Technically Religious
S3E09: Tales from the TAMO Cloud - Keith Townsend

S3E09: Tales from the TAMO Cloud - Keith Townsend

May 25, 2021

Did you ever wonder why IT diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a "TAMO Cloud" - which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred". It indicated an area of tech that was inscruitable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in it's output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO Cloud - where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys - both technical and theological - and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. This episode features my talk with my friend and frequent Technically Religious guest, Keith Townsend. Listen or read the transcript below.

Into music (00:03):
Intro  (00:32):
Welcome to our podcast, where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT, we're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.
TAMO intro (00:53):
Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside that was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for then a miracle occurred. It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless, something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output for IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting, to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the it community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today and where they see themselves in the future.
Leon Adato (01:39):
My name is Leon Adato, and the other voice you'll hear on this episode is long-time technically religious, uh, contributor, Keith Townsend.
Keith Townsend (01:47):
How's it gone.
Leon Adato (01:48):
It is going great. It is so good to have you back on the podcast this year. Um, before we dive into any of these conversations, I've been waiting to have this one with you for a long time. Um, I want to give you a moment of shameless self promotion, where you can talk about anything and everything that is particularly Keith and CTO advisor and stuff like that. So where can people find you? What are you doing these days? All that stuff.
Keith Townsend (02:12):
All right. So you can find me, uh, easiest. Wait, you know what, there's a new website that we did this year. So let's Hawk that the CTO has been a completely revamped. It's a completely new platform and, and sculp. Uh, we did it. We're pretty proud of the work there.
Leon Adato (02:30):
Awesome. So we'll check that out. Fine. And how about on the Twitters? Which we like to say to horrify your daughter?
Keith Townsend (02:35):
On the Twitter? Because you know, my daughter loves that it's @CTOadvisor.
Leon Adato (02:42):
Perfect. Um, anything else that you want us to pay attention to where people can find you and what you're working on?
Keith Townsend (02:48):
Well, what I'm working on is a, you know, we've been in the throws of cold COVID just.
Leon Adato (02:54):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (02:54):
Before the, you hit the big red button. We talked about just the impact of, uh, looking for the vaccine. What we're looking for at the CTO advisor is looking beyond that, we're going to do a road trip in which we're going to hit 12 cities over three month period. Me and Melissa driving around the big Ford pickup, pulling a Airstream and talking to people who listen to this podcast. So people in technology and, uh, technology vendors, we're we're going to have a good time over the three months. So keep checking the website, check the Twitter feed on for our travels.
Leon Adato (03:33):
Fantastic. Okay. And the last thing is, um, just briefly your religious ethical or moral point of view.
Keith Townsend (03:39):
So, you know, uh, this is a big, uh, questionmark for a lot of people, but I think I have it down pat, I'm non-denominational,
Leon Adato (03:50):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (03:50):
However, I'm from a branch of the Chicago, I mean of, uh, the churches of Christ. So if you're a Christian and you think of the churches of Christ as a denomination there, that's where I'm at.
Leon Adato (04:03):
Fantastic. Okay. And if you're scribbling any of the websites or stuff down, this is just a reminder to keep your hand on the wheel, pay attention to the road. Don't worry about it. There's going to be show notes that come out the day after this podcast drops. So anything that Keith and I are talking about here is going to be written down there for you. You do not need to make notes. With that said, I want to start off with the technical side. So CTO advisor doing road trips, like what, what is your day to day technical life look like?
Keith Townsend (04:32):
Well, you know what? I was just sharing with my wife, Melissa, that that has become a lot more blurry. So I can identify religious, really religion, really easily compared to what I do technically anymore, because I spent so much time as a business owner on the administrative parts of busy, of the.
Leon Adato (04:51):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (04:51):
Business, when I'm not spending time on the administrative parts of the business, selling product, creating product, et cetera, I'm doing analyst work. So I get briefed, I disseminate that information from technical folks. I create content around that and help, uh, decision makers, make decisions around purchases. And occasionally I'll take the advisory role and advise a company on their hybrid infrastructure journey.
Leon Adato (05:19):
Got it. And, and I know that you do a lot with, you know, basically in the cloud space, uh, you have a couple of opinions about Kubernetes. You, um, may even dabble in building data centers for yourself for fun.
Keith Townsend (05:36):
For fun, or for profit. Yes, I, so I do, uh, I have the CTO advisor hybrid infrastructure, which is, you know, we, this whole Kubernetes thing and all of the journeys we talk about moving from public, from private data center to public cloud, very abstract terms, the CTO adriser hybrid infrastructure is a concrete something I can put my finger on and say, this is what their journey from private data center to hybrid infrastructure looks like. This is what it tastes like. This is what it feels like. Here's the pain points, the gadgets. So we built a data center with the intent of showing the journey from private data center to hybrid infrastructure.
Leon Adato (06:20):
Very cool and nice that, that you have a visceral sense of what that looks like, and you can convey that. That's really cool. Okay. So I'm going to presume that you were not born with a silver keyboard in your mouth, that you were not that upon your birth, your mother didn't look at you and say, yes, let's call him CTO advisor. That's what we will do. Where did you start off in tech? What was your, your, you know, rough beginnings?
Keith Townsend (06:42):
So rough beginnings, the, uh, old man, as you know, we like to call them, uh, bought me a color computer 2 a tan TRS 80 color computer 2, for those of you that were born after the year 2000, this machine from, uh, I bought a car from somebody that was born in 20, in 2000 last night. So that was a really interesting experience.
Leon Adato (07:06):
Keith Townsend (07:06):
But, uh, uh, in 1984, 1983, my dad bought me a color computer 2, uh, Leon. We're both of an age group that we remember war games,
Leon Adato (07:18):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (07:18):
The great geek movie of all the greatest geek movie of all times,
Leon Adato (07:23):
Possibly yes.
Keith Townsend (07:23):
And I had in my mind, you know what, I'm going to go play TIC TAC TOE on a, the color computer. And that started my love for technology. Uh, you know, and then you forward through the hobbyist phase to, when I actually started to get involved in tech, it was post, uh, my initial con uh, career in hospitality. I always had the bug for tech and I got a job, uh, pre year 2K when you had a win, if you had a pulse and could spell windows, you could get a job in technology. I parlayed that into a job working in the help desk for a, uh, commodities data provider, uh, commodities trading, uh, data provider, uh, for the third shift. And that's way back in 1997, I think.
Leon Adato (08:14):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (08:14):
So that's, that's the start. I just supporting commodity traders, trying to get real time data feeds off of our product. So that was a really interesting experience, uh, trying to, uh, explain to somebody with an Indian accent, what a Tilda was.
Leon Adato (08:30):
What a Tilda Yeah, What does that exactly look like?
Keith Townsend (08:33):
What is a Tilda?
Leon Adato (08:33):
And also on their keyboard, where would you find it possibly nowhere?
Keith Townsend (08:37):
Leon Adato (08:37):
Um, yeah. And, and I've commented a few times on the show that that help desk is for many of us, one of the formative experiences that we have that either show us that we never ever want to work in tech ever again, or that there is so much richness and so much, you know, to learn and so many different directions to go in that we just can't ever get away from it. Um, all right. So then the next question is, you know, started off post TRS, you know, color to TRS 80, uh, post that into the help desk. How did you get from there to where you are today? What was that progression like?
Keith Townsend (09:18):
Wow, that's a, that's a really great story, uh, or, or question, and it was a lot of, uh, just excellent people throughout my career and grit. The great thing about starting out and learning about technology, of a passion for it. This is one of those industries where you can make a really great living for your family and not have a degree. I don't have one, at the time. I did not have a degree in computing. I didn't even have a degree. I only had maybe six months of community college under my belt from a, from going to community college for two years. I'll probably only hit six months of credit. So, uh, the third shift job, I grabbed a MSCE, MS, MCSE, and then,
Leon Adato (10:08):
MCSE. Yeah, I have to say it really fast to get it right.
Keith Townsend (10:10):
MCSE certification guide. And I went down the journey of consuming every bit of information I can around certification. Uh, I'm super proud that I took the windows 95, uh, certification test, which was way harder than a windows NT4 old test. And I got like 98% on it. And I was super geek because I studied for it for months. But, you know, I use that certification path as a way to elevate myself into my next career opportunity, which was again, working at the help desk. But this time at the, at the Chicago Tribune making 20 grand more a year,
Leon Adato (10:48):
Keith Townsend (10:48):
Uh, the going again that self study route, uh, mentors, et cetera, moved on to network administration, not even a year after taking the job at, uh, the Tribune, still at the Tribune moved from that to a low dip. I started this brand called Townsend consulting. It's still part of my email address. I can't, uh, but I was super naive as many 20 or 20 something year olds are at the time, uh, thinking that I knew enough to actually advise and consult people on, on how to deploy windows technologies. I guess I was as knowledgeable as anyone, uh, took a hard turn in my career, actually, uh, personally I had to file bankruptcy because it was a very, very bad career move. Uh, I should have, uh, stuck with a full-time employment, uh, but, uh, this is around 9/11. Uh, so I spent, uh, think about six or seven months unemployed, uh, because I made wrong turn in my career. Uh, we, we re, recouped, spent a bit of time, uh, and a mid size organization doing again, network administration where, uh, did a lot of really cool projects like, uh, deploying a backup system, deploying my first sand storage area network,
Leon Adato (12:15):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (12:15):
Uh, just cutting the next five or six years, just really earning my stripes in IT around the 10, 11 year point of my career. Uh, I finally finished my degree and, uh, computing BA in computing from DePaul university. We, uh, moved to Maryland because we were in and yet a, another recession. This is around 2008, 2009.
Leon Adato (12:43):
Keith Townsend (12:43):
Uh, we moved to Maryland where I took a job at Lockheed Martin, which completely, uh, changed my career. Uh, uh, telemetry.
Leon Adato (12:52):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (12:52):
I went from very engineer focused. This is if people have ever followed me throughout my career, I was virtualized geek back then, uh, moved from, uh, being kind of an engineer to an architect, a lot more customer facing, uh, uh, roles and opportunities, managing projects. I finished up my Master's in IT project management, uh, that opened the door for me to, uh, move to PWC, which where I became the CTO advisor, the conversation has changed from, should I, you know, use I scuzzy versus NFS versus fiber channel to, you know, what should we outsource all of IT? Uh, the, so that's where, you know, I stepped away from the keyboard. This is circa 2012, 14, and ever since I've been kind of, you know, that's been the brand and the focus of my career, not necessarily, uh, I'm, I'm a management consultant. Not necessarily I am a management consultant necessarily, but I'm a management consultant with deep technical chops. So I can talk, you know, everything from, uh, file systems to storage technology, and other storage technologies to, uh, EBGP all the way to "Should, uh. we, you know, use OPEX versus CapEx for a purchasing decision is how I, how I landed here.
Leon Adato (14:25):
Got it. That is so what's wonderful about that, that narrative is that I think a lot of people who've been in it for a while can say, Oh, I, I can see myself in that journey. Again, a lot of us have gotten our start in or near the help desk. A lot of us have made several, um, you know, career or company changes, which led to career changes, or at least technical pivots and what we did. So, um, it's really nice to hear that story validated in your experiences. Um, you know, that, that there is a pattern to it. So many people come to it from so many different directions that sometimes you feel like, yeah, it doesn't matter what you do. It's and I, you know, who knows where it's going to end up? No, there really is. There really is sort of a path to it, even though it may not be as formalized as say, you know, a trade or, you know, one of the, we'll say the higher, How do I want to say this, one of the more traditional degreed paths, like, you know, get, you know, being a physician or a lawyer or whatever. Um, okay. So that covers the, the technical side of it. I want to flip over to the religious side and,
Keith Townsend (15:40):
Uh huh.
Leon Adato (15:40):
I always like to make the caveat that, um, labels are challenging in a lot of cases, you said that you had a very easy time sort of identifying yourself, but I know that a lot of folks, when they say, when I say, what are you, they're like, well, I'm a, I'm kind of this, but not that, not that part of it. I, one person on a earlier show identified themselves as a kicking and screaming Christian. So, you know, stuff like that. So I want to start off by saying, how do you identify religiously today? Tell us a little bit more about, um, where you place yourself religiously today.
Keith Townsend (16:14):
So, you know, it's really interesting because, um, I think when most people, um, for those who you can't physically see me, I've never physically seen me and can't tell by my voice, cause voices are hard. I'm an African-American. And when most people think of African-American Christians, I think they have this image in their head of Baptist,
Leon Adato (16:35):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (16:35):
uh, traditional soulful worship type of church. Nah, I go, I go to a multi-national I'm in a multi-national, uh, congregation.
Leon Adato (16:48):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (16:48):
And, um, community. So there's a bit of everything. So you can kind of think of it as a little bit more reserved, which has some really interesting, um, uh, I think impacts because traditionally I think you would think of the churches of Christ as more of a Evangelistic.
Leon Adato (17:11):
Keith Townsend (17:11):
Movement. So when you think of the Evangelistic movement, you think of the politics around that today. And I'm very much not of the politics of the evangelistical movement, uh, and that creates some really interesting conflicts within our, uh, with our, within our multi-national multi-racial community, because you have a lot of that culture mixed with a whole lot of black folk. So, uh, if, if for those who need a point of reference, you'll think of the traditional evangelical, uh, doctrine,
Leon Adato (17:53):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (17:53):
But mixed with a lot of, uh, multi-racial, uh, congregation and you get the complexities and the flavor of that, but bubbling, bubbling up.
Leon Adato (18:06):
Yeah. It's, it's never as simple as I think the media, or, you know, a quick, you know, three inches of a New York times article wants to make it sound, there's always nuances. There's always, you know, people are complicated and they bring themselves to everything that they do. So it's, it's never, never a simple thing. So, um, that is interesting. And again, as I said, with the, with the tech, you probably weren't born as a multinational multicultural, uh, church of Christ evangelical, but not that kind, kind of a Christian. So you know, where do you start off? What was your home life? You know, what was your home religious life like growing up?
Keith Townsend (18:48):
So the, one day, if my mother was in tech, uh, she make a amazing, uh, guests because she kind of covers the, the spectrum. Uh, we, my mom specifically, my father was not religious. Uh, much of all, he has Christian, like many Christians are like many religions. If you're, if you're culturally a Christian, you know, you identify as Christian, but you're not really practicing.
Leon Adato (19:13):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (19:13):
So my father was a non-practicing Christian, just, you know, uh, but my mom, uh, when we were in, around, when I was in junior high, basically, uh, became a Jehovah's witness and my mom is now a Muslim. So,
Leon Adato (19:32):
Keith Townsend (19:32):
That is, that has been quite the journey. And it's always an interesting conversation, uh, with her. And we'll get into that, I think, in, in another podcast or another date, but it's an amazing, uh, conversation, but which makes it really, which has made my Christian journey, my religious journey really interesting. Uh, what is common between events, if Jehovah's witnesses were, uh, political at all, I think their politics were probably lean towards what the evangelical churches will will,
Leon Adato (20:04):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (20:04):
But more importantly, culturally they're very similar. Faiths might be slight doctrine may be slightly different,
Leon Adato (20:12):
Keith Townsend (20:12):
But culturally they're very, very similar. So I'm finding that a lot of the, of what I remember in my childhood as worship and as, uh, meeting and community is very similar in my, uh, religious experience today.
Leon Adato (20:29):
Got it. Okay. So yeah, so the, the, the feeling of it was the same, even if the, the particulars of the expression of it may have been slightly different, so that's.
Keith Townsend (20:40):
Leon Adato (20:40):
Okay. Very cool. And so having grown up in a Jehovah's witness house, even though your mom herself went through her own religious journey, what was yours like from, from that, to this, to where you are today?
Keith Townsend (20:53):
So, what's really interesting is that I, I, uh, I wholeheartedly believe than the, uh, Jehovah's witnesses doctrine when as a, as a teen, as a, uh, fairly young adult, when my mother, uh, uh, faith changed so that mine's. Mines didn't change to the extreme that my mother's did, where she, uh, where, uh, where she went with a completely different lineage of faith,
Leon Adato (21:25):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (21:25):
Mine's changed in the fact that, uh, it wasn't as strong as I thought it was. Uh, I was sound in, um, the beliefs of Christianity, that I don't think has changed.
Leon Adato (21:38):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (21:38):
What had changed was whether or not I become, whether or not I was a practicing Christian or not, and that I was not. So in my early twenties, uh, from my post high school to my early twenties, right before I started my, uh, technology, my career in technology, I was not a, a practicing Christian. I did not, my life did not meet up to what my religious beliefs were, you know, so, you know, you're Jewish and you're Orthodox Jewish. So some of the stuff we can easily relate to because we're, uh, uh, I think, you know, Orthodox Judaism may be one of the most disciplined faiths you can, uh, go down. And when you come from a Jehovah's witness background is a very disciplined faith.
Leon Adato (22:27):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (22:27):
So there's strict, uh, beliefs around things like sexual immorality. So the fact that me and Melissa, who I've been with since I was 20,
Leon Adato (22:38):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (22:38):
That we were living together and not married, bothered me, uh, uh, from a faith perspective.
Leon Adato (22:46):
Got it.
Keith Townsend (22:47):
So I didn't reconcile that until, uh, I started to study the Bible again, uh, with the churches of Christ and become a baptized Christian around age 25.
Leon Adato (23:00):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (23:00):
Or so. And that kinda got me from, you know, kind of Jehovah's witness, uh, uh, on the verge of becoming a Jehovah witness to kind of stepping away from Christianity, to re-engaging in the faith in general. And then, you know, I, you visually morphed into, you know, as you think through kind of the entire journey from age 25 to I'm now 47. So a 22 year, uh, Christian journey, you know, it went from being, uh, you know, that fiery early Christian, uh, going out and preaching on the, uh, on the street corners to having teenage children and trying to, uh, help them with their own religious journeys and understanding life just isn't as black and white, as we all would like to think.
Leon Adato (23:54):
Keith Townsend (23:54):
You know, it's, it's just, it's an amazing, like, if, once you start the pull part, the details of it, and we'll talk about things, some of it, and some of your next questions, but you know, things about, uh, things about my faith around, uh, uh, taboo topics, such as sexual orientation. Like once you become a full realized adult, and you have queer friends, how do you reconcile having queer friends? But your faith is saying that, uh, the doctrine of your faith is saying that this is something not acceptable. So.
Leon Adato (24:32):
Keith Townsend (24:32):
Separating the two or reconciling the two has been just a really interesting journey as I've matured.
Leon Adato (24:38):
Yeah. And, you know, friends or relatives, you know, to that.
Keith Townsend (24:42):
Leon Adato (24:42):
To that matter.
Keith Townsend (24:42):
I have a niece that I love to death and she's engaged to another woman. So, you know, we had them over to dinner before COVID, we had them over to dinner and we had a great time, but it is, it's some really tough questions that you, you end up, uh, just dabbling with.
Leon Adato (25:02):
Right. And if you're reconciled to it, to those things, to those contradictions, which I think, I think the tension, the, the religious and Holy tension, I think is where the excitement is the, the, the work, the introspection, the, the, again, as an adult, as a fully realized, mature, adult, and I recognize that as I say this, uh, if my wife or children listen to this podcast, they will laugh hysterically at my believing myself to be a fully realized mature adult, but that aside, um, I think that figuring out those things about what, what I believe and what I practice and, um, how I reconcile, what my, both, what my religious peers, my co-religionists are saying, and all those things, that's where a lot of the really interesting, dialogue can be found. Um, you know, I don't mean arguments, but I mean, real dialogue, like, you know, what do we mean when we say this? Um, and I will say that, you know, as, as IT people, I'm not trying to diminish it, but as IT people, I think we're used to, those hard conversations, those challenging conversations of, no, I really think this is the way we need to fix this, or this is the way we need to build this. No, that's not it, I think this is how we need to build it based on my experiences or my understanding of the facts on the ground. And I think that that's, that's part of the thing that makes, uh, folks with strong religious identities who work in it. I think that's where we find those, those overlaps. And that sort of takes us to the next, the next part of the, of the episode, which is when, as a person with a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, who works in IT, I'm curious about how those two things overlap, you know, has it created any friction and how have you overcome that, but also have there been any, you know, wonderful discoveries, delightful discoveries, I like to call them where you didn't think that being religious was going to help your tech, or you didn't think that being technical was going to enhance your experience of your faith. And yet it happened. So let's start off with the, well, we'll start off with the not so great stuff. And we'll end on a high note. So was, have there ever been moments when your faith caused friction with your tech or vice versa?
Keith Townsend (27:35):
So that's a really interesting question, I think, and this is not just, I think, unique to tech. I think the science is there's two areas. There's kind of work-life balance that category that we put in work-life balance and tech is unique in a sense that we don't ask our payroll people to run payroll at 10 o'clock at night.
Leon Adato (27:58):
Usually not unless something's going really wrong .
Keith Townsend (28:02):
But when, you know, when people are looking at me funny, and you don't have this problem because of, uh, your faith, but you have the conflict, uh, the, when people are looking at me funny, because I step out of service because I got a text, is weird. That was early on like, Oh, I get the servers down on a Sunday afternoon and I'm doing service. I think Orthodox Jews kind of get this part, right. Uh, you know what? You won't get that text because you don't have a pager on. So the, uh, the, uh, that's one aspect of it, but there's the second part of that, which is the work-life balance is when you need to push back, uh, from that the computers don't care that you go to service Wednesday nights and on Sundays. So I remember, uh, very vividly one night I was getting off of work at five o'clock and my, uh, I get a page, uh, right before I leave. And the former CEO of the Tribune is now, uh, running the, uh, back then, once you became the former CEO of the Tribune, once you retire from that, you became the CEO of Tribune's, uh, uh, charity, whatever that was named the,
Leon Adato (29:28):
Oh ok.
Keith Townsend (29:28):
Uh, and they had a problem and it was my job to troubleshoot that problem. So, you know, there's this super important person and the organization I'm working the help desk, I'm on call. I get a page that this senior executive has a problem, but I have church service. And that I can't that mentally I, in my mind, I cannot Miss Church service. So I have this conflict. Do I go help the executive? Or do I go to church in which you know, is so for me, it was really a question of faith and I chose to go to service. And this is just a good piece of advice for work-life balance. In general, I always always push against deadlines that conflict with my personal life.
Leon Adato (30:17):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (30:17):
I've done enough stuff to know that most deadlines are autofit are artificial. Someone somewhere said that this has to be done by a date unless we're talking about, Oh, VMworld is scheduled on the 19th of September, and this presentation will be delivered. And it has to be in by the morning of 19th of September, then everything else is negotiable. If it's not a written. And even then, you know, we get these weird deadlines and it, and in business in general, thou shalt have their, your presentation in a month before the thing. And I kind of just brush all that stuff off. I try, I tried to respect it if I can, but if I have conflict, I manage that conflict. The second thing is by definition, and I'm sure people who listen to this podcast struggle with this. When I read the old Testament and I see that Joshua prayed and the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, I simply don't believe it like, and you can, you can kind of water over your faith if you want to and say, Oh, you know what? I'm just being unfaithful. Or, and yes, I will believe this theme that I don't believe. I try to be as honest as possible when it, when it, when my, my semi scientists technical, technical brain can't reconcile something that I read in my religious texts, I don't cover it up. Like, I don't believe Adam and Eve, I don't believe the, I don't, I'm a Christian, but I don't believe the creation story as written and the texts that we read today. And those are the things that I truly struggle with. I don't struggle with, you know, um, again, I'm, I'm a mature adult. I have plenty of years of experience. I know how to push back on areas of conflict when it comes to scheduling. But as a, even as a 22 year old Christian, 22 years of my faith, I still struggle with reconciling what my technical brain tells me and what my faith wants to, uh, what my faith teaches.
Leon Adato (32:35):
Right. And, and that is actually a topic that we're going to cover, uh, In a future episode, which is this idea of proof and how do we reconcile our, you know, fact-based, don't go with your gut, say it with data, or don't say it at all, kind of 9 to 5 lives with our, uh, again, you know, biblically found, biblically founded ideas of how the world works and how it's structured and things like that, um, at the same time. So I want to just highlight the idea that, yeah, deadlines are artificial. If you're on call the challenge I think, again, as a, as a, another religious person, the challenge isn't reconciling your faith with on-call, it's reconciling your organization with on-call, that is being done by a human. Because, okay, you had church service, you could just as easily have had bath time with the kids. I'm sorry, I'm elbow deep in a bathtub with a two year old. I'm not turning around to go fix the server right now. It's going to wait another 10 minutes or 15 or whatever it is. You know, I have family emergencies. I have all those things. How does an organization handle the fact that on-call is a point of, you know, if the emergency is so bad that my not responding to it in the first 15 or 20 minutes caused it all to die, all to go away, Then there were some pretty fundamental problems with the system that had nothing to do with my failing on-call.
Keith Townsend (34:13):
Yeah. You have to be able to triage.
Leon Adato (34:15):
Keith Townsend (34:15):
You have to be able to say, you know, what is this really? I know I got a page for it, but is this really important because, uh, both of us have older children, mine are a bit older than yours, but there are times where I just simply can't get back.
Leon Adato (34:31):
Keith Townsend (34:31):
And I think back, wow, was getting that, uh, was getting that CRM system up in 2 hours versus 6 really worth missing that game. Hmm.
Leon Adato (34:44):
Keith Townsend (34:46):
Retrospect, maybe not.
Leon Adato (34:47):
Yeah. And I will say, I am absolutely a workaholic. I am. I mean, at this point in my life, I'm 53, I've been in IT for 30 years. There is no getting around it and there's probably no solving it. I am, I, I enjoy my work so much that it is very hard for me to walk away from it at the same time. Um, I've had some very hard conversations with my family who said, of course, you worked 12 hours to get that thing done. And you got the kudos. All we got was not having you. That's all we got out of it. And that, again, this is apropo of nothing that we're talking about in terms of tackle religion. It's just one of those life lessons that, you know, old tech dudes, you know, are sharing, but you really have to think, you know, not only is the applause you're going to get from your company, fleeting, you know, are you going to get a, an attaboy and that's it ain't worth it. Ain't worth dropping date night with your wife or your significant other isn't worth, you know, it's not worth dropping it for Oh, wow. That was really good. Thank you. It's not worth being asked to do it again. It's not worth thinking you will always be there and it's also not necessarily worth the frustration and the anger that you may see long-term in your family's faces when they start to hate your job.
Keith Townsend (36:17):
Yeah. The, uh, I love it. That my kids have memories of jobs that I had, that they loved. They were like, Oh, I love that job that you would take me to. And they don't.
Leon Adato (36:28):
Keith Townsend (36:28):
Know what I did, but they say, Oh, I love that job that you did, and there was the refrigerator full of soda and I can get free soda. And we, you know, we stop in and then we go, and then afterwards, we go across the street to, you know, one of my favorite stories is recently, my son said he took, uh, he took his girlfriend to the restaurant that was across the street from that job.
Leon Adato (36:53):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (36:53):
And he said he was so disappointed and heartbroken when his girlfriend just said, Oh, it was okay. And, uh, he said, I have some of my best memories of being with my dad and my family after he, you know, take us, uh, to work at the, he did a server upgrade or whatever. He take us across the street in, have this place in. And he said the other day, Oh, and to boot is now closed in. So there's this thing that you have to balance. We have tough jobs and information technology. And as, as, and most faiths have this thing, uh, and I think it's pretty consistent that pride is a sin.
Leon Adato (37:37):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (37:37):
And there's no better job than being an, IT Ex that feeds your pride.
Leon Adato (37:44):
Keith Townsend (37:44):
Then what we do, the ability to be the superhero, the person who saw, saved the day, uh, I got, I had a CEO, tell me, Keith, you took us out of the stone age, et cetera. We get all the kudos in the world. And it feeds that pride.
Leon Adato (38:01):
RIght, right.
Keith Townsend (38:02):
At the end of the day, we have to ask the question and we'll get into this, in one of your, uh, next series of questions around, you know, what pride is a horrible thing for both your career and your personal life.
Leon Adato (38:15):
Yeah. Um, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna quote her correctly, but Charity Majors, who's the, I think she's still the CTO of honeycomb IO. She is still part of honeycomb, but she has gone from, I think the CTO to one of the engineers or back again, she founded the company, but she gets to have whatever job she wants in it. And she said, she's very much anti firefighting. She said, I actually do not give anybody credit in our company for fixing a problem that blew up. I want to give credit to the person who found the problem before it occurred, who did the steady, regular testing and, uh, quality control so that the problem never occurred. And I think IT is horrible at that as a, uh, as a industry where we lionize the 2:00 AM firefighter while completely overlooking the person who shows up at 9 leaves at 5 does good, solid, reliable work that is consistent,and has few, if any flaws, that person never gets a bonus. That person. I mean, in terms of like, when we think about, you know, bonuses for saving the day, that person never gets it because yeah. They just showed up. They just did their job. Yeah. They just did their job. Perfect. You know, uh, consistently all the time. That's the part that we should be holding up as the example. Um, but we don't. So you're absolutely right. And I actually made a note that, that, uh, we definitely need to do an episode on pride goeth before the fall, for sure. To talk about like what that means in tech and religion. Okay. So we've talked about some of the challenges. Are there any moments, uh, as I said before, this delightful discoveries, any times, when you're you realize that your faith was really a asset, a benefit to your technical life or vice versa, where you were at church, and you realize that being an IT person was really, and not just, I'm going to go back to an earlier episode, we had where it was like, Oh, Keith can fix, it keeps the AV guy, not the, again, that lionizing the problem solving. But anytime when you realize that, that your technical mindset created a deeper or more powerful connection to your faith.
Keith Townsend (40:29):
So let's talk about how the faith has, uh, impacted my work life and techno, uh, as a technologist, uh, you know what we, we'll talk about it, I think in a future episode and we'll address the, in the proof piece of it, but sometimes somethings just take faith, true story. Uh, the, I was on call and there was the help desk reporting system was running on NT 4.0 server when NT 4.0 was the latest OS from Microsoft out and available,
Leon Adato (41:02):
Keith Townsend (41:02):
But it was still then a horrible OS, and I was in there to do, uh, updates that you get in via CD back in, back in that time. And I came to it, hit the KVM. It was blue screened already. Like even before I touched anything, it was blue screened hours later. The, and this is, this has been a system that had been giving, uh, uh, problems. I called the director. He said, look, Keith, if this thing isn't up, by the time we get back into the office in the morning, we both might as well go out looking for new jobs. So I'm like, Whoa, hold on. I was just coming in to do updates. So how did I get lumped into this whole losing your job thing? It got to the point that it had to be about three o'clock in the morning. I literally got in the middle, on the middle of the data center floor. I got on my knees and prayed. Because I had no idea how you guys have to remember this. This is 1998, 1999. There is no internet blogs that you can just go to Google or AltaVista and Google and find.
Leon Adato (42:09):
Keith Townsend (42:09):
The solution to the problem. If you get on the phone with Microsoft, you're going to be on the phone for hours before you.
Leon Adato (42:16):
Keith Townsend (42:16):
Can get to someone who can help you,
Leon Adato (42:19):
Help you through it.
Keith Townsend (42:19):
So my only main line, my Google was just praying. I got some crazy idea to do it. So I've never, I've never shied away from my faith and my job. And I've taken principles from my Christian faith and apply them to my approach to work. I'm ethical. I, I'm moral, and I'm a better leader because I embrace the love of Christ in my approach to my job. I, uh, literally do not approach my job as I'm working for, uh, the Tribune or Lockheed Martin it's, I'm working for God and is what my is, is my work acceptable? Is this something that I can present to him? Is my leadership something that I can present to him? Uh, is it something if, uh, I, my, am I taking credit where I don't deserve to take credit?
Leon Adato (43:20):
Um hmm.
Keith Townsend (43:20):
That's how I approach my work because of my faith and people, uh, people give me kudos about it all the time, and I don't always succeed in doing this, but I am who I am because of my faith. You take away my faith from who I am as a person. And I'm pretty unlikable.
Leon Adato (43:43):
Got it. Yeah, it's, uh, it, it definitely is a, uh mitigating factor for a lot of us. Um, I will say also, just having known you for a while and worked with you in, uh, several different, um, venues that you, you bring that perspective to, is it worth doing? And, you know, you'll look at projects that I think a lot of folks in your position would say, I know that's not worth it. No, no, no. There's, there's a message here that I want to deliver. There's a, you know, there's a conversation I want to have. That's worth being part of or whatever. You, you value things in a way that, um, is not, is not necessarily business like or business centric, but it is, um, humanity centric. And it is really about, you know, what can I do to help? In a lot of ways.
Keith Townsend (44:38):
Yeah. I remember what it was like too. So my brother is also a business owner. My youngest brothers are business owners. He had a,
Leon Adato (44:46):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (44:46):
Uh, he had a employee. Uh, he was thinking that, you know what? I think I might be overpaying this particular employee. No, not overpaying, He said, you know I think I might be underpaying this particular employee, I really need to consider this. And then in a casual conversation, a week later, the employee said, you know what? I was at the grocery store, my wife, and it was the first time in our lives. And this person is over 40. Uh, this is the first time in our lives, where we went into the grocery store and we weren't worried about our checking account balance, and what we were buying for and being able to buy groceries. So IT technology has transformed my life from a,
Leon Adato (45:32):
Uh huh.
Keith Townsend (45:32):
From just a privileged perspective, you know, I'm, I, the, my wife got tagged in a photo of a billionaire. We're not rich, but we have access and privilege that the 12, 16 year old Keith could never even.
Leon Adato (45:51):
Keith Townsend (45:51):
Fathom. I just did not know this world existed. So when, whether it's your day job, or you personally, or someone comes with an opportunity for me to open that door to other people to have similar transformative experiences, why would I want to pull that ladder up from them and not give them the same opportunities? As I mentioned, it was grit partially that got me here, but it was also people willing to extend a hand.
Leon Adato (46:19):
Keith Townsend (46:19):
And help me up that ladder.
Leon Adato (46:21):
Very nice, Keith, it is always a privilege and a pleasure to talk to you. Uh, this is the lightning round. Any final thoughts, anything that you want to share with folks, um, just to think about on their way.
Keith Townsend (46:34):
So you know what the, I think if you can take anything from this conversation, it's don't be fearful of your faith. Um, people are people. There are some of them, there are truly jerks out there. One of our fellow contributors get challenged because of his faith on Twitter, but overall you impact way more people positively by sharing your faith, whatever that faith is. I'm not in a position to judge what you, how you choose your relationship with your God or your spiritual being. But what I am saying, the positivity from that will positively impact your career and others, way more than the pain for the most part inflicted upon us, because we're open with our faith.
Leon Adato (47:20):
Right? The, yeah. The benefits outweigh any of the challenges and sometimes the challenges are there to be overcome.
Keith Townsend (47:26):
Leon Adato (47:27):
Um, I like it. Uh, fantastic. One more time for people who want to find you online, who want to see what you're working on, um, where can people get in touch with you?
Keith Townsend (47:35):
Yeah. So as CTO visor is the easiest way to get in contact with me. DMS are open, but don't send me anything weird, cause I will block you. Uh, and is how you get to me professionally. And I post a lot of stuff to LinkedIn because it's a very powerful platform.
Leon Adato (47:53):
Yeah, you, uh, you, you have a lot of nice talks on there too, that I've noticed, uh, from time to time you give a, it's almost like a mini podcast there. So.
Keith Townsend (48:01):
Leon Adato (48:01):
That's another thing to check out is that LinkedIn link. Well, uh, thank you again for taking some time out of your day. It's actually the middle of the day for both of us. And, uh, I look forward to seeing you back on the show.
Keith Townsend (48:11):
All right, Leon, I'll I'll hopefully I'll see you in person. When I visit you via the road show. When I visit Cleveland,
Leon Adato (48:18):
If the roadshow is coming to Cleveland, then we are absolutely going to do a tour of every kosher restaurant. I will weigh 900 pounds when we're done with it.
Keith Townsend (48:25):
I love me a kosher hot dog.
Leon Adato (48:27):
Perfect. We'll get you one, take care.
Keith Townsend (48:30):
Take care.
Speaker 6 (48:30):
Thank you for making time for us this week, to hear more of technically religious visit our website at, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.


S3E07: Emergency Confetti

S3E07: Emergency Confetti

May 11, 2021

I've often described a career in IT as "long stretches of soul-crushing depression, punctuated by brief moments of manic euphoria, which are inevitably followed by yet another long stretch of soul-crushing depression". How do we, as IT professionals, remember to (as the old song goes) "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don't mess with Mister In-Between.

In this next episode, Doug and Leon explore how our religious/moral/ethical POV offers ways to help keep us positive in our work lives; and how our tech experiences tell us when we hit a rocky stretch of road in our faith journey. Listen or read the transcript below.

