Who am I? What's in this blog?

Hi! I'm Ola.

I'm a polyamorous, atheist geek. My partner Danny and I work as software engineers at Google (after 3 years, I still can't believe I pulled that one off! :-)) I have lived most of my life in Israel -- we moved to Canada in 2011. I'm enjoying Canada immensely!

Among my hobbies: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu -- although the sport is such an important part of my life that I doubt if "hobbie" is the right word for it. Unfortunately, I discovered this amazing art very late (aged 28); also unfortunate is the fact that I completely lack any sort of talent or natural instinct for it... :-(
Here are my BJJ diaries. I am currently on break, though (I am not yet ready to admit quitting...)

Another hobby that I completely immersed myself into lately is No-Limit Texas Hold'em. It's kinda like BJJ -- only I can kick some ass at it :-)

Other things I like: books, board games, films, talking with friends.

I started this blog in the beginning of 2009. Warning: it is about ME ME ME ME ME – and my opinions on all kinds of stuff. Its main purpose is to offer a glimpse into my soul to anyone interested. It is intended primarily for people who are already for some reason curious about me and want to get to know me better.

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Странно, как со временем меняется моё отношение к песням. Вот, Никитиных, к примеру, всегда любила, а тут послушала "Помяни поэта, дева" ещё раз и вдруг разозлилась -- да как же это она мне всегда нравилась? I mean, could the author possibly be even more condescending to the woman? Sheesh.
А потом кликнула на предложенный YouTube линк и послушала Окуджаву:

Рыдала как ребёнок! Даже странно -- эта песня мне всегда нравилась, но теперь мне кажется, что я её не совсем понимала раньше. Для этой песни надо было немного повзрослеть, наверноe.

Я вновь повстречался с Надеждой -
                      приятная встреча.
Она проживает все там же -
                       то я был далече.
Все то же на ней из поплина
                     счастливое платье,
все так же горяч ее взор,
                  устремленный в века...
Ты наша сестра,
            мы твои молчаливые братья,
и трудно поверить,
               что жизнь коротка.
А разве ты нам обещала
                   чертоги златые?
Мы сами себе их рисуем,
                    пока молодые,
мы сами себе сочиняем
                  и песни и судьбы,
и горе тому, кто одернет
                     не вовремя нас...
Ты наша сестра,
           мы твои торопливые судьи,
нам выпало счастье,
               да скрылось из глаз.
Когда бы любовь и надежду
                  связать воедино,
какая бы (трудно поверить)
                 возникла картина!
Какие бы нас миновали
                 напрасные муки,
и только прекрасные муки
                  глядели б с чела...
Ты наша сестра.
     Что ж так долго мы были в разлуке?
Нас юность сводила,
               да старость свела.

Agreeing to disagree we ain't!

joreth has just written a passionate essay about why everything I said here was bullshit.

Dear me. I think I'm about to cry!

Or, you know, not.

Actually, I'm really surprised by my feelings on this -- usually, I would really want to argue, I'd spend hours writing wordy replies and exchanging ideas, involving other people into the discussion, trying to learn. I always want to argue when I disagree with someone -- for me, wanting to discuss it is a sign of respect, sign of being interested in understanding. This time is different... or, maybe I'm just tired. But the fact is, I just don't give a fuck.
Oh, yes, so she said:

I do not respect anyone who defends the position that it is ever morally or ethically "right" to do any of those things.[...] And if the defender is also polyamorous, is also a community leader or activist or "celebrity" espousing the values of polyamory as a valid and, especially as an "ethical" relationship choice, not only do I not respect that person, I also think she's a hypocrite. Since I've already heard all the defenses, continuing to defend that position only makes the defender look worse in my eyes.

Well... ooookay. So be it. I honestly don't give a shit. I have a lot of respect for joreth (check out here if you want to know why), but I just... really don't care if she gives me any in return, you know? Strange, right? Maybe it would be different if she was a friend in real life. Yeah, probably so.

Or maybe it's because I feel that no further understanding would be gained by discussing it. As she said, she already heard other people defending my point. I don't think I could defend it much better. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't feel like trying. And, of course, for my part, I've read what joreth had to say, and I was not convinced at all (just a couple of non-sequiturs in her logic that, in my opinion, completely break down her argument -- but I don't feel like explaining it). I suspect that in this instance, she already understands my position -- and I already understand hers -- and we still disagree.

Just a few months ago, I would say that this situation is impossible. I guess I am growing up.

P.S. joreth does not read my journal, so this post is not a lowly "bait", or whatever. She's not going to see this. This post is more for contrasting the two opinions on this tough and nuanced topic (we both don't nearly do it justice), and also for noting an uncharacteristic emotional reaction on my part.
white belt

Tragedy: Boy Chokes Cousin to Death

Whether you do martial arts or not, I think you should watch this video:

Rener and Ryron Gracie explain the dangers of the rear naked choke (it’s not easy at all to determine that the recipient has passed out! Their body will not go limp, as one might think!) They end with the super-important 10 seconds rule: if you apply the choke for 10 seconds and your partner is not tapping, then either (1) he is unconscious, or (2) you’re doing it wrong -- and in both cases you should let go!

