I have long been a bit of a nomad. What is interesting to me is that I don’t really like change too much. I am a creature of habit and yet, here I am.

Brazil_argentina_allegory

Four years ago, I moved to Argentina due to professional reasons. At the time, I had my mind set that I was going to give it a try and come back if it didn’t work out. It was a hard decision too, since my wife and I were pregnant of our daughter. But we took the plunge anyway. We knew we could always come back and as Terry Pratchett wrote in one of his Discworld novels —

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

I am now leaving, returning to my old country. It is mostly due to the economic situation in Argentina. I was able to mostly protect myself by keeping my savings in Brazil as well as transferring as much money as I could from Argentina. But still, I need to make a move. Our daughter is growing up and should start school soon so if we’re going, we should go now.

I officially left my job about a week ago. My wife and daughter left soon after as I stayed to put our affairs in order — selling stuff, closing accounts, the whole thing — and now it’s my time. I am leaving in the morning.

Being here alone made me think about — and fear — the future. Why is change always so difficult?

It isn’t that I have doubts about the decision itself. I know it is the best move for us. But I still fear it.

Will I ever find another job again? Am I too old to do these things? Will my daughter learn to speak the language? Rationally and logically I know the answers to these questions. But the fear of change is there.

What I learned — or at least what I tell myself — is that it’s fine to be afraid. Being afraid just means you are about to do something brave. Or stupid. Starting tomorrow, I find out which.

Adiós, Argentina. See you all on the other side.

Goodbye Intel

Eight years ago I joined a great company in Intel. It has been a great ride but as of a few minutes ago, I have informed my manager that I quitting my job for personal reasons.

A couple of years ago, I relocated to the software development centre in Cordoba, Argentina. It was always meant to be a temporary assignment but it ended up being longer than my family and I ever thought. And as our daughter grows up, it becomes ever more difficult to engage in international relocations, so my wife—who also works at Intel, by the way—and I decided that we needed to act. We set a hard deadline for the move and stuck to it. This is it.

My wife, daugher, and I at the Intel Minigolf side during the last Kids@work Day

My wife and daughter will be flying to Brazil in two weeks and I should follow some short time later, once I’m done closing everything behind. We’ll be relocating to Curitiba, where my wife and I first met 13 years ago, so it’s fitting.

So this is it. Good bye, Intel, it’s been fun and I wish you all the best.

Not a-ok

I have a little confession to make: our family is going through a rough patch. Both my wife and I are having problems. No, not between us. And both are experiencing very different sorts of problems. But the happening-at-the-same-time complicates the one-supports-the-other thing.

And to compound to that, I have been sick.

As I sat in the waiting room at the hospital the other day, waiting for some exams, I felt like this is one of the worst times of my life. I feel tired, unmotivated, unappreciated, and generally unhappy. And fucking hopeless. That’s the worst part, I suppose.

I also have been distancing myself from friends lately. Ostensibly to avoid distractions in a time where I am having to give all and a bit more to a project I do not believe in. Truth be told, I just don’t feel like small talk but I also don’t want bring others down to my Dark Hole of Misery. And so I’m trying to keep some distance.

I feel lost. I look at my friends and how they all seem to have it all figured out already. I’m still trying to figure out who the fuck I am. I was so sure when I was younger. I was so fucking good at what I did. Now? I just don’t know anymore. I feel unhappy.

I know some people who will be So. Fucking. Happy. reading the paragraph above. This one’s for free for you guys.

But not all is bad news. I actually got some good news last night. I can’t tell the details although I know some of you know exactly what this is about. Anyway, I now have a set date for it and it’s in under six months from now.

I’m actually confident that this will make it all better somehow. Just have to wait.

Sorry for the downer, but I felt like writing something.