Intro (00:01):
Leon Adato (00:32):
Welcome to our podcast, where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT, we're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.
Leon Adato (00:53):
I've often described a career in IT as long stretches of soul crushing depression, punctuated by brief moments of manic euphoria, which are inevitably followed by yet another long stretch of soul crushing depression. How do we, as IT professionals remember to, as the old song goes, accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative latch on to the affirmative and don't mess with Mister in-between I'm Leon Adato. And the other voice that you're going to hear on this episode is my longtime friend and partner in podcasting crime, Doug Johnson.
Doug Johnson (01:24):
Hey, how you doing?
Leon Adato (01:26):
I'm doing okay. Um, and before we kick off this topic, which I am really excited, I'm celebrating the chance that we have the fact that we have a chance to get to this. Um, I want to do some shameless self promotion. So Doug, bup bupa! Yes, exactly. Again, celebrate. So Doug, why don't you kick it off? Who are you? Where can people find you? If they want to know more about
Doug Johnson (01:48):
I'm Doug Johnson. I am the chief technical officer for a company called wave RFID, which is my side gig, actually becoming a real company. We hired our first employee. Oh my gosh.
Leon Adato (02:00):
Doug Johnson (02:00):
I'm going to have to be an. Whee! Okay. Uh, I'm also a web developer for Southwestern health resources. My day job. Uh, you can reach me on Twitter's at Doug Johnson. That's D U G J O H N S O N because there are so many Doug Johnson's in the world. I had to drop the O, that's just the way it is. Uh, you can a website way by If you want to hear what we're doing and I'm an evangelical Christian, but not one of the crazy ones.
Leon Adato (02:28):
Got it. Okay. And, uh, just to close the circle, I am Leon Adato. I'm a head geek. Yes. That's actually my job title at SolarWinds, a company that has nothing to do with solar or wind. It's a monitoring software vendor, uh, based out of Austin, Texas, you can find me on the Twitters at Leon Adato. I haven't dropped any letters. It's all the way it sounds. My website is a Datto where I wax philosophical about things, both technical and religious. I identify as an Orthodox Jew and occasionally my rabbi even admits to knowing me too. Um, now if you're scribbling that stuff down, stop it, put your hands back on the wheel, pay attention to the road. Uh, we will have show notes out and all the things that we talk about, the links, even to the lyrics for accentuate, the positive are going to be in the show notes. You can find them there so you don't need to write them. All right. So I want to frame this topic before we get started, there was a tweet that came out as tweets do a little while ago from Anna the distracted gardener. She's actually taken it down. I think it created so much, uh, uh, traffic that she needed, muting wasn't enough. She deleted it, but, uh, it reads like this. My eight year old in the car today said, do you want me to throw the confetti in my pocket? Me; No, not in the car. What? Wait, why do you have confetti in your pocket? My eight year old. It's my emergency confetti. I carry it everywhere in case there's good news. So reading that just made me think, yeah, there, there are unexpected moments where we have to celebrate things. And what if we're not prepared? Now, perhaps carrying a bag of emergency confetti around in your pocket is a little extreme, but yes, I actually do now have a bag of emergency confetti in my pocket.
Doug Johnson (04:17):
I may have to do this.
Leon Adato (04:20):
I have it, I can't wait till we start traveling because going through TSA is going to be a really interesting conversation.
Doug Johnson (04:26):
That will be interesting.
Leon Adato (04:28):
sir. What is this? What is it? It's my emergency. Confetti. Your, your what?
Doug Johnson (04:34):
Oh, man.
Leon Adato (04:36):
Do you want to keep it? Yeah, I kind of do like I get, I'm just, I'm waiting, right? It's either going to go wonderfully gloriously fun, or it's going to be the reason why someone has to post bail for me.
Doug Johnson (04:46):
Exactly. They're going to smile or I'm going to have to come down to the airport.
Leon Adato (04:49):
It's going to be a cavity search. It's going to be something like that. Right? So, uh,
Doug Johnson (04:54):
Ooh! You need to eat confetti before you go that way.
Leon Adato (04:56):
Oh man. No, no, no, no, no. Okay. This took a weird left turn. Um, so there was, that was part of it. The other part, I was listening to an episode on NPR. And once again, we're going to have links to the episode in our show notes, um, where they interviewed Lee Horton, how he and his brother, uh, were released from prison after 25 years, uh, having been wrongly accused. And he had said some really amazing things about just the experience that he had being out of prison and having just typical experiences day to day. And so we're going to play those clips. Now,
Lee Horton (05:36):
When we got out, just to tell you this story, we went to the DMV a couple days later to get our license back. And me, my brother and some and another man, man, who was committed, we stood in line for two and a half hours. And we heard all the stories that everybody tells us the bad things about the DMV we had the most beautiful and all the people were looking at us cause we were smiling and we were laughing and they couldn't understand why we were so happy. And it just was that, just being in that line was a beautiful thing. It was a wonderful thing. I mean, I was in awe of everything around me. It's like my, my mind was just heightened to every small nuance and having an onion just to cook your food with becomes priceless, just having a stove and to be able to just look out of a window, just to walk down the street and just inhale the fresh air, just to see people interacting. We, I didn't see children for years, no children. And then I see a little boy running down the street and, and it, and it woke something up in me, something that I don't know if it died or if it went to sleep. One of my morning ritual is every morning is I sent a message of good morning to every one of my contacts. And that's like 42 people, family members. I sent them good morning, good morning, good morning, have a nice day. And they're like, how long can I keep doing this?
Leon Adato (07:16):
And all of those things really got me thinking about the nature of joy and celebration. And, maybe that we overlook opportunities to celebrate that, that we might be, you know, we might be missing and, and we might be not, we might be worse off for it. So I wanted to talk about all of that. Um, that was really where the whole idea of this episode called emergency confetti came from. Um, so Doug, I wanna, I want to hear your thoughts about what needs to be celebrated when you celebrate, you know, all of those things.
Doug Johnson (07:51):
One of the big problems that I had when I saw this, I was like, I thought, Oh, what a cute little girl, that's so great. And of course I immediately thought about confetti out, glitter all over the inside of the car and all that kind of stuff. And the problem, and the problem is for me is that my, uh, general take on the universe tends to be that it's all gonna go bad. Um.
Leon Adato (08:14):
Doug Johnson (08:15):
Well, I mean, I do have history, but remember that, you know, I'm, I'm a tech, chief technology officer. I'm also a web developer with, uh, for the marketing department, which means I'm the only person in my department that has any tech chops. And so I, most of my job, my life is spent anticipating disaster. Um, you know, I mean, I get to create good things all the time, but, but the reality is I'm the one who has to figure out what's going to go wrong. That's what they hired me for. And so I'm always looking for something to go wrong. Years ago, I was a camp director at a, at a boys camp up in Canada, 25 years of this stuff. And I eventually had to stop doing it because I used to love it. And then I liked it less and less because I was spending my whole time trying to figure out what could go wrong. And when you've got a couple of hundred boys, a lot can go wrong,
Leon Adato (09:08):
Basically. Yeah. They're basically mistake generators. I mean, when the concept of chaos monkey came from somebody who was a director at a boys camp, somewhere in upstate Allegheny forest or something like it has to be.
Doug Johnson (09:20):
It doesn't. But the problem is over a period of time, when you really, after you've spent years doing this and you really are looking for people to really get in trouble, it really sucks the joy out of it for you.
Leon Adato (09:33):
Doug Johnson (09:33):
And that's why I ultimately stopped doing it. But, you know, it's like things and things do go wrong. It's not like you're just being a nervous Nellie. It's like, things really do go wrong. I've got stories. Believe man. You know what, um.
Leon Adato (09:47):
When the story ends, when the story in the middle of this story says, and then we got the epi pen.
Doug Johnson (09:52):
Leon Adato (09:53):
Like, you know.
Doug Johnson (09:55):
Bad things are gonna happen. You know, that the kid that the ADD kid that was sent to camp without his Ritalin, because his parents were hoping that it would help him straighten out.
Leon Adato (10:04):
Doug Johnson (10:04):
What could go wrong?
Leon Adato (10:05):
Because Summer camp is also therapy. Exactly.
Doug Johnson (10:08):
Yeah. But, and they didn't tell us either.
Leon Adato (10:11):
No, no, why would they do that?
Doug Johnson (10:13):
They didn't want so, so here's the, Oh, nevermind. In any case. So.
Leon Adato (10:17):
That's how double blind studies are done.
Doug Johnson (10:20):
Exactly. Well, we were doubly blind and boy, we eventually got the information and it straightened out, but geez, some low wheezing. I mean, usually using us as an experiment was not all that great. And it wasn't good for him either, but you know, and there's, there's the whole thing, like, uh, in, in the world of programming, would you, would you rather have an optimistic programmer or a pessimist program?
Leon Adato (10:41):
I just, I'd never thought of it that way, but yeah. I really want, I want Abe Vigoda as a programmer. Like I really don't. Okay. I just dated myself. I know. Look it up. If you don't know who Abe Vigoda is.
Doug Johnson (10:53):
He's still alive too. Isn't he? Or did he finally, I think he's still alive. I didn't get, well, we'll let you look it up. All the talk. Okay. But basically what it comes down to is everybody sells the optimistic program because you make all these wonderful things happen. And I go, no, you want a pessimistic programmer? Cause he'll find the error. But he doesn't think that's the only one he'll keep on looking till he finds all the errors that he could. He'll still know that there's more. So if you want something to work, you don't want an optimistic person. You might want an optimistic architect, but you don't want an optimistic programmer. You know, it's like one of the reasons why I love QA engineers, uh, regular programmers, they're all like I can make that work, QA engineers. I can break that. Right. They're great. You know, and, being a dev, I love my, my QA guy is my safety net because he's gonna, he's gonna break my stuff. And I thank him every time he does. So, and everybody knows about demo gods, everything works perfectly. You do a demo and it blows up. Right
Leon Adato (11:52):
Right, right. Okay. So I got, I got to ask just as a side note. I mean, because again, there's, there's concept of, of, of celebration or at least giving thanks and things like that. For people who've never seen it at certain types of conferences, I'm thinking like Dev Ops Days specifically, there is an actual shrine off to the side of the stage where people give their talks and demos and people will routinely bring offerings and place them on the shrine. They're placing an offering to the demo. God, whether it's USB sticks or CD rom drive, I've seen people leave AOL CDs as like, you know, very, very retro kind of things. And I'm always as a, as a religious person, I'm a little conflicted because this is really on the, I mean, I get it. It's a joke. Right? I don't think that anybody really thinks that there are demo gods, but I just like the image of an Orthodox Jew on a stage with a shrine to the demo gods off to the side is always just a little like.
Doug Johnson (12:51):
It's on the edge. It's right there on the edge. It's like, I want one of those happy cats that raises their hand up and down all the time. But those are, those are like a shrine also. So you just, it's just, you know, you want to be careful. I, I am a, uh, I am a minister in the church of the flying spaghetti monster. I am, I am somewhat conflicted only because now the church and the flying spaghetti monster does not make you give up your main religion, but every now and then I'm like, I just wonder if I should pull out this card at church and see what the pastor has to say about it. Because I just found out that I actually, I could do weddings if I actually went and registered with my County, I could do weddings. Wouldn't that be weird with a pirate hat?
Leon Adato (13:36):
Okay. In any case. Okay. So,
Doug Johnson (13:39):
So in scrum retrospectives, right? I mean the whole point of scrimming retrospectives is you're supposed to get together and, you know, look back at the last two weeks and talk about everything that went well. And they all 99% of the time, they're always here what went wrong. It's always, it's rarely celebration. It's almost always let's fix what went wrong, no matter how good it was. So again, so my default is things are, I assume things are going to go badly.
Leon Adato (14:10):
Right? So I was thinking about this as you were talking about it. And, and the, the thing that came to mind was the character of Leonard snort, who in the Flash, uh, mythology on comic books is, uh, captain cold. And he was famous, at least on the TV show, the CW TV show of the flash. He would say, make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan. And I feel like this is what you're talking about is it's not that, you know, everything's going to go to hell and a handbasket, so why bother even trying like, no, you make a plan, but you also have a healthy dose of, you want to say cynicism, you want to say pessimism, but you have a healthy dose of whatever that is to know that things are not going to go as expected. Okay. But we're talking about a celebration. We're not talking about regret, which is a whole other episode that were going to get to.
Doug Johnson (15:02):
Oh yeah. But so the, the same, the same attitude though, can carry over into the spirit world. I mean, you know, it's like, so here I am, I'm a Christian. I know I should pray every day. I know I should be doing, I have really good intentions and yet I don't execute all that. Well, in fact, most Christians don't, um, you know, and Christianity is based on the fact that we're all have a sin nature so that we're, you know, even with Christ as our savior, we are constantly battling against this sin nature. Even though, you know, we, we have victory through Jesus and I can sing the song. The fact is we are still have the sin nature. And all you have to do is just look around and you can go and see the, all the leaders that are going. Uh, I mean, there's just a lot of stuff happening in the Christian world right now. Uh, that's just really down. It just shows that even the, the main guys who you thought had it all together, they don't either. And it just, you know, it just, it, it, it can be depressing.
Leon Adato (16:03):
Yeah, yeah, no, no. I can see that. And so, so obviously this is a, a big, um, deviation from, uh, Jewish thought where, uh, there isn't that original sin or sin nature that, um, the, the challenges that we face the, the idea of free will and the idea of, um, the challenges to ourselves are more like hurdles. They are more like, um, the, the, what we are on earth to do is to improve ourselves perfect ourselves. That does not mean that we reach perfection. It just means that we are continually trying to make ourselves better. And the only way that you do that is by facing challenges. And sometimes you're going to trip. Sometimes you're not going to make it. Um, and I think that feeds into the overarching concept that we're talking about today, about celebration, but it is one of those theological deviations between Judaism and Christianity is that, um, it isn't, it isn't written into the software that sin is the default setting. So, um, I can see that, but okay. I still want to get to like, where's the happy stuff? Where's, I got this, the confetti. I'm ready to go.
Doug Johnson (17:12):
Okay. Okay, good. Glitter, glitter, glitter. Okay, here we go. Work. Guess what things actually get accomplished? We actually make stuff. Are you ready for this one? This Friday? After several months of working through this whole thing, I took code live. And when I got up on Saturday morning, because it processes overnight, it didn't work. And when people went and checked it, they said it, it worked. So I didn't have to fix it because it worked. And I
Leon Adato (17:47):
Want to just emphasize for people might not have heard that you pushed to production on a Friday.
Doug Johnson (17:52):
Oh yeah. But I do that. I do that anyway, because I'm the, see, I'm the only one. So the, so the reality is I would I push on a Friday after hours because that gives me all of Saturday and Sunday to fix it. It's just me. I'm the only geek.
Leon Adato (18:10):
Doug Johnson (18:11):
No, I, I know you never push on Friday.
Leon Adato (18:13):
No, I was going to say that Charity Majors, who's the CTO of honeycomb, honeycomb IO. And again, we'll have a link is a big proponent, you know, push, push any day. It doesn't get, why is Friday different than.
Doug Johnson (18:25):
Leon Adato (18:26):
Another day. If you're not comfortable pushing on a Friday, you shouldn't be comfortable pushing on a Tuesday either.
Doug Johnson (18:30):
True. Yeah. I never pushed code except for after hours because I've just, I've had enough things go wrong in my life that I want at least a few hours to fix it. When nobody's watching.
Leon Adato (18:40):
There we go, ok.
Doug Johnson (18:40):
So there you are. So, um, you know, but so it worked and, uh, wave RFID. We have happy clients. They love us. They think that the stuff that we've done for them is great, you know, and we're getting,
Leon Adato (18:52):
They pay you.
Doug Johnson (18:52):
And they pay us, right. They, they not only give us money, but they tell us they like us. I'll take as long as I get the first one. I'm okay. But boy, getting both of them is nice, you know, and sure. Uh, when I push code and things go, well, guess what? My coworkers are happy. They're like, thank you for making this happen. I'm going don't thank me. It's just my job. And they go, but I want to thank you. It's like, Oh, I'll fine. And then,
Leon Adato (19:17):
Because you are still a curmudgeon.
Doug Johnson (19:20):
I mean, I was just, yeah, they know that. And, and, and, and finally, you know, we get to, we have a chance to do good things. We just hired our first employee. This is the guy that we wanted him a few years ago. He screwed up, he went to prison for awhile. We just got him. We've gone through a lot of work to go ahead and be able to take care. But we're, you know, his wife keeps sending me emails, like, thank you for doing this for him. I'm like, he's going to make our job better. Believe me. It's like, you know, but you know, and so, yeah, it's more work because of the, you know, I had to put some guard rails in place on his computer use and some stuff like that. But the reality is he's happy. He's not, he was working as a janitor since he got out of jail. He's perfect. He's really happy to go back to working with, uh, computer code and stuff. So that works out and, and, you know, in the church realm, guess what people really are trying to be better. I mean, just as you said, you know, most people aren't sitting there going, Oh, I'm sinning I might as well just keep on sinning. Some do. I mean, you know, but,
Leon Adato (20:18):
Doug Johnson (20:18):
But, but most Christians really do want to improve and if they can stop beating themselves up, then they can go ahead and, and do that.
Leon Adato (20:27):
And do it even faster. Right.
Doug Johnson (20:28):
Right. And the nice thing is that in the bounds of all that stuff, there's work, that people do that to help other people, the youth group was raising money, so they could all go to camp. Right. So they came to buy every year. Well, it's supposed to be twice a year, but they come, you can hire them for 4 hours. They've never done two. So this year I hired two teams for 4 hours, 8 hours of kids coming here so that my yard, my garden could be set. And as I'm sitting there telling them how much this, cause my, my strength and that is not what it used to be. I, I, I can't do. And I just telling them how, how great it is that they're coming to do this for me so that I can do this gardening, which I, I love gardening. I mean, I got a fan test and, but I couldn't do it if they didn't come. So they get a blessing and I get a blessing and they get money and I get to garden. And it just, every time I told these crews what they were doing for me, I would end up, you know, tears coming down my face. I'm going, they must think I'm a crazy, really crazy old guy, but it's just, it's right.
Leon Adato (21:29):
And they'd be right.
Doug Johnson (21:30):
And they'd be right. But yes, but they don't know how. Right.
Leon Adato (21:34):
Right, right. But the other thing I want to underscore there is that, you know, I think thinking back to, you know, teenage years, there's a lot of work that you do that, you know, is just, you know, forgive me, but it's, it's shit work that somebody made up just to keep you busy.
Doug Johnson (21:49):
Leon Adato (21:49):
Like really, you know, it's, it's useless and it's, it's really, they would be better off just to hand the money to the organization as a donation. Then you coming out and doing this completely meaningless, pointless stuff, but to come out to somebody who says, no, no, no. The thing that I want to do, the gardening is you are enabling that this is the part I couldn't do. And very clearly letting them see that means that there is not just work and not just payment, but purpose.
Doug Johnson (22:19):
Leon Adato (22:19):
And that, that is huge for a lot of people, let alone kids, but it is a really big deal for, for folks to know that the work that they're doing is meaningful work, that it has an impact on somebody. So, yeah. I mean, when you say blessing, it it's really, you know, the full meaning of that word. Yup.
Doug Johnson (22:41):
Yeah. I mean, and that's true back in the worker. I mean, how, I'm sure you must've had at least one job in the past where you wondered why the hell you were doing it
Leon Adato (22:51):
Doug Johnson (22:52):
Once in a while, but you know, but it's nice having work where you're sitting there going, I know why I'm doing this. I'm the person to be doing, you know, I'm, I am overpaid where I work, uh, for my day job. But the reality is for the kinds of things that I've had to fix over this last year, I may not have had to work really hard, but they couldn't have found one person that knew all of the different things that I knew to fix all of the stupid things that they came up with this last year, I'm going, you know, so they might have
Leon Adato (23:22):
Been paying for the hours, but they were paying for the experience.
Doug Johnson (23:25):
They sure as heck got that. It was just funny. Like every time I'd feel bad about, I really should be working harder. They'd come up with something, Oh, we need this website up in, Oh, let's see a week and a half. Uh, and it has to be match all. And I'm like, okay, well, guess what, I can do that for you. But so, uh, it's, it's been pretty amazing, but so big, big blessing in the spiritual world with Christianity, we get to start all over again anytime. Well, we did, we did the whole, the whole thing. We confess our sins and we get, we, we get to go back to ground zero. Got it. Not quite like not, not, not the Catholic, you know, every week kind of thing, but again, still it's, it's all built in there. Right,
Leon Adato (24:07):
Right, right. I think there's, I think many faith traditions have, I know Judaism does has a, the ability to, let go of the past too. Um, it's not quite wash yourself of your sin of your sins, you know, so to speak, but to, to be able to make a fresh start unencumbered by the mistakes. There's, you know, a lot of people think of heaven as a zero sum points game where it's like, well, if I've sin twice and I've done one good deed that I'm still negative one or whatever it is. And that, that really isn't how the calculus works. It's, you know, there's, there's this concept of taking the things that you have, where you've missed the mark, which is a better translation for the Hebrew word of a Chet or a sin, and really transforming them into a blessing like double because it, the, the, the time that you missed the mark actually drove you to do the good thing. Had you not miss the mark, you would never have been driven to do this, this, um, positive thing. And so it, it actually retroactively makes the quote unquote sin a blessing also. So you get to rewrite the past in a way and Recode it, to something positive, even though it wasn't at the time.
Doug Johnson (25:36):
Yep. And yeah, and it just comes down to things that look bad today. You may look back and say, that's the greatest thing that ever happened to me. All right. You just, you, you don't know.
Leon Adato (25:47):
Right. Right. And I find that faith does a really good job of framing that, um, there's a lot of stories of, you know, the quintessential, like I was stuck in traffic and I was swearing at the person ahead of me and whatever. And I was half an hour late. And what I found out was that had I gotten there on time, you know, fill in the blank, there was an accident, there was a robbery, there was a, this or that, or the other thing. And although I'm telling the story in broad brush stroke, that makes it sort of apocryphal. Um, the reality is that people have experienced that all the time where, you know, I missed my flight and then whatever I'm, you know, not necessary to say. Um, so we have lots of those stories where a, a seeming inconvenience at the moment that we are cursing about turns out to be a blessing, in fact, because it saved us from something much worse or, or horrible or whatever it is. And so again, I think faith helps to reframe that. The other thing that I think faith offers, and this is one of my questions for people who, um, you know, I don't, I don't believe in anything. I don't need any of that, whatever it is that faith offers, if nothing else, it offers a structure, it offers a protocol to handle things. Now, of course, grief is one of the first things that comes to mind. Cause when we're wracked by grief, when we're in the middle of a real crisis, the last thing that our brains can can do is say, well, just do whatever feels right. Do whatever comes to you. You know, no, that is not the moment that we need that. And, and so that's there, but again, because we're talking about emergency confetti, I also think that faith offers us a really interesting structure to process joy in the sense that it tells us, you know, when to celebrate what to celebrate, how to celebrate it. Um, and the secret, I think for faith is that it's in the small moments, not the large ones, um, big moments often just take care of themselves. It's your birthday, your anniversary, whatever you again, you know, I just, you know, you just go with what you feel it with. Feel like, you know, it's, it's a big moment. Okay. But you know, Judaism looks at moments like waking up in the morning is a cause for celebration. You actually say, before you move, as you're waking up, there's a blessing that you say, you know, thank you God for letting me wake up and getting out of bed and going to the bathroom. Okay, Doug, we are men of a certain age and man, you just need it not to work once to realize that all of that working the way it's supposed to is absolutely a cause for celebration, crack out the confetti because whew, everything moved, you know, it's great. In fact.
Doug Johnson (28:39):
He's going to hate me if I start doing that.
Leon Adato (28:40):
Doug Johnson (28:43):
Excuse me, Doug, what's all this glitter all over the bathroom floor. Well, I had this conversation.
Leon Adato (28:51):
Right. Celebrate the small moments. Celebrate the small victories. Right. Um, so Judaism actually looks and says, you know, you should say at least a hundred blessings a day, a hundred, thank you a hundred moments to, to celebrate. And when you think about saying, you know, a blessing for every, you know, every piece of, bit of food that you eat, and again, you know, the different things that you go through the day hitting a hundred, actually, isn't that hard. Um, but the underlying message is that these are moments worth celebrating that I going back to Lee Horton, you know, he, he said, just having an onion to cook with was a miracle. And I don't know that a lot of people think about that. They like, Oh, well, thanks. I'm so glad I had that onion ready, but they don't think of it as a miracle. But when you hear him talking, you know, he means it. He means it sitting, standing in line at the DMV was a joy, a real joy being with friends, having time like it. I think that faith gives us the recognition that these are moments that are definitely worth celebrating, not for weeks and weeks. Again, they're small moments, but there's still good ones. And I also think that faith puts boundaries around the big moments. Yes, there are big moments and they're worth celebrating, but, uh, it, it reminds us that there has to be a beginning and an end to even those celebrations that you have to move on if for no other reason than to make room for the next celebration. The next thing.
Doug Johnson (30:23):
It it's a lot of people get, they'll get caught up in their one success. And then, you know, when the next thing comes is not a success, then they're disappointed. And then it starts to spiral down and they can never move on because again, they just, they went, Oh, that was my big shot on it. I had my big deal. And that was it. And nothing else, you know, it's, it's a lot of what Christiana does talks about being, you know, again, the same thing that you're saying gratitude for everything being grateful, uh, it, there's a, in everything give thanks, uh, is in the new Testament and just, it's hard to do, uh, you know, rejoice always pray constantly in everything. Give, thanks for this is the will of God for you through Christ. Jesus. All right. That's what you're talking about. Yours is a little, a little more systematic and that's, I kind of, I like the idea of actually building some of those reminders into place. Like when you get up and doing that. And I, I may add this to my, uh, my, my list of things that I'm taking away from this, but yeah,
Leon Adato (31:23):
I will make sure that there are in the show notes, there's a link to the English, uh, English version of those. Because they really are. I mean, some of them are, are interesting. Like, you know, thank you God for giving the rooster, the, the understanding that it needs to crow in the morning, which is really saying thank you for, for putting boundaries on the day. Thank you for creating natural rhythms to the day that helped me fit into those rhythms. And I think especially after the last year that we've had where the running gag is, time has no meaning. I don't know what day it is. I don't know what you know. Well, yeah, but the rooster still knows to crow in the morning to wake everyone up. Like there's thank you for putting those structures in place.
Doug Johnson (32:05):
Of course, when I had chickens, we would pick which roosters to put in the pot based on how early they got up. So.
Leon Adato (32:13):
That's just natural selection.
Doug Johnson (32:17):
The one rooster we had at the end, he'd get up around noon, light a cigarette and go, [coughing], but Oh well. In any case.
Leon Adato (32:30):
Um, just, uh, you know, in terms of, yeah, those sell it, making room for celebrations and otherwise you get caught up in the last thing and it wasn't as big as the, the other thing Elizabeth Gilbert gave a Ted talk a few years ago now, after she'd written eat, pray, love, and the pressure was on for her to write something else. And they said, well, you know, what, if it's not as successful as eat, pray love. And she has this whole wonderful Ted talk again, it'll be in the show notes that talks about inspiration and that pressure and the idea that, you know, somehow if, if you don't continue to build on, it has to be bigger and better than before. No, I'm sorry, but it can be the same as before it can be smaller than before and still be worth celebrating, still be worth the joy that it brings.
Doug Johnson (33:14):
Oh, I mean, think about it for being an author. I mean, just any author, most authors that you love have maybe one or two books that were like really great. And then they've got, and then you find out they've got a whole back catalog that you didn't even know about. Um, that's just, and, and some of them are good. Some of them are not so good, but it's, you know, but the fact is they put their rear in the chair and they went ahead and pounded out the words. And as you say, it's worth celebrating the fact that they've got that they were able to go out and accomplish that it's an accomplishment, even if it wasn't death of a salesman,
Leon Adato (33:51):
Right. Or yeah, a New York time bestseller. And the other part about that, and Doug, you know, you're a writer, I'm a writer. Like we know that, you know, that even the things that were best-sellers may not have been the writing that they personally loved the most, or they personally derive the most satisfaction from it. And one of the best questions I hear people ask authors is no, no, no, I know which of your books I love, but which of which of your works do you love? That's, you know, when they talk about the writing, that was the hardest to do. And when it finally came out, it was, it was good, but it was such, it was such an effort that when it came out, it was that much greater for it. You know, those are the things, again, the, the moments that are worth celebrating most may not be the biggest along the way. And so I transitioning to the tech side, right? That's that's the faith side, but the tech side, I like to think that I try to bring some of that into my technical it sensibilities that when something goes, well, I know that I need to stop and celebrate that that no matter how big or small, you know, I was thinking about the line from, uh, the TV show, Bosom Buddies, and now we do the dance of joy because, and it's goofy. And, and my family will tell you, cause I work from home and of course it's been 2020. So it's been this nightmare hellscape pandemic, but okay. You know, that, there's a lot of moments when I come running downstairs and I am literally unintelligible. I'm just like, [unintelligible noise example], and my wife is like, good for you, honey. And I go running back upstairs to try to do the next thing, whatever it is. And you know, you've got to take a minute to, to just recognize that, um, the other piece that I think I, I get from all of this, that big successes, you know, those, those, again, the book, the, the major program, the launch of the new piece of software, the whatever it is, those are big moments that were comprised of small achievable moments of joy that simply added up, not necessarily sequentially either. You know, it's not about getting, you know, winning the trifecta or whatever it is. It was just, you know, enough things went right in a row or, you know, at a time to allow this thing to happen. Um, and I'll, I'll finish this thought just to mention that right now, I am actually programming something, which is not my natural state of being. And I will continue to remind people that I am not a coder or a dev or a programmer. I am be like a script kitty is probably the most complimentary thing you can say, no one will ever weep with joy at the beauty of my code. In fact, the nicest thing anyone's ever said about something that I programmed was, well, it ran right, which for litter, because that's how I feel right now. Like the default state of everything I code is not working. So when something works, when a variable actually is the thing that I wanted it to be, when the page loads, when, you know, I get a number at the end of it, that I was actually expecting, it really is a cause for celebration for me. And it is deeply humbling, but it's also a reminder that, you know, these, these celebratory moments, these, these moments are really tied up into small things. Not necessarily, you know, again, as I framed it at the beginning long stretches of, you know, soul crushing depression, punctuated by a brief moment of joy. I think the moments of joy are in there. And I think that it's up to us to, to recognize them and find them rather than just expect them to sort of beat us over the head or, Oh, that wasn't big enough that couldn't possibly be settled celebratory again, going to the bathroom worth celebrating. Trust me, anybody who's ever had gallbladder surgery knows worth celebrating.
Doug Johnson (37:46):
Oh yeah. But yeah, I mean all kinds of how to and, and life hacks in that really say, you need to go ahead and give yourself positive reinforcement. So it's not, as I said at the beginning, it's not my default state. Uh, one of the things I'm getting, just having this conversation is it's going to remind me to go ahead and try and give myself kudos for the small things along the way when I'm working on stuff, because you know, it can get depressing when you're working on something and big pieces of it don't work. But when you get that little thing that does, it's like, it's hard to remember. You're going, okay, good. Now I can move on to the next, as opposed to taking that moment to go ahead and say, woo, maybe I'll get, maybe I'll do a little glitter.
Leon Adato (38:31):
The other piece I'll add, there's a, another writer who said that, you know, basically I think of as a monkey, you know, I'm just a little monkey who needs a lot of rewards. And, the best work I do is in a café where every time I write a good piece of script, I, I will buy myself a cookie every single time. It's not good for my waist, very good for my output because I I'm so excited for the next thing, the other piece. And I just, I, you know, we're in the lightning round. So you know, that my last thought is that the same writer said, um, I like to write the fun parts first. I have an idea. This is a, a script writer. And they said, um, I have an image of the high points, the big moments in this script. And I'm so excited about it, that I write it first. A lot of people will tell you, you have to write the story from start to finish. No, I write the most exciting, the most compelling, the most interesting moments first, because then I have this beautiful scene and I've got to get there. I have to get the audience from the start of the story, to these moments. And these moments are so exciting that I have to make the whole rest of their journey worth it to get there. So again, by looking forward to the celebration, by looking forward to the thing that I'm already excited about, I make the rest of the journey, which could be again, long stretch of soul crushing depression. No, it is. I'm building up to this great moment and I have to make every moment before worth the journey. So that's another piece of it. Anything that you want to leave everyone with for this episode.
Doug Johnson (40:03):
Don't be like me. I'm depressed most of the time. Be happy. Do glitter.
Leon Adato (40:08):
Do glitter. Don't do drugs. Do glitter that I love it. Yeah. Don't don't eat the glitter.
Doug Johnson (40:15):
No, don't eat the glitter. Definitely do not. No, it's not. It will not take care of your COVID
Leon Adato (40:21):
No, or anything else. Really? It's not roughage. It won't, your didactic. Your digestive tract will not. Thank you or me.
Doug Johnson (40:28):
Although, well, you never know. It might sparkle when it hits the water. Nevermind.
Leon Adato (40:33):
Outtro (40:35):
Thanks for making time for us this week, to hear more of technically religious visit our website, technically, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

S3E06 - Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Doug Johnson

S3E06 - Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Doug Johnson

April 6, 2021

Did you ever wonder why IT diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a "TAMO Cloud" - which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred". It indicated an area of tech that was inscruitable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in it's output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO Cloud - where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys - both technical and theological - and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. This episode features my talk with my long time friend, fellow Clevelander, and co-conspirator, Doug Johnson. Listen to our discussion or read the transcript below.