I’ve been doing jiu jitsu for a while, and the scary thing about this video is that it made me realize that I’ve been doing some things wrong.

I did not observe the 10 seconds rule.

Throughout my entire experience, I was almost always sparring with someone who is a lot better than me. So, I got too used to knowing that there was no way I’d actually catch him in a choke; and that whenever I was applying a choke and he was not tapping, it was because I was doing it wrong. Now, there are emotional reasons why it is difficult to let go at that point, even though I know that I’m doing it wrong -- I keep hoping that it might still work with just a little more time, and, more importantly, I’m afraid to let go, because I know that then he won’t give me any opportunities to adjust the choke, and I’ll just lose the position.

And it’s been the same way with other newbies when they sparred with me -- there were numerous times when I didn’t tap to a misapplied choke, instead just telling them “No, that’s not working. You’re just wasting energy this way”. But before I said it, they just kept trying on and on! The important thing here is that we all got way too used to relying on our partner to tap on time, and this tragedy has reminded me of the terrible danger of this approach.

All jiu jitsu practitioners know the feeling of being choked correctly -- that’s something you learn from day one, with the explicit purpose of being able to identify when you should tap. That’s super important. However, that should never be your only precaution! You cannot rely solely on your partner to be responsible for their own safety -- and that’s something that might be easy to forget when you keep sparring with very knowledgeable people. Even the knowledgeable people can be wrong; more importantly, if you get too used to relying on the other person to tap, you might automatically do the same when playing with a friend or a relative who doesn’t know when to tap -- and the consequences might be dire.

P.S. From what I understood, neither the boy nor his cousin have practiced jiu jitsu; the boy was probably just trying the moves from TV, without any awareness of safety measures. As Rener said, if even one of them had any jiu jitsu experience, this tragedy would almost certainly be prevented (I never heard of a single death case related to jiu jitsu). But nevertheless it made me do some uncomfortable introspection of my own practices, and I found them lacking.

Does My Blog Work?

Yesterday, a friend told me that my blog doesn't work.

It was like this: he asked why do I feel the need to be so open about myself online, and I told him that, among other things, it makes it easy for people to get to know me. In particular, it filters the right people out. Someone can read my blog and decide that he doesn't like me, without me even knowing. Very efficient.

"Doesn't work", he said. "When I tried reading your blog, I thought you were unbelievably boring! And you are not. This blog paints a completely wrong picture of you. If that's what you want to achieve with it -- to allow people to get to know the real you -- then it fails."

Just to make sure, I asked him whether his dislike of my blog was because I can't write, or because he disagreed with whatever I was saying. I know that some people find it difficult to separate style and content. (For me it's actually pretty easy -- I often find myself thinking things like "Wow, this guy sure can write! Pity his opinions are so dumb." But my mom is not like that -- a good writer can easily convince her of almost anything.) So I asked him about it -- because I myself understand that I can't write worth a damn. (For example, I know for a fact that I have a sense of humor -- I make people laugh often in conversations -- but unfortunately, this trait is almost completely absent from my writing).

But he insisted it was both -- that he just got a completely different picture from my blog than from me in person.

And I just realized I don't have many people whom I can ask. Not many people who actually know me closely follow my blog (which is, btw., a big sign that my friend was right on target...)

For what it's worth, though -- what do you think? Does my blog paint a truthful picture of me?

Dishonest Friendship?

Huh. I just accidentally found something I wrote almost three years ago, and didn't publish for some reason. Here it is -- my opinion didn't change since then.

It seems that I’m a freak.

I recently witnessed many discussions on how acceptable it is to pursue a friendship with someone you're interested in romantically, and I keep hearing opinions that are absolutely baffling to me. I hear things like: it's wrong, it's dishonest, it's not a "real" friendship, the other person will be rightfully furious at you when they find out, etc. etc.

It seems that, for all these people, friendship and romance are required to develop on absolutely distinct paths, right off the bat; otherwise, they see it as wrong somehow.

Example: Dan Savage said in response to one of Savage Love letters:

It's shredding, emotionally speaking, to make friends with guys in the hopes that something more will happen only to be rejected once you've invested a lot of energy and time in the friend you really want to fuck. It's also dishonest: your new friend will realize, once the pass is made, that you had designs on 'em all along, that you had an ulterior motive, and conclude that your friendship wasn't genuine.”

I'm sorry, I just completely don't get this.

I suspect that the difference between us is this: they see friendship as opposed to a romantic relationship, like the two are mutually exclusive, whereas I see friendship as being a part of romantic relationship. Moreover, it is an absolutely vital part – I can’t have romantic relationships without it. All of my romantic relationships began with friendship!

Another point: friendship is not only a vital part of a relationship – it is also the most important one, by far! The most rewarding, the most fun, the most worthy to pursue. Whenever I really like someone, I’ll always be willing to give up the sex in order to be able to be their friend. And that is the main difference between me and the people that Dan Savage represented in that letter.

What Dan meant is probably this: if you could know in advance that the person will never sleep with you, you wouldn’t initiate friendship with them in the first place! The only motive for your “friendliness” was the chance to get in their pants! Now, if that was really your thinking, then, yes -- you were, indeed, dishonest, I agree with that.