Intro (00:03):
Leon Adato (00:32):
Welcome to our podcast, where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate, IT, we're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways. We make our careers, it professionals mesh, or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is technically religious.
Leon Adato (00:53):
Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside that was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for then a miracle occurred. It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless, something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output for it. Pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view. Our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud where grounded technology and lofty, philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting, to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the it community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological, and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today and where they see themselves in the future.
Leon Adato (01:39):
My name is Leon Adato, and the other voice you'll hear on this episode is a frequent contributor to technically religious and a friend of mine for 30 years. Doug Johnson.
Doug Johnson (01:52):
We are so old. So very old.
Leon Adato (01:52):
We are so old. Before this podcast started, we realized that there may be close to a hundred years of experience on this particular episode. And there's just two of us on the line,
Doug Johnson (02:01):
Man. I'll tell you been at this for a little while. Yes, indeed. And this wasn't my first career, so really? Think about that.
Leon Adato (02:10):
Yeah, it's really, were like Methuselah put us in a jar. Um, okay. So as we are want to do here on technically religious, we're going to start off with a shameless self promotion, Doug, tell us a little bit about what you're working on, any special projects, how people can find you on social media and required, uh, is your religious ethical or moral point of view?
Doug Johnson (02:31):
Okay. Basically there's two, technically speaking things that I work on, I work for a company called Southwestern health resources, which is an accountable care organization, health kind of stuff down here in Dallas, Texas.
Leon Adato (02:45):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (02:45):
Um, when they sold this to me a year ago, I, remember I was working on my own. So I really wasn't looking for a job, but this cool thing came up that put all my background together and I thought, Oh, that's cool. And they said, well, this is a startup. Now keep in mind that this startup was, uh, peeled off from the two big 800 pound health gorillas, thousands and thousands of employees in, in, in Texas. So this startup that I've been part of for a year has 800 employees, $2 billion in revenue, plus et cetera, et cetera. That's not what I thought of when, uh, when we said startup, but there we are. So I am the web developer for the marketing department. And if you're a technical person, you know how most technical people feel about marketing departments. So the fact that I'm the only technical person in the marketing department should tell you a little something there, but it's kind of fun. They, their expectations are really low. So I exceed them all the time and it works out really well for me.
Leon Adato (03:44):
There you go.
Doug Johnson (03:44):
My side gig, the one that's going to go ahead and make me a multi-billion million. Okay. A hundred thousand air maybe if were lucky,.
Leon Adato (03:52):
You'll be able to buy coffee.
Doug Johnson (03:54):
I'm hoping. Yeah so far, so far it's cost a lot of money, but basically where we do a inventory management for small to medium size, uh, healthcare offices, primarily optical at this particular point using radio frequency identification. And I am the CTO, the chief technology officer, I supposedly know everything that I'm doing. I've designed it. It's working well. We've been breaking even for almost a year and we actually expect to make a profit this year until we then hire an, an employee. And then we'll go back in the red again.
Leon Adato (04:24):
It's all going to go, right? It all goes down the tubes again.
Doug Johnson (04:26):
That one is wave So if you have an optical shop and really actually want to control your inventory, go there.
Leon Adato (04:35):
Awesome. And your religious point of view,
Doug Johnson (04:38):
Religious point of view, I am a born again, evangelical Christian, but not one of those weird ones. I don't know. You know, I mean, you know, there are evangelical Christians who basically will smack you over the head with a really heavy Bible until you give up. I'm more one of the ones that thinks that we should talk about it and if you come to it, that's great. Um,
Leon Adato (04:57):
Got it.
Doug Johnson (04:57):
So yeah, I have,
Leon Adato (04:59):
I was going to say, Doug is one of the weird ones for those people listening he is,
Doug Johnson (05:02):
I am one of the weird ones, but not necessarily in the way that you expect me to be weird.
Leon Adato (05:06):
An evangelical Christian.
Doug Johnson (05:07):
Leon Adato (05:07):
Yeah, um hmm.
Doug Johnson (05:08):
Exactly. So there you are. So that's, that's my, I mean, I've read the Bible multiple times. I do know what I'm talking about. Um, but by the same token, I, I, I respect, I respect your, uh, right to choose, uh, the wrong choice.
Leon Adato (05:23):
[laughing] I was waiting to get around to that. I Knew somewhere along the way,
Doug Johnson (05:31):
I keep, I keep on going with the, I could be wrong. I don't think I am, if I'm wrong. Oh, well, uh, I'll deal with it when the time comes. And by this, you know, by the same token, I'm going to try and convince you that, uh, this is the right way to go.
Leon Adato (05:45):
Right. You might be wrong, but you gave it your best shot. Yeah. Point, you know, it has certainly worked for me over the years, A for enthusiasm. Um, okay. So tales from the Tambo cloud is, uh, structured in a particular way where we talk about your journey first through tech and then through religion. So I want to talk about where you're at now. I mean, you gave us a taster and amuse-bouche perhaps of where you're at technically, but in terms of the day-to-day work that you do, what are you doing today?
Doug Johnson (06:14):
The stuff that I'm doing today is actually well below my technical capabilities, um, which is fine. I'm okay with that. Um, I, uh, in my, in my day job, I am doing web development. Uh, I was just on Friday given the, uh, requirements to go ahead and re-skin one of our sites in WordPress in two weeks, which most people wouldn't be able to do. And certainly none of our, the people we normally hire at ridiculously high rates would be able to do, but they also know that I'm going to be able to pull it off. So.
Leon Adato (06:48):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (06:48):
And actually, technically speaking, I'm supposed to have it done in a week so that they can go ahead and get the content over. So having actually worked with a couple of our vendors for months not to get this to happen, I get to do it in a week. So, you know, it'll work, it'll work out okay. On the wave RFID side, I am the CTO. I don't actually do the programming. We got a great team of people in India who were actually doing all the work we're working in a stack that I understand. So they can't get too far out from underneath me. Well, you know,
Leon Adato (07:20):
Doug Johnson (07:20):
Sometimes, sometimes people who are, you know, they don't know the technical stack and, anything could happen at that particular point. I could in essence, dump them at any at any point and take it over, but God, why would I want to, these guys are great.
Leon Adato (07:33):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (07:33):
I've known them for years. They're doing a good job. It's a layer of L slash PHP slash react stack. It's working great. Clients are happy. They don't care how we do it. And so that one is more, uh, advisory than anything else. I do the design. I make sure that it will go ahead and scale as we grow to thousands of clients instead of tens of clients. And, uh, you know, that's, that's, that's my day to day.
Leon Adato (08:03):
Well, and, and I'm going to having known you for a while. I'm also going to sort of fill in some of the blanks there, which is that for as long as I've known you, you've always been in, you've always been one of the best examples of an architect level, uh, developer, meaning you're the big idea guy. You're the one who sees that we're gonna, you know, this is the goal we're going for the end result that we're going for. And here's how we're going to get there. You know, the stack, the code, the whatever, you'll, pseudo-code out, what needs to be done. You'll, you'll talk about the flow. And if somebody gets sick or wins the lottery and buys an Island and disappears, you can take over for them, but you don't want to, because you don't really want to be a code monkey day after day after day, you want to jump in, solve the really hard problems or point the way to solving the hard problems and go on. But you certainly could if you needed to.
Doug Johnson (08:54):
Yeah. And pretty much that would be accurate. I mean, yeah. And, and just for those people who are wondering, gee, I wonder if I should go into tech someday and all that kind of stuff. I'm completely self-taught.
Leon Adato (09:04):
Doug Johnson (09:05):
I did not get it. I don't have a CS degree. In fact, there's a couple of jobs that I wanted along the way that I lost, because I couldn't do an algorithm on a whiteboard. It just, no, I'm serious.
Leon Adato (09:16):
No, I know you're serious.
Doug Johnson (09:17):
I flew out to LA, I flew out to frickin Seattle. I talked with the CTO of the company and he was happy with me. And then the guy who was going to be my boss threw this link list thing at me, and I was like, I, I know how to do what you're talking about, but I don't know how to do that. I mean, you know, I was just.
Leon Adato (09:38):
Doug Johnson (09:38):
And I lost, I didn't get the job as, as a, as a tech evangelist who doesn't actually have to write code because I couldn't do a link list thing.
Leon Adato (09:48):
Doug Johnson (09:48):
Do I sound bitter?
Leon Adato (09:50):
My, not even a little. My, my response in those situations is frequently. Is this something that your employees do often?
Doug Johnson (10:00):
Right. Well and that's a,
Leon Adato (10:01):
You do code on a board without, anything like, is that how development is done here?
Doug Johnson (10:08):
well, Yeah. Unfortunately this was early enough in a job change that I would, at this point, if they had said, if he had said, I need you to do a link list thing, I would go, I don't do that. That's what I would do now, because now having been in that situation one, Nope. I don't have a CS degree. I know what link lists are. I've taught it, but it was 30 years ago, you know? So I don't know. I don't do that anymore. If that's not good enough, I'll just go home fine.
Leon Adato (10:35):
Right. Exactly. Okay.
Doug Johnson (10:36):
But I'm old and cranky now, so.
Leon Adato (10:38):
Right, exactly. So you've earned the ability to be blunt a little bit. Listen, Sonny. Um, so, but you, you hit upon where we're going next, which is that you are self-taught, you didn't, uh, depart the womb already knowing how to code with a silver keyboard in your mouth.
Doug Johnson (10:55):
Leon Adato (10:55):
Um, so how, where did you start out?
Doug Johnson (10:58):
Technically, I started out in college. I went to college where they invented Basic. And so you could, in fact, they, they encouraged all departments to do stuff with the computer because we were kind of big on that whole thing. In fact, the, uh, one of the inventors of basic became the president of my college and his signature is out of my diploma. So, so basically you could go down to the, uh, computer center or to a couple of different places around campus, put in your, uh, your college ID number, no password mind you, um, and just put it in and then you'd be on and you could do basic on a teletype.
Leon Adato (11:40):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (11:40):
And so, and I, you know, I, I did various incentive things. We would all do. English classes would have you do something on the computer, blah, blah, blah. But in physics class, I, uh, the, the first real, uh, indicator that I was, uh, going to do something, interestingly weird with this, I was trying to go ahead and do this, uh, make something, uh, orbit around the planet.
Leon Adato (12:07):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (12:07):
And all of a sudden on the teletype, there were dots everywhere. I mean, just asterisks cause remember.
Leon Adato (12:14):
Its full of stars,
Doug Johnson (12:15):
It's little, Little asterisks everywhere. And I went, okay, that's interesting saved. It went off, uh, went to a different building where they had a, uh, a plotter. And I went ahead and did the 150, uh, baud modem with the phone to go ahead and get it to connect. And it did this really interesting loopy thing. And I went, Oh, that's interesting. And so what had happened was I had, I had actually divided incorrectly in my program.
Leon Adato (12:47):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (12:47):
And so what ended up happening was I had negated the effect of gravity on, um, on orbits. So by going ahead and doing different numbers with this kind of stuff, I got these really cool loopy things. And remember, this is like, this is early seventies when this stuff was considered to be cool.
Leon Adato (13:04):
Uh huh, right.
Doug Johnson (13:04):
Um, , you, you wouldn't even think about it now. You'd go, what are you just a fricking idiot? But at the time, no, you know, it's like, and so I got, I now have on my college degree, uh, not on the degree, but on, on my, uh, resume it basically, I have a citation in physics for a modified gravitational model of a, uh, on a computer. I forget exactly what the words are, but it is a citation in physics keeping in mind, I got a C plus in physics because I really wasn't that great at it.
Leon Adato (13:37):
Right, right.
Doug Johnson (13:38):
So I knew, I knew if a computer mistake can do this for me, this was probably a field for me someday.
Leon Adato (13:45):
There you go. Okay. So that was, that was your humble beginnings.
Doug Johnson (13:48):
yes, but then I became a disc jockey.
Leon Adato (13:48):
Your humble beginnings was a citation in physics.
Doug Johnson (13:52):
I know really? Yes. Except that, except that I realized that now, remember, I wasn't a science guy. I mean, I did, I was thinking about pre-med until I got to biology and realized that wasn't going to work. And so, uh, eventually I got my degree in philosophy.
Leon Adato (14:07):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (14:07):
I was a disc jockey. They would pay you to sit there and actually tell people what time it was and what song you had just played. And so that's what I kind of did for the next 10 years.
Leon Adato (14:16):
Right. Right. And actually for those people who were wondering, he was, uh, the number one, uh, was it,
Doug Johnson (14:22):
Mid day.
Leon Adato (14:22):
it wasn't DriveTime. Yeah.
Doug Johnson (14:24):
Mid day.
Leon Adato (14:25):
Number one mid day, jockey up against, um, 105 in Cleveland, the Cleveland market.
Doug Johnson (14:32):
Yes. For at least one or two books. I forget. I'm sure Matt, the cat hated me for it, but that's just the way it is. So I beat him. I beat you Matt.
Leon Adato (14:41):
There we go. Claim, yet another claim to fame,
Doug Johnson (14:44):
Right. So did that, uh, stop doing drugs? Um, got married, um, worked for the phone company for 12 weeks, nine weeks training, three weeks on the job went, okay, this ain't gonna work. And then I was with Eastern singing telegrams for a whole year. That was a good job. And then I got a job selling computers. So here we are at the end of, uh, when did the Lisa come out? 82 or 81. And it was the October for October before the Lisa came out.
Leon Adato (15:16):
Doug Johnson (15:17):
Uh, because I, I know that because I did the Apple Lisa rollout training, I'm one of the few people that's ever seen a Lisa let alone a room full of them. Um, but, uh, so basically at that point I was selling computers. Um, and you know, it did rather well at it. Uh, I had a knack for it as it turned out and we were off and rolling. So somewhere along the line, um, we started instead of being just an Apple shop, we picked up IBM's and the way I had been selling apples all along was people would come in and they would say, I need to do a, uh, I needed to be able to do a mailing list. And so I would show them on the Apple, how they could go ahead and set up using profile to do this thing and, and put all their names in. And, and they would say, well, I'm looking at the IBM. I said, well, okay, that's good. I have just shown you on the computer. How I can do this. I would need you, you, you should probably go back to the IBM guy and have the IBM salesman, show you how they're going to do that. Now at the time on the IBM, the only real database for doing that was the thing called dBase wonderful little database program. And when you type dBase at the prompt, A dot would appear. That's all,
Leon Adato (16:34):
That's what you got. um hmm.
Doug Johnson (16:35):
And most salespeople would never show you anything on the IBM, because they didn't know how it worked. Now. We decided to carry the, I, we decided to carry, and then they would come back to me and buy the Apple because it made sense.
Leon Adato (16:49):
Because they could do things. Right.
Doug Johnson (16:49):
Exactly. Well easily without being, you know, a computer programmer. So basically when we, when my company decided to sell IBM's, I said, nobody is going to do that to me. I went in, learn dBase. I would, Oh, sweet. Okay. I learned how to do my example, so I could do it for my, anybody I was selling to, but I found out, gosh, I can do this. I can handle, I mean, this is programming. I can do this. And it was difficult because it was really early on. But, but the answer is, I just found out I had a knack for it and went out. I was the DBAs expert, then a FoxPro expert. And, you know, I would just keep on learning new stuff as we went along and I keep on learning new things and .NET and Delphi and C and C sharp and keep on going. I mean, it's just like, if it, and then I got into PHP and Drupal and WordPress and combine it, it's just like, yeah, whatever would offer, essentially ahead and allow me to, to continue to pay the bills and have a good time doing it. I would just keep learning it. And as long as you keep on learning in this wonderful world of technology, you're okay. It's when you decide, you know, as much as you need to know, unless it's COBAL, in which case you can keep on working until you die. But come on. There's a lot of COBAL calls still out there baby.
Leon Adato (18:10):
There's still a lot of COBAL out there. Well, there's a lot of support stuff. I remember meeting a guy who was in his like mid twenties and he decided to really get good at COBOL. And, you know, I'm like, okay. And he just pointed around the bullpen where they were all sitting and he's like, look around me. They're going to die soon.
Doug Johnson (18:26):
Yep. And he's absolutely correct. I mean, what would they say? Most banking codes still runs on COBOL.
Leon Adato (18:32):
Yeah. yeah.
Doug Johnson (18:32):
So I mean now, I mean, I've read COBOL. I've never actually written any useful COBAL code, So that's one of the few languages I can't claim that I've been paid to write.
Leon Adato (18:44):
There you go. All right. And that covers the,
Doug Johnson (18:47):
So that's how I got here.
Leon Adato (18:47):
That, that covers how you got from there to here. So that's, I mean, that's a journey. Um, and I think one of the lessons to, this is something you told me a while ago is that somebody who's new on the market can probably use the latest tools and use them competently. Um, you know, and probably will work for cheaper than, than someone like us at our point in life. But what we bring to the table is that we know what came before it, and probably what came before that. So we know why the current version works the way it does.
Doug Johnson (19:18):
Leon Adato (19:18):
And how to get around all the hidden bugs. And I remember specifically, I was working with Tivoli at the time and I was trying to, uh, at the time they had just created one of their GUI's and I was putting containers, you know, uh, nesting containers. And every time I would nest something inside of something inside of something inside of something, the entire database would corrupt. And I was complaining to you as I am, want to do often. And you said, well, yeah, because it's a Corba database and I, I don't like banana hamster? Like, what are we talking? Like, why is it no, no, you understand Corba databases are one of the first object oriented database structures ever. And they only handle three levels of can, you know, have container ship after that, the database corrupts, you literally did what it can't do. And I'm like, okay, but who would, who would know that, you know, coming at it new.
Doug Johnson (20:10):
Yup Exactly. But, and the flip side to that though, and again, this is, I've had all kinds of people saying, well, I'd like to get an attack, but it's way too late. And I'm going, no, you are exactly two years behind the cutting edge. So if you pick out whatever's cutting edge now in two years, you'll be the expert and people down the road will be saying, I don't know how to do this. So, you know, it's like, you're never too late in our industry to jump in. You just have to, you just, you don't want to start with something that's so fricking old that you're battling against everybody like me. Who's been doing this forever. You want to be battling. You want to be battling on the front lines and learning it. And then in two years, yes, it'll take you a little while for the cutting edge to move back. But if you pick the right cutting edge, you know, you will be the expert in two years and making the money you want to make.
Leon Adato (21:03):
So what you're saying is that Moore's law may not be true until the earth, So the sun dies because of heat death, but it will in terms of chips, but it will be true in terms of getting a career in it that Moore's law will,
Doug Johnson (21:17):
Surprisingly Moore's law actually is key. It keeps on con, it should have died years ago, and yet it keeps on rolling.
Leon Adato (21:25):
Right. And once again, if you're old like us, you know what we're talking about when we talk about Moore's law, okay. I want to, I want to pivot, we talked about tech now let's pivot to the, um, religious side.
Doug Johnson (21:37):
Ok, works for me.
Leon Adato (21:37):
I know that labels, labels are difficult and often incredibly imprecise. And most of the time on this, uh, on these TAMO episodes, when I say so, what are you, you know, religiously, the answer begins with well, and it ends, uh, several minutes later, when many, many, many qualifications have been given to an answer. That being said, how do you, you know, besides, you know, evangelical, evangelical Christian, but not one of the weird ones. How do you define yourself religiously?
Doug Johnson (22:08):
Basically, Um, I believe the Bible is to be the word of God. I believe that, um, Christ is the Messiah that he is, uh, my savior that he has. Um, he died for my sins, and I actually, there's nothing that I can do to make myself worthy in the eyes of God. Other than to say, I am the, Christ said, I'm okay. I've trusted in Christ. Therefore, uh, if, if Christ is your son, God, and you think he's okay, then could you maybe think I'm okay too?
Leon Adato (22:50):
Doug Johnson (22:51):
That's pretty much it.
Leon Adato (22:53):
Doug Johnson (22:53):
I mean, that's, it's, it's the base that it's, it is the basis of real Christianity. That's a really good book by CS Lewis called Mirror Christianity that I recommend to people all the time. Uh, it's a little more philosophical than most people are willing to slog their way through, although it was a series of radio interviews for God's sake. Uh, so it's, it's good reading, but it basically covers the basis of what Christianity is. And I really have not gotten much beyond the basics, um, could, because it's when you get off in all the weird, you know, differences that Christians tend to go ahead and get in trouble with each other. If you stay with the, the mainstream stuff, for the most part, we agree.
Leon Adato (23:37):
Got it.
Doug Johnson (23:37):
So I, so I try and stay, stay pretty central.
Leon Adato (23:41):
There we go. Okay. And, uh, you mentioned the whole born again thing a minute ago, several minutes ago,
Doug Johnson (23:46):
Leon Adato (23:46):
But I wanted it. So you, that was not the family, that was not the household into which you were born.
Doug Johnson (23:51):
Leon Adato (23:51):
So where did you start?
Doug Johnson (23:52):
It works the same as my technical journey. Surprisingly.
Leon Adato (23:56):
Um hmm.
Doug Johnson (23:58):
When I was, I went to, um, uh, I belong we went to church every Sunday, blah, blah, blah. Um, we, we would, uh, be yelling at each other on the way to church because we were late and we would be yelling at each other on the way home from church, because, uh, we weren't respectful enough in church. So, you know, you, you got a good solid feel for how great church is, uh, and that sort of situation, but, uh,
Leon Adato (24:22):
Big motivation to go every week.
Doug Johnson (24:24):
Leon Adato (24:24):
You look forward to it.
Doug Johnson (24:25):
But at the same time, you know, I mean, I, I did, I went to, went to youth group and all that kind of stuff. I was, uh, I was one of the three people who did stuff on the senior sermon day, you know, when I was a senior in college, but just for the integrity purpose, there was a, there was a statement of faith that we were supposed to make at some point, along the way, uh, community, uh, not confirmation. It was like a confirmation thing. And I specifically did not actually say some of the words in the statement that we were supposedly standing up and making. So, you know, I was a little bit of a, of a re reactionary there. So I went to college. Okay. At college was where I first got my first introduction to computers. Well, in college, that's where I first went and said, you know what? This is kind of, this is garbage. And.
Leon Adato (25:15):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (25:15):
I actually, I can actually remember some Christians coming to dorm room going ahead and, you know, trying, you know, laying out the whole Christian thing. And I knew the Bible better than they did, and basically, uh, shot down all of their arguments. And I, I hope I pray to God that I did not ruin their cause I will feel really bad if I was able to go ahead and push them off of their path.
Leon Adato (25:39):
Knock somebody else off the, yeah,
Doug Johnson (25:41):
Leon Adato (25:41):
I so, so, just to hold that thought for a second. Um, first of all, uh, just a point of order for people listening, never, ever get into religious argument with somebody who's in the philosophy department. That's really not, that's not the, the part of the dorm you want. Like if the, if there's a philosophy wing to the dorm, which God help them, if they really did that. But if they're like, if they say so what's your major philosophy. Thanks. Great talking to you. Bye. Just go, just go. Um, and second of all, I heard from actually one of the other folks that we talk with a lot, um, Josh Begley, who said that the missionaries that we, they send people out on, on mission work, not to try to change anybody else's mind, but to try to deepen the faith of the people who are doing the mission, because being told no repeatedly and aggressively causes you to dig in harder into your own, uh, point of view. So they do it because they want that reaction. So you probably helped many, many people develop a stronger tie to their faith. I'm, I'm working really hard, make this okay for you.
Doug Johnson (26:44):
Well, in the end, and again, based on what I believe as I stand before the, uh, the, the throne and get told, well done thou good and faithful servant. I have a feeling that he's gonna say, Oh, and Doug, I got a little conversation with you ok? Just yeah. Right. With these people. And then you and I, we're going to talk just a little longer, so we'll see how that all works out. But so basically I managed to get through, uh, college, uh, with what I would consider to be a somewhat hedonistic philosophy that basically said, if it's not hurting anybody at camp, it can't be all bad.
Leon Adato (27:20):
Doug Johnson (27:20):
Right. And, um, and I lived that out. I was a philosophy major. I truly lived that out. I was a disc jockey after that, everything bad that you've ever told your daughters to avoid. I was that thing, right.
Leon Adato (27:34):
You were that boy.
Doug Johnson (27:35):
I was that boy, I was the poster boy for who, who you shouldn't have your daughter bring home and, you know, went through that whole thing, blah, blah, blah, uh, graduated from, uh, has got cut, got out of college, was a disc jockey, did all kinds of things for about 10 ish years or so.
Leon Adato (27:55):
Um hmm.
Doug Johnson (27:54):
Um, And then I was a disc jockey in Cleveland and then, um, got invited to, uh, a business meeting. We've all heard of Amway.
Leon Adato (28:08):
Um hmm.
Doug Johnson (28:08):
So, you know, it sounded interesting went blah, blah, blah. Did that for a while, went to a, uh, big meeting on the weekend. They had a religious service on Sunday morning and they did an alter call and I said, okay, God, here's your shot.
Leon Adato (28:28):
Doug Johnson (28:28):
Don't laugh. I mean, it really is. I know exactly. So I said, fine, I will go forward. Here you go. And it was one of those, you know, hit, God figured he had his one shot, hit me with a two by four tears, blah, blah, blah, the whole thing. And you know, it, it, it stuck.
Leon Adato (28:50):
Leon Adato (28:50):
So, you know, when, when they say born again, not everybody, uh, I, I don't think you have to have a dramatic, uh, con uh, a dramatic change in your life. I did it. And it probably is the only thing that would have gotten my attention. So I did what I was, I started studying the Bible, doing all kinds of things. Next thing you know, somebody said at the door, Hey, would you like to study the Bible? I went, sure, come on in. I think these Jehovah's witnesses had never actually had anybody really invite them in before. Now, of course, I didn't know much about the Jehovah's witnesses at that point, because I hadn't been saved that long, but so we're going through it and we're studying on a weekly basis. And, um, and in fact, one of the fun things was there was an Easter service that we went to that they, you could, they called you up to the front to take communion.
Leon Adato (29:38):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (29:38):
Well, I didn't know. You're supposed to be one of the 180,000 saved people to go up.
Leon Adato (29:44):
Doug Johnson (29:44):
So I went up, well, I w.
Leon Adato (29:46):
Wait, wait, this isn't snacks. I was hungry.
Doug Johnson (29:48):
No, exactly. It was kind of like, it was like that. I was told later that I shouldn't have done that, but it was okay. You know, I wasn't going to go to hell, but, but then it got weirder and weirder as time went on. And so I made the mistake of reading to the end of the book,
Leon Adato (30:04):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (30:04):
And now we're back to the philosophy major thing.
Leon Adato (30:07):
Yeah, uh huh right.
Doug Johnson (30:07):
And so they came in the next time and I said, um, you don't actually believe that God is, that Jesus has God, do you? And they went, well, blah blah blah, I said, no, apapapa, this is a yes, no question. And so that was the end of me with the, uh, Jehovah's witnesses. And, uh, when we went to another church, uh, we went one Sunday morning and, you know, the place where you sign your name and, and we just lived across the way. And I said, uh, I said, lamb in search of a shepherd. And next day, [knock on door sound] pastors says, how could I not come to your door after that? So, and, and so I was discipled there and, you know, as time has gone on, I've learned more and been discipled by different people and irritated multiple denominations, but, you know, uh, have worked well.
Leon Adato (30:59):
Yeah, that's, it's an incredibly on brand for you. So, you know,
Doug Johnson (31:02):
Well, it is, I mean, it's, it's been, it's been fun even when I've been wrong. I've been right. There was there, there was a time when I was teaching a Sunday school class, and this was when I was traveling 45 minutes to a church that was having some trouble, you know, we had moved.
Leon Adato (31:16):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (31:16):
And so I ended up running late, you know, it's just cause it was a long drive. And the, as I'm going into my Sunday school, getting set to teach my Sunday school class a little bit late, the elder posts, says that it's irresponsible for you to be late, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I said, I've got a class to teach. We'll talk about this later, went in, taught my class, went home, searched scripture,
Leon Adato (31:40):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (31:40):
Sent him a thing and said, I searched the Bible. The only thing, only time I ever saw somebody arriving late was when Samuel arrived late, and, uh, Saul went ahead and did the sacrifice ahead of time because he wasn't willing to wait. And the elder apologized to me. So, so I knew we were okay.
Leon Adato (32:01):
There you go.
Doug Johnson (32:01):
So, and so over a period of time, I've been church, I've been, God help them. I've been deacon in a church or two, you know, I mean, can you imagine,
Leon Adato (32:10):
What were they thinking?
Doug Johnson (32:10):
I don't know, I've been, I've been a worship leader. Oh, I can remember once as worship leader, I was there and I was leading us, but I lost the melody. And so the organist go ahead and, and really knocked out the melody. And I said, here I am in front of the whole church. I rely on the kindness, strangers, Thank you, Blanche Dubois.
Leon Adato (32:38):
Doug Johnson (32:41):
So that's been, my, that's been my journey.
Leon Adato (32:44):
Amazing. Both, you know, both the technical and the religious journey has been, uh, Epic in many ways. Um, I think what's interesting about that is that given both the variety and also the duration of it, and yeah, I did just call you old. Um, the, you know,
Doug Johnson (33:06):
I'm not old, I'm durable!
Leon Adato (33:06):
Right. Durable, experienced, seasoned, like an old cast iron pot. Um, so I, I think that the, the number of times that the opportunity to blend these two very compelling, very consuming parts of our lives together, um, you know, becomes equally memorable. So, uh, both on the good and the bad, let's start off with the challenging part, you know, have you ever, have there ever been times when blending your religious life observances and your technical obligations or life has created a, a particular challenge for you and how did you overcome it?
Doug Johnson (33:47):
Um, yes. I mean, it pretty much has to be a conflict or.
Leon Adato (33:53):
Doug Johnson (33:53):
What you don't have conflict. Where's the story. Come on now.
Leon Adato (33:57):
Doug Johnson (33:57):
Yeah. I always tell people when they had a really bad vacation, they went, Hey, you got good stories. Nobody wants to hear what a wonderful time you had, They want to hear everything that went wrong, but I can, I mean, I can remember that I had a consulting firm, um, for a long time where I was doing accounting software and I can remember a couple of different occasions where, uh, I ran into when the one place he went, uh, so, uh, I need to have some, uh, I need to have some inventory disappear. Can you make that happen?
Leon Adato (34:30):
Doug Johnson (34:31):
And I'm going, I don't think we need to work together anymore. You know, it's just like, yeah. I mean, could I have done it? Absolutely. I mean, do I, you know, I knew, I knew the accounting software well enough that I could have made it, made that happen. But in fact, I was actually played by somebody once. Um, he, well, he thought, anyway, a friend of mine had a company. He had a guy who was managing his company. So I got in there and the guy said he had done a bunch of test, uh, test transactions. And could I move the, could I get the just test transactions needed to get re needed to get them off? And so I did move them off, but I moved them off to the side.
Leon Adato (35:10):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (35:10):
It turns out the guy was embezzling,
Leon Adato (35:13):
Doug Johnson (35:13):
They weren't they weren't test transactions. They were real transactions. And so I got to, uh, uh, be an expert witness in his trial. By the way, if you ever want to know how boring your life is, be an expert witness. I could see the people nodding off as I'm describing accounting software.
Leon Adato (35:33):
Yeah. Being an expert witness in a technique. Yeah. In a, in a computer accounting fraud.
Doug Johnson (35:37):
Oh yeah, Exactly. It was bad, but you know, it was so in that was a case where I was played, but of course, uh, you know, I, I covered for it. So I was able to actually, you know, the guy went to jail and he should have no. So just the way it was, uh, I, I can remember being in another place where looking, you know, looking at his stuff, um, there was no way that he had, he could afford the boat, that he had a picture on the wall of,
Leon Adato (36:05):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (36:05):
Based on what I was seeing here. So only thing I could figure out was he was laundering funds somewhere. It was the kind of business that would have been good for that. So I let that, that's again, a case where I went. Yeah. I think I need to let this client go. So.
Leon Adato (36:20):
There you go. Okay. So, uh, that's, that's sort of the challenging side on the good side. Has there ever been a situation where the blend of technology and religion has really turned into something surprising and kind of delightful?
Doug Johnson (36:34):
It's sort of a yes and a no? I mean, I, the nice thing about being able to do what I do is that I, I am able to go ahead and help out non-technical organizations with technical stuff that they should have. So there's been things that I've been able to do for various and sundry, different organizations that I've been involved with. Keeping in mind that I actually made an active choice not to do religious or church software relatively early on, because I knew that if I did it to make my living, I would ended up hating my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Leon Adato (37:12):
Doug Johnson (37:12):
As a volunteer, as a volunteer, it was okay. But if I.
Leon Adato (37:15):
Doug Johnson (37:15):
Had to make my living that way, there was just no way that that was going to go ahead and work.
Leon Adato (37:19):
It doesn't people who love to cook and decided to open a catering company. And not only do they hate to cook now, they also hate people.
Doug Johnson (37:26):
Yeah. Pretty much how it all works out. Yeah. I've done a few catering gigs, but yeah. I don't want to make my living that way.
Leon Adato (37:33):
Um hmm, yeah.
Doug Johnson (37:33):
So yeah. And I love to cook. Um, the best part of it for me is that technical stuff is very, uh it's. Yes, no. I mean, you really have to, I I've got a client that every time something happens, he goes, boy, that's weird. And I'm going, no, it's not weird. We just don't know why.
Leon Adato (37:56):
um hmm.
Doug Johnson (37:56):
Leon Adato (37:56):
Doug Johnson (37:56):
I mean, it's like, computers are really, there's always a really good reason why they're having a problem. Right. And you taking that same logical philosophical, uh, bent that I have.
Leon Adato (38:10):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (38:10):
It works really well for me. Christianity does make sense. I mean,
Leon Adato (38:15):
um hmm.
Doug Johnson (38:15):
Pascal, the mathematician it's, it's called Pascal's, uh, gambit or whatever it is. But he basically said, if I'm a Christian and I am wrong, what have I lost? If I'm a non-Christian and I'm wrong, I've lost everything. So it, it, for me, Christianity works both from a logical and a systematic thought basis. Um, that, that appeals to me, and.
Leon Adato (38:43):
Um hmm.
Doug Johnson (38:43):
It's the same thing on the technical side, you can always work through a computer problem may take you forever, but.
Leon Adato (38:48):
Doug Johnson (38:48):
You know, but, but, but it there's always an answer there somewhere. It can be ridiculously difficult to track down, but it's always there.
Leon Adato (38:58):
Doug Johnson (38:58):
They sort of play off against each other sort of nicely that way.
Leon Adato (39:02):
Wonderful. Okay. So this is the lightning round. Are there any final thoughts? Any lessons you want to share before we wrap this up?
Doug Johnson (39:10):
One of the things that, uh, sort of bugs me about Christians in general.
Leon Adato (39:15):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (39:15):
Is we believe, as Paul said here in, you know, here in earth, great. Uh, I die. I go to heaven even better. Okay.
Leon Adato (39:25):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (39:25):
Why do Christians? Why are Christians so afraid of death? Why are we so afraid of dying?
Leon Adato (39:30):
Doug Johnson (39:31):
It's just, it's silly. I mean, I understand that there's an unknown there, but if we believe what we say, we believe then we should be, Sweet! I actually said that once we were in, we were in a thing.
Leon Adato (39:46):
Oh god!
Doug Johnson (39:46):
we were in, we were.
Leon Adato (39:47):
Not at a funeral, please Doug, not at a funeral.
Doug Johnson (39:48):
No, wait wait, it wasn't a, Oh, by the way, I give great funerals. I give great funeral, just so you know, I've been asked to do several eulogies and I give great eulogy, but I have people laughing until I have them crying.
Leon Adato (40:02):
Doug Johnson (40:02):
Every time I'm good at it. But in this case, we were in a meeting and the guy was the guy who was leading was blah, blah, blah. And he was going, so, so you leave here and you walk out the door and you accidentally step in front of, step in front of a truck. And I went, sweet! And he went, that is the first time anybody's ever said that. And you are completely correct.
Leon Adato (40:25):
Doug Johnson (40:25):
Well, it is. I mean, if you think about it, I mean, golly, no pain, no suffering. And you're with God, come on. How bad is that?
Leon Adato (40:34):
Doug Johnson (40:34):
That's not bad at all. So the, that's, that's one of my big beefs with, you know, in general, if we believe what we say, we believe we should not be so afraid of death, that's the whole point. But there you are.
Leon Adato (40:49):
Got it. There you go. All right. As always, it is a delight to talk to you even when we're not recording, but when other people get to share in this, uh, Whoa on them, I guess. I don't know. It's uh, but we had a good time. So thank you for joining me as always.
Doug Johnson (41:06):
I appreciate it. And I will see you. I will be up there in September, by the way.
Leon Adato (41:11):
Woo hoo! Up in Cleveland, in September picking the right. Oh, wow. That's that's not next month. I, it, time has no meaning for me anymore.
Doug Johnson (41:19):
Sorry I know, It is pretty much, no, it it's my 50th, uh, high school reunion a year and a half late.
Leon Adato (41:25):
Well, yeah, of course it is yeah.
Doug Johnson (41:28):
But so yeah,
Leon Adato (41:30):
Because 2020 is just a big blank spot on the calendar.
Doug Johnson (41:33):
Oh, it didn't happen. 2020 nah. Didn't happen. No. Oh, well, all right. Well, I can't wait to see you. Thanks again.
New Speaker (41:40):
All right. Talk to you later.
Leon Adato (41:42):
Thanks for making time for us this week, to hear more of technically religious visit our website, technically, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.

S3E05 - Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Jason Carrier

S3E05 - Tales From the TAMO Cloud with Jason Carrier

March 30, 2021

Did you ever wonder why IT diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside? That was originally called a "TAMO Cloud" - which stood for "Then A Miracle Occurred". It indicated an area of tech that was inscruitable, but nevertheless something we saw as reliable and consistent in it's output. For IT pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view, our journey has had its own sort of TAMO Cloud - where grounded technology and lofty philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys - both technical and theological - and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today, and where they see themselves in the future. This episode features my talk with a fellow Solarian, Jason Carrier. Listen to our discussion or read the transcript below.


Intro (00:03):
Leon Adato (00:32):
Welcome to our podcast, where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate, IT, we're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our careers, it professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is technically religious.
Leon Adato (00:53):
Did you ever wonder why it diagrams always use a cloud to show an element where stuff goes in and comes out, but we're not 100% sure what happens inside that was originally called a TAMO cloud, which stood for then a miracle occurred. It indicated an area of tech that was inscrutable, but nevertheless, something we saw as reliable and consistent in its output for it. Pros who hold a strong religious, ethical, or moral point of view. Our journey has had its own sort of TAMO cloud where grounded technology and lofty, philosophical ideals blend in ways that can be anything from challenging to uplifting, to humbling. In this series, we sit down with members of the IT community to explore their journeys, both technical and theological and see what lessons we can glean from where they've been, where they are today and where they see themselves in the future.
Leon Adato (01:40):
My name is Leon Adato, and the other voice you'll hear on this episode is Jason carrier.
Jason Carrier (01:45):
Hey, thanks for having me.
Leon Adato (01:46):
It's great to have you back. Um, so as is our want here on tech, uh, technically religious, we want to start with some shameless. Self-promotion Jason, tell us a little bit about yourself, where people can find you on the interwebs, what you're working on, all that good stuff.
Jason Carrier (02:00):
Sure thing. So, uh, my name is Jason carrier. I'm a product manager at SolarWinds, and I do a little bit of freelance on the side. Uh, I've got a strong interest in startups, uh, technology, venture capital investment banking. Uh, you can find me on Twitter at, uh, @network_carrier, uh, and LinkedIn at @adjacent-carrier. Uh, you could also find me on my website, which is, uh,, B H O D And, uh, religiously, I consider myself a Buddhist, but I'm also kind of a general student of philosophy. I like kind of studying, uh, different schools of thought in general.
Leon Adato (02:34):
Very nice. Okay. And if you were scribbling all that stuff down or you start scribbling the stuff we talk about later, stop it, put your hands back on the wheel and pay attention to the road because we will have show notes for all of that the day after this podcast drops. So you'll be able to find all the links to anything that we talk about over there. All right. Um, so this is the tales from the TAMO cloud, where we talk about sort of our journey through tech and religion. And I want to start off with the technical side. Let's start with, what work are you doing today? What kinds of stuff in tech are you focused on on day to day?
Jason Carrier (03:10):
Uh, so my, my day job, I'm a product manager for network performance monitor and voice network quality monitor. So, uh, basically it's like network monitoring products, uh, that sort of help people get visibility into their, uh, network infrastructure.
Leon Adato (03:23):
Uh huh. Well, I, I I'm familiar with monitoring myself since we work at the same company, so that's good.
Jason Carrier (03:29):
Definitely, definitely.
Leon Adato (03:31):
Um, so I presume that you did not, uh, exit the womb already doing monitoring software and uh, product manager work. So I guess the question is where did you start in tech?
Jason Carrier (03:44):
Yeah, so, um, I almost did. Not network monitoring coming out of the womb doing technology stuff. Um, my dad has, uh, was an electronics technician in the air force and, uh, so I was kinda raised, you know, building RF cables and, uh, he used to take me on jobs, building, uh, cell sites, you know, back in the, uh, late nineties, you know,
Leon Adato (04:03):
You were really?
Jason Carrier (04:03):
So I, yeah, I was just going to say, I grew up learning electronics theory and stuff like that. So I went to high school and got into computers from there.
Leon Adato (04:11):
Yeah. I was going to say you were born with a silver cat five cable in your mouth. I mean,
Jason Carrier (04:14):
Pretty much it was spoon-fed.
Leon Adato (04:15):
Which is kind of toxic, but for a baby, but, but still, yeah. Wow. Um, that's a great pedigree to have. So, uh, although it may be, I could probably write a story that filled in the gaps. I want to hear how you actually made it from, from those humble beginnings, uh, at your father's knee as an electronics technician. How did you get to where you are today?
Jason Carrier (04:40):
Uh, I've, I've traveled a lot. Um, so basically started in El Paso.
Leon Adato (04:43):
Lot of frequent flier miles.
Jason Carrier (04:45):
Yeah, very much so, but literally and figuratively. Uh, so I started out in El Paso, uh, working at a, an internet cafe, uh, back in the, uh, early nineties or late nineties, like 99 ish, 98, right in there. And then, uh, joined the air force after that, uh, traveled to a bunch of places, Okinawa, Saudi Arabia, um, Thailand, uh, and then Omaha and Tucson, uh, less fun, but, uh, uh, then was DOD contractor for a while, about 10 years or so. Um, did a tour in Iraq, spent some time in Kuwait and then, uh, spent some time in Hawaii too, which was a lot of fun, uh, working with the sock pack guys out there. Um, and then I took a hiatus, uh, one year off of massage for massage school. Uh, it had been something that I'd wanted to do for a while and, uh, kinda was, was bleeding into the religious views and philosophic views. I had, I wanted to do something kind of different work on, uh, you know, kind of the emotional intelligence and personal skills and you know, that kind of thing.
Leon Adato (05:39):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (05:39):
And then, uh, uh, decided there's not enough money in it. So I went back to a government contracting for a bit, uh, worked at Fort Huachuca and, uh, went back to Hawaii for awhile. And then, uh, I kind of came to a point where I wanted to make it so that my efforts were, uh, not going to a war fighter so much, but I'm sort of focused more in a, um, entrepreneurial kind of direction, which has always been a side passion. I'd been kind of neglecting. Uh, so I came to Austin Texas to do the, the technology commercialization program over at UT, uh, which was a great program, highly recommend it. Um, I worked at a Clear Data, local startup here for a bit, uh, as a network engineer while I was going through school. And then, uh, after that, I was a venture partner over at, uh, John Bromley, Texas venture labs at the university there, um, at UT. Uh, so I basically helped, uh, uh, startups with, uh, go to market validation and, um, uh, kind of business research projects. Uh, so pairing cross-functional teams and grad students up with, uh, uh, local area startups.
Leon Adato (06:40):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (06:40):
And that's what led me to SolarWinds.
Leon Adato (06:42):
Very nice. Okay. So I couldn't have written that story at all. I mean, that was not the path that I would have invented if you had given me just the starting and end points. And I think that that's an important thing for, to remember if you're listening, is that, um, many times our route from the there to the here, it can be circuitous, uh, along the way. I also, I want to talk for a minute. You said something really interesting about that, the work you were doing in the air force wasn't necessarily, um, the, the work or the support you wanted to be providing in the world. And I think that's another important recognition is that sometimes the modalities or the things that we do at one point in our life are incredibly valuable and they help us get to where we are today. And yet we couldn't go back to them. We couldn't do them now because they wouldn't serve us the way that they served us at the time. And I'm not thumbing our nose at our past or trying to, uh, wave it away or anything. But just to, to say, yeah, that was, that worked for me then, but it doesn't work for me now. And I recognize that I changed, right. I mean, it seems like there's some of that in there.
Jason Carrier (07:53):
Oh, absolutely. I have nothing but respect for everyone in the armed forces department of defense. Uh, I, the experiences I had there were, were definitely transformative as I was growing up. I got a lot of my discipline, grit, hard work, you know, uh, ethos kind of thing comes from that military background. Uh, I couldn't, you know, plus with my dad, you know, being a retired air force guy, uh, it it's had a lifelong impacts for me. Um, it's just the kind of the future facing direction. I'm looking at more like the outcome and I'm trying to live, uh, a life. That's kind of more in alignment with the philosophy that I've arrived at. It's been a long, lifelong evolution. Yeah.
Leon Adato (08:30):
Right. And that's a perfect segue to the second part of the episode, which is the religious side. So I will qualify this by saying that labels are frequently very difficult for people to, uh, settle on they're imprecise, no matter how many words you throw into it. When I ask people, you know, what are you? They usually start with some form of, well, I'm kind of this, and I'm a little bit of this, it's always, there's always a qualifier in there. Despite that fact, if you were going to define yourself religiously, what would you call yourself?
Jason Carrier (09:05):
And that's why I use the phrase. Self-styled Buddhist.
Leon Adato (09:07):
Jason Carrier (09:07):
Because if you say, if you say Buddhist, it's sort of denote in my mind, it sort of denotes that there's a, a group that you're a part of. And, uh, I've never really been a joiner when it comes to that kind of stuff. I've always kind of more, uh, dabbled and kind of pulled from it and ingrained it. Uh, what's gonna work for me kind of way, you know,
Leon Adato (09:27):
Right. Synthesized it to, to fit in with your lifestyle and your values and your general worldview. No, I can absolutely say.
Jason Carrier (09:35):
Leon Adato (09:35):
And again, I find lots of people do that, whether or not that synthesis is more easily, um, is more easily defined as a mainstream, whatever mainstream Catholic or mainstream, you know, Orthodox Judaism or whatever it is. And they're comfortable within those boundaries. There still some synthesis that happens where it's like, well, I'm at this, except I do this other thing too, or whatever it is. So that's, that's not uncommon. So that's where you are today. Um, and I want to, because it is self-styled, is there anything that, um, you would use as touch points for somebody who's saying, okay, so I know a little bit about Buddhism, but what does he mean by self style? Like what are some of the aspects of that that I would notice?
Jason Carrier (10:20):
Sure. So, uh, I, I really, I tend to get away from the things that I can't prove or validate that don't have. Uh, so for, for example, uh, if you're talking about kind of like ancient Vedic gods and things like that, I have less of an interest in that. I focus more on things that you would also find in like the realm of psychology or.
Leon Adato (10:39):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (10:39):
Neuroscience or, you know, things that kind of be, can kind of be empirically backed. I have a tendency towards those. Not that there's anything wrong with, you know, going with a more mythology driven approach to things it's just.
Leon Adato (10:50):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (10:50):
Not my chosen path. Right. And I think it's, you know, many, many journey are many different paths. One destination is sort of the, the, the view that I have on that.
Leon Adato (10:58):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (10:58):
Um, that, yeah, I think that answers your question.
Leon Adato (11:00):
Great. Great. Okay. So I'm presuming that that's not how the faith that you were born into, so, uh,
Jason Carrier (11:06):
Definitely not.
Leon Adato (11:06):
Where did you start?
Jason Carrier (11:08):
Well, so my, my mom, uh, actually did her best to raise me as a Presbyterian. And then we transitioned to the Lutheran church when I was growing up. Um, so I played the part, you know, went to Sunday school and, um, uh, you know, was an acolyte for a bit and,
Leon Adato (11:23):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (11:23):
You know, did all that kind of stuff. Uh, but I never really felt like it was something that I believed in. It was just something that I was kind of doing for mom, you know?
Leon Adato (11:30):
Jason Carrier (11:30):
So, uh, when I was around 16, I basically just stopped going to church and considered myself agnostic. That was the, the label I used for for quite some years.
Leon Adato (11:39):
Yeah. And again, you know, when we, when we're growing up, first of all, all we know is all we know. And, um, there's a lot of layers, even though it's easy to pigeonhole religion as a thing, the fact is that religion carries a lot of additional layers of community and, um, friendship and family and just all those ties. And so there are parts of our religious experience, especially as kids that really it's like actually the religion part was never part of it. It was always the social, or it was always the work, you know, we were always out doing, you know, helping somebody, you know, repair somebody's house or whatever. And I just liked swinging a hammer. Like you could call it Lutheran, but I like swinging, swinging hammer. So, you know, a lot of times it takes us a while to parse out the fact that these are the pieces that work for me and those pieces actually have no or minimal religious impact. And at that point, then you end up asking the question, well, what do I believe? So picking up where you were 16 and you had settled on the label agnostic, how did you get from there? The Presbyterian Lutheran, social, you know, 16 year old dutiful son side to the self-styled Buddhist. Like, what was that path? I won't even try to pretend that I know how that was going to look. I want to hear this one.
Jason Carrier (12:57):
Sure. Uh, my, my life's had all kinds of twists and turns in it. Uh, I've been told it's, you know, it would be a fun book or something someday, but, um, so I, I w I was going through my divorce actually. And, uh, there was a quote that I had heard, uh, just prior to that, that moment in my life, uh, from, from Einstein where he talked about, uh, uh, basically it was I'm going to butcher it, it was something along the lines of, you know, uh, all religions are probably false, but if one could really help the world, it would be Buddhism. It was something along those lines. Um, and, and that, that I've always been a big fan of, uh, Einstein. Uh, so, you know, that kind of had a little bit of an impact. It was tickling in the back of my mind.
Jason Carrier (13:34):
And then I came across a book as I was going through my divorce called storms. Can't hurt the sky.
Leon Adato (13:39):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (13:39):
The byline was a Buddhist path through divorce. Um, and so I read that and it just, it, it was the most resonant description of a worldview I'd ever heard before. Uh, some of the words that I heard just, just really had a big impact on me. And so I started drilling into, uh, this was about the time I went to Iraq to, uh, I started reading all kinds of philosophy books, uh, primarily from the Dalai Lama and, uh, Pemasha drone is a, uh, monk who lives up in Canada. Um,
Leon Adato (14:08):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (14:08):
And, you know, did, uh, a lot of writing on, uh, kind of internalization and reflection and introspection and, you know, that kind of thing. And, uh, it was around that time. I just, you know, kind of started describing myself as a Buddhist instead of an agnostic. You know.
Leon Adato (14:21):
Nice. Okay. That's good. And it is, it is absolutely delightful. And, um, life changing when you, you hear your experiences reflected in the words of someone else, and you say, Oh my goodness, that's me. And, and you have more ways of describing your experiences or who you are, because it's reflected in the words of another person. I mean, you know, you, the, the phrase, the con, the phrase that you hear a lot right, is you can't be it if you don't see it. And so having seen someone reflect the thing that, um, echoed or mirrored your experience allowed you to put a better, more accurate and more compelling label on it, that's really, um, that's wonderful. And I still couldn't have written it.
Jason Carrier (15:09):
Yeah. I think that's an important point too, is that it's, it's just a label. It's just a, it's just a badge you wear on your sleeve, you know, inside we're all the same, regardless of what words you want to use. There's just one, you know, uh, yeah,
Leon Adato (15:23):
Right right. well I mean,
Jason Carrier (15:24):
The rest of it's it's semantics.
Leon Adato (15:25):
Yeah. I mean, self-definition in one, respect self-definition is important. Um, I'm a big believer that affinity, you know, affinity groups, uh, matter, because again, you, you, we look for mentors, whether it's as it people or it's as, you know, co-religionists or whatever it is, we look for people who have a frame of reference where I can say, I'm going through this thing. Do you know anything about it? And they can say, yes, actually my experiences or what I've read, or this piece of work, you know, helped me, maybe it will help you. And that could be, I really am having trouble wrapping my head around SDN right now, because I'm a systems guy help me. And they're like, yes, absolutely. This is written with the systems guy in mind. So I think those labels are not throw-away as much as again, their self reference, you know,
Jason Carrier (16:17):
Leon Adato (16:17):
Referent, plural. Um, they're a way of me being able to quickly and accurately describe a set of experiences that I'm having so that you can respond to it and hopefully support it. I don't know if that, that works for you.
Jason Carrier (16:31):
Yeah, that definitely. Yeah. I totally agree with that. It's a way of, uh, kind of communicating to one another kind of where, uh, where we're coming from, like what viewpoint we sort of default to. Yeah.
Leon Adato (16:42):
Right, Right. And, and that's why I start the section by saying that that labels are imprecise because they're, without writing, without handing someone a book of me and say, here we go read this and then you'll know who I am right now, because its going to change.
Jason Carrier (16:56):
Sure. Yeah. It's always more complicated than the two words you share. Yeah.
Leon Adato (16:59):
Right. Exactly. Um, all right. So that, that lets us pivot to the blending of the two, um, the, the challenges and, or the, the joys that you found as somebody with a strong religious, moral, or ethical point of view, and also somebody who is deeply involved in the technical side of the world. And we know that those things sometimes create conflict. Sometimes they create amazing, um, complimentary experiences. I was just curious, you know, what kinds of things you've had in your journey, your dual journeys?
Jason Carrier (17:33):
Yeah. So from a technology, we actually had a conversation about this in one of the other episodes we just did recently, uh, talking about how technology is actually helped with, uh, from, from my perspective that the religious pursuit aspect,
Leon Adato (17:46):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (17:46):
Um, the, or Philosophical, however you want to, uh, coin that. Um,
Leon Adato (17:52):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (17:52):
The, the, the other piece though, is, uh, coming from a DOD, you know, defense, a warfighter kind of background, and then, uh, really delving into, uh, for all intents and purposes, pacifist, religion. I don't really consider myself a true pacifist if we're doing labels, but, uh,
Leon Adato (18:08):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (18:08):
Uh, it's, it's definitely a very pacifist type religion, you know, uh, shies away from violence. And so that created kind of a con, over a period of time. It wasn't an overnight thing, kind of created an internal conflict of desire to, um, really just focus my efforts in a different, um, industry, you know,
Leon Adato (18:25):
Jason Carrier (18:25):
Different do, do a different thing. That was the biggest kind of impact that, that had from a career perspective.
Leon Adato (18:31):
Nice. And, and yeah, that, we talked about it earlier, that that need to pivot away from one thing to move on to another, because of your growth, because in one respect, the thing that you were doing before was working until it didn't. And when it doesn't, you have to be honest with yourself and say, this isn't working. It doesn't make it bad. It just makes it not working for me right now, for whatever reason. Um, a friend of mine who we haven't gotten on the show, um, likes to talk about the moment as he was progressing from sort of reform or non-Orthodox Judaism into Judaism. And he said, you know, I always ate pepperoni pizza. Until the day I didn't. And that was the day I didn't. And that was it, you know, there was, there was nothing more to it, but there was also nothing less to it. So, you know, that those, those work experiences before worked for you until they didn't, and then, You move on. Um, so that was
Jason Carrier (19:25):
It's simple, obvious and also profound all at the same time. Yeah.
Leon Adato (19:28):
Right, right. Yeah. Well, it's, it's a big deal for you. It's often not as big a deal for anyone except your mother, especially with food. Usually if you say, I don't eat blah anymore, usually moms have a really hard time. In fact, there's a, there's a Jewish book that's called, "What Do You Mean You Can't Eat in My Kitchen Anymore?" And it is all about a daughter who becomes Orthodox and navigating the maternal relationship about, you know, will you eat over here anymore? How do you do that without creating, without creating emotional conflict, but still remaining true to this set of religious, you know, uh, values and, restrictions that she had taken on. So same thing, like I said, you know.
Jason Carrier (20:13):
Yeah, Yeah. I definitely, that definitely resonates with me. My, my mom, uh, came from a pretty conservative, you know, uh, background and did her best to raise me in that, uh, you know, kind of ethos.
Leon Adato (20:24):
Jason Carrier (20:24):
And, uh, seeing me go to Okinawa and embrace sushi and seeing you go to, you know, uh, India and just, I love Indian food. I, I love all kinds of, uh, that kind of thing. You know, having that much more global perspective than, than what I was really raised with, uh, has led to a lot of interesting conversations. For sure.
Leon Adato (20:44):
Nice. Um, so that was one of the, one of the challenges that you faced with your technical and your religious life. Were there any points or any experiences where it created, um, sort of a positive outcome where it's like, Oh, wow. You know, being technical is really great for my Buddhism or being Buddhist is really great for my technical work or whatever it is.
Jason Carrier (21:03):
The job that I have now. Yeah. Being a product manager, um, being able to, uh, listen to folks calmly and, uh, objectively as they're, you know, tearing your product apart sometimes, uh, with, uh, you know, pointing out all of its deficiencies or, you know, but being able to stay calm and not take it personally and, you know, just, just stay in the moment and be with them and, uh, practicing empathy and compassion and, um, um, social skills, you know, those are, those are things that I learned more so through faith in massage school, then I learned, uh, the way that most do in, in like a grade school, uh, you know, interacting with their peers.
Leon Adato (21:40):
Oh, I don't, I don't know that, um, no, the dog, the dog is fine. I agree with the dog.
Jason Carrier (21:46):
Leon Adato (21:46):
Um, the, uh, I think there's a lot of people who didn't learn it in grade school either, but I think that they learn it in the school of hard knocks. And so being able to pick that up and embrace it as part of your faith journey is fantastic. I'm, you know, I'm definitely a fan, um, of that. This has been an amazing conversation. I loved hearing the story of your journeys. Um, any final thoughts, lightning round, anything else that you want to share with the listeners?
Jason Carrier (22:15):
You know, I had to really think about this one to, to just pick one. And the one I landed on is a lot of us seem to walk around kind of on autopilot. So, uh, one of my, my big lessons learned in life, um, that sounds really simple, but it's actually profound is stop and breathe.
Leon Adato (22:32):
Uh huh.
Jason Carrier (22:32):
Take a few breaths, you know, let it sit for a second, whatever it is, let, let the answer sort of bubble up from a place of calm. And that's my best advice.
Leon Adato (22:42):
Very nice. Very good. Jason, it's always a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you so much.
Jason Carrier (22:48):
Sure thing. Thanks for having me. This was a lot of fun.
Leon Adato (22:51):
Thanks for making time for us this week, to hear more of technically religious visit our website, technically, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.

S3E04: Tech In Religion 02

S3E04: Tech In Religion 02

March 9, 2021

image credit: CWWally:

“Tech In Religion” is a running series under the Technically Religious umbrella. In these episodes, we look at technology - be it a website, a phone app, or a gadget - that somehow deepens, strengthens, or improves our experience of or connection to our faith (our religious, moral, and/or ethical point of view). This is a tech review lovingly wrapped in a through-line about faith in general and our experience of faith in particular. The goal is to uncover and promote tech you (our audience) might not have heard about; or describe a use for tech you may know, but didn't think of using in connection with your religious experiences.

In this episode, Leon Adato is joined by Doug Johnson and Stephen Foskett. Listen or read the transcript below:

music (00:01):
Leon Adato (00:32):
Welcome to our podcast, where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT, we're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways. We make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is technically religious
Leon Adato (00:53):
Here on technically religious. We focus on how we work to make our religious lives compliment, or at least not conflict with our career in tech. But what about the way tech enhances our lives as people with a strong connection to our faith, or lack thereof. In our ongoing series tech in religion, we aim to do just that in each episode, we'll highlight technological innovations that enhance, strengthen, and deepen, our connections to our religious, moral or ethical point of view. I'm Leon Adato and sharing their reason. Thoughtful, humble opinions with me today on the tech that helps our religion, our Doug Johnson, Hey, and also a newcomer to the technically religious, uh, cast is Stephen Foskett great to be here. Great to have you. Okay. So as is our want on technical, what we'll do is we're going to start off with shameless self promotion. Go ahead and tell us, uh, a little bit about yourself, whatever you're working on, that you want to bring to light for the listeners. And of course we want to know your religious point of view. Um, Doug, as the seasoned veteran, that means you're old.
Doug Johnson (01:57):
All right, here we go. I'm the old guy. Yep. Uh, Doug Johnson, I'm a web. Uh, my day job is I'm a web developer for Southwestern health resources, my side gig, which is going to make me a billion kazillionaire some day, If I live long enough is, uh, I'm the CTO for, uh, an RFID inventory company. So if you are an op, somebody with an optical shop and you really want to do your inventory better, why check out I can be found on all of the various sundries Facebooks, et cetera, as @Dougjohnson. And I'm an evangelical Christian, but not one of those weird ones. You know, we were allowed to dance, but not in the, uh, not, not in the aisles.
Leon Adato (02:40):
There we go. Okay. I didn't realize there was a delineation between aisle dancing,
Doug Johnson (02:43):
I should show you
Leon Adato (02:45):
Aisle dancing, Evangelical Christians and not,
Doug Johnson (02:48):
I'll tell you that aisle dancing white evangelical Christians have got better music than a lot of the rest of us, but, but yeah, the, yeah, it's.
Leon Adato (02:56):
Ok, all right.
Doug Johnson (02:57):
I'll show someday when we have nothing better to do, I'll show you, there's some great video out there.
Leon Adato (03:01):
We should record that. That'll be educational for everyone or entertaining. We'll see. All right, Steven, uh, please help bring this a little bit of maturity and, uh, and seriousness to this.
Stephen Foskett (03:13):
Well, I'm glad that you, uh, brought me in to bring you both down to, down to earth as it were. So, yeah, so I'm Steven. Uh, I, uh, my day job is running gestalt IT and tech field day. Um, maybe you didn't know this, but I am also a writer in the wristwatch community, um, and quite active in the world of collectors there. And, um, I do a podcast on artificial intelligence as well called utilizing AI. Um, as far as religion goes, I was raised as a liberal Christian in the Episcopalians in Connecticut. And, um, have since become even more, um, I dunno, loony left by going to the Unitarian Universalists and becoming essentially a humanist.
Leon Adato (04:04):
Uh, we, we take all kinds here, uh, and it does, it would take all kinds.
Doug Johnson (04:09):
Just this side of Buddhism is cool stuff.
Leon Adato (04:11):
Stephen Foskett (04:12):
I believe in people.
Doug Johnson (04:12):
Leon Adato (04:14):
That's good. I think be believing in people is not a bad position to take. All right, I will, um, I will close the circle by providing my information, which probably the technical religious folks can repeat on their own, but we'll do it anyway. I am Leon Adato. I am a head geek. Yes, that is actually my job title, and I took it almost sight unseen when they offered it to me at SolarWinds, which is neither solar nor wind. It is a software vendor that makes monitoring solutions. You can find me on the Twitters, and I say it just that way to horrify Keith Townsend's daughter. Every time I say it, you can find me there at @LeonAdato. Uh, I also am known to pontificate on things, both technical and religious on my website, which is And I identify as an Orthodox Jew and occasionally my rabbi will admit to knowing me. So there we go. That gives you an idea of what,
Doug Johnson (05:05):
So you're like a liberal Orthodox,
Leon Adato (05:09):
Yes, okay. Orthodox in terms of Judaism, not in terms of perhaps political or even, uh, you know, personal restraint, concept.
Stephen Foskett (05:21):
Hush up there you Non dancing evangelic.
Leon Adato (05:23):
Oh you want to see non dancing. You should come to my side, then it's, you know, then you can't leave no mixed dancing, like, forget about it. It's the whole thing. All right. So tech in religion, which is what this series is called focuses on, uh, finding technology that helps deepen strengthen, or, uh, clarify our connection to our religious point of view or religious experience. So, um, Doug, I'm going to pick on you first. Do you have some technology that really helps you out with your being an evangelical, but not one of those kinds?
Doug Johnson (05:57):
Yes. Well, I mean, I've got technology that helps me everywhere and it's, it enables, it enables my, uh, religious practice because, um, I am multiple things. Uh, some of them good, but most of them are like, I'm ADD, or I'm now AAD. Right. I was ADHD. And then I was, I thought I was ADD, and then I found out I was ADD HD, and then now it's AED. I'm an adult. I,
Leon Adato (06:25):
Attention defecate.
Doug Johnson (06:25):
They, they keep on changing the letters on me. So I am whatever the current one is. All right. But, uh, and I'm also have SAD, which is a seasonal affective disorder, except now it's called depression seasonal type or who cares? I mean, you know, it's just so some, between the months of October and March, my brain stops. Not completely. Um, but it just becomes absolutely worthless. In fact, we have quite an indicator. Um, I was late to this meeting because I forgot. It was on my calendar. It was everywhere. Things were beeping. I'm sure phones were going off. And, you know, I just completely forgot. So everything that I have is basically, uh, designed around to keep my brain on target when I'm doing stuff.
Leon Adato (07:12):
Doug Johnson (07:12):
So, uh, the first one is Trello. Trello is basically used for managing projects, right?
Leon Adato (07:19):
I was going to say, when you put it on the list, when we were prepping for this and you put on the list, I'm like Trello, helpful for being an evangelical Christian. These are, I wasn't going to make that connection, but I want to hear this.
Doug Johnson (07:30):
The question is, so what does your practice involve? I mean, do you do stuff for your church. Or your synagogue or whatever, do you do projects? Do you work with people on things?
Leon Adato (07:43):
Uh huh.
Doug Johnson (07:43):
Imagine that you were stuck with me on your committee, and.
Leon Adato (07:48):
[snorts with laughter]
Doug Johnson (07:49):
Exactly there you are. Now you understand, keep in mind that people who are, because I've been a Christian for so long. And because I actually do read the Bible and know the stuff that's in there, people always think, gee, this guy's really devout, which I am, but they don't also realize how flaky I am. And so by the time they find out how flaky I am, it's too late.
Leon Adato (08:12):
Its to late.
Doug Johnson (08:12):
They've already brought me in. They have me on committees. They have me doing stuff. One church made me a deacon. I mean, come on, think about this. So the reality is I have to go ahead and find ways so that I can get the things done that need to be done. The fact is there's a lot of people in Christianity who are wound just a little bit a little bit tightly. Just a smidge.
Leon Adato (08:40):
I even, I might have noticed that occasionally, but I wasn't going to attributed to Christianity particularly, but ok.
Doug Johnson (08:46):
Well I don't know. It's the group that I'm used to working within the, and I will tell you that the ones who actually make it into any kind of leadership position, except for ones who are attributed to be devout, but they don't know in flaky yet, anybody that's actually really, they're pretty tightly wound because they're, you know, in, in Christianity, it's really easy to offend people. And so the people who really make it are really good at not offending people. Now imagine that you go ahead and give Doug something to do, and he totally freaking forgets or the waits till the last minute. And there's like 15 people or, you know, anything at all. So Trello allows me to go ahead and keep track of what it is that I have to get done and what I've promised. And I actually, it's easy enough to use that. I can get other people on the committee, to go ahead and assign me tasks in Trello, and now it's there and I can track it because if they just ask me to do it, I'll agree to it. And if I can write it down right then fine. But the odds are by the time I get to my car, I've already forgotten,
Leon Adato (09:47):
Right? By the time you turned around and said, hello to the next person, you've forgotten.
Doug Johnson (09:50):
pretty much. Well, I mean, you know, w when we were all in churches all the time, you know, we were greeting, meeting and greeting each other, and I could have had a great conversation with you. And by the time I've talked to the third person after you it's gone. So that's why that's how Trello helps. I mean, I use it a lot of different places, but it does help me. It keeps me from getting kicked out of the church. So I may get kicked out for another reason, but at least I don't get kicked out off the committee for not doing my work.
Leon Adato (10:18):
Got it. Okay. What's up next?
Doug Johnson (10:21):
Um, the next one is not actually an app. It's, uh, it's called the Pomodoro technique. Uh, Pomodoro is Italian for a tomato and some Italian guy, had a timer, a little spinner timer thing that looked like a tomato.
Leon Adato (10:40):
Doug Johnson (10:40):
And what he did was he came up with this tea, He would spin it to 25 minutes. He would work, heads down for 25 minutes. When the timer went up, he would get up and walk away for 5 minutes and then he'd come back and he'd spin it for 25 minutes and he would heads down and you would do one thing for that 25 minutes. And then you'd get up, uh, another tech in another way, you can do it like 45 and then 15 or 50 minutes and 10, you know, but it's a combination of block of time with a timer and then a break. Um, now again, back to ADD, SAD, all those kinds of wonderful things. Now, the only way I get anything done, the only way I can go ahead and do stuff is to say, ah, for the next 25 minutes, I'm going to read scripture. And I'll sit down and do it. Whereas if I sit down to go and read and I'm like 3 verses, and I go, Oh, that's a good idea. I'm going to go look at this other thing. And I look up something on that and look, and next thing you know, I've read 3 verses it's 3 hours later. Um, and You know,
Leon Adato (11:43):
You've rea 42 Wikipedia, half of 42 Wikipedia articles,
Doug Johnson (11:46):
OH exactly,
Leon Adato (11:46):
you've built three websites partially,
Doug Johnson (11:51):
Exactly, but I haven't finished,
Leon Adato (11:51):
And you're holding a chicken in one hand and an Apple in the other.
Doug Johnson (11:55):
Exactly. But I have not yet finished my scripture reading for the day. So.
Leon Adato (12:00):
Of course not.
Doug Johnson (12:01):
The Pomodoro technique is it helps me at work, but it also helps me with my spiritual life, because I can go ahead and say for this next 25 minutes, I'm reading scripture. Or for this next 25 minutes, I'm praying or what, and it's limited, it's time, limited time boxed. When that thing goes off, I can get, stand up and walk away from it and say, that's it. I did it good. It's just like, it's like a spiritual discipline except, you know, not exactly.
Leon Adato (12:29):
I always wonder I mean especially.
Stephen Foskett (12:30):
Except its the exact opposite of being disciplined.
Doug Johnson (12:32):
Exactly. It's spiritual discipline for those of us who have no discipline whatsoever.
Leon Adato (12:37):
Right. And I just want to imagine God's side of that conversation, right? Like, you know, you're praying for 25 minutes and, you know, the, the, the beginning starts off real slow and real careful. And at the end it's like, and then I went, Oh, I'm done. So wait. and its like.
Doug Johnson (12:56):
Well, . And again, it depends on how you pray. A lot of my prayer is like a couple of things, and then I just shut up because really.
Leon Adato (13:02):
Got it.
Doug Johnson (13:03):
I think, God talks to God talks to me a lot more than I, he knows what's going on with me. And he knows it's really messed up. I mean, that's just the way that's, he knows that. So, uh, so I find it it's a lot, a lot easier for me to just shut up and listen for God. And I always know it's God talking, because he always asks me to do stuff that I would never come up.
Leon Adato (13:26):
[snorts in laughter]
Doug Johnson (13:26):
with in a million years on my own. I, once I once wrote a children's Christmas play, that had, 30 kids from the church in it, that I directed, and acted in, because I knew that it would get the parents into church one day in the year that they would never have come in otherwise. Now, you know, that's from God. Cause she, Leon knows I'm not a, I'm not a great fan of kids. Uh, you know, it's just like it,
Leon Adato (13:55):
You're really a people person and you're not a small people person.
Doug Johnson (13:58):
No! And they love me for God only knows why, but it just, you know, and so there it is. I'm just, so that was God.
Leon Adato (14:07):
Got it. Okay. One more. We got one more, you only get three on these shows.
Doug Johnson (14:11):
Ok. One more, this one, this one's easy and this one's relatively new to me. I came across it. It's called habitbull as habit. The word habit and bull as in a cow except.
Leon Adato (14:21):
Doug Johnson (14:21):
The male kind. Yes. Moo
Stephen Foskett (14:23):
I was thinking it was where the nuns put their hats.
Doug Johnson (14:25):
Um, could be.
Leon Adato (14:28):
You know, I haven't been on a farm a whole lot, but don't mess with the bull is,
Doug Johnson (14:33):
There's all kinds of ways we could.
Stephen Foskett (14:34):
I though it was bowl like a, like a cylinder, like a half of a sphere.
Doug Johnson (14:37):
Oh yes, no, no. In this case.
Leon Adato (14:38):
No, no, this is.
Doug Johnson (14:38):
it's a, yeah. The logo is, you know, like hook 'em horns, Texas, uh, university of Texas stuff, whatever. But.
Leon Adato (14:46):
Got it.
Doug Johnson (14:46):
Basically it's, it, uh, allows you to go ahead and habits that you want to do to go ahead and give it, uh, a frequency, a cadence, like I want every day I want to do this or 3 times a week. I want to do this. Or in the next month, I need to do this once a week. So you can lay out what they are, and it gives you reminders. And as you Mark them off, it gives you a string which actually builds that. Um, what are they, you, you, you you've put a string that string, that string of successes together. And after a while, you don't want to break the streak. So.
Leon Adato (15:26):
Got it.
Doug Johnson (15:26):
The beginning of this side, the first time I used it, I used at the beginning of the summer, when we were all locked down, I decided I should really start getting, and I got to like 80 or 90 days of walking, 8,000 steps every day. And I can tell you that since I'm not doing that at the moment, um, I managed to get 8,000 steps at least twice a month. Um, so.
Leon Adato (15:48):
Doug Johnson (15:48):
When I use it, and so basically what I, I had a scripture reading down my daily scripture, reading on habit bulletin, and that helps you maintain a streak. So it's really good. You, you get like 3 or 4 habits, uh, for the free version. And for, I forget however much it, you can get unlimited habits that you want to track, but
Stephen Foskett (16:10):
I just even thinking of the nuns, I'm sorry.
Leon Adato (16:13):
I was going to say, like you could see it on his face that he's just thinking of the nuns unlimited habits, it's like a panty raid but at a monastary.
Stephen Foskett (16:19):
how many can you put on it once, right?
Doug Johnson (16:22):
And now we know why the Catholic church, doesn't like the rest of us.
Leon Adato (16:28):
There's. I still.
Doug Johnson (16:29):
Oh, well, in any case, I'm going to let all of that just go because I am much more kind than that. Yeah. Okay. Bye none of us, none of us bye that, so, okay. But those are my three.
Leon Adato (16:43):
Great. And, and for the last one though, I, I like the idea of GAM, gamifying, your spiritual experience that, you know, I mean, we really are, you know, little monkeys sometimes as far as that goes and, you know, just feed the mice and the maze or whatever metaphor we want to use, you know, feed you know, you get that one little burst of endorphin and it just causes you to want to do more. And why not make your, your religious experience.
Doug Johnson (17:09):
Yeah, exactly. Well, and that's why Trello works for me because I get to check out, when my wife figured out that I like scratching things off lists. I mean, trust me, I get lists of things that she doesn't ask me to do anything more. She puts out on a list because she knows I'll check it off. So I'm a, I am for better or worse. I am really, I'm not a good human being, but I'm a heck of a monkey. So just so I use my tools to make me a better human being.
Doug Johnson (17:40):
There We go. All right. So
Stephen Foskett (17:43):
Were all just tech of a monkey, I think.
Leon Adato (17:44):
Yeah. Well, we're all, we're all wonderful monkeys. The question is whether we can make into better human beings as Well. Um, I like it. All right, Steven. Uh, I.
Stephen Foskett (17:54):
Leon Adato (17:54):
Realized that that was a very, bizarre conversation to follow up on, but, uh, you've given us some thoughts. So I'm curious about the tech that you use.
Stephen Foskett (18:04):
All right. Well, I'm gonna, um, first apologize, uh, for, um, uh, you know, I'm going to defend Facebook, so I'm sorry. Um, I'm sorry, those of you who find that a sin, um, frankly, it's terrible. We all know it's terrible, but it's also kind of not terrible. Um, because truly, I think that essentially we all need to find ways of connecting to each other and frankly, it's where everyone is. And it's not only that, but if you squint and turn your head and mute enough, you can actually see some positives to it too. And, um, you know, for example, um, you know, here in, in my town, um, there's a terrible town Facebook group, and everyone has one of those. Um, there's also a group where people go out in nature and take pictures of owls and trees and ponds, and talk about how they've discovered something lovely and wonderful in the town. And somehow that group has not yet been polluted by red and blue comments, and it's just, you know, wonderful. And it's the same thing, you know what I mean? You know, connecting with your family, connecting, you know, maybe some people in your family, you kind of don't want to connect with any more, but you know what, it's important that we know who's graduating. It's important that we know who's sick and who's better. And it's important that we keep connected and frankly, whatever makes that happen is I think a pretty good tool. And, uh, again, I, I don't want to say anything nice about them, but this is what makes it happen for me, frankly. This is the tool that we're using to keep connected with our families and, you know, in the pandemic, I think that that's doubly important. Um, people who have distributed families like me, that's incredibly important. Um, and so, yeah, um,
Leon Adato (20:09):
Stephen Foskett (20:09):
It's a great, it's a great thing.
Leon Adato (20:11):
I, you know, I can see the treatise now, you know, in defense of Facebook.
Doug Johnson (20:18):
I was away from it for a year and I came back and, you know, it's, it's not terrible. Um, I it's, I'm learning how to not follow people. That really are just over the side, but you're, I mean, there's a lot of good this, there, I, in fact, I miss Twitter because there were so many people that I enjoyed following, but everybody's just so wacko for a while there during the, during the Trump years. I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm hoping that it's just gonna chill some here.
Leon Adato (20:46):
Well And there's there. Just to add one quick comment, which is, um, a conversation that we were having a friend of mine. And I said, you know, he, he said, this is it. I can't deal with so-and-so anymore. I'm going to have to cut them out of my life. And, uh, you know, they're saying all this stuff on Facebook, it happened to be that I just can't, I can't deal with it. I can't fall. And into this conversation, my rabbi, who by the way, is on Twitter, which is a whole other conversation, but okay. And he said, you know, you don't actually have to listen to them. You could actually choose to mute. And again, this is by rabbi talking to me, the tech, you know, technology person and my friend who is a programmer and saying, you know, they have these options so that you never see anything that they say at all. And that way you wouldn't have to hear the horrible things that I'm not saying. They don't say horrible things. I'm just saying this doesn't have to impact your relationship with them in the sense of like, if the things they say bother you don't read them because they don't say them in public.
Stephen Foskett (21:54):
Yeah. And honestly, um, that, you know, I'm going to say, I'm going to, I'm going to change, changing up my, my list here. Um, I have to say that I've learned more about people and I've gained a better appreciation from people from dealing with people on social media, generally, um, Twitter. Um, so here's the thing, the other month I said something off the cuff that came off as incredibly stupid. And insensitive. Um, and it got retweeted a lot, like a lot, like I got probably 500 hateful comments, um, from people. And it was enough that I actually just got another spate of them last week because it's one of those famous things that keeps coming back, look at this stupid guy and this stupid thing he said, but, you know, what's funny. Um, and I think that this is, you know, perfectly fitting for, um, uh, context like this. The most remarkable thing is that I took the advice of, well, of all of the people that I admire and all the philosophers that I respect. And basically the answer was, you know, you did the thing, you know, recognize the humanity in these people. They're angry at you because of the way that they're perceiving you and, and, and what can you do with that? And so, instead of, um, and I haven't, I haven't talked about this really much. Um, so this is kind of a nice opportunity for me instead of, um, like yelling at people or telling them, you know, they're stupid or muting everybody or deleting it. Um, instead, you know, what I decided to do, I decided to write a response to every one of the people that contacted me, except if they swore at me, if they, if they swore at me or called me a Nazi or something, I was just like, okay, I don't need to engage. This person is just angry.
Leon Adato (24:07):
Uh huh.
Stephen Foskett (24:07):
And engaging with somebody who's just angry is probably not good. But if they said something like you're so insensitive, what about women? What about the disabled? You know, I replied and I said, you know what? I can see how you could get that from what I wrote. And I don't feel good about that. And that's not a reflection of who I am, and I'm sorry that you feel this way. And I'm sorry that I said something that, and you know, what happened next? What happened next was I got hundreds of responses back saying, wow, that was really nice. I really appreciated this response. You know, um, I'm still talking to some of these people, you know, six months later who basically introduced themselves by saying you're an idiot and you're insensitive. And I have to say, I've actually learned a lot more about people and I've learned how to work with people and how to, um, and I've learned more respect and humility from a bad day on Twitter than I did in a lot of Sunday school.
Doug Johnson (25:15):
Leon Adato (25:15):
Doug Johnson (25:15):
Yes, I totally get that. I mean, it, it's hard to go ahead and, not, not strike back. And so that, that on your part is admirable. And, you know, being able to go ahead and essentially own what you own, what you did and be willing to engage. And I try and engage. I offend people all the time, not intentionally there's people who do it intentionally.
Leon Adato (25:42):
I can vouch for the truth of this.
Doug Johnson (25:43):
It is right. When people come to me and say, I'm an idiot and I'm insensitive. I go, boy, you're, I could, I, you are so right. And I, upon, you know, what, what did, what did I do today? All right. And, and so, and, and, but, you know, again, being willing to own it and apologize for it, if it deserves an apology or to say, Oh, I, you know, I did not even think of it that way. I apologize to, you know, it goes a long way towards connecting with people. Which im not great at.
Stephen Foskett (26:12):
Yeah. And what you find is that, you know, people are really, a lot of people are really hurting and a lot of people are really, um, angry at the situations that they see around them. And they're kind of ascribing things to these situations. And by basically opening up and listening, um, you know, you can get a lot more out of it. And a lot of like real personal growth out of it. Um, and really that kind of fits with my, you know, my beliefs, you know, I believe that, you know, that people can transcend what they are, and what they, what they seem to be. And if you give them a chance, a lot of the time they will. And like I said, truly, a lot of people are just angry and, you know, sometimes, you know, you got to just let that burn out a little bit. So anyway, so I have definitely learned a lot more about that. Um, you know, and frankly, I feel like, you know, the other things that I was going to talk about, um, you know, unlike Doug, I absolutely do not have the Bible memorized. Um, but I do have blue light, uh, blue letter Bible on my iPad. And that lets me look stuff up and cross reference it when I need to. Um,
Leon Adato (27:29):
I think that overall the, you know, if there's one thing about just devices in our pocket at all, it's having access to a text that I am comfortable with, as opposed to having to arrive at a building and pull a book off the shelf that I might not be as familiar with, or know where to find things or whatever, and in a language that I'm comfortable with in a font size that I'm comfortable with. Like, I think that just the single most effective use of technology is personalizing the text in ways that are very personal to us. I think that that makes a huge difference. So yeah, I can see that.
Stephen Foskett (28:08):
Yep. And the amazing power of computers to cross-reference.
Leon Adato (28:12):
Uh huh.
Stephen Foskett (28:12):
Is just, um, and then search is just incredible. I mean, to think that you can say, um, you know, I want to find like, like, like, you know, Doug, you're writing a sermon and you're like, I need to find that quote where Jesus says this one thing, and to be able to just like, like click the little magnifying glass and you're there, you know, I mean,
Doug Johnson (28:34):
And you find out it was actually Joshua who said it.
Stephen Foskett (28:37):
Yeah. Jesus didn't say a lot of the things people think he said.
Leon Adato (28:42):
Stephen Foskett (28:42):
Um, yeah. And then I guess the final thing that I'll give a pitch to is, um, especially in the pandemic, I think a lot of people are in need of some personal connection and, and someone to talk to and someone to talk back. And yet we can't really go out. And so I am, I never thought that I would be into audio books, but I got to say, audio books are awesome. And.
Leon Adato (29:07):
Uh huh.
Stephen Foskett (29:07):
Being able to, you know, to sit down and just listen as somebody reads you, their book is, uh, it's weird and cool. Um, also puts me to sleep, but, um, at least.
Leon Adato (29:23):
But in a good way.
Stephen Foskett (29:23):
it couldn't go back again.
Leon Adato (29:25):
In a good, but in a good way, I mean, you know, it is, it is that comforting voice of somebody who has basically promised no, no, I'm going to read to you until you're calm. I'm going to keep giving you some ideas that will distract you from the circle, spinning of your brain. And I'll be there.
Stephen Foskett (29:42):
And there's something wonderfully soothing about somebody reading to you.
Leon Adato (29:46):
Uh huh.
Stephen Foskett (29:46):
I think it's a, it's like one of those things, like, you know, we're, you know, from when we're children, like, we love to have somebody reading to us. And especially now, like I said, with the pandemic, you know, you're, you, you know, everybody's trapped inside, you can at least sit and you can listen to somebody and you can kind of escape from this, into your head in a good way.
Leon Adato (30:05):
Uh huh.
Stephen Foskett (30:05):
And, um, and, and I'm loving that.
Leon Adato (30:09):
So just to, to add on to that one, uh, again, as, as people have been listening are familiar with, but if, if you're not familiar with Orthodox Judaism, uh, on Shabbat, the Sabbath from Friday night sundown until Saturday Sunday, and if it has an on switch, it's off limits, that's the easiest way to say it. So that means that, um, you know, for, for 24, 25 hours playing an audio book, or the television or any of those things is, is not going to work. So what's happened in our house is that, um, I will read. You know, we'll, we'll pick a book. We've, we've worked our way through the Harry Potter series a couple of times. And I will read with all the voices and that's what we do and lows during the day. And then at night the same thing, like, you know, my wife is sitting there, her brain is spinning with all the things that have to happen, whatever. And of course your brain is spinning with things that have to happen that you can not do because it's Shabbat, right? So now you have nowhere to put this and nowhere, nothing to do with this. So what do you do? You know, I sit there and I read, I read until she falls asleep and it's really, it's just sort of a delightful and the kids all come trundling to the room. My kids are in their twenties. Okay. Let's just be honest about this. So they come in and they've got their blanket and they lay, you know on the floor or whatever it is and we read and it's just, You know.
Stephen Foskett (31:31):
That's about the nicest thing I have heard in months.
Leon Adato (31:36):
Yeah. It's, it's fun. And they look forward to it. It's one more reason to look forward to what a lot of people like, how can 24 hours without anything, how do you do that? I mean, well, in my house, it's like, is it Shabbat yet? Can't we have Shabbat now? Like still got two more days to go kid. Come on.
Stephen Foskett (31:53):
Can you do Dumbledore for us please?
Leon Adato (31:56):
[Reading Harry Potter] She may have taken you grudgingly furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, Yet, She still took you. And in doing so, she sealed the charm. I had placed upon you. Your mother's sacrifice made the bond of blood, the strongest shield I could give you. While you can still call the poll, call home the place where your mother's blood dwells there, you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort. He shed your blood. He shed her blond, but it lives on and you and your, and her sister, her blood became your refuge. So that's Dumbledore.
Stephen Foskett (32:28):
I hear it. I hear it. I'm really glad that you don't sound like the Dumbledore in the movies.
Leon Adato (32:32):
No, no, no. John Huston, John Huston is the voice of Gandalf and Dumbledore like that is the wizard voice. Um, that's just in my head. That's what he sounds like. Um, so anyway, uh, back to our conversation, back to the topic, uh, audible books certainly are, you know, a calming source so that I can see how that, that would, that would be good. Okay. So tell you what, after, uh, doing my Dumbledore impression, I'm gonna, uh, wrap this up with a couple of recommendations of mine. Uh, just two of them. The first one is something that I mentioned in another episode, And I said that right as Stephen was taking a drink. So now I own the new cube, keyboard because he just spit all over it. Um, yeah, That's actually a website and it is a calendar that will give you all the different holidays and times and things like that incredibly useful because, uh, the Jewish calendar can be insanely complicated. And that's something I mentioned in the other episode, but what I wanted to bring out here is that there's two particular features on that website. First one is after you have created your customized calendar, that shows the things that you want and not the things that you don't want, you can export that to an Ical format. So it's not just like you have to go back to that website every time you want something, you can create your own calendar, including things like, you know, people's the, the anniversary people's deaths within what's called a Yartzite, which is very important. You can output that in the Ical format and have that sort of in perpetuity year after year, you can have it built into your calendar. And I find that that's especially useful because it's easy to forget that it's the first night of Hanukkah because it changes from year to year across the regular calendar. The other part is that, and this is very, very, you know, technically religious, there's an API, there's an actual restful JSON API. So if you're building your own application that needs to grab a Hebrew date, or what Torah reading, what Torah portion is that week, or what time sundown is or whatever, or what holidays are coming up, you can actually make a function call to the website, through their API and grab all that information back and use that. And as a technologist who has written a couple of WordPress modules and things like that, it is incredibly helpful because they've done the legwork on all the really hair on the knuckles, hard, uh, calendar programming that is so difficult to do. So that's the first one.
Doug Johnson (35:09):
Leon Adato (35:09):
And, um,
Stephen Foskett (35:10):
I really want to know if you can do a JSON post of why is this night different from any other night.
Leon Adato (35:17):
Uh, and get answers back.
Stephen Foskett (35:19):
Yeah. That I, that would be an API. So subscribed to,
Leon Adato (35:22):
I can, I can.
Doug Johnson (35:23):
That would actually be a get.
Leon Adato (35:26):
Well, hold on. No, no, no, no.
Stephen Foskett (35:27):
No no, That's something different.
Doug Johnson (35:30):
Unless you're going to send an unless you're sending your answer.
Leon Adato (35:33):
No, no, no. You need to do is you'd need to have the URL. And the first variable is which son you are.
Doug Johnson (35:40):
Leon Adato (35:40):
Because that's going to tell you what the return that's. So it would be, uh, a, uh, uh, get function.
Doug Johnson (35:47):
Alright, I know what I'm doing this weekend.
Stephen Foskett (35:50):
Yup, bracket quote. sun order colen.
Doug Johnson (35:52):
Right. I have to tell you, I am, I'm grateful for hebcal, because I remember Leon talking to me probably 10, 12 years ago about how we were going to build this thing. And fortunately, they got it built before I had to do it.
Leon Adato (36:07):
Doug Johnson (36:08):
We, we started talking about this and I'm going, Oh my God.
Leon Adato (36:13):
Right? And I don't know nearly enough to be able to spec that out appropriately either. So no, it, uh,
Doug Johnson (36:19):
It would have been if we'd still be working on it.
Leon Adato (36:22):
Yeah we would. And it would still be a horrible, it would never work Right.
Doug Johnson (36:24):
Exactly. So thank you, HebCal.
Leon Adato (36:27):
Thank you. So, and the last thing I want to bring up is just a website. Um, YeahThat' No, really. That's the website. YeahThat' There are a lot of websites that talk about whether a thing is kosher or not. This is actually a restaurant review website, and the guy who runs the website, um, does a lot of traveling, did a lot of traveling lives in the New York area. And he highlights the, the restaurants that are new and opening and what kind of cuisine they have. And honestly, you know, is it good? Is it run of the mill? Is it no, you really need to skip this place. He really does a good job of keeping up to date so that when I'm in a new city, typically I can rely on that to know what, uh, some of the places like I don't want to miss, or nah, that's, you know, I don't need to pay the cab fare or the, you know, Uber or Lyft ride to get out there it's not, it's going to be a hot dog and that's gonna be the end of it or whatever it is. So that, especially as somebody who travels to conferences and things, it helps me to know when there's a new place. Like, Oh, I've been in Vegas. No, no, no. They have a steakhouse. Now they have a kosher steak house. I would actually give away one of my children and I can name which one for the steak that I have. I fonder memories of the Tomahawk steak I had there than I have of at least one of my kids. Um, it's a really good kosher steak house, so that, but those are the kinds of things you can get from that. So that's very helpful unless you're one of my kids. Um, so that's, that's it, that's, that's the episode, uh, I'll quickly go to the lightning round, any final words or things that you want to add. Yeah, Stephen.
Stephen Foskett (38:01):
I actually, I really want to add something from my other world, from the world of watches.
Leon Adato (38:06):
Oh, go ahead.
Stephen Foskett (38:06):
There is a remarkable watchmaker who created a watch, a wristwatch that has the full Muslim calendar built into it. And it, and it actually shows the correct Islamic date using the phases of the moon. And one of the coolest things about mechanical watches that are all the cool things you can do with gears. So just imagine your API that tells us which day or which month it is. Okay. Now, now do that gears.
Leon Adato (38:36):
Uh huh.
Stephen Foskett (38:36):
Um, so if, if you want to look this up, it actually won the, one of the highest awards in watchmaking in 2020, uh, because it is a pretty remarkable achievement.
Leon Adato (38:45):
Stephen Foskett (38:45):
So it's by a company called Parmigiani, which is not Pomodoro, but it still has some pretty good technique.
Leon Adato (38:51):
So it's not the tomato, it's the cheese.
Stephen Foskett (38:53):
Leon Adato (38:54):
That's great. And we'll have the links for everything that we talked about in the show notes. Um, okay, great. That's that's cool. Doug, any final comments?
Doug Johnson (39:02):
Nope. I like all of the stuff I've used, all the stuff that Stephen uses, uh, probably not as effectively as he has, but that's good. I mean, there's just a lot of good stuff out there. I was just thinking today, you know, I read through the calendar thing this today in calendar and I realized how much stuff has happened since I was born. Queen Elizabeth became queen Elizabeth about three months before I was born.
Stephen Foskett (39:28):
Did you know that Betty White really is older than sliced bread?
Leon Adato (39:31):
Yes, I saw that.
Stephen Foskett (39:33):
True fact.
Doug Johnson (39:33):
That's funny. I did not know that
Leon Adato (39:36):
She's something like 3 or 4 years. 3 or 4 years older then sliced bread. Yeah.
Doug Johnson (39:40):
And that, and that's the important stuff that we have now. The good thing about having only a part partial brain at least for half of the year is now we've got technology that fills in the rest of it. Um, so that I can make it look like I actually deserve to exist on this.
Leon Adato (39:56):
You're a functioning, functional adult.
Doug Johnson (39:58):
Yeah I get a lot more done now than I used to. And, um, even, even though, uh, my brain is not working at full, I, at least I I've got systems and tools set up that sort of prop me up.
Stephen Foskett (40:11):
Well, can I just make a pitch? I think what the, the best, uh, technology tool to help religious people would be, would be a head-up display inside your glasses that tells you who is that person? What was I talking to them about last time? And what's their mother's name?
Doug Johnson (40:27):
Yep there you go .
Stephen Foskett (40:27):
I think that would really help.
Doug Johnson (40:28):
Well, as, as soon as, yeah, I was going to say there there's a new batch of AR glasses that somebody is coming out with. It look a lot better than the, uh, than the ones we've had so far. So maybe that maybe that'll be my next side gig after I make my million billion on this first one.
Leon Adato (40:44):
There we go.
Doug Johnson (40:45):
Or actually 43rd one whenever when I'm on.
Leon Adato (40:47):
Well, uh, I definitely appreciate all the parts of your brain that you decided to bring to the show today.
Doug Johnson (40:53):
Leon Adato (40:53):
And whenever you chose to bring them, look, I, you know, we're very flexible here and, uh, we're doing this, uh, you know, for fun. So it ain't like, uh, you're gonna, we're gonna dock your paycheck for it. So, uh, I appreciate you taking the time.
Doug Johnson (41:10):
I appreciate it. Thanks. I love this.
Leon Adato (41:12):
Doug Johnson (41:13):
Human beings. I like that I like, Oh my God.
Stephen Foskett (41:17):
I'm just glad to be able to meet Doug.
Leon Adato (41:21):
Yeah. Well, he's, you know.
Doug Johnson (41:21):
Oh, you say that now.
Leon Adato (41:23):
Yeah, someday soon. Thanks a lot, guys. Have a good night.
Doug Johnson (41:28):
Bye now.
Roddie (41:29):
Thank you for making time for us this week, to hear more of technically religious visit our website at, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions or connect with us on social media.