But that is absolutely not how it works for me. When I am trying to become friends with someone, it is because I find them interesting and fun and I want to be their friend. Now, I may also want to sleep with them; but I can’t emphasize the “also” enough. The romance is not mandatory – the friendship is. First, foremost and most importantly – I want to be their friend.

In fact, I’m quite disgusted with Dan’s words (for the very first time, actually – and I’ve read almost everything he ever wrote). For me, spending time and energy on a friend is its own reward... otherwise, what kind of friendship is that?! And regarding the emotional turmoil – yes, I agree, it can be not easy sometimes. But it’s totally worth it. (At least for me.)

This post has a dual goal:

If you’re my friend, and you realize that I’m in love with you – don’t conclude that my friendship is not genuine. It is.

If you are interested in me romantically, ask yourself: if a fairy told you that she looked into the future and I definitely won't sleep with you, ever – would that knowledge make you not want to be my friend anymore?

If the answer is yes – that you’re interested in my friendship only on condition for the prospect of sex – please, fuck off! I mean it – we’re not right for each other, I don’t need you in my life.
But it is completely okay if you are interested in sex – as long as you are interested in me regardless of ever having it.
white belt

BJJ Diaries: Experience

-- Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again. (Franklin P. Jones)

That's exactly how I feel in jiu jitsu. And that is in the best case, actually. Like, today I rolled with an awesome brown belt, Drew (it's such a pleasure to watch him!), but, I don't know, I just feel so stupid! Like, from his point of view, it probably looks like "Okay, I'm doing this sweep or that sweep". From my point of view, it is more like "I was up, and now I'm on my ass, and I have no idea what happened!" And it's like that all the time! :-(  And 'progress' only means that instead it is like "I still don't know what exactly happened, but I'm pretty sure it already happened before! Oh! Here it goes again! Shit..." And then I feel even more stupid for not being able to figure it out even after being shown so many times...

Home, Sweet Home

Oookay, so we just moved to Canada! Whoo-hoo!

Danny's birthday cake, 4 days before our flight

We’ve been very busy in the last days and I’m tired... I apologize upfront that this post is more of a long collection of random ramblings about our experiences here so far; but I know that many friends are interested and asked us for an update, so here goes... :-)

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There Can Be Only One

I decided to radically cut down the time that I spend on social networking sites (and on the Internet in general), and so I will choose among Google+ and Facebook.

And my choice is... (drum roll)



Okay, obviously, I’m being loyal to my employer :-) But there are also other reasons. For one, the social networking core of Google+ (circles) is the most sensible I have seen so far. Unlike the common “friends” models, it follows the actual reality of people’s social interactions: namely, all people are part of various social circles, and wish to maintain different interactions with their different circles. You just cannot reduce everything to “friends”! Frankly, I really hate the “friends” concept, especially the Facebook version. The most annoying thing is that it is symmetrical -- someone needs my permission to be added. So the most common exchange I have on Facebook is “Hi, can I be your friend?” “Um, I have no idea who you are” and it’s silly and leaves a bad taste. After all, someone just asked to become my friend -- what kind of a bitch am I to refuse to that?

LJ model also doesn’t solve the problem, since it still uses the loaded term “friend” for a relationship that actually means two superficial and badly related things: 1) “I want to read what you write in my stream” and 2) “I want you to see my locked posts”. I know many people who feel compelled to add someone on LJ when being added -- they cannot help feeling that it is expected of them, and then they complain that their flist is full of stupid...

Google+ solves it. When someone adds you, you get the notification “John Doe has added you to his circles”, and you don’t feel the slightest reason to add him back. For all you know, the circle he added you into is named “Assholes to laugh at” or “Clingy one-night stands” or something. And if you do add him, you can throw him into a circle such as “Weirdos/stalkers” and never share anything with that circle! Adding someone to circles means only what you want it to, for every specific person.

So this song could never be about Google+:

Well, obviously, G+ is only beginning its way. The whole world is on FB; there are pages not only for people, but for groups, products, interests, activities, etc. G+ doesn’t have that yet; I believe it will. The most important thing is the user base; the rest, I think, will follow...

And that brings me to the main reason I’m switching: too many people think that it is impossible to overthrow such a dominant player on the market as FB has become, and... I just want to see Google prove them all wrong! ;-) It promises to be a fun battle to watch, and I’m rooting for the underdog.

So, guys: we are trying to overthrow Zuckerberg’s empire, who’s with us? :-)  See you on Google+!

Dr. Rozenfeld! Whoooo!

Well, finally!

Updates to follow (in particular, I'll post a link to my thesis for the pathologically curious :-)). But for now, I just want to take a rest... And this is exactly what Danny and I have in mind for the next month. As anyone following this journal probably knows (not because I've written about it here, but because only close friends read it... :-)) Danny and I are moving to Canada on August, 1-st, to begin a new life working at Google! I graduated today, Danny's last work day is tomorrow, and the next month will be dedicated solely to having as much fun together as we can think of, while saying goodbye to Israel and all our friends here!

Wow, I still can't believe it's actually over...