S3E03: Honor Thy Parents… technology?

S3E03: Honor Thy Parents… technology?

March 2, 2021

For folks working in IT, one of the situations we find ourselves in these days is fixing, upgrading, refurbishing, or replacing the PC's of our progenitors. The machines of our matriarch and patriarchs. The computers of creators. The Tech of our... well, you get the idea. But do we HAVE to? What I mean is, are we obligated by the bonds of family honor and respect, not to mention religious mandate, to make sure their desktop, laptop, tablet and pad are in tip-top shape? In this episode we're going to explore the ramifications of the commandment to honor our parents and whether that means we have to support their aged Windows 95 systems. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon (00:32):
Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious
Leon (00:54):
For folks working in IT. One of the situations we find ourselves in these days is fixing, upgrading, refurbishing, or replacing the PCs of our progenitors, the machines of our matriarchs and patriarchs, the computers of our creators, the tech of our... Well, you get the idea, but do we have to, what I mean is are we obligated by the bonds of family, honor and respect, not to mention religious mandate to make sure their desktop, laptop, tablet, and pad are in tiptop, shape. And this episode we're going to explore the ramifications of the commandment to honor our parents and whether that means we have to support their aged windows 95 systems. I'm Leon Adato and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime. Josh Biggley.
Josh (01:36):
Hello. Hello.
Leon (01:37):
Along with frequent guest, Al Rasheed.
Al (01:40):
Hello everybody!
Leon (01:40):
and a new voice to the podcast. Kevin Sparenberg.
Kevin (01:42):
Hello and thanks for having me.
Leon (01:44):
Thank you for being with us. And we're going to kick off the show like we always do with uh, some shameless self promotion. So Kevin, being the Technically Religious newbie that you are, go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Speaker 5 (01:56):
So my name is Kevin Sparenberg. I am the technical content manager for community at SolarWinds. I am found on pretty much all social platforms at a, @KMSigma, K M S I G M A. I have a blog at I am officially a lapsed Catholic. Uh, my wife was the good Catholic and basically a Bible church Christian.
Leon (02:17):
Very nice. Well, welcome again to the show. Al. Tell us, uh, what do you doin' these days?
Al (02:22):
So my name is Al, and as you pointed out, I am a systems administrator for a federal contractor here in the Northern Virginia area. I'm pretty active on Twitter, so you can find me best there in terms of social media, Al _Rashid. Uh, there you'll also find in my Twitter profile the URL for my blog and I am a practicing Muslim.
Leon (02:42):
Very nice. Josh, what's up with you these days?
Josh (02:45):
Oh, well, lots of things. Lots of things. Josh Biggley, I'm an ops strategist at New Relic. You can find me like Kevin on almost every social media platform using Jbiggley. I do not have a blog and I am officially as of December, 2019, uh, an ex Mormon.
Leon (03:04):
and I'm still not sure whether I say congratulations or, or something else for that.
Josh (03:08):
There's gotta be a hallmark card someplace.
Leon (03:11):
Absolutely. So I'm in Cleveland, so American greetings probably has something for it, right? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And just rounding things up. Uh, I'm Leon Adato, I'm a head geek. Yes. That's actually my job title, head geek at SolarWinds, which is neither solar nor wind because naming things is hard. You can find me on the Twitters as we say, just to trigger Kevin Townsend's daughter, uh, on the twitters @LeonAdato I pontificate on all things technical and occasionally religious at and identify as Orthodox Jewish and sometimes my rabbi lets me identify that way also. Yeah, before we dive into the show, um, just because we are, you know, in the world that we are in right now, I want to, I want to do a really honest check in how, how's everyone doing?
Kevin (04:03):
Are we going to use the stabby to lottery scale?
Leon (04:06):
I, you know what, let's do that. Let's, you know, you know, on a scale of one to five where five is I won the lottery and one is I'm feeling very stabby, how are you doing?
Kevin (04:15):
Uh, I'm, I'm hovering at a good like two, five, like I'm doing okay, but I'm not pleased. I've realized something that my wife has broken about me is I actually like seeing people in person and the level of isolation is just starting to kind of hit me slowly.
Leon (04:31):
Oh, got it. Okay. Al, how about you?
Al (04:36):
uh, I, I didn't win the lottery. I'd probably say between a three and a four. Um, things could obviously be worse. We hope they can get better sooner than later. Uh, the biggest challenge for me personally, or as a father I should say as a parent, is just trying to keep the kids occupied and engaged and remain positive while, you know, we've been stuck at home just like everybody else.
Leon (04:58):
Yeah. I think a lot of parents are in that same position where, you know, it's, it's week number four or five depending on what your region of the country has done and, and every rainy day activity that you had is done and you're sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to figure out what else are you going to do when summer is looming. Okay. Josh, how about you?
Josh (05:18):
You know, this week I'm going to rate myself at about a four. Um, you know, I've, uh, I made some changes this past week. I started getting up earlier, forcing myself to get out of bed because, you know, it's real easy to, uh, stay in bed until, you know, eight or 8:30 and then, you know, grab a quick shower and bring your breakfast to your desk. I don't advise that it's really bad for your, uh, you know, for your work life balance. Uh, and, uh, in case anyone forgets, I live on an Island. So a couple of weeks ago we actually shut down, um, all ports of entry. So you can't cross the bridge, you can't fly in. The only way you can get across as if you live here or you're a deemed essential worker. And yes, we are turning people away at the border. So we're really fortunate on PEI and that we have a 26, uh, confirmed cases of covid 19. Um, of that only three are active. We've had no deaths and no hospitalizations and no evidence of community transmission. So really good to live on an Island that we're, we're very fortunate up here. Um, I mean, our, our worst complaint is, uh, you know, Oh my goodness, I, I'm living a dog's life. I'm getting up, I'm eating my, I'm taking a nap. I'm pooping and I'm going back to sleep,
Leon (06:28):
or an infant. Right? Or is the order the order doesn't matter. Oh no, I'm sorry. Between bed and pooping, it's very important to get those in the right order. There's a couple of places where orders are important. Okay. And I, for me and my family, we're, we're around a four. But, uh, as I mentioned before, we started recording Passover just finished. Um, and that was really taking a lot of our attention. And so with that finally, uh, you know, behind us, I think that this is going to be the first week that feels like not normal life because we were so focused on cleaning the house getting ready for an eight day holiday and things and being in an eight day holiday, you know, four days of which were offline. So you know that now we're going to see what you know, what's it really like.
Leon (07:18):
Um, and I also want to take a minute, although I know that these episodes are timeless. Uh, it is April 19th, and I want to wish people who observe it a happy, uh, post Passover and counting of the Omer, a happy post-Easter and an upcoming, uh, Ramadan Mubarak. So, you know, we are not yet problem. So yeah, it's, you know, some of us are trying to lose the weight that we gained and meanwhile, Al and, and his family are trying to bulk up in preparation for a month of fasting.
Al (07:51):
I think I've done enough bulking up in these last few weeks. So hopefully uh..
Leon (07:55):
You've been training for this your whole life. I get it, I get it. With those things, things behind us. Um, I want to start off with what I'm calling talking 0.0 in this talk. And that is, uh, just to say upfront that while we are talking about parents, we are not necessarily talking about our parents unless we explicitly say, my mom or my dad did something.
Leon (08:18):
We are using fictional examples. So mom, as you listen to this, I'm not talking about you unless I say I'm talking about you, so please don't worry about it. Um, because we're not really here to spread gossip or make our parents feel insulted or give them a reason to feel embarrassed in any way. So I want to put that up front. And the other thing I want to point out is that we know lots of people have parents who are incredibly tech savvy. You know, some of us are lucky enough to have parents who still know more about tech in it than we do. Um, I, I've seen on Twitter and other places where the inevitable joke about how to get your mom to use her iPhone is like, my mom teaches computer science classes and probably taught, you know, you and your parents both, you know, and that kind of thing.
Leon (09:00):
So we know that there's lots of parents who are very tech savvy. Um, we're not playing on that old trope. What we want to focus on in this episode is the boundaries of sort of the filial obligation when it comes to us having skills that they don't, we could be talking about plumbing or you know, car repair or dog training or whatever, but you know, we're technically religious, so we're going to focus on tech because #geeks. With those disclaimers out of the way, uh, the first talking point, I think because we're in it, let's go ahead and define our terms. What does it really mean to honor thy father and mother? What are we talking about when we say that?
Josh (09:40):
I mean at this age or like when I was a kid.
Leon (09:44):
Well, I think now I think, I think kids, it's a lot more cut and dried, but I think as an adult, that's where, and especially again, because we're gonna be talking about fixing our parents' computer stuff and dealing with their needs as a user. And Al, you probably on the show have waxed the most eloquent about users. You know, users are always users. They are, they always have an opinion. But you've said a lot about whether their requirements are always valid and our parents are just as much a user as anyone else. Sometimes
Al (10:14):
how it can be a challenge, there is a fine line, especially as you just pointed out, one where adults, when we're parents, when we're husbands and or wives, um, you can't always be there for them. You want to provide as much as possible, but sometimes being honest and blunt and saying politely, no, I can't do it. It might sting a little bit at first, but if you build that solid relationship leading up until that point, both sides can get past it.
Leon (10:42):
Sure, absolutely. I still want to, I still want to focus on what does honor your father and mother mean though as an adult, what does that come down to?
Josh (10:51):
So I have an interesting perspective on this. Um, and it really is tied to my status as an ex-Mormon. Um, when I told my family and I was the first one to leave the Mormon church or the church that is currently using the term, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is their full name or LDS church, I called up my father and I said, Holy crap, did you know this stuff? And his response to me was, yeah, I did. My response is, why didn't you tell me? And he said, I didn't think it was important. And so when it comes to, yeah, right. So when it comes to honoring your father and your mother there, there is a, uh, a fine line and I think it comes, it's or is best articulated in that moment you have as a parent, when you say something and you're like, Holy crap, I am my parents.
Josh (11:46):
You, you know, that intonation the words. You're like, Oh my goodness, I have become, I have become my parents. Now that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. And honoring your parents is, for me is recognizing the things that are really powerful. Uh, one of my, I think one of my favorite LinkedIn posts that I've ever written is about my father and his level of honesty and the lengths to which he went in order to be seen as an honest and truthful man. Um, on the flip side, when we see things that our parents have done that are not in keeping with the things that we would want to honor moving beyond those things, as parents, as, as Al said, as husbands and wives as, uh, as members of community and doing good, to me that's honoring the name and it's something I always told my kids and I still tell them when they go out.
Josh (12:39):
I said, remember the things you do reflect on us as a family. So just remember that when you're out in the community and interacting with people and it doesn't mean you can't call BS, BS. That's okay. You know, you can't call in when you see stuff, say something. Right? It's not, it's not just for the department of Homeland Security. Quite literally. If you see something, say something and that's okay, but you, you know, you need to remember our name. So for me, honor thy father and thy mother, do the things that your parents did awesome - continue to do and the things that your parents sucked at, be better at that than they were. And, and so doing, you honor the name that you carry.
Al (13:15):
One thing that I took from Joshua's point is things do come full circle. So things that you saw as a kid, maybe you didn't necessarily improve or you didn't understand. But now here you are as a parent and you have to decide, do I honor my parents? Do I follow in their footsteps? How do I approach this?
Leon (13:34):
I want to offer a perspective from, from the Jewish point of view that honor thy father and mother, um, comes down to some pretty cut and dry things. The bare minimum in Jewish thinking is that you have to make sure that your parents have food, clothes, and shelter. That that's, that's what honor means. Um, and as long as you've done that, then you have fulfilled your obligation as a child. Now, there's, there's ways to express that honor, um, that aren't considered the bare minimum. You know, for example, when a parent enters the room, you should stand up. If you're at a meal, you should, uh, pour, you know, a drink for them, pour water or whatever. Um, you don't have to necessarily run to get your dad, scotch or your mom a scotch, but, uh, you should pour them a regular drink and things like that.
Leon (14:22):
Those are, those are ways that you express it, but that's not a requirement. That's simply an outward expression of the idea of honoring your parents. But at no time does the Torah or Talmud say in either medieval French or Aramaic or Hebrew that you have to fix their iPad. You're not required to. So again, when we talk about honoring your father and mother, there are some, there's some fairly explicit boundaries. Um, honoring your father and mother also does not, in Jewish thinking, require you to take abuse or bad advice. If it my parent. And so I'm Orthodox observant. My parents aren't. They never were. We became Orthodox just a few years ago. So if my, if my parents said to me, which they, they don't, luckily we have a good relationship as far as that goes. They say, you know, you know what, I really need you to come over on Shabbat. I really need you to do these things and honor your parent comes before that. You can say no, you can say no, no, that's not how this works. You can't, you can't leverage honor your father and mother for me to break other commandments. So you don't have to do that or take abuse or what have you. So all of that also falls into it.
Josh (15:32):
I mean, I feel like I honored my father when I told him to get an iPad. Right? And so my dad, my dad is a tinkerer. Uh, he, he is, uh, he tinkers and all sorts of things. Um, and he loves to tinker with technology. And I, I got tired of, I got tired of him having a broken computer. And finally one day I said, dad, you gotta buy an iPad. You're killing me. You gotta buy an Apple. Uh, and uh, and he has, and that is the one thing that is consistently the iPad just works. And you know, bless my parents, their, uh, my, you know, my mom is a [cough cough] years old and my dad is in his mid sixties. And um, I mean they, they're both pretty good with their technology, right? They've got the whole, you know, hold it with one hand and you know, press with one finger thing, you know, they're, they're not texting, you know, like my kids text. But it's cool. Right. But so my question for us then ultimately is how far do we have to go with, with fixing?
Kevin (16:35):
Well, I think it's a little bit of what everyone said, but for me it's been, I don't want to say it's been a struggle, but it's been a, it's been an ever-changing line. So obviously when I'm young, when I'm five, 10 years old, it's listening to obey near practically everything they tell me. But it's when I transitioned into adulthood, you know, and maybe some of that's being a teen is you, you stop listening or you fight back or whatever. And then when you finally get in to be an adult. And I think there's, there's kind of a, I can honor and respect my parents more now that they honor and respect me as an adult. And that's probably not the way it always should have been. But that's been the ultimate end of it. And I think you're right. I think there's, there's, there's the mid bar there is, and I think you mentioned, you know, uh, you know, making sure they have food and shelter and if that's the absolute bare minimum, great, but does that mean I take the time to still call them out on their birthdays? Do I still check on them every so often? And those are things that I do because I enjoy being as part of them. I don't do it as an obligation. If I was obligated to do it, I probably wouldn't do it too much teenage rebellion stored up.
Leon (17:40):
You're not the boss of me.
Kevin (17:41):
There's a lot of that. Uh, but I think there is, and I've become friends with my parents, which is good, which means if, and when I do have to tell them no, that's not a good idea. They acknowledge it.
Josh (17:52):
So I think ultimately the question that I have is how far does this honor thy father and thy mother go when it comes to tech support? Look, I love my parents. I don't always agree with them, but I'm not their tech support. Right. I have fixed their computer, I have fixed their printers. I have helped my mom with Excel formulas, uh, because she worked well into her sixties and was still doing, you know, reasonably complex Excel formulas, at least for, uh, someone who works in a administration and education. But like I said, I, I came to this point and I said, mom and dad, you just need to buy an iPad because I am tired of fixing your technology. Um, just, just don't touch that crap anymore because, I mean, I live across the country now. They live in Ontario and I live way out here on the East coast and I can't roll down to your house.
Josh (18:44):
And fix your stuff for you anymore. I mean, sometimes I think it means, uh, love me and saying no. Like I'm not going to keep that antiquated, whatever. And I know we're, we're geeks, you know, #geeks as Leon you said earlier. So we're talking about computers and not, you know, phones and you know, that old flip phone that your dad had, like those things. But, uh, it also means there are some things that we need to tell the parents to just let go of. Right. You know, classic cars. You should let go of them and they should come to me.
Kevin (19:16):
Subtle. You're good at subtle, Josh.
Al (19:19):
Your inheritance, nah, I'm just joking.
Josh (19:22):
you know, a old coin collections, uh, any, uh, bearer bonds of... I'm sorry. No, sorry. Sorry, mom and dad. There comes a point in time where we just need to say to our parents, okay, Hey, you know, I'm just, it's time. It's time to put that piece of technology to bed.
Kevin (19:39):
Yeah. But it's weird for me though because my father taught me computing like originally. So to then me have to turn around and tell my dad, yeah, uh no, I'm sorry you don't actually know what you're doing right now. And it's, it's not an all things, there's always like an edge case kind of thing. But being able to like be have that conversation with them was like, no, I'm sorry. That's not how operating operating systems work anymore. No, I'm sorry. That's not the way bioses work anymore. No, you can't look for your dip switches. They aren't there anymore and there's a conversation needs to be had there that my father has been thankfully very gracious about, but he could have taken an alternate viewpoint of, you know, you're my child and how dare you. Thankfully he hasn't done that, but I've also been able to, how do I say this nicely? I've been able to pawn off kind of desktop support on him than he does himself. Like he supports himself and my mother and when it's network level stuff, that's when I have to get involved.
Leon (20:39):
I think a lot of us who grew up at a certain point in time as far as the computer age, our parents, the first, uh, people who taught us computer because they bought them in the very early eighties, uh, my dad went out and got an Atari 400 computer and you know, there was a word processor and things like that. I was a better typist, but, uh, you know, he was the one who had the computer and he was the one who had the cash. So when it was time to get the 800 and then the 1600, he got it. And he was the one who got deep into it as a hobbyist. You know, and this is partly why we're having this, this episode is that I've spent, I'm now on hour number 40, upgrading my dad's piece, windows seven PC, and it's taken 40 hours because, uh, it's, it's a little older. It's okay. He got one of the most overpowered computers you could get about four years ago. It's no longer overpowered, but it's still powerful.
Leon (21:34):
But the components are all custom components that he paid someone to put together. Um, he got a, you know, super duper graphics card because, uh, Microsoft publisher needed it to create a PDF. And yeah, Kevin, to your point, like he keeps talking about dip switches and things like that. There aren't dip switches anymore. So I've been working for 40 hours to upgrade this and Windows seven simply won't upgrade. So I bought a SSD drive and I'm going to put windows 10 on the SSD drive, but I can't because he won't let me redo everything because he needs to get a replacement for his beloved paint shop pro.
Kevin (22:16):
and an in place upgrade, which goes for that age is not really a good idea.
Leon (22:21):
Yeah. And, and I, I give him credit because he grudgingly let me replace Outlook express a couple of months ago. Thunderbird. Yeah. Thunderbird. Thunderbird. Yeah.
Leon (22:34):
So the point is, is that, um, they, some of us have parents who might have been better than us at tech at one time because they were hobbyists. Um, but they're not anymore. And the thing that saved me was the fact that my dad is, was a hobbyist when it came to technology. He didn't have a whole lot of ego tied up in it. I think that if it had been something closer to his area of expertise, if, you know, if I had gone into music and we had had, I'd had strong opinions about, you know, the music scene or things like that, he might have felt a little bit more strongly. Who knows? He might've been more gracious about it. I don't know. Um, but it, thankfully being able to honor my dad means being able to tell him the hard truth and trust that I'm going to say this. He'll be adult enough to accept that hard truth. I think if I told him there is no replacement for Paint Shop Pro, which he's used exactly zero times in the last two years, um, he probably would be disappointed, but he, he deal with it.
Al (23:42):
Yeah. If I could, I'm actually in a unique situation. Um, both of my parents have never been in the tech growing up. Did they buy tech equipment for me? Laptops, desktop computers, yes. But they never themselves got into tech or had an interest in tech. Up until about maybe 12 years ago, I bought my mother a desktopm, set up a modern, this one, their spare bedrooms at the house, connected it to their, you know, uh, wifi connection and whatnot and she had no use for it. She couldn't acclimate to it. She found it hard. She found that a challenge and the time I spent, to your point, Leon, trying to assist her over the phone, trying to guide her on how to do simple tasks, it became kind of cumbersome and I didn't see this going any further or it becoming a learning experience. Um, my brother who happens to live about 20 minutes away from my parents, I live about an hour away.
Al (24:37):
He is my default tech guy when I can't get through to them on the phone. What I've done, what I've done is share everything with my brother via Google shared document in terms of how their network is set up at home, what their passwords are, what their usernames are, but they still found it cumbersome, more so my mother, about six or seven years ago or whenever the iPad was introduced, it seems like ages ago, these days, while we're sitting at home for weeks, I've gave my, I bought my mother and iPad and she's adjusted to it flawlessly. It's been a piece of cake, requires no maintenance. I don't have to struggle with her over the phone for hours at a time. And most recently during this covid shutdown or however you want to describe it, my, my kids and I, including my wife, we will call my parents on my mother's iPhone and have a FaceTime call because it makes them so happy they get to see the kids and vice versa.
Leon (25:31):
And I think that as, as IT pros, there's a couple of, there's a couple of lessons there. First of all, um, for every user, and this is both in corporate settings as well as in home settings, finding the, the form that works for the, for the application. And when I say application, I don't mean the program but I mean the use case, that not every use case is a desktop computer and not ever use cases, a laptop and not ever use cases, a ruggedized strapped to your wrist, Borg style computing device. But some use cases are one of those things. And figuring out the correct use case is as necessary for our family members as it is for, you know, the corporate environment. You know, trying to figure out whether this is a cloud based app or if this is better as a microservice or this is better as a on premises, you know, legacy, uh, application running on Cobalt.
Al (26:26):
Right? Absolutely. Yeah. And when I set up, if I could go back real quick, when I set up her wifi network at home, I created a simple SS ID. I tried to create, not necessarily a complex password, but kind of in between. That became a challenge. Trying to explain to them upper case, lower case, special character. even after I printed out everything for them as well and stuck it on the refrigerator so they can see it for themselves. And it just got to the point where, you know what, here's your password. It's ABCD, one, two, three, four, five, whatever and everything works fine. No, nobody heard that. There'll be those where they live either, but it just, it's a fine balance. You want to accommodate them, you want to create a comfort level for them. So they accept technology, but you don't want to be their full time geek squad employees.
Leon (27:15):
Right. And that was the other piece I wanted to point out is that again, as IT professionals, we have to recognize when the job is bigger than just us. Uh, my brother works in desktop support very much like you, Al. Um, when I can't get there or it's just something that, you know, I've, I've tried, I've tried to have, the conversation wasn't working. It's like Aaron, Aaron, can you please, please Aaron? So, you know, it was like you are going to owe me a steak for this. Okay, fine. I will buy you a steak for this. Yeah. Um, so, so knowing when you need to call in other members of the team and sharing documentation, absolute 100% sharing the documentation, all good things. Um, I do want to point out sort of one of those, on the other hand things where we say that, you know, the, our responsibility is IT pros doesn't necessarily require us to support our parents in their tech. Uh, Jessica, uh, I hope I'm saying her name right. Jessica Hische, um, has a very famous webpage. that you'll find in the show notes and one of the very few yes, Workflows in should I work for free? Is, is it your mother? So just as a counterpoint, should you do it, you know, 32 hours of labor and you can't make a flyer for my garage sale.
Al (28:38):
They can see me, but no, but.
Josh (28:42):
This reminds me, this reminds me of my, my neighbor who is well into her eighties, and every year around Christmas time, she calls me up and says, Josh, can you come upgrade my computer? And the very first time she called, I thought, Oh my goodness, what does she want from me? And what she wanted was for me to install the new antivirus for her. Um, and you know, and just make little tweaks, you know, she uses it for email and, uh, every year she sends me home with, you know, a box of chocolates or something else. It's, you know, you usually take it right into the hall... Hook them up by the, yeah. Actually hooked me by the belly. Right? It's more of the thing. Um, and it's, you know, it's a, a great symbiotic relationship that we have.
Josh (29:32):
It's usually an hour long, uh, engagement, but it, it, it brings to my mind who, because my parents don't live near me, who else should we honor? Is it just our father and mother? I know that in Christianity there's a, uh, a creed, uh, that's in the King James version, um, of the New Testament in Matthew 25 verses 40 and 45 says, "verily I say unto you, in as much as you have done it on to one of the least of these, my bretheren you've done it unto me." And then in verse 45, "Verily, I say unto you in as much as you did it, not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." So, you know, if we do it to one of the people that we should honor, then we know we've done it to God. And if you don't do it because of whatever reason, you've also not done it unto God. And I'm just wondering in the other religious observances, uh, of our guests, like what do you do, right? Like is, is there an equivalent to the, you know, in as much as you have done it unto the least of these.
Al (30:34):
So in Islam, one of the five pillars is zakat. It's a duty to perform by all Muslims. Um, but it's more on the religious side. It's, I don't know how to, I'll try my best to be delicate with this approach. It's, it's about giving back, giving back to the poor, to the needy, to the less fortunate. I don't know how to make this, this comparison when it comes to providing IT or tech support. Like I said, just drawing the line and saying, when is enough enough? I've gone above and beyond, There's not much else I can do. Um, so on and so forth.
Leon (31:09):
And I think it's, it's analogous to the Jewish concept of tsadaka, which people, uh, translate inaccurately as charity. But the concept of charity is that I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart to give. And that's not what tsadaka and I think in Islam, you know, zakat also the, the, the, the commandment or the, the deed of tsadaka benefits me, the giver. It doesn't benefit the, the receiver. In fact, the highest, the best form of tsadaka is where I'm giving and I don't know who's getting, and the person who's getting doesn't know that I gave, it's completely anonymous because it's not about giving and feeling some sense of largess it's to build, to cultivate the personal ethic of being a giving person. So I'm not sure that that zakat or tsadaka in, in Judaism necessarily. What I will say does, does match up is the idea of um, protecting or not afflicting the stranger among you, the widow, the orphan, the disenfranchise, which is mentioned in some people say 36 times, other people count up to 46 times in, in Torah or Old Testament that there's a mention of, you know, protect or do not afflict or take care of, again, the widow, the orphan, the disenfranchise, the stranger among you. And I think that that's more analogous. And that is if you, if you're going numerically, it's a much more important commandment to observe. Um, and so taking care of people around you in your community who can't do for themselves. Now again, Al, to your point, there's gotta be a line. There has to be a line at which I've given, but I can't give anymore. I can't be required to keep giving even though there are those who aren't. You know, if I was going to do free tech support for everyone in the community, I'd never, I'd never sleep
Al (33:13):
well, nor would you. Nor could you pay your bills. Let's be frank. There is a, it's not about finances or it's not a financial game. You're doing it because you're doing it out of the kindness of your heart. But eventually there are times where it's taken advantage of and you just have to say, I can't, I'm done. I can't do much more for you.
Kevin (33:32):
No, it's, it's funny though because I think, and this is tying back specifically to my parents is that, uh, for a number of years it was kind of, it was never mentioned. It was never spoken directly, but it was an, uh, in kind trade. So I would help my, my father and my mother with their computers, with their local network, with their wifi, whatever it was. And in exchange, my father would help me keep the cars running or teach me some stuff about how to do home repair and maintenance, you know, whether it's some plumbing or some electrical. And I think that when I mentioned earlier that kind of, there was a tipping point for me when, when my parents saw me as an adult that we could actually have this communication. Uh, almost like friends where my father saw that I was in need, that I as an individual, a member of his community, member of his family needed help with, you know, electrical or plumbing or mostly dry wall. Let's be serious. I can do the other two. Dry walls, I'm horrible at it. But, but my parents weren't able to do the computer side of it, including like building a machine from scratch, which my father literally hadn't done since about 85. I think it was a PS1 at the time. And I said, this is cool. Well let's order parts. And we built it together. So it was, you know, it was, he was honoring me as a son by including me in that project, just as I was doing the same. And each of us, it was a net gain for both of us. And I think that goes to the giving for the sake of giving is, is really about the giver. It's not about the recipient.
Josh (35:06):
There's one time where giving old technology is. Okay. Uh, and, and here's, here's the example about 18 years ago and I know because my wife was pregnant with our youngest child who is now 17, uh, my father-in-law who would often travel to Jamaica, found a school in St. Anne's Parish that he decided we needed to build a computer lab for. They, you know, they had, they had literally nothing. Uh, so not only were we going to, uh, build a computer lab, but we are also going to have to kind of refurbish this you rundown building, um, and put in desks and computers. Like the whole thing. And knowing that I, you know, was in the industry, I was tasked with designing and you know, helping to source. And so we ended up sourcing, I don't gee almost 20 years ago, I'm going to say, uh, 20 machines.
Josh (35:54):
We prepped them all, you know, packed it all into this big shipping container and shipped it down in Jamaica. And if you know anything about the wonderful Island of Jamaica, it is beautiful and everything operates at about Oh one eighth time. So what we thought was going to be, uh, you know, this quick. Hey, drop things off and then we'll fly down and we'll spend a week and you know, bigger thing. It took many, many months. What did we send them? Man, we did not send them the most cutting edge technology. We sent them the most simple technology that had been battle tested that we knew that was sitting on the desks in a hot, un-air conditioned room. It was going to keep running. It was the same technology, but at the time I used in a, an automotive plant, right? These machines that, you know, how do you fix them?
Speaker 7 (36:40):
You pick them up and you drop them and then the problem goes away, right? Like those are the kinds of machines that you want. So sometimes it is, it is okay to give technology that is fit for the purpose of is, you know, it's needed for in the case of these kids and this, uh, in the school at St. Anne's Parish, um, you know, they had these machines and I mean, I ended up sending my best friend out in my place because I couldn't go. And so he got a trip to Jamaica and I got a, a, a new child.
Leon (37:07):
Okay. Any final thoughts before we wrap this up?
Josh (37:10):
I want to, I just point out that across every, every belief, you know, and at the table today, we all come from a very different backgrounds and we didn't talk about, you know, Hinduism or Buddhism or any of the other isms that are of religious observance, but every one of them has this idea of giving because it is good to give, but also in giving because it is the honorable thing to do, you know, and you know, Christianity talks about giving a 10%, uh, you know, um, you know, Islam talks about, you know, two and a half percent. There's sure we can argue about the semantics of it, but the, the gist of it is you give, because it's an honorable thing to do. And, and I kind of think of it as this, I do a lot of what I do now, I've been in the IT industry for 20 years because I'm paying it forward. There are, you know, yeah, my dad was, my dad worked in sales. He wasn't a technical, a tech geek, but there are lots of people within technology. Uh, John Foster, I don't know, John, if you're ever going to listen to this episode, but he was the guy who said to me in my very first IT job, Hey, I'll hire you even though he had no reason in the world to hire me. He is the reason that I am still in IT today and that I did not go back to school to be a lawyer. I don't know if I should thank him or curse him,, but I'll definitely thank you. Okay. Okay, perfect. Definitely. But it's because of people like him that I'm successful. So honoring him by helping others, by giving to others. Uh, I think that that's very much something that we need to see continue in the industry and probably see more of in the industry that generosity, that pay it forward mentality.
Al (38:53):
Absolutely. It's good karma. You never wanted to come back and bite you in the rear end. And we do tend to see it more often than not in it. Uh, when you do good things good things come back to you and the same rules or the same philosophy should apply in our lives as well.
Kevin (39:09):
Yeah. I was just thinking that this seems so much like kind of where I came to be about five or six years ago actually about the time I started this job was that I realized that I like sharing knowledge that I like helping people out. It's a for a while I was, I was the bad it guy where I liked to hoard knowledge and I like to be the person who can answer the questions and then I realized that's, that's a one way street to loneliness and to basically self isolation and instead being able to actually say, you know what, let's come together. Let's talk about these things. Let's bring it all about. And being able to share that information, whether it's, you know, enough information with my parents to be able to do their stuff, enough information with my aunts and uncles when they're ready to buy a new machine. Let's not talk about scope creep when we actually support our parents because you know, their brothers and sisters will get in on that if, if we can't, if they can, they will. Uh, so there's a little limited you need to put there. But just being able to share stuff and being able to, as Josh mentioned, pay it forward. It's, if I'm able to help any one person do their job or help support their people a little better today than they were able to do yesterday, for me, that's a win.
Leon (40:20):
I like it. I'm going to play, I'm just going to be a little bit of a counterpoint here and remind people that especially in what's going on in the world today, the opportunities to volunteer, the opportunity to share, the opportunities to um, give that support, whether it's to your immediate parents or parent-like-neighbors or people who are of the same generation or Kevin, to your point to aunt Sally and uncle Bob and all that stuff. You know, the opportunities are many and that, um, you know, you also have to take care of yourself. That you have to balance the desire to, to give and the desire to share with um, your ability to give tomorrow. That, uh, to put it in terms of again, the concept of tsadakah, a great rabbi from the middle ages was asked, is it better to give 2, Oh, I'm going to put it in dollar terms. Is it better to give $200 once or $1 200 separate times? And he said unequivocably, it's better to give $1 200 separate times because after giving $1 200 times, you have built up the habit of giving. And you also have put limits. You've built up the of not giving. You're not required to give everything you have. And by giving $1 200 times, you know how to stop. And that's just knowing how to stop is just as important as knowing how to start. So please, for those people who are listening, if you're thinking, wow, maybe I should do this thing, whatever this thing is, you know, to help out, just remember that knowing when to start is good. Knowing when to stop. Also important.
narrator (42:01):
Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.
Leon (42:15):
Friends, don't let friends use windows 98
Kevin (42:17):
or internet Explorer.
Al (42:19):
or simple passwords,
Leon (42:20):
or Pearl.

S03E02: Hokey Religions

S03E02: Hokey Religions

February 23, 2021


"Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side"

- Han Solo


The way religion is portrayed in sci-fi is sometimes the worst of straw men. Just a few examples include Good Omens, American Gods, Raised By Wolves, and the entire concept of "The Force" in the Star Wars universe.


These aren't religions. They're crayon sketches of a religion drawn by someone with only a passing knowledge of (or deep experience with) an actual religion. They're pediatric theology canonized into a sci-fi framework meant from the start to highlight a pre-conceived set of flaws.


As geeks, our (valid) enjoyment of the sci fi story unwittingly undermines our potential enjoyment of religion and religious experiences. But, as RELIGIOUS geeks, we now have to overcome this perception of religions being completely illogical, appealing to the small of mind and weak of intellect.


BUT… as IT folks with a strong connection to an organized faith system, we also have the opportunity to point out these flaws and help others see them as such. We don’t need to re-write the Bene Gesseri order any more than we need to make the magic of Harry Potter adhere to the laws of physics. But by engaging our fellow nerds on the subject, we can encourage them to more critically assess the story’s (and therefore their own) pre-conceived notions.


Listen or read the transcript below.

Speaker 1 (00:23):
Leon Adato (00:32):
Welcome to our podcast, where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate it, we're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways. We make our careers, IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is technically religious. The way religion is often portrayed in Sci-fi can be the worst of straw-men often. It seems like their crayon sketches of religion drawn by someone with very little knowledge of an actual religion. Pediatric theology canonized into sci-fi framework meant from the start to highlight a preconceived set of flaws. Does our enjoyment as geeks and as Sci-Fi aficionados of these stories, unwittingly undermine our potential enjoyment of religion and religious experiences, or as IT folks with strong, with a strong connection to an organized faith system, do we have an opportunity to point out these flaws and help others see them as such and possibly help them build an appreciation of real religion in the process I'm Leon Adato, and I'd like to welcome two new voices to the technically religious Pantheon. First up is Justin Dearing.
Justin Dearing (01:40):
Leon Adato (01:41):
And next up is Jason Carrier.
Jason Carrier (01:43):
Great to be here.
Leon Adato (01:44):
Okay. So as is our want here at technically religious, we're going to start off with some shameless self promotion of guests and, uh, everything that you're doing. Uh, Justin, why don't you start us off, tell us who you are and a little bit about yourself.
Justin Dearing (01:57):
So I'm Justin during I am a senior consultant at Neudesic, I'm basically a developer who, uh, actually liked writing SQL, uh, Zippy1981, I am Zippy1981 on the Twitters, uh, because I am old, not quite as old as Leon, uh, and, uh, I identify as Roman Catholic.
New Speaker (02:17):
Very Good. Okay. How about you, Jason?
Jason Carrier (02:20):
Hi, my name is Jason carrier. I'm a product manager at SolarWinds, and also a freelance product consultant. Uh, you can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn. All the other social medias, are pretty worthless personally. Um, on Twitter, I am network_carrier and LinkedIn. You can just look me up by my name, and I would consider myself a self-styled Buddhist.
Leon Adato (02:40):
Fantastic. All right. And wrapping, circling back. I am Leon Adato. I'm a head geek. Yes, that's actually my job title at Solarwinds, It's not solar or wind because naming things is hard. Apparently you can find me on the Twitters, which I say just to horrify Keith Townsend's daughter, uh, you can find me there @leonadato. You can also find me pontificating on things, both technical and religious, And I identify as an Orthodox Jew and sometimes my rabbi lets me do so. Um, so I want to dive into this conversation, uh, starting off, you know, from the premise, is, is that really what you think? And what I mean by that is that when I'm watching certain shows and I'm specifically thinking about things like, um, certainly anything by Neil Gaiman, American gods, good omens. I really desperately hope that Neil Gaiman doesn't think that's what we religious people think. You know, as far as what religion is, I just, I, I categorize it all. Or most of it as what I call pediatric theology. What I mean by that is somebody who is a grown-up. They might have an engineering degree. They understand how load bearing walls and weight works and things like that, but their religious education stopped in third grade and therefore they find themselves arguing, "thats stupid. You can't fit that many animals in a boat, there would never be able to"...., which is ridiculous. Not just because the question itself is a little bit weird, but also because there are thousands of years of commentary, from, you know, all the way back to the middle ages, where they said just all the birds I know about wouldn't fit on a boat that size, of course, those dimensions don't work. Obviously there's something else we're talking about here. My point being that somebody's, will say real world physical education has proceeded into their adulthood, but their religious education stopped in second grade and never went any further, but they're still trying to argue religion using that understanding. It seems like there's, that's part of what scifi is trying to do. I don't know what you think about it.
Jason Carrier (04:52):
I was gonna say, I think it's important to start with, uh, the, the differences between what is a religion, what's your worldview and, uh, kind of your, your attitude towards spirituality. Those things are kind of three distinct, um, uh, characteristics. So I would define them, I think it's important for our conversation to go through define those words. Right. And what do we mean by those? So to me, religion is, uh, all that set of, uh, kind of, uh, uh, habits that you go through and, and, you know, the different ceremonies, the, the different, uh, um, holidays that you have, that kind of thing, that's the religion, but then the worldview is, is kind of, how do you think that reality works, you know, uh, is, is there, uh, uh, planets going around the sun or is the sun going around the planets? You know, that kind of thing. That's kind of overall worldview, and then there's also the, the elements of spirituality is how do you think the, the unseen works, you know, is there something working behind the scenes? How does that work? Is it, is it karma? Is it heaven? Is it, hell, is it, you know, what's, what's the paradigm of the unseen that you ascribe to?
Leon Adato (05:48):
Got it, Justin, any, like what you, what's your take on that?
Justin Dearing (05:53):
Okay. I think, I think Jason's raising good points, but I think another thing to keep in mind is, you know, some people Who actually are, you know, perfect their religion and do try to be spiritual, also do have these, this pediatric theology, you know, they, they believe it all the animals on the boat, not just because there are fundamentals or wherever they, they just haven't really liked delved deep into it at all.
New Speaker (06:13):
Justin Dearing (06:13):
You know,
Leon Adato (06:14):
That was.
Justin Dearing (06:14):
And their religious.
Leon Adato (06:14):
That was what they learned. And it was good enough for them in the same way that some people stop learning math, when they can balance their checkbook. And some people stop even before that. And think that it's okay just to take what the bank statement says as Gospel truth. So, right. I think that's true. And circling it back to Sci-Fi, I think the challenge with religion as it's portrayed in Sci-Fi and fantasy, is that I think it does a disservice to the consumer, to, to the reader, um, in the sense that first of all, I always think that a richer, more, uh, more detailed world makes for a better story. So when you give religion in your story, short shrift, you are giving the story short shrift in a way. Um, also I think that a lot of scifi and fantasy writers find religion, this, this straw man, religion to be a really good antagonist, but if you start really fleshing out the religion, it stops being as good an antagonist. You know, when you start to understand that there are reasons and, and background and, and underpinnings suddenly it's not this, you know, totalitarian authoritarian regime, instituting the religious will of the, like, you know, that kind of like you can't do that once you recognize that there's a, you know, 4 or 5,000 year history behind it. I don't know.
Jason Carrier (07:39):
And then the fun part there is which part of the four or 5,000 year history are you going to represent in your, your characterization of the religion? Because that's kind of what they're doing in Sci-fi in a lot of ways is characterizing religions. It's definitely a reductionist view of it, but, uh, I would argue that there's still value necessarily to that reductionist view. Uh, you don't necessarily need a story to be true in order to derive some value from it. You can kind of get the lesson from it and apply that lesson in your present moment to make a better decision. Uh, you know, uh, maybe it's a value judgment of what's good, what's bad, bad that you could draw from star Wars, for example, and, and see, uh, you know, only the Sith deal in absolutes. So, you know, as a, a person in the world, I'm not going to deal in absolutes either. Cause I don't want to be like the Sith brick. That'd be a really simplistic example. You know,
Leon Adato (08:23):
Don't be like the Sith Bobby.
Justin Dearing (08:27):
But I want lightning,
Leon Adato (08:29):
Justin Dearing (08:31):
Keep my kids in line.
Leon Adato (08:32):
Right, right. That would definitely okay. First of all, I've seen you do enough home home, uh, you know, home repair videos that you have lightning when you need it, you certainly have enough, um fire power in your garage to do that, but that's a whole other conversation. Um, okay. I, I see what you're saying. I think that the damage, the potential damage is that for people who are consuming, um, fantasy, and Sci-fi where religion is again, poorly represented there, the risk is that they will turn to the real religion in their lives in the world, and they will, they will draw equivalency. They will say the Catholic church is, stupid in the same way that, um, what was that movie with the gun kata? And, uh, it, it was another one of those dystopian movies where the church ran everything and everyone took it their happy pill to, you know, not be angry and stay calm all the time.
Jason Carrier (09:38):
Oh, with Keanu Reeves, what?
Leon Adato (09:40):
Jason Carrier (09:40):
With Keanu Reeves? I don't remember the name of it, but it was
Leon Adato (09:42):
No, no, it wasn't Keanu it, wasn't Keanu Reeves. I'm trying to remember who even stared in it. But anyway, it's not important. I, if I can find it, I'll put it in the show notes after. Um, but the point is, is that, um, religion was the opiate of the masses. It was that sort of line. And, um, you know, the people who were calm had found a sort of inner strength and, um, it wasn't that it wasn't, that religion was good. It was that religion had been, subverted to become the means of control, and I think that people go in, you know, seeing a story like that, and then, going to church or going to synagogue or whatever, may bristle, especially again, going back to the pediatric theology, if you don't know any more than what you learned in second grade, it's really easy then to see the evil empire, you know, in taking communion or something like that. I mean, you know, like it just, it leads to really bad, um, it leads to really bad sort of mental jumps, which drive people away from a religion where they might find some fulfillment if they had taken the time to maybe learn more. I guess that's, that's really my, my, my concern about it.
Jason Carrier (10:54):
I can definitely see your point. I think it's two sides to the same coin. There's, there's good things that can happen and there's bad things that can happen. Right. And it's, it's all devil's in the details kind of differences, you know, how well is the story told and when is that parable being applied into what situation? Right. So, so the outcome isn't going to always be good or always be bad, you know, which kind of goes back to the whole only the deal sift deal in absolutes. Right. And it's only gonna, it's, it's gonna really depend on all the variables of your, your situation. Right.
Leon Adato (11:21):
Got it, I like the ok.
Jason Carrier (11:23):
the movie that were talking about, I think is equilibrium.
Leon Adato (11:25):
Jason Carrier (11:25):
With Christian bale.
Leon Adato (11:27):
Jason Carrier (11:27):
There we go.
Leon Adato (11:28):
That's it. Okay. Thank you. Oh, my, my, my Googler on the side. Fantastic. Um, I want to pick up on some of.
Jason Carrier (11:36):
Google Fu is important.
Leon Adato (11:36):
that Jason that you mentioned earlier, which was the reductionism. And, and so that takes us to the second sort of major talking point in this, uh, particular episode, which is what I'm calling reductionism on parade, you know, where are there examples where, uh, a religion has been reduced, possibly past its, it's, worth, worthiness? Um, and the two examples that I've got, um, first is Orson Scott Cards, uh, seventh son series. This was a series that he clearly wrote, to try to provide a fantasy structure to, um, Mormonism in the same way. And this is my other example, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, is a fantasy structure to, uh, Christianity overall. Um, so the seventh son series has a primary pro you know, protagonist named John Smith.
Leon Adato (12:27):
And, uh, he is a maker, a seventh son of a seventh son. And all along the, the series, you end up with things like a golden plow head that has self will and wants to plow dirt, but only the right kind of dirt. And you have the foundations of a crystal city that is made out of crystallized water, and you have all sorts of other things. You know, you have these Allan elements of Mormon. I'm going to say mythology. I don't mean it as myth. I mean, it just as the, the underlying structure of the Mormon religion. So you have that, but it does a disservice, I think, to Mormonism overall, um, because it doesn't do a good job of telling the, the story of the seventh son. And it also doesn't do a good job of telling the story Mormonism. And that takes me the other example I have, which is a language in the order of which I have affectionately or, or, um, uh, in an annoyed voice called Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, um, blunt force Catholic trauma, because it's just this, like, you know, you're reading the story and all of a sudden, you're, you know, there's this mace coming from off the side that bashes you over the head, whang!! Look at, you know, Aslan is Jesus! Whang!!. Look, it's Mary! Whang. He died on the cross! Whang!! Like, you know, it's like I get it, I get it. And it ends up being a really bad story, fantasy story. And really, I feel not a particularly wonderful introduction to, you know, Christian ideals. I don't know. I, you know, I, I may not be the best judge of it though.
Justin Dearing (13:59):
I, I mean, I, I will say I had a roommate in college who, whose, uh, father was a director of religious education in the Catholic church. And he was, uh, he, he did not, um, he, he, he did not stick with Catholicism and he very much agreed with your assessment. And I would say even like, I, I do agree that it is very, uh, heavy handed, um, Christianity, but it is a children's book. And like, part of that is like, when I read Tolkien as a kid, I kind of knew there was some kind of like Christian algri in there, but, you know, I think it was more obvious, um, you know, with, and I guess maybe from it, it was meant to be childlike and pediatric because, um, you know, there, there was a tweet, I think that the best summarize it, you know, we're, you know, CS Lewis would be like, Oh, and now the, the Norse, you know, the Norse god of war and, and, and Santa Claus are gonna join the battle and Tolkien, it's like, here's this ax, it's 2000 years old. I'm gonna tell you the entire history of um and were just going to, That's just the axe he has, you know,
Leon Adato (14:56):
Right Oh, oh, is the ax, is the, is the ax Protestantism? No, it's, it's an ax. It's right. I actually, you know, having read, um, Tolkien, you know, Hobbit and Lord of the rings and things like that multiple times, I, I know that Tolkien had a religious point of view, I, I don't feel it. I certainly don't feel it as aggressively as Lion the Witch and the wardrobe and you're right. It is a children's story. So I, I, can't always, that's the reverse of pediatric theology where you come to a children's story and you say, well, that's ridiculous. The, you know, the gingerbread man could never walk. I mean, he's made of gingerbread. Where would his sinews be where it is? Okay. You're overthinking it Leon and you're really, really overthinking it. So, you know, there's that too. But, um, I, I didn't get the religious overlay in Tolkien as sir, as much as I get in, in certainly other things. Um, okay. So what are some other examples of, you know, reductionism and you know, why or why not?
Jason Carrier (15:58):
So, uh, one of the, one of the ones that I would look at is, uh, in Game of Thrones, for example, they, they kind of have in the, the, the old school world, that's their a sort of a, a parallel to the pagan religions of, of earth, and then in their new, uh, religion, that that's the more predominant in the, uh, kind of series where they're talking about, uh, the mother and the father, and, you know, uh, kind of, uh, those sort of, uh, uh, tropes, uh, sort of speak more to a Christian, uh, mythos a little bit, uh, and the the play between those two, I thought it was pretty well woven into the story, uh, sort of how the, the, the older folks, uh, would, would remember kind of the old gods that were more based on trees and, you know, fairies and that kind of thing, uh, paralleling the Paragon, uh, the, the, uh, pagan religions, and then the newer ones were kind of looking more like the, the Christian type, uh, Deities.
Leon Adato (16:48):
Got it. So before we go to the other side of reductionism, you know, where we think that Sci-Fi stories have, and fantasy stories have gotten it right, I want to take a stop. Jason, when we were prepping for this, you said something really interesting, about sometimes, what I'm calling the void can fill the void, meaning space and Sci-Fi and fantasy, the void, you know, can fill a void, the lack of religion in people's lives. And I wanted you to sort of expand on that for a minute.
Jason Carrier (17:16):
Sure. So, uh, particularly in, in, uh, America, I want to say it's like 30%, 35% right in there. Folks don't even go to church. They don't have any sort of, uh, religious view. So that's not to say that they're agnostic or atheist, but in a lot of cases, they just don't have an opinion. You know, it's not something that they consider. So, uh, seeing a way to, I think there's value in, in Sci-Fi in, in how, uh, religious philosophy is sort of characterized in there, for the uninformed, because it sort of helps to give them, uh, some level of exposure there. Uh, and I know that's a different perspective than the one that you're coming. And I think that the, the important thing to recognize there is the perspective that you're coming from is a well-educated, uh, Jewish person, right? So someone who really understands the ins and outs of that faith, uh, relative to, uh, uh, the uninitiated, you know, so that uninitiated person, um, can really get a lot of value from the parable nature of the Sci-Fi that's or of the religion that's represented in. Sci-Fi
Leon Adato (18:14):
Got it. So that would speak more to like the spirituality of that you were talking about earlier that, that Sci-Fi, I'm, I'm using air quotes here, Sci-Fi quote, unquote, religion, but the, the philosophy of it could fill in terms of a, a more, a set of morals or the idea that you, you should have a set of morals. You should have a set of ways to determine difficult ethical questions. You should think about these things beyond their immediate. It that's what I'm hearing.
Jason Carrier (18:45):
Yeah. So, so essentially the, the Sci-Fi can drive them to think through those problems, whereas maybe they wouldn't have before. So considering those moral paradoxes and, uh, coming up with their own sense of morality off the example that they're seeing in the screen or book.
Justin Dearing (19:00):
Yeah. And I think if, if, if you, whatever were rejected Christianity or whatever, and you were, you were not given a framework when that what you could, you could be a good person because of what, because of the failing of the religion that brought you up, or you just, weren't brought up with one and you end up watch star Trek, and then you decide to become a youth minister, a transhumanist, you know, you sit there and, you know, you could go really deep into kind of some of the underpinning philosophies and, and, you know, there, there are some values, there are things I don't agree with, but there's a solid, uh, you know, philosophical and spiritual thing there for you to go out
Leon Adato (19:35):
In the absence of anything else. It certainly, I think can serve a purpose. Uh, Jason, I didn't mean to cut you off.
Jason Carrier (19:41):
Oh I was just going to say, uh, captain Picard is a good leader, whether you believe the Klingons are real or not.
Leon Adato (19:47):
Okay. Fair. And, and I have been known to use the question of whether uh, Darth Vader truly repented, or not as part of a, uh, Jewish context, uh, conversation. It was more whether or not Darth Vader performed, what would be Halachically or Jewish in the Jewish religious structure, whether he really performed, um, true repentance or not based on that structure. So we're still back to the structure, dogmatic, you know, thing, and whether or not the Sci-Fi character could have done it. So it certainly does serve a purpose. At the same time. I do want to call out a particular risk, um, in using Sci-Fi science fiction as a filler for a religious, um, philosophy or a religious framework. And that's the science part. Uh, one of, one of the great rabbis of this era rabbi Jonathan sacks, um, who recently passed away and he was the chief rabbi of England. Um, he had a book called a great partnership, and it was a treatise, on why science and religion both need to work together. It was against the idea that science and religion are contradictory in any way. And some of the thoughts that he brought up that I thought are relevant here is first of all, science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean, and you know, that they serve two different purposes, but then he went and said, here's the problem, when you treat impersonal phenomena, meaning science, as if they're persons, you end up with myth, light comes from the sun God, rain comes from the sky God, and so on. And, but when you treat persons impersonally, when you treat people like they're things, as if they were objects, the result is dehumanization. You categorize people by color, class, creed, and you treat them differently because of that. And so they work together and the risk, I think, in using science fiction as your basis for a religious, moral or ethical point of view is that the science is going to out, The science of the science fiction is going to outweigh the philosophy, religion, and again, that putting together that interpersonal piece of it. Um, and you're going to end up with a, a poor substitute. I don't know if you have any thoughts about that.
Jason Carrier (22:16):
Yeah. I could definitely see your point and I wouldn't disagree that that would happen in some cases. I just think that there's uh, both cases that are represented. Um, obviously if somebody were looking at a Sci-Fi and taking that as, as their source of absolute truth and thinking that, um, that was really a true definition of reality. I think that would be a very different thing than, uh, looking at it, analyzing it, thinking it through and trying to find where they could draw value from it, but I really liked the point that you made about, uh, science and religion needing to work together. That's actually one of the things that drew me to Buddhism in the first place was that, uh, when science has a better understanding of something Buddhism adjusts, it doesn't, uh, portray itself as the purveyor absolute truth. Um, which was something that really, really appealed to me.
Leon Adato (23:01):
Got it.
Justin Dearing (23:01):
Yeah and and, I'll say, you know, as, as a Catholic, you know, uh, you know, people like to talk about Galileo and, you know, I, I won't get into the politics of, of then, but it was basically more of a reject state. They, they just said, you know, hold off on teaching that until we figure some stuff out. But, you know, nowadays there, the Catholic church has a, uh, uh, a big telescope in, in, uh, I think Arizona it's called loose, the Lucifer telescope, um, run by the
Leon Adato (23:27):
Wait, wait, it's called the what??
Justin Dearing (23:27):
Yes Lucifer. Yes it's called Lucifer, yes.
Leon Adato (23:27):
I presume not after the Marvel and TV show character, but instead
Jason Carrier (23:40):
Jesuits have a sense of humor. Yes.
Leon Adato (23:44):
Justin Dearing (23:44):
But, uh, yeah. Uh, but the, you know, and they, they, they do that and they say, you know, um, you know, they talk about how, you know, you know, Christmas probably, uh, Jesus, wasn't probably born on the 25th. We probably weren't in March because of, of, of the, the, the, the sheep were probably giving birth. That's why they were laying in the field and, and, and what happened, you know? And, and we, you know, there, there is, um, yeah, we, we, I think most modern, you know, uh, at least my religion, you know, we, we, we do try to, you know, take science into account, uh, there, and I think, I think other religions too, and I, I think, um, you know, if that, you know, some, some, some, some shows do get that right. I think maybe like the assigned it. Right.
Leon Adato (24:21):
And that takes us. So that takes us into the next, the next section, which is which stories do we think, um, really get it right. And I'm going to, I'm going to start off. I've got a couple of things that I think really did well, first of all, not a lot of people, um, now know about Catherine Kerr's Deryni series Deryni, spelled D E R Y N I, and it'll be in the show notes. She did a really good job of, of portraying, uh, a medieval or sort of slightly post pre Renaissance, uh, Catholicism to, and putting it in a con, in a fantasy context. So it really, really, really is Catholicism it's really, as Christianity it's, they're not trying to make it some fake something else that, you know, and, but it exists in parallel with, um, you know, her fantasy construct. And she does a really good job of talking about how a religious sensibility informs the users of we'll call it magic. It's not, but whatever, um, and how it informs the world. So that's the first one. I also actually liked the spirituality of ma uh, Madeleine L'Engle, um, wrinkle in time series. I thought she got, even though there were no specific re, you know, what we would call traditional or structured religious elements in there, she really gave a sense of the scope of the universe. And, um, Jason, to your point, how the unseen works behind the scenes, she gave a sense that there is larger forces and larger ideals at play. And the last one, a lot of people say, well, there's no like Orthodox Jewish, you know, fantasy stories. There was one that I know of, it's called the red magician by Lisa Goldstein. And it takes place in a Hungarian village. It takes place in a Orthodox Jewish Hungarian village, and Judaism doesn't figure into the story at all. They, the characters just all happened to be Orthodox. Um, and the last one is actually a comic book it's called how America got her sword, which builds itself as just another story about a 12 year old troll fighting, uh, Orthodox Jewish girl. So it's, it's just, again, it takes place in an Orthodox context where the Orthodox Judaism, doesn't, it isn't a pivotal element. It just is present as another aspect of the world-building that the writers do. So those are ones that, that do well. And again, I think they did it well because the religion wasn't the pivotal element of it. It was simply a fact of facet that informs the lives of the characters as they go along for better or for worse, but informs their lives. So what else do you have to add to my list?
Justin Dearing (26:57):
Um, I'll, I'll say, yeah, to two examples. Uh, so basically what I would like to call the two space station series of, of the 90's, Babylon five and deep space 9. So, uh, um, jam JMS, uh, hu. And Ronald D Moore, I think they're, they're both atheists. I think JMS, you know, basically said, you know, I'm an aithi, you know, I'm an atheist, but I religion exists. And, you know, from like, I think episode two, like it was like all the species had to give to talk about their dominant religion and, and the, uh, and the, the, uh, earth did if he had them shake hands with the Orthodox rabbi in the Greek Orthodox and rabbi in the Catholic, I mean, the Greek Orthodox priest and the Protestant minister and the, the, the African whatever. Um, yeah. And it built onto the idea of like, uh, the human being, the people that brought diversity together. And, and that's how they went and, you know, uh, defeated, defeated the shadows, um, you know, it, you know, down, down, down or whatever. So I thought that was, you know, he did a lot of, uh, stuff that was, you know, he had a group of, of Catholic, uh, or they seem to, you know, Catholic brothers come on. And they, it seemed to be like how a monk shorter would, would evolve, um, where they had, you know, a certain mission. And, and they, they kind of, uh, you know, worked in a very Franciscan way of, of, of, uh, being, you know, they, they, they, they, they, they did work in exchange for lodging and things like that. Um, and I think, yeah, uh, deep space 9, I think, I, I think the, the whole wormhole, like the idea of exploring the idea of, well, what if we thought were gods, will there be people in, you know, they're, they just exist outside of time, uh, in, in this, in this wormhole. And then we have this kind of doubting Thomas, you know, guy who becomes their, their, their Emissary. And I think that, that, you know, dealt with it well, though, they're, they're, they're Pope uh, you know, they're, they're, they're, Pope being like she was upset that she never had her, uh, uh, divine, like experience, you know, she was upset like that. And she was also, you know, really evil, um, not, not, not because she didn't have, but, you know, she, she was, you know, they, they, I think they, if they dealt with, you know, uh, I think they, they dealt with stuff very well. You know, there was one episode where, uh, Kiko was the teacher. Um, and she was teaching about like, uh, basically, um, like, I guess she was teaching her like the earth go around the sun or whatever. And they're saying, we don't believe that because of, you know, the prophets taught us this, or what have you. And they had that actual debate between fundamentalists and, and non fundamentalists there.
Leon Adato (29:08):
Got it.
Justin Dearing (29:10):
Okay. So I I've got, I mean, I guess I can have several star Wars rants, but I have one in the religious aspect of, so did, did anyone have any idea that, that Jedi was supposed to be celibate until like halfway through episode two? Like if they,
Leon Adato (29:22):
Yeah no.
Justin Dearing (29:22):
If they like not even George Lucas, like, I think he was like writing the script and, but, um, and I think that was like, like one of the things, like, it's hard to, you know, talk about like, uh, you know, categorizing, um, the, the celibate or the Jedi as like a monk shorter or whatever, is it realistic or not realistic may, maybe a lot of it was like Buddhist. And you might have more to say in that, that Jason, if you have a thing it's like, um, you know, there's big thing about the celibacy, you know, if you're going to become a priest in the Catholic church, you know, there's, there's a lot of preparation talking about celibate, celicaby,
Leon Adato (29:54):
They don't just spring it on you. Like the day, the day before you take your vows, I was like, Oh, and by the way,
Justin Dearing (30:00):
And the last Bishop on earth living in the swamp would not forget to mention that to you. No, no. We were, luke went and had a family and, you know, the old Canon, you know?
Leon Adato (30:10):
Yeah. I got from, from the, okay. So, so fair warning. I, um, did see Phantom menace in the theater, and then I refuse to see anything else of the prequels. I actually frequently will not admit that they even existed. Um, so just take that for what it's worth. Uh, I did try to watch the, uh, second one. Yeah. I tried to watch the second one on mute while I was running on a treadmill without subtitles, and I still found it unwatchable. So that's just my own diatribe against the prequels. But my point being is that I got the sense of not being connected, that, that sort of almost Buddhist sense of not being attached to no thing, but I did. Right. Like, I didn't get the same sense that that meant celibacy. It just meant you, you have to make sure that you are ready, you are mature enough not to feel ownership or attachment to another person as much as to your, you know, lightsaber or your Starship or your Wookie or whatever. Um, yeah, I mean, the clone Wars does, you know, he's supposed to, like, they were afraid if he can become too attached to it. Uh, you know, Padawan, and, and, you know, you're going to be too attached to R2 and they're, they're, they're, they're definitely, uh, like what that there. And I, I guess in that regard, it's a good thing. I just, I just, like, I felt like there was a lot of interest distantly for me to formerly judge, um, star Wars, because it's, it's so inconsistent where I can say, you know, right.
Leon Adato (31:49):
I mean, Again, Sci-Fi story to Jason's point. Like there are parts that work and parts that don't work and, you know, yeah. Um, okay. I think, uh, we have talked to this one, not quite to death, but, but good enough for one episode, um, lightning round final words, any final thoughts or ideas? Um, Justin, I'll let you lead this one off.
Justin Dearing (32:09):
Okay. Sure. Uh, you know, I think this, this was a great conversation. I, I, I, I think, uh, thank you, Jason, for giving the, the, the Buddhist perspective. Uh, and, and I think, uh, you know, I think, yeah, I, I, I will echo your points about the creation, the creation, myths stories. Those are good. And, and that was probably the least tough, tough read part of the, the similar news. You know, it's kind of a very academic and tough reader as a Tolkien fan, you know, it's the hardest one of them all to read, you know?
Leon Adato (32:39):
Got it. Okay, Jason.
Jason Carrier (32:42):
Yeah. So I would love to talk about the concept of a helpful way of thinking. Uh, it's something that I took from DaVinci code books, uh, Dan, Dan Brown books, uh, there was a Buddhist character in the book that talked about a helpful way of thinking. Now she's a very scientific minded person, right? So she she's very much about, you know, physics and reality. And, uh, it doesn't care much for, uh, you know, winging angels, that type of thing. But she really liked the concept of, if you could look at, uh, Christianity and, and see something that was very helpful to you, uh, even if you don't think of it as literal truth, it can still be extremely helpful and impactful in your life. Uh, I applied the same thing to, you know, star Wars and as I'm watching, you know, religions in, in Sci-Fi, um, a lot of times they can give you a different perspective on a truth, even if it's not speaking to like an absolute truth, that's a pattern that can be a helpful way of thinking in your life.
Leon Adato (33:32):
Got it. So, uh, you know, you're not talking about actually recreating the Jedi religion. You're just saying that this thing that they do, even though it's a, from a fantasy environment is, is useful and applicable to our real world experiences.
Jason Carrier (33:47):
Exactly. Looking at it allegorically instead of literally.
Leon Adato (33:50):
All right. So I want to wrap it up in a completely different, uh, aspect I've already waxed, uh, annoyed on the whole star Wars universe thing. My final thought is that there's a, a certain moment in the TV series, Firefly, where river gets a hold of, um, books, uh, Booker book,
Justin Dearing (34:09):
separate books.
Leon Adato (34:10):
Yeah. He, his Bible and reorders it and says, you know, it was completely out of order. So I put it in the right order. And of course, you know, he's like, you completely ruined, it you messed it up! And she's like, but it was wrong. It was in the wrong, you know, the references and whatever. And I just want to wrap that character. I want to wrap river in a big hug, and I want to bring her into like a Yeshiva. And I want to show her the Talmud and say, here, go. Off you go, because that's the kind of mind the one that says, well, but your reference points, you know, that this came before that, and that comes before this. And if you did this and this and this, that, that is exactly the mindset of a good Yeshiva Bucher of a good learner. Somebody who is able to take information that is often presented out of order or in a different context and say, but wait a minute, you said this other thing, 4 books ago. What about that? That is exactly the kind of mind. And I just, that one moment, and of course books, you know, reaction of horror and you don't get religion and I'm thinking, no, no, no, she does. She does. She's perfect for it. You just need to, you know, and that didn't happen. So that would be my, that would be my change, my head Canon change to the Firefly universe. Uh, plus the fact that wash never died. That would also be my change. So, uh, all right. Well, I appreciate, uh, both of you taking some time out of your busy lives to talk today, and I hope that you won't be strangers on technically religious in the future.
Justin Dearing (35:41):
Thank you for inviting me. Thank you.
Jason Carrier (35:44):
Great. Thanks Leon. I really appreciate you having me. This has been a lot of fun.
Leon Adato (35:47):
Thanks for making time for us this week, to hear more of technically religious visit our website, technically, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

S03E01: Tech In Religion 01

S03E01: Tech In Religion 01

February 16, 2021

(image credit: CWWally:

“Tech In Religion” is a running series under the Technically Religious umbrella. In these episodes, we look at technology - be it a website, a phone app, or a gadget - that somehow deepens, strengthens, or improves our experience of or connection to our faith (our religious, moral, and/or ethical point of view). This is a tech review lovingly wrapped in a through-line about faith in general and our experience of faith in particular. The goal is to uncover and promote tech you (our audience) might not have heard about; or describe a use for tech you may know, but didn't think of using in connection with your religious experiences.

In this episode, Leon Adato is joined by Yechiel Kalmenson and Ben Keen, along with a voice new to Technically Religious listeners: Jason Carrier. Listen or read the transcript below:

intro (00:03):
leon (00:32):
Welcome to our podcast, where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT, we're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways. We make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is technically religious
Leon Adato (00:53):
Here on technically religious. We focus on how we work to make our religious lives compliment, or at least not conflict with our career in tech. But what about the way tech enhances our lives as people with a strong connection to our faith or lack thereof in our ongoing series Tech in Religion, we aim to do just that. In each episode, we'll highlight technological innovations that enhance, strengthen, and deepen our connections to our religious, moral or ethical point of view. I'm Leon, Adato, and opining with me today on the tech that helps us in our religious observances are, Yechiel Kalmenson.
Yechiel Kalmenson (01:28):
Hello again.
Leon Adato (01:29):
And Ben Keen.
Ben Keen (01:30):
Hello, everybody.
Leon Adato (01:31):
And Jason Carrier.
Jason Carrier (01:33):
Hey, thanks for having me.
Leon Adato (01:34):
All right. As we are want to do here at technically religious, we begin every episode with a bout of shameless self promotion, where everyone here can talk about whatever they're working on or whatever strikes your fancy. So Ben, how about you start us off? Who are you? What are you doing these days? And also it is required. Tell us your religious moral or ethical point of view.
Ben Keen (01:56):
Sure. Uh, my name is Ben Keen. I'm from, uh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I work for a large retailer as a senior systems administrator with a focus in monitoring, and monitoring, uh, engineering, uh, I'm on, the, uh, Instagrams and all that as the_Ben_Keen, you can also follow my, um, medical alert service dog at bolt_the_service_dog. Yes, that's a lot of underscores,
Leon Adato (02:26):
But the fact that your dog has an Instagram is just
Ben Keen (02:28):
Absolutely, uh, more than Medical, uh, more followers, the better trying to get awareness out there for, uh, veterans and people that require, uh, the service of these medical service dogs, which is awesome. Um, from a faith-based, uh, point of view, I am, uh, I deem myself as a Christian. Um, more so a non-denominational Christian. I don't say a Methodist or whatever, even though I grew up, um, as a preacher's kid within the United Methodist church, I kind of, uh, take on, uh, the different views of different religions and combined to make for myself.
Leon Adato (03:00):
Wonderful. Well, welcome back to the show next up, uh, Jason, how about you go next.
Jason Carrier (03:06):
Sure thing. So I'm Jason carrier. I'm uh, currently a product manager at SolarWinds. Uh, I have a real strong, uh, networking technology background and, uh, I also do some freelance on the side. Uh, you can find me on Twitter at network_carrier, uh, or my website, uh,, uh, B H O D And I consider myself a Buddhist, but just love studying philosophy in general.
Leon Adato (03:29):
Nice. Okay. Yechiel tell us about yourself.
Yechiel Kalmenson (03:33):
So, uh, I'm your Yechiel Kalmenson, uh, journeying out of New Jersey. I'm a engineer at VMware, excuse me. Uh, engineer at VMware, you can find me online, on the Twitters at yechielk. Or at my blog at, Or you can, uh, read my week. You can subscribe to my weekly newsletter or buy the book at
Leon Adato (03:56):
And you consider yourself to be?
Yechiel Kalmenson (03:58):
An Orthodox Jew.
Leon Adato (03:59):
Very good. Okay. And I had the fact that I had to prompt them on that is even better because I am Leon Adato. I am a head geek. Yes. That's actually my job title at SolarWinds. Also, uh, you can find me on the Twitters, which I say just to horrify Keith Townsend's daughter every time at Leon Adato. Uh, I also pontificate on things, both technical and religious at and I to consider myself to be an Orthodox Jew. And every once in a while, my rabbi lets me say it out loud in public. So this episode is, this episode is a little different than some of the stuff that we do, because it's really just a tech review that is cunningly disguised as a religious discussion. Um, we're talking about the tech that helps enhance or deepen or strengthen our connection to our, whether it's a faith or our moral point of view or ethical point of view, that kind of thing. So, um, really what we're talking about are the things that help us to be full religious people in the world around us. And because we're it, people it's got to have a tech angle to it. So um, Jason, I'm going to pick on you first. What are some things that you use in the process of your day or faith that helped make it better?
Jason Carrier (05:12):
Yeah, that's a great question. Um, so in, in Buddhism for people that aren't aware, there's this concept of the three jewels, so a Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, it's like the three places that you can kind of seek refuge when you're having issues or, you know, just struggling with something. So, uh, Buddha's kind of the teacher Dharma is the teaching and then Sangha is the community, your, your kind of spiritual group. Um, so, uh, the technology that I use, uh, uh, for, for, uh, kind of, uh, connecting with myself, uh, I'm a big fan of a guided meditation. And when I'm doing that, I really like having, uh, something that sort of like noise canceling headphones. So it sort of closes out the outside world and, uh, during guided meditations, I've really found that I appreciate the ones that are using, uh, binaural beats. Is that something you're familiar with? I have not tell us about it. Yeah. So, uh, binaural beats is like different frequencies that sort of affect your psychological state in interesting ways. And when you combine that with guided meditation and using, uh, you know, noise canceling headphones, you can kind of almost, uh, force yourself into a certain, um, emotional state, uh, just by listening to these tones. And, you know, since Buddhism is really focused on that and, uh, kind of, uh, getting that inner sense of peace and calm and that kind of thing, I find it really helpful.
Leon Adato (06:27):
Nice. Do you have a particular brand? We are not sponsored by anybody, so we can say whatever the hell we want to do you have a particular brand that you, uh, you like or you've discovered?
Jason Carrier (06:38):
Um, so Sennheiser speakers work really well, but I tend to buy the Bose ones cause I'm a little pampered, I guess.
Leon Adato (06:48):
Okay. All right. Say, you know, put it out there. It's good. Okay. Fantastic. Anything else? oh.
Jason Carrier (06:52):
I'm a fan of Radical candor if you couldn't tell? Yeah,
Leon Adato (06:55):
Yeah, no, I like it. So, uh, anything else for the review this, this time?
Jason Carrier (07:00):
Um, let's see. I also really, uh, find that, uh, just having the internet in general is something, I can't imagine how difficult it would be as someone who's trying to practice Buddhism in America, if the internet didn't exist, you know, because getting access to Vedic writings and then getting the translations to those would not be possible if it weren't for the internet.
Leon Adato (07:19):
I, I'm thinking back to the Dr. Strange movie where he says, I speak fluent, Google translate. So that's, that's immediately the quote that comes to mind. Um, yes, it's amazing how people were religious before, you know, the internet was invented, like how did they do that? So, but, but yeah, no, no, it, it has opened up a lot of avenues and a lot of access for a lot of folks as far as that goes. All right. Um, anything else?
Jason Carrier (07:45):
Um, that would be the, the biggest one, I guess the last thing I would just mention is, uh, with, with connecting to people, I found that, that, social media is extremely helpful. Um, I kind of expand, personally, I expand the, the concept of sangha to, to include whoever I decide rather than just my Buddhist community. It's whoever I decide fits in that bucket, but that's just, uh, my personal practice, I guess.
Ben Keen (08:07):
That could be a dangerous game. My friend.
Jason Carrier (08:10):
Aha. It keeps things interesting. That's for sure.
Leon Adato (08:12):
Right. Okay, awesome. So, uh, Yechiel, uh, you're, you're up? What, what kinds of stuff do you have that help you out?
Yechiel Kalmenson (08:18):
Sure. So, um, the number one app that I never leave anywhere without, um, is of course the app that controls the giant space laser.
Jason Carrier (08:30):
That had to come up. Absolutely had to come up.
Yechiel Kalmenson (08:32):
Obviously can't leave home without it.
Leon Adato (08:36):
Right. Well mostly because then you wouldn't know where not to go, I mean.
Yechiel Kalmenson (08:40):
Well, duh. Yeah. You know, it's really mess up your day when you end up in the middle of the forest fire, just because, you know, you forgot to,.
Leon Adato (08:47):
You forgot. Right. You know, and it's, it's kind of awkward when it's like, you know, your father-in-law who said, Oh, you were going There, my bad, my bad. Yeah, no. I get it.
Yechiel Kalmenson (08:56):
Um, but Yeah, so on serious note. Um, yeah. And of course in Judaism we do where the people of the book, um, we do a lot, a lot of learning, um, and I'm on a number of daily schedules, you know? Um, I have, for example, every day, um, Jews go through the Torah on an annual cycle every week we read another portion. So, um, everyday I try to read like a seventh of that portion called an Aliyah. Um, so I got, I finished the Torah portion of the week by the week. Um, there's also, um, for example, the books of the Rambam by Maimonides I'm on an annual cycle to finish through them. Um, I try to finish through Psalms, the Tehillim, um, on a monthly cycle. So, and my commute is obviously, uh, well back when we had commutes in the olden days. Um, so that was like the natural time to, to get these things done. Um,
Leon Adato (09:53):
That's true.
Yechiel Kalmenson (09:53):
And then like in the olden days that would involve taking like six, seven books at least. But now of course I have it on my smartphone. Um, I have an app that keeps a number of those schedules for me. And then those that aren't, for example, the Psalms is on its own its own app just because I like having it has another functionality so yeah, I have a number of apps that, uh, keep, keep my schedules for me and help me go through them on my commute, which is a great use of my time. Um, another thing is, you know, Jews have a lot of, uh, things around the calendar. Uh, there's Jewish holidays, Jewish observances. So I have a Hebrew calendar on my phone. It's called HeabCal,
Leon Adato (10:39):
Yechiel Kalmenson (10:39):
And it's great, It integrates with Google calendar. So I set that as my default app in any, as my default calendar and any appointment, I have anything, you know, I just enter it there and I automatically can see if it falls out, you know, if the company, uh, holiday party will conveniently fall out on Hanukkah and then I don't have to go,
Leon Adato (10:58):
Which we've talked about in a past episode. I wouldn't. Yeah. How to avoid the company Christmas party. Yeah. Tips and tricks.
Yechiel Kalmenson (11:06):
Yep. Um, so that's for Jewish counter in addition, um, also like on a day to day, um, there's a lot of things that, um, depend on the time of day, for example, different prayers have to be set at different times. So I have an app called My Zmanim, which means in Hebrew my times, um, which lists the Halachic times, depending on your location, uh, depending on where it's, when the sunrise sunset is in your location, it'll tell you, for example, when is the latest time to do the morning prayer, or when you can start doing the afternoon prayer, et cetera.
Leon Adato (11:36):
Yechiel Kalmenson (11:38):
And last but not least is, um, my compass, which I do not use for camping because I haven't been camping in two decades at least. Um, but Jews face, uh, Jerusalem when they, when we pray. So, um, in America, we generally, in the olden days, we used to just generally approximate it to East, um, which is generally the direction of Jerusalem, but now I'm the, you know, every smartphone can have a compass app and have a special Halachic compasses show you precisely where Jerusalem is. So that is very convenient and very cool as well.
Leon Adato (12:15):
Right. And, and just to, to clarify it, because it'll give you the choice of like, what, what direction is East or what direction is the shortest path allowing for the curvature of the earth towards Jerusalem?
Ben Keen (12:27):
wait the earth, wait wait, Earth is curved. Wait, what?
Leon Adato (12:30):
Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Uh, just a little bit of news in case you missed it Ben
Yechiel Kalmenson (12:35):
Yeah, Jews believe the earth is round. One of the weird quirks We have
Leon Adato (12:39):
One of our stranger, well, it's also how we
Yechiel Kalmenson (12:42):
Make our calculations for the space laser easier. So,
Leon Adato (12:44):
Thank you, Oh, you got there just before I did. Right. Um,
Yechiel Kalmenson (12:48):
Leon Adato (12:48):
Uh no, that's okay. And, uh, I will also say that, which is the website that goes along with the heat Cal app is one of the first things I usually introduced to my non-Jewish friends when they're trying to figure out, like, can Leon work on this day? Or what? Like, what is it? It's a really accessible website that gives you a chance to understand, like when is sunset and, and what days matter, and things like that. It's, it's a pretty cool one. Um, all right. Uh, from our panel of experts, any questions or clarifications or anything you want to ask?
Ben Keen (13:24):
Not so much a question, but just, just one thing I would like to point out. Um, you know, Yechiel made an interesting comment about when we used to commute to work. You know, and obviously, you know, over the last year, uh, we've had to really augmentate how we, uh, how we do do things.
Leon Adato (13:46):
Uh huh.
Ben Keen (13:46):
And the one thing that I found interesting for myself anyway, is trying to find a new time to, to have that, whether it's meditation or time to read or time to listen, because you're right, like, you know, the commute 40 minutes, put a podcast on, drive down the road, get to your office. You're good. Uh, my commute now is 10 stairs.
Leon Adato (14:07):
Ben Keen (14:07):
From, you know, from my ground floor to my second floor. Not, not a good time, you know, not a lot of podcast listening time. So I think it's interesting how we've really started to take this new, uh, way of doing business and how, and finding our time for that. So the one question I would like to pose to Yechiel then is, you know, when, when is your time now? Like, you know, you lost your commute. So now when, when is your time, how are you making that work with everything?
Yechiel Kalmenson (14:33):
Yeah, so that was challenging. Um, in the beginning, I did indeed, um, fall, fall behind on a lot of my study schedules, um, before I managed to get back on the train, so to speak. Um, eventually I just, you know, work things out, you know, I've found other times that, you know, I rearranged my schedule and like now I do most of them, for example, in the evening, right after I finished putting the kids to bed. Um, some of it, I moved for example, to right after my morning prayers. So I'll just take a little longer on the prayers and I'll do my Tehillim, my Psalms at that time, for example. Um, but yeah, but you did bring an interesting point. Um, and that I used to my commute time was usually my unwind time. You know, I would finish work at 5, and I would get home at 6.
Yechiel Kalmenson (15:16):
And that hour was, you know, I didn't realize how crucial it was for my, wellbeing to, uh, unwind between the craziness of work and the craziness of supper and bedtime and, you know, putting the kids to sleep. So eventually I came up with an agreement with my wife where, um, I do take, I like about a half an hour after work, which I call my commute time. I just, you know, stay my office just wasting time doing whatever it is. And I still come home about a half an hour earlier than I used to in the pre days. So it works for everyone,
Leon Adato (15:51):
Right? I have heard lots of folks talk about that particular aspect. You know, that the, that the drive to work, the, the commute to work was a way where they were mentally ramping up, getting ready for the day running through their, You know, this is what I'm going to do today, or this is what I'm going to, you know, or just, you know, not everybody loves their job and just, you know, building up the, you know, the strength of the resolve that they need to get through whatever they're getting through. And then the same thing in the re, in the opposite, coming back. And, uh, one of the com, one of the comments that we got when we wrote a work from home guide at SolarWinds was, to still take your commute, to get up in the morning, get dressed, walk out the door, whether it was walk around the block, or walk up and down the street, or whatever it is, but leave to go to work and come back in the house.
Leon Adato (16:44):
But now you're at work. And at the end of the day to do the same thing in reverse that when you've, when you're done, you get up and you leave the house, you know, you leave the apartment house, you know, et cetera, and you go home. And then when you come home, that is, that is your transition. And I've heard from people that even though it is completely a trick that you're completely like, we, our brains are not, we're not stupid. We know we're not really leaving and we're not, but somehow that, that transitional aspect really does have an effect on us. Um, And it's,
Yechiel Kalmenson (17:21):
To be fair, our brains are stupid.
Leon Adato (17:24):
They're still a little meat sacks that can be fooled sometimes. That's true. So,
Ben Keen (17:29):
And I think, and I think a lot of that sorry to cut you off Leon, but I think a lot of that does circle around tech, you know, because as technical professionals or any, really any professional, but I'll speak from the tech, side of the house. Cause that's what I've been living for the last 20, some years of my life. You know, it's hard for me to turn things off. You know, we All we always carry these little pocket sized computers around, they call phones nowadays that we get emails and IMS and whatever, um,
Leon Adato (17:59):
Ben Keen (18:00):
On them, you know, and what I, what I struggled with initially was trying to find time for myself, you know, whether it's to do faith-based activities, like read something or do whatever, or if it was just a simply breathe, you know, just kinda, you know, and, um, and I told my friends, like, you know, one of the things my wife and I were fortunate to do over the last few months, we actually bought our, we bought our first house together.
Ben Keen (18:30):
Hey, Ooh. Um, so.
Leon Adato (18:32):
Mazel Tov!
Ben Keen (18:33):
Yeah. Thank you. So the office I'm sitting in now is my dedicated office space. This is my domain, you know, and this is where, this is like my little happy space. My wife can decorate the rest of the house, do whatever she pretty much wants within reason. Um, but this is my little happy corner. And I told her like, you know, like this is where I'm comfortable. And, you know, I know it's not very techie, but at the same time, like when I'm going to do work, whether it's for my 9 to 5 paid job, or some of my, uh, you know, accidental techie, things that I find, you know, I think every person in tech finds themselves in amongst friends or an organization that we become their go to IT person. Right. Um, I don't do any of that outside of this room.
Ben Keen (19:23):
Like I won't take conference calls. I won't do this podcast outside of this room because this is my tech space. So I think it's really important for people to understand, you know, how you make those adjustments. And, you know, especially for someone that follows a very strict counter, like with my faith, I don't have, I don't have a set calendar. I dont have to pray by this time on this day, you know, like it's.
Leon Adato (19:49):
Ben Keen (19:49):
For me, it's wherever I am. I can pray right now. Like it doesn't really matter. Um, but it's interesting to hear how, how Yechiel has been going through that with his pretty stringent, uh, calendar and dates.
Leon Adato (20:05):
So it is, and again, part of this whole episode is the, you know, how we adapt things and also how we use, how we use technology to enhance that. Um, so I wanna, I want to continue with the Orthodox Jewish, uh, parade of tech. Uh, I have not been given access to the giant space laser, uh, yet, uh, my rabbi.
Yechiel Kalmenson (20:29):
You haven't been showing up to the meetings, obviously.
Leon Adato (20:30):
Well, no, my rabbi told me that it's the whole Sephardi thing. He's just very uncomfortable with, uh,
Yechiel Kalmenson (20:36):
You're right, you're right.
Leon Adato (20:36):
People who eat kitniout, having access to this space. Like this is a whole bunch of inside baseball jokes that like, you know, a 10th of the, of the listeners may get. So anyway, um, there are a couple of, of technical, uh, items that I did want to bring up for this episode. The first one is actually low tech. Um, one of the challenges that people in Judaism have, especially people who are maybe new to, uh, you know, deeper level of observance, is that before you eat anything, you have to say a blessing.
Leon Adato (21:07):
You know, the idea that if you don't say a blessing, you're, you know, you're stealing from the King that you're, you've, you snuck into the garden and you've grabbed this and you haven't said, thank you. So you want to say that, thank you. And there's a thank you that you say, but there's a blessing you say before you eat in a blessing, you say after you eat, but it depends on what kind of food it is. Is it bread? Is it bread like, but not really bread? Is it something that came from a tree? Is it something that came from the ground? Is it something that came from a repeatedly flowering bush? And so on and so on and so forth? There's a whole bunch of things. Like you'd think that bananas would be the tree blessing, but it's not because banana trees are actually bushes.
Leon Adato (21:42):
They're just really tall ones. So you have to say the bush, so it can get a little bit weird. And then sushi is the is the really the Widowmaker, like no one knows what blessing to say before sushi, because it's just everything. So anyway, there is, uh, a phone number, that you can text with the name of your food, and they will text you back. It's an automated system with the blessing you say, before you eat, and the blessing you say after it. So it's just a text system. You don't have to have the internet in your pocket. You don't have to, you just text. And, and it was something that obviously came up before smartphones were really a thing. Um, but I'm just, I'm tickled by it because it's such a, it is such a fundamental activity in a Jewish day, right? We eat. So we say blessings for the stuff that we eat, but it's also a point of deep confusion. You know, what do you say when you eat one piece of pizza, versus two pieces of pizza versus whatever, like these are the arguments and the debates that we have, and this text system arose to try to fill that gap.
Jason Carrier (22:48):
I'm curious how that would work on the other side. So is there a per, a person over there that's just waiting for these texts to come in and, you know, they have like a little prayer book and they're, you know, uh, figuring this out or is there a big database of all the different food items that have the prayers next to it?
Leon Adato (23:02):
That's it, it's, it is absolutely a technical system where it's a database and they're looking for keywords, and various misspellings, pizza with one Z, and so on. Um, because sometimes it's little kids, right? Like they're trying to do that. So, um, it's a whole database and then there's just, you know, the answers the answers are known. So it's not that hard. It's just that some people, again, sushi is the really hard one, but, you know, there's that, so that's the first one. And I just, again, I'm just tickled by it because it's so old and it's so old school, as far as it goes, the next one up is, um,, which is another website. There's an app for it also, but this has pretty much every single religious text in that, you know, if you're Jewish, you would probably be interested in seeing most of the time with translations.
Leon Adato (23:52):
It's got the old Testament it's got, uh, Psalms, it's got, you know, uh, the, all the Prophets it's got commentaries, it's got, um, just a ton of stuff. And if you, if you get a login, which is free, but you can actually annotate it yourself to say, well, what about this? What about that? And you can actually bring your own notes into it as you're learning it, or, you know, going through it or have your question about it. So Safaria, again, the translations make it really useful. And the other thing is that it is copy paste able. So when you're having a discussion with somebody and someone says, well, where did you read that? Half the time the hard part is, well, I have it on a book on a shelf, and I don't know how to give it to you now, like, do I take a picture with my phone and send it to you?
Leon Adato (24:37):
What do I do? But you can actually copy paste it and put it in an email or put it in a teams message, or whatever, and have your discussion or your conversation or your interaction that way. So it's really useful. It's a not-for-profit organization that started up a few years ago and it's just gone gangbusters. So I really, I really am enjoying it. And the last one is, um, the com, the organization, the, the publisher called ArtScroll, um, also known as rabbi scroll. Arthur scroll, sorry. Another inside joke. Anyway, um, ArtScroll, uh, has an app specifically for the Talmud and for not a lot of money, you can get an entire tractate of Talmud. Um, there's a bunch of them. I don't remember. 36 37. I don't know. It's, I'm sure Yechiel knows, but there's a number of tractate, tractates of Talmud, and you can get one.
Leon Adato (25:33):
And what it does is it will translate it for you. It will highlight, uh, which parts of the, of the thing you're reading are questions, which are answers, which are rebuttals, which are because, sometimes the hardest part of Talmud is understanding whether someone is arguing, or just clarifying, or asking a question or debating, like, what are you, what are you saying here? That is where you get lost down the rabbit hole, and this uses some color coding. Uh, it will also for those people who don't read Hebrew so well, it will add vowels. Uh, I know that doesn't sound like something, but Hebrew is not typically written with vowels. So those of us who are new learners for Hebrew find ourselves stuck half the time, because I don't know what this is doing, because it's just, again, No vowels. So I'm really lost. Um, it'll add those things.
Leon Adato (26:24):
And the Talmud is a very non-linear text there's comments that refer to something that's three books ahead, or five books behind, or a half comment from a app, appendix that was over here. It's all interconnected. And the app makes those as hyperlinks so that if you read something and it's, it's referring to something, 4 books behind you tap it, and it will take you 4 books behind. So you can see what that reference is before you keep going. So it's a really, really useful app. And, um, you know, as you build your library of, of things that you've purchased, it just becomes even that much more useful. So those are, those are the three that I wanted to bring out, uh, for at least this episode of our conversation. And I will, once again, open it up. Any questions or comments about those?
Yechiel Kalmenson (27:19):
I will just add that I'm a huge fan of Safari as well. Um, like I think it revolutionized the way, um, it pretty much put a whole Jewish library in your pocket, and it's just amazing. Like, my dad works in a publishing, like a, in a publishing house and his job is to add the footnotes, um, like Talmudic texts. A lot of times, like Jewish text. A lot of times I like reference passages from the Talmud, from the Bible, from Chasidic texts or whatever. So he's been doing this work like since, before I was born. So like way pre-internet, I have no idea how he did it. He's a genius. Um, but, um, but yeah, but app, an app, like Safaria pretty much, you know, in my head that's, you know, my dad in an app, cause like whenever I had a question about a text or something, I knew I could always call him. And like, unfortunately now I don't call him as often. So
Leon Adato (28:18):
You call him about personal things. Now you ask how he is not just, it's actually nicer. Cause this is like What! You can only call me when you don't remember a text now it's like, no, I only call you because I, you know, yeah, it's, there's especially in Judaism, but I think a lot of Faiths there is the comment, not the myth, but the comment about somebody who's memorized all of the Bible or all of this or all of that. And I think in this day and age we lose sight of what an achievement and, and also how normal, both what an achievement and how normal it was that people who had committed a set of texts to memory, weren't doing it as a parlor trick. They weren't doing it just to show off they were doing it because they wanted that text in their back pocket with them. And that was the only way to have it. So the, you know, and so they did that. And, and now
Yechiel Kalmenson (29:15):
I would say similar to how like the earlier, like the creators of Linux and the web and everything built, all these things with, like, they actually had to memorize, you know, programming syntax and things like that. And, you know, and knowing three languages was a huge deal because that meant you had to memorize three reference books, the size of
Leon Adato (29:34):
Right. Exactly. They actually knew how re, regular expressions worked. Like that's.
Yechiel Kalmenson (29:38):
Leon Adato (29:39):
That's magic to me. I just,
Ben Keen (29:41):
Well ,I mean, if it's, if It speaks to anything of the time we live in, now, people can quote movies like that.
Leon Adato (29:49):
Uh huh.
Ben Keen (29:51):
You know, but then people, don't people, some people, and this is not a knock against them, but when you ask them, what is, you know, in the Christian faith, what is John 3:16 say.
Leon Adato (30:00):
Uh huh.
Ben Keen (30:00):
You know, if you look at any sort of like major league sports program, mainly baseball, you'll see people with the signs saying John 3:16.
Leon Adato (30:13):
Uh huh.
Ben Keen (30:13):
And I don't, you know, some people are like, what does that mean? Meanwhile, they can quote Verbatim, you know, episodes one through nine of star Wars,
Leon Adato (30:22):
Ben Keen (30:22):
Which, um, I'm with them on that. Right. You know, like I'm cool with that. But, you know, I think it really speaks to, um, the trend of, you know, what do we take, you know, because we have all these apps and websites and stuff like that.
Ben Keen (30:35):
Great tech, I think that's people have become less lenient or less yeah. Less relying on their own memory. You know, plus, you know, nowadays we have in a text-based let's face it. We have what? At least 13 passwords to know, just to log in the work, right. Because you've got two factor authentication, you've got biometrics, you know, all this stuff and you change one password and it changes everything across the board. So, you know, for me, it's a struggle sometimes like the doomsday for me is when my admin account, my personal account and my operations account all expire on the same day.
Ben Keen (31:15):
And they're all, they all, they all have different password complexities of like, you know, well, this password has to be at least like 12 characters. This one has at least be 25, you know, 14 different, special characters in this one, you know, it's just crazy. So when we pause and really think, you know, think about it in how much tech has pushed us to be remembrance of what does that say? You know, and break out the Google Fu you know, it's one of those things, especially at, you know, as parents in tech and, uh, those of us that are strong in our religion, we want to teach our children, our religious faith, you know, whatever it is. And so now having these fancy little computers, we call phones in our pocket. You know, if my kids ask me, well, Hey dad, what does this mean? Right. Well, let's find out together. Right. You know, it's no longer just, you know, dad regurgitating something that his Sunday school teacher may or may not told him while whipping his hand with a ruler.
Leon Adato (32:11):
Ben Keen (32:12):
Type of scenario.
Leon Adato (32:13):
Right. I, uh, Yeah, it does. Again, I think the technology really has the opportunity to enhance our, um, our experience of our faith or, you know, our ethical or moral point of view. I think it has a chance to, um, Ben, as you say, like, instead of just regurgitating our half remembered and half misremembered, thing, you know, we can, we can offer accurate information, whether it's to our kids or to coworkers or whatever. And when somebody says, well, I just don't understand, like, what does that mean? You can offer almost an impartial source, like here, read this, and if you have questions, we can talk about it, but you know, you don't just have to take my word for it also. Um, and I think that that really raises the level of discourse in a lot of ways. So, um, all right. So this was a good start to this ongoing, uh, series that we're going to be doing. Um, I'm going to drive it to the lightening round. Does anybody have any final words before we close it out?
Ben Keen (33:14):
One final word from me is simply, you know, leveraged to tech con. We were just talking about, if you have questions, whether it's your own faith or, you know, if you have questions about exactly what, w, what does Jason mean when he says, he says he's a Buddhist, or what does that mean?
Leon Adato (33:28):
Uh huh.
Ben Keen (33:28):
You know, is he, is he rubbing like the belly of some little fat guy squatting, or what is, you know, now you have the ability to leverage that tech and figure out exactly what Jason's faith is, because that might help you learn more about your coworkers. And, you know, when you can know something more about your coworker, that can, when you start talking about team projects, because let's face it, even though we're all working from home, we're still doing team projects. You can collaborate a lot easier because you understanding, you know, if I try to collaborate with you, Leon, you're like, ah, that's, that's a bad day. And that's, here's why, you know, it's, it's the Sabbath or whatever, um, observation it is within, within a Jewish calendar, at least now I know professionally, don't schedule any meetings with Leon.
Leon Adato (34:13):
Ben Keen (34:13):
You know, and I think that's one thing that we all ought to remember that the tech isn't just to learn our faith, but it's to help us learn about other people's faith.
Leon Adato (34:19):
So you're saying that LMG T F Y is for, uh, faith as well as, you know, how do I log into this? I like it exactly a hundred percent. Any other final words?
Yechiel Kalmenson (34:32):
Um, yeah, I this was, it was an interesting discussion. Um, and I find that often when we, the topic comes up of like, you know, technology that helps us with our religious practices. Um, and I've gotten questions from both sides of the spectrum, you know, both from like old timer, religious folks who are like, you know, how can you use technology to, for such sacred things in both from, you know, the secular perspective, like this is tech, you know, why are you bringing your religion into this? Um, so one of my favorite passages in the Talmud, it says that the world actually, when God created the world, he wasn't planning on putting gold in it, but then he decided to put gold. Um, so because he knew that the Jews would be building a temple for him in the desert, and they would be using gold to make the temple. So there, that's why he put golden to the world. In other words, the only reason why we have something as beautiful as gold in the world was because God wanted the Jews to, to serve him in the desert. And I think that can be that lesson could be taken for pretty much anything in the world. You know, especially all these advances that we
Yechiel Kalmenson (35:38):
Have these days, where from God's point of view, the only reason why he put them in the world where he put the potential for these things in the world is so that we can all serve him in our way, serve him and make the world a better place, help each other and help make the world better.
Jason Carrier (35:55):
I was actually gonna make a similar point to what you just made. There is a, just because something is new doesn't mean it doesn't have an intrinsic value and provide a new way for seeing the old. So, uh, I've learned a ton of about my own religion and the history of it through Wikipedia, you know, uh, the, that you can learn a ton using the internet. And so there's definitely intrinsic value to, to that. Uh, you don't need to necessarily do it the way that it was being done 2000 years ago, to get that, that benefit in your life, you know?
Leon Adato (36:25):
Right. Uh, and, uh, my, my final word will be as long as we don't lose sight of the fact that the old way is also still valid, that, that the new, the new way is certainly novel because that's what the word novel and new mean. But also, um, and it can be engaging because of its novelty, but at the same time, we can't lose sight. We can't think that the, the new and novel way is somehow better than the old way. It's merely a different way to interact with it. I think that a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that we don't need this old way anymore because we have this new that no, no, no. The, the old thing exists still exists for an equally valid reason that hasn't gone away simply because you have, uh, the new one. And, you know, that's not me saying that, you know, as a 30 year it person, I'm not saying, you know, Hey, you got the huh, these new fangled things. They're not as good. No, I'm not. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying though, is that both are equally valid and both have their, their uses. All right. This has been an amazing conversation. I want, I appreciate everyone taking time out of their evening to show up. Um, thank you so much for being here.
Yechiel Kalmenson (37:41):
Thanks for having us.
Jason Carrier (37:43):
Yeah. Thanks for putting this together. Leon.
Ben Keen (37:44):
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for putting this together and thanks for having us Leon, I appreciate it.
Leon Adato (37:49):
Thanks for making time for us this week, to hear more of technically religious visit our website, technically, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.




S2E12: Torah && Tech

S2E12: Torah && Tech

July 7, 2020

What do you do when you’ve spent over a year posting a weekly commentary on how tech ideas and concepts relate to Jewish thought, and specifically the Torah reading for that week? You make a book, of course. That’s exactly how Torah && Tech came to be, and on this episode, I'll talk to the two authors, Rabbi/Programmers Ben Greenberg and Yechiel Kalmenson. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon (00:32):

Welcome to our podcast, where we talk about the interesting, frustrating, and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT, we're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways. We make our careers as IT professionals mash, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Leon (00:53):

What do you do when you've spent over a year posting a weekly commentary on how tech ideas and concepts relate to Jewish thought and specifically the Torah reading for that week? You make a book of course! And that's exactly how "Torah and Tech" came to be. And today on our podcast, we're going to talk about it. I'm Leon Adato. And the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime and the focus of today's episode. We've got Yechiel Kalmenson.

Yechiel (01:18):


Leon (01:19):

and Ben Greenberg.

Ben (01:20):

Hello there.

Leon (01:21):

And you've both been on Technically Religious before. So you know how this works. We begin with shameless self promotion. So Ben kick it off. Tell us a little bit about you and where people can find out more of your glorious, good thinking and work.

Ben (01:34):

Okay. Shamelessly. So I'm Ben Greenberg and I'm a developer advocate at Vonage. And you can find me on twitter @rabbigreenberg and/or on my website at that's Greenberg with an E not a U and find me in general on the internet bank, Greenberg dev, dev dot two all over the place.

Leon (01:54):

And how do you identify religiously?

Ben (01:55):

Mostly identify as an Orthodox Jew.

Leon (01:57):

Yechiel you're next.

Yechiel (01:58):

Well, I'm a Yechiel Kalmenson again, um, I'm usually a software engineer at VMware currently taking family leave to be a full time dad. You can find me on Twitter @yehielk. You can find my blog and like Ben, I identify as an Orthodox Jew.

Leon (02:15):

Great. And just to circle around I'm Leon Adato, I'm a Head Geek at SolarWinds. Yes. That's my actual job title and SolarWinds is neither solar nor wind. It's a software vendor that makes monitoring stuff because naming things is apparently hard. You can find me on the Twitters as I like to say, because it horrifies my children @leonadato. You can also hear me pontificate about things, both technical and religious, on my blog And I also, for the trifecta, identify as an Orthodox Jew. And if you're scribbling any of this down, stop it, put your hands back on the steering wheel, pay attention to the road. Listen, because we're going to have these things in our show notes, along with all the other links and ideas that we're going to mention in the next little bit. So you don't have to write it down. We've done the writing for you. Um, now normally we dive into our topic, but because the topic is a book I'd like to go from shameless self promotion to shameless book promotion can one of you please tell me where people can get their hands on a copy of Torah && Tech.

Yechiel (03:15):

For sure. Well, you can buy the book at most retailers and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, nah Goodreads isn't a retailer. Um, pretty much anywhere where you can buy books. You can also read more about the book and about our newsletter on our website at that's

Leon (03:35):

So diving in, I think one of the first questions, a lot of folks who were working in tech or religion have is what does it take to make a book? Like, just talk about the process of getting this book together, getting it online, selling it, editing it all the, you know, how was that process for you?

Ben (03:53):

It takes a lot of sleepless nights right now,

Yechiel (03:55):

For sure. So in all fairness, unlike other books where you sit and write it, like this book is a little different, it's sort of, it's a compilation of the year's worth of weekly newsletters. So the sleepless nights were spread out over a year of Thursday nights. When you realize a 10 o'clock "gosh, I didn't do the newsletter yet."

Ben (04:14):

So there, there was two things that we did when we took, we decided, okay, we have this year of newsletter content. We want to turn into a book. There were two things that we did almost the exact same time. We took all the content of the year's newsletters and put into one big Google doc, which you can imagine, Leon, it's like a bit of a messy document. And then we did the second thing, which was, we direct messaged you on Twitter and said, "how do we make a book?!" Those are the two things that we did once we had those.

Yechiel (04:41):

Yeah, because while we're on this subject, I do want to give a shout out the idea to actually put this in the book, came to me when I was helping Leon work on his book. Uh, "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer Asks", or I did a bunch of that. Um, yeah. So over a year ago, Leon asked me to help him edit a book, which turned out to be just reading and telling Leon how awesome it was.

Leon (05:02):

You are my rabbinic sensitivity reader, which I know it sounds like I'm making a joke, but it really was. I am not a rabbi. Um, I've never been to Yeshiva and I was writing a book that was at least 50% Judaic content. And I wanted to make sure that I wasn't talking out of my rearend sometimes. So I needed somebody who was like, yeah, no, see that idea there? No, that's not a thing. Yeah.

Yechiel (05:23):

But like I said, I ended up just rubber stamping it because it was pretty good as, as it was you know, I forced myself to put comments just to justify the money you actually paid me for it, but it was good. Anyway,

Ben (05:36):

You sound like a city rabbinic kosher supervisor in Israel.

Leon (05:40):

Oh gosh. Wow. And some of you will get that joke.

Yechiel (05:47):

With the exception that this book was actually kosher, but yeah, but working on that book and also hearing the Technically Religious episode where you spoke about that book gave me the idea that, Hey, should maybe put this into a book. And I, I reached out to Ben about the idea and he was all for it too. So when it was time to actually do it, when we got through a year, um, we reached out to Leon. And if anyone is thinking of writing a book, I think Leon might be able to squeeze you into his busy schedule.

Ben (06:12):

Not through volunteering your time.

Leon (06:13):

Yeah. Right. No, no. I am. I mean, people who have been listening to this podcast know that, um, we are here for you, whoever, whoever the we is and whoever the, you are, we are here for you. So if that is something you want to know, I'm happy to talk to you about the process. Um, but I'm curious, did you, did you get an editor involved?

Ben (06:31):

I had a little bit experience putting together a book before I, when I was in, uh, working in the congregational Jewish world, both on campus in the synagogue. I put together a book when I was on campus and a particular book in the congregational world. And they were both again self published. And, uh, and I did everything. I edited my own, uh, texts. I made my own graphic design. I put together the manuscript I, I did from A to Z and this time around, I didn't want to do that again because I know that I'm not a good editor of my own content. And I know from experience the mistakes that I find and unlike something in the digital space, it is much harder to edit a mistake once it's printed and in people's bookshelves. And it's much harder to put out a version 1.01, exactly bug fixes are harder in hardcover or paperback copies.

Leon (07:26):

Really difficult.

Ben (07:27):

It's very difficult.

Leon (07:28):

So patching becomes a very literal process.

Ben (07:31):

Very little process, like print it out, another piece of paper and tape it onto the book. Uh, so this time around, I really want to make sure that we had people with us who could help us, who were not so, uh, I wanna say privileged to the text or who read it at such privilege readers as the ones who write it, the people who look at it with a more critical eye. And so we did hire, uh, people, uh, to both edit all the texts, uh, spelling, grammar, flow, style. And we actually work with somebody who specifically was not our rabbinic supervisor, Leon, somebody who didn't have extensive Jewish background or experience. Coz one of the goals of the book for us is to be accessible to those without that background. And so every time she raised a question, "what is that? What is this? How do I understand that." It was a great moment to inflect and think about, well, how do we make that better? And how do we make that more accessible? And how do we make that more understandable? So that was a critical part of the work she brought to it as well. Um, yeah, so we, and then we hired somebody to help us with graphic design and somebody to help us with the type scripting, uh, type scripting type scripting? The manuscript type setting type scripting. My mind has been too much in typescripts recently. Type setting. Like type of this book,

Leon (08:51):

It's a strongly typed book.

Ben (08:53):

It's a very strongly typed. Yes, indeed. It's got a method signature for every chapter. Uh, that is a, that was a bit of the process. And then of course they, every one of them, I mean, were offered invaluable help. Right? I think that that's true. Right? Yechiel. They all, they've made the book turn from a big, huge Google doc with a year's worth of newsletter content into something that actually could be printed and made sense and looked and looks presentable.

Leon (09:23):

So again, for people listening, thinking, Oh wait, no, you know, I haven't thought about making a book, but maybe that's a thing. So we're talking about, um, first of all, doing the work of the work, right? Writing the book in this case, you divided the work into 52, easy to digest pieces. Um, and just wrote a little bit of the book every week. Um, I want to remind everybody that if you write 10,000 words a day, you'll have a book. And if you write 2000 words a day, you'll have a book. And you write 50 words a day, you will have a book. Please do not think that there is some minimum requirement of word generation before you can have a book. Um, I, I'm a big believer that people who, who do writing should understand how powerful it is and share it. So that's the first piece. The second piece though, is that once you've done the work of the work and you have the book, um, you got an outside editor in this case, you got a fresh set of eyes to look at this and say, this makes no sense to me whatsoever. Um, can you clean that up? And that was your Canary in the coal mine, so to speak and also graphic design, which, um, is I think again for a lot of us, it's like, well, what do you mean? I just want words on a page and there's a cover, there's, you know, you know, art inside the book always helps to illustrate a point. You know, how, how involved was the graphic designer for all that?

Yechiel (10:43):

Yeah. In our case, there's no graphics in the inside the book, there's no pictures or anything or diagrams. Um, so it was just for the cover, I think, no, unless you're referring to the type setting,

Ben (10:51):

It was just the cover. The type setting was separate. That was a separate person to help us with that. But that also, by the way, people often don't think about those sorts of things. Like what style do you want the words to come out as? What are the, each font choice reflects a different sort of, it's almost like an interior designer for a book, you know, like you're trying to think of what kind of vibe you want to send with the fonts you choose. And then double for us on top of that was while the book is entirely, mostly in English, there are a few snippets in, in Hebrew, which are translated on the spot. So if you don't understand Hebrew. You don't have to be stumped by that. But then at the same time, the what about font and type for a non-English characters. And how do you present that in a primarily English book. These sorts of questions, which I don't think I definitely, I didn't think about before we started engaging in it and ends up being really a crucial part of it. Because if the presentation, the book isn't worthwhile, if someone doesn't enjoy holding the book and wants to read the book, they're not going to read the book and then all your efforts are essentially for naught.

Leon (12:04):

Right? And, and I'll underscore another point is that, first of all, just the types need consistency that chapter headings have to look the same all throughout the book and they can't look the same as subheadings and they can't look the same as whatever they should be similar. Like you said, you know, good interior design means that, uh, you know, there's a theme that I know when I go from one room to another room, it doesn't feel jarring, but at the same time, I know I'm in a different place. I'm looking at different things, but also something that people don't think about is, uh, electronic publishing, that it's not just about the printed book. It's also when you're, when you're doing an E publishing, those font choices are critically important to the conversion, into an ebook that if you get it wrong things, things don't lay out correctly anymore because the epub generator, whether you're talking about, um, Amazon's Kindle, uh, or, uh, Smashwords meat grinder or whatever it is really needs those font choices to be the same all the way through the book to know what it's doing. So having a typesetter who's aware of that and who can catch those little mistakes, say, I will tell you, it saves hours because I did it myself for the book. And it was probably the most labor intensive part of the entire book that I did because I didn't know what I was doing.

Ben (13:24):

You would you say it's more labor intensive than the work of the work of actually writing the book?

Leon (13:28):

Yeah, it was, it was, it was more, it was more error prone. I had to go back and redo the conversion to the ebook probably almost a hundred times before I finally was able to find my butt with both hands and, and get it done. So yeah, it's, it's really a big deal. Okay. So what else about the book creating process, um, was interesting to you or exciting to you or frustrating to you or whatever? You know, what stands out?

Yechiel (13:57):

I guess I will say don't come in with the expectation of like making a million dollars off of it. Um,

Leon (14:05):

Only half a million.

Yechiel (14:07):

Okay. Especially if you're self publishing, it's not an expensive process at all. Um, I think we got it under about $500. If we make that back, that'll be nice if we make a little more, um, that'll be even nicer, but yeah, I don't see this. Uh, I don't see us quitting our day jobs anytime soon over this.

Leon (14:27):

Uh, and I will second that, uh, yeah, The Four Questions has not, in fact, uh, supplemented my income to the point where it can cover my mortgage or even Starbucks and a year and a half later, uh, yeah, a year and a half later, it still hasn't paid for itself. So I it's a labor of love. The next question I have for you though, is we've talked about right, because you really have something you have to say. So what was that you had to say, what is the thing that you couldn't live without having this book around to put it into the world?

Ben (14:59):

I think it, for me, it's the same thing that the driving force behind the weekly newsletter, which is really the impetus for the book and the foundation of the book, which actually Leon, if I can be as audacious is also a bit of what your podcast is about, which is that the world of technology, the industry that we're in, despite what many might think is not a value neutral conversation is not a value neutral industry at that, that there is a need to have value driven conversations and ethics driven conversations in the work that we do day in and day out. And the newsletter, which really was, as I said, the foundation of the book and the book itself is our attempt to really put out that message through the authentic voices for us, which is through our traditions, through the tradition of Torah, their tradition of Judaism, but it could be in anyone's authentic voice, the same kind of idea, which is to engage in that value driven conversation.

Yechiel (16:01):

And the corollary to that. I think in the other direction, you know, there are some, you know, some voices in the religious side that view technology as a threat or, you know, something to be avoided or at least, you know, severely limited. Um, I think it's important for people to realize that technology just like anything else in the world is a tool, a tool that can be used for bad, but can be used for good. And it can be used to, you know, some people may feel threatened a bit, but on the other hand, it can be used to promote values of goodness and kindness and justice. And that's another point that, uh, that and the Torah && Tech, the double ampersand, which implies that both are needed Torah, you know, tech without Torah or values in general, um, can go very dangerously. But also Torah without tech is missing a way of expression.

Leon (16:53):

Right? I think that that one of the most powerful lessons that's come out of this podcast and also as I've been reading the book is, is that two way street that if you can accept, so let's say you're coming from a religious point of view. If you can accept that, um, Torah has relevance to technology, you then must accept that technology has relevance to Torah. And if on the other hand, you're coming at this from a technical point of view, and you're just kind of curious about, you know, how could you make that relevant to, you know, religion? Like what is that all about? If you accept that that technology has incredible relevance to religion, it helps not only as a message spreading technology, but also as a, you know, this is how you collect data and this is how you validate things. And this is how you, you know, all of those wonderful things that we as IT people do. And you say, this is valid toward, uh, a religious tradition. Then you must accept that the religious tradition can reflect back.

Ben (17:50):

You know, I often think about the moment of the printing press and what the printing press did as a technology to traditional communities like our community, like the Jewish community, what it did to it was not only just a print books, it radicalized the availability and accessibility of knowledge across communities and people, regardless of station life, regardless of, uh, you know, where they started from had with effort could have the ability to find a book and get the education to open that book and have access to storehouse of knowledge. And of course it began as a trickle when the printing press began, right? Because the amount of books were small, but then as years went by and the, the availability of books can greater and greater, I'll give you a great example of this is if you go to a lot of, uh, older synagogues from several hundred years ago in medieval Europe, and they're still around in Poland and Ukraine and Russia, you often find that their, the walls are covered with the prayers. And the reason why they're covered with the prayers because no one had initially had access to books. And so they would come into synagogue and they would need to know the words of the liturgy to say. And the only way they knew what words to say was by like literally going into three 60, turning around in the synagogue to follow the walls of the, of the prayers that were covered in them. And then the printing press happens. And suddenly over a period of time, a revolution occurred in, uh, in a democratic visitation of knowledge. And you could say a similar thing is happening and it's happened and is currently still happening in technology of today and what it's doing and how can we not have that double ampersand conversation of how it's impacting both Torah and how Torah is being impacted by it and how the two of them are in conversation with each other.

Leon (19:47):

And I can't help but think about, uh, so it's, uh, what is it now? Is it still June? I dunno. It's like the 327th day of March, as far as I can tell it's, uh, it's yeah. It's June, um, June, 2020. And, uh, so, you know, COVID is a thing that's still happening. And the joke is that in January, every yeshiva in America, every yeshiva across the world would be tell families if you have a television it's, you know, if you have technology, it's really not okay. You need to keep technology completely out of the hands of your, our students. We don't want their, their minds sullied by this technology. And by the end of February, every yeshiva on the planet was like, okay, so you just jump on your internet and go to Chrome and go to Google meet so that you can have your chevroota. The pivot to technology was like instantaneous. It was just

Ben (20:38):

Wish it was instantaneous. So, and I'll give you an example from our, our own lives. Uh, when our kids were in Israel, we're doing a remote learning in their schools, which was neither remote nor learning, but an attempt at doing remote learning, uh, initially was very chaotic. And the reason why it was so chaotic was a while our kids go to a state, uh, religious, uh, public school. So it's in the more modern end of the religious spectrum. It's not an ultra Orthodox public school. It's a, what might call a modern Orthodox public school. All of the educators in the public school that teach Judaic subjects come from the other side of the road for us, literally in where we live. And the other side of the road is an it's a beautiful city with wonderful people called Modi'in Illit and or Kiryat Sefer, and Kiryat Sefer doesn't have WhatsApp, doesn't have zoom, doesn't have Google meets. And so suddenly they're being told by the misrad hachinuch by the ministry of education, that they must do these classes over a technology. They don't even know they don't have computers in their, in their homes. How are they supposed to do this yet? They did. And they learned how, and suddenly after a very chaotic period of time, we have, you know, essentially charidi, uh, morot, charidi... Ultra Orthodox educators going and conducting, with professionalism, with like suave and knowing how to run a Zoom meeting with 40 Israeli kids and not be chaotic. But how do you get from A to Z? That was a bit of a tumultuous period, but to watch that happen in real time was quite amazing.

Leon (22:22):

I think we're at the point where people hopefully are interested in, but I want to identify who is this book for? Like, I could see that as I was sketching out the notes for this conversation, I thought, well, maybe it's for programmers. You know, who happened to be Jewish? Who are Judaism curious? Uh, maybe it's just for credit, you know, you needed credibility on Twitter. So you could say author in your Twitter profile. On the other hand, I could also see you writing this book for religious people who happen to be in technology, or are tech curious, or maybe it's just for your spouse to say, look, honey, this is what I've been doing with my evenings. Like what, who is this book for specifically? Who's your target audience?

Yechiel (23:00):

I just want to start off off the bat because it probably has to be said, this book is not intended to try to convert anyone to try to proselytize. Judaism specifically does not have a tradition of trying to proselytize people. And we're pretty adamant about that. We do not, not only are we not trying to proselytize you, we do not want you. We believe that, you know, God accepts everyone. God puts everyone in the world for a reason. If everyone was the same, it would be boring.

Ben (23:27):

Except my next door neighbor.

Yechiel (23:28):

Your next door neighbor might have to change. Um, but, but yeah, so this book is not trying to convert anyone. It was just, uh, presenting one point of view of many. Um, who did we write a for? Uh, I'll admit we started off for ourselves. Um, like the project are in tech. The weekly newsletter started as just like a small project for me and Ben to keep in touch, then ran off from like we used to, we used to be coworkers. We worked together at our first job and then Ben ran off to Israel, but that was one friendship I wasn't willing to let go so quickly. So, um, we started this project as a small collaboration to help us keep in touch, which solidly grew. And as it grew organically, we discovered on our own who our audience was. And it seems like the answer is - there's no one single answer. I mean, obviously like you said, you know, programmers with their religion, with an interest in religion or ethical conversations and religious people with an interest in tech, but also people who are completely not religious. Um, people from all ends of the spectrum, people are not technical. People are not religious. We've gotten feedback from all of them. And it seems like pretty much anyone who's interested and who believes, like Ben said that tech is not a value neutral, uh, space. And who believes that values, that these conversations around values have to take place, is the intended audience for this book and for the newsletter.

Ben (24:58):

Yeah. You know, it's, it's interesting how this we're finding well, the newsletter cause the newsletter's been around for a lot longer. Right. So how are finding the newsletter has impacted people. And then, and then as a addition to that, or an addendum to that as the book has been published and people are now getting a chance to sort of read the book, how it's impacting people. And just this evening, a few minutes before we had our engaged in this wonderful conversation together, I had one of my regular chats with one of my sets of aunts and uncles who live out in the great Northwest of America, the great Pacific Northwest. And they are not, uh, the most engaged couple in traditional religious Jewish life. And by not the most engaged, I mean, not engaged at all. And, uh, they bought the book, uh, and I think, and I asked them and I was correct. It was the first time they ever bought a book on Amazon and the Torah category in their entire adult lives, or, you know, lives in general from Amazon or any bookstore before the world of Amazon. And, uh, you know, I told, I told my uncle, you know, the next step is you have to actually open the book after you buy the book. He said, okay, fine. I'll get there eventually. But you know, the, you know, the idea that, that people are thinking, this is an interesting subject. And so he's, you know, he's far from this field as one can be he's in the medical profession, but the, but this such technology, right, it's pervasive and it's something a lot of people think about and they get, they get hit with it from media sources, from the news, whether it's talking about facial recognition or about, uh, tracking, uh, contact tracing of coronavirus patients, our government's authorizing tracking patients through smartphones. It was just a lot of that conversation happening, particularly in this moment and this time. So this book is piquing that curiosity, I think of folks who are just kind of like, even if they're not in tech, but are curious about, you know, some of those larger questions that circulate that are integrated in the, in the world of technology.

Leon (27:05):

Right? And, and I think that we've gotten to a point where every new technology that comes in, a lot of people are having an automatic reaction of, "am I okay with this?" Not just, can I use this? Do I understand this? Because I think for most people they've gotten past, or they never were at a point where technology threatened them or made them feel uncomfortable. It was just a state of being it's on their phone, it's on their, whatever it is, it's a tech, right. And whether we're talking about Tik Tok or contact tracing or password management or whatever, um, or Facebook, the question isn't, how do I use this? The question is, am I okay with this? Right. And how do I use this? There are lots and lots and lots of guides out there for how do I do this, but am I okay with this? There's not a lot of guides that speak to, should I be okay with this? And it's not an, it's not an automatic yes or no for all of humanity. Right? You have to know who you are. You have to know where your, where you set your boundaries and that helps you identify, are you going to be the kind of person who's okay with it?

Yechiel (28:17):

For sure. And this conversation is actually what Torah && Tech is about. I like saying that we don't offer a lot of answers in Torah && Tech but we hope to start to start having you question, or we hope to start these conversations. I have had people asking these questions and discussing them and seeing for themselves, what are they okay with? What are they, you know, what values do they bring to their work? And you know, what type of people do they want to bring? What type of personalities do they want to bring to their, to their work, to their technology.

Ben (28:47):

Our chapters typically end with questioning back to the reader, asking the reader what they think. And we don't do that. Just rhetorically. We are also interested in what they actually genuinely think. And we want this to be a conversation. And it's actually, I think, part and parcel to our style and to the tradition that we come from, which is to answer a question with a question and to try and engage the person in. I'm not going to tell you what to think, because a there's a multiplicity of possibilities of how one could think about this, but I want you to come to what your approach to it. I want to come your answer. And I'm curious what you think. You know, just speaking personally, I'm really grateful that I work in a place where I have a manager who tolerates me answering every one of his questions with another question, and he never gets annoyed and he is not Jewish in any way, shape or form an amazing guy from England. And I think I'm the first person he's had to work with, who nonstop, only answers his questions with questions. And I'm grateful that he loves it. And we engage in this great discourse together. But we do the same thing in our book. We always leave readers with questions more than answers. Cause it's the, what was the, I forget exactly who, but there was a scientist who credited his,

Speaker 3 (30:03):

It yeah. Isador [Isaac] Rabi. He was a Nobel prize winning physicist.

Ben (30:08):

Leon you're just the font of knowledge.

Leon (30:10):

I've quoted him before. And he said, he said, I use this in a talk. I gave actually in Tel Aviv.

Yechiel (30:15):

In fact, you use it in your book as well.

Leon (30:18):

Uh Oh, it is in my book. That's right. He says, you know, um, more than anything, my mother made me, made me a scientist. Uh, he said that, you know, every other kid in Brooklyn would come home and their parents would say so, did you learn anything? My mother, no, not my mother not my mother. What did you ask any good questions today?

Ben (30:34):

I, I I've heard that quote so many times, and yet I still say to my kids, every time they get home, what'd you learn today? It's like, I can't absorb it.

Leon (30:42):

Right. You'll get there.

Ben (30:44):

They'll get there a Nobel prize because of me, because I didn't ask that question,

Yechiel (30:47):

They'll get it in their own rights.

Leon (30:49):

Right. They'll earn their own way. So, but that does lead me to an interesting question, which is, um, what are some of the comments that you've gotten back if you, if you end every post weekly post, and now every chapter in the book with a question, what are some of the interesting feedbacks that you pieces of feedback you've gotten over time? Anything that stands out in your mind?

Yechiel (31:09):

Actually, one conversation that was pretty interesting started in, uh, uh, in response to one of the issues of the newsletter that was put out. Um, this was actually like most newsletters. Like there's I know there are, Torah like we choose like a thought from the Parasha related to tech or current events or whatever it is. This one I decided to have just like a stream of thought, the stream of consciousness, um, about, about the culpability of AI, artificial intelligence, and specifically people who write it. Um, so let's say if I program and an artificial intelligence and it goes ahead and does some damage, how responsible am I for the actions of this program that I wrote? And I did it in the, like starting the style of a Talmudic discussion. Um, there wasn't much in the way of answers, just like raise different possibilities, um, look at, you know, why, why it would apply, why it wouldn't apply. Um, it was more of a stream of consciousness. I really hoped it made sense when I fired it off. Um, but actually that one was the one who got the most comments back. People like actually engaged in that conversation. And they're like, you know, people raised different possibilities, different analogies that I had missed. Um, it was a really enjoyable conversation,

Leon (32:26):

Probably about a year and a half ago. I had a conversation on a different podcast, um, the on-premise podcast, uh, which is part of gestalt IT, and there, again, there'll be links in the show notes. And, uh, the conversation was about bringing your whole self to work, whether or not it's okay. Whether there are certain things about ourselves that we should just leave at home, you know, as, as some people say, you know, you know, if you've, if you've got this thing going on, leave it on the door, leave it at the door. And we talked about whether that was even possible. Um, and for me being part of that conversation, the, you know, the elephant, the kippah wearing tsitsus draped elephant in the room was my Judaism. Like, can I leave my religion at the door? And what does that even look like? And at what point does, does keeping a lid on it means suppressing essential, important parts of myself, Ben, to your point, you know, it's part of our tradition to answer questions with questions that is part of the way that we analyze ideas. It's part of the way that we debate concepts. And of course in it, we do that. How much of that can I leave to the side before I stopped being me at all and become either offended or suppressed, not depressed, but although it could be that too. So I guess this is a two part question one, are you able to bring your whole selves to your job right now? Have you always been able to do that? And what was it like working on a project where that was so fully true that doing Torah && Tech allowed you to be every ounce of the programmers that you are, and also every ounce of the Jews that you are. So, you know, again, have you always been able to do that and what was it like working on this book?

Ben (34:12):

So I I'll start, I guess. And I think that, uh, to answer that question, it's kind of, to me, it feels like a bit of walking on a tightrope and, uh, I do make an effort to bring my whole self to my work. And in some ways I'm grateful for the unique circumstances that I'm in, which is that I happen to work in an international company with a very large R&D office in Israel. And so everyone in all the other offices across the company have become, acculturated to, uh, well, Israel and Jews are not one and the same. That is true. That's a very important statement to make. And Israeli Jews are not the same as Jews from other parts of the world. That's also true and there's a great diversity, but nonetheless, it is people who live in places where there are no Jews at all. So who become acculturated to working with Jews. And so that's helpful. And, you know, and not only just Jews, right, Leon, but also kippah wearing Jews, you know, observant Jews in the Tel Aviv office. And so they get to interact with them and they come and visit here in the pre pre days before the crurrent days, they would spend time with that and, and be attuned to the sensitivity of kosher restaurants, things like that. So that's part a and part B is yes, that's all true, but you also don't want to be harping on it all the time and you don't want it, You have to always be sensitive a little bit of being mixed up SIM like a little bit of like, uh, yes. Being there, but also pulling back a little bit and, and making sure you don't take up all the space in the room and it's all about you and your uniquenesses and sort of your, your unique needs and sort of your, your, your unique perspectives, because it might come as a surprise, you know, especially, you know, somethings depending on how great your feeling about yourself, other people are also unique and they also have unique perspectives and they also have unique place that they're coming from, and they also want to contribute those unique things. Right. And so like leaving some space, leaving some oxygen in the room and, you know, and again, not to stereotype, definitely not to stereotype or to generalize, but sometimes we, as a people can take up a lot of the air in the room and to, and to let others have some of the air to breathe and to speak as important.

Leon (36:35):

My coworkers who are listening to this podcast are probably nodding. So, so ferociously that they're going to get, put a Crick in their neck. They require a neck brace after they're done

Yechiel (36:46):

I'm in a different situation. Of course, I work in the States and New York, um, and having been on the receiving end of workplace proselytization. And like I said, Jews specifically do not like proselytizing. I try not to have specific religious conversations at work other than with the few other religious Jewish coworkers I have. Um, of course when it comes to like things that will affect my work, I'll have those conversations up front, you know, things like Shabbat or kosher lunches or things like that. So, you know, I'll definitely speak up. And actually there's a whole chapter in the book. Um, your guide to working with your observant coworker, which I had a lot of fun writing. I wrote it when I switched teams and had to have all those conversations over again and decided that it would be helpful for others. Um, but conversations around that go beyond that. It's like the kind of conversations that we have in Torah and tech that I try not to bring up at work as much as possible. And in that sense, like you said, the newsletter and then the book we're away for me to express that part of myself, which I really enjoyed,

Ben (37:49):

You know, there's a larger conversation to be had here as well, that sort of transcends the workplace. So I just recall a couple of incidents where, uh, on the speaking circuit in conferences, and you would get some guidelines about what to say what not to say, how to, how to speak in the most successful ways. And all the advice overwhelmingly was incredibly on point was incredibly helpful and I think was, uh, necessary to make sure the space was maximally, welcoming, and accessible to a diversity of people from all backgrounds... Except when it comes to people with religious sensibilities. And I would actually add to that religious slash cultural sensibilities because, you know, coming again, uh, from Israel, uh, there's things like, so one of the guidelines to concretize, what I'm saying, uh, from one conference in particular was trying if you make a mistake or you're trying to say something that you should avoid something, don't use the oft-repeated term of like, God forbid, God forbid you should do that because there might people in the room who don't believe in God, and that could offend them to say, God forbid. And so whether one is a religious or not in Israel, that is one of most common expressions amongst everyone in the country. Even if the die hard, most ardent atheists will say, God forbid, it just it's part of the lexicon. It's just part of the cultural sort of dichotomy. So you're trying to get maximum welcoming as possible, but in doing so, you're not thinking about, or you're not at all elevating as part of the consideration, those people who come from either religious backgrounds or come from countries that are not Western European countries and, and how to think about that, how to actually make space. And, you know, I heard this by the way, from a colleague of mine, a previous former colleague of mine who comes from very different backgrounds, you know, from a Muslim background and she's an amazing person. And she often talks about that as well, about how, yes, maximally diverse places means there's maximum diverse or Western Europeans and, and, and, you know, Northeastern Americans. And what about everyone else in the world? Like from North Africa or from the middle East, or from Asia who are not Western Europeans or North Eastern Americans and, you know, what do you, what do you do about that and how do you, and how do you, uh, raise up the diversity and the ability for all people to come to this space, even if they're not, um, German or French or British.

Leon (40:16):

So this has been an amazing conversation. There's a lot more, I think we can go into with everything hope. Uh, hopefully I'll have a chance to have you back and talk about specific chapters, but before we wrap up, uh, one more opportunity for shameless book promotion, where again, now that we've heard about it and we are champing at the bit, and we can't live another minute without this book in our lives, where can we find it?

Yechiel (40:37):

Um, so yeah, so, like I said, in the beginning, um, you can buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, uh, on your Kindle, on your Nook, on any, on most other retailers. Um, what I forgot the first time around was that if you do not live in North America or in a primarily English speaking country, a Book Repository, I'm told by Ben, is the go-to and it's on there too. Uh, we will have all those links in the show notes. Um, and of course you can also go to TorahandTech.Dev to order the book and also to sign up for the newsletter. So you can get a sneak preview of volume two, which will be coming out in about a half a year.

Ben (41:13):


Leon (41:14):

Not only can you, you ought to, you should,

Ben (41:17):

You're encouraged to, and you get a You can find, uh, the table of contents. So you get a sense what's in the book and on Amazon and the other retailers you'll find sample chapters as well. So you can really get a fuller idea of what it's like. And that website as Yechiel mentioned his Book Depository, which if you're living anywhere in the world where English books are harder to come by, it's a great place to go to get your English books. You might not get them for a few months, but you can order them. And eventually they get shipped to you.

Josh (41:50):

Thanks for making time for us this week, to hear more of Technically Religious, visit our website,, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect with us on social media.

Leon (42:04):

Ugh! We still need a tagline for this episode.

Ben (42:06):

Can we just go with "Buy our Book?

Yechiel (42:08):

I guess that works for me.

S2E10: Technically Modest

S2E10: Technically Modest

May 26, 2020

Religion has a lot to say about modesty - from clothing to behavior to even thoughts. Much of it is misunderstood from the outside perspective. The concept central to the idea of "modesty" is one of boundaries. In tech, we also have to set boundaries: from who has access to certain types of data to what "work hours" mean to which deliverables are in or out of scope to the tasks are considered part of our regular job. 

In this episode, we'll hear from an entirely new set of voices: Alex Navarro, Faria Akram, and Yum Darling - who will explore the nature of those limitations and how our religious/moral/ethical POV can inform our tech life - and vice versa. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon (00:32):
welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion. We're here to explore ways we make our careers it professionals mesh or at least not conflict with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.
Alex (00:53):
Religion has a lot to say about modesty from clothing to behavior to even thoughts. Much of it is misunderstood from the outside perspective. The concept central to the idea of modesty is one of boundaries. In tech, we also have to set boundaries; from who has access to certain types of data, to what work hours mean, to which deliverables are in or out of scope to the tasks are considered part of our regular job. In this episode we'll explore the nature of those limitations and how our religious, moral, ethical point of view can inform our tech life and vice versa. I'm Alex Navarro and the other voices you're going to hear on this episode are my guests. Faria Akram.
Faria (01:38):
Alex (01:39):
and Yum Darling.
Yum (01:40):
Alex (01:41):
Thank you ladies.
Alex (01:43):
All right. So if you are new to the podcast, we start each episode with a moment for everyone to be able to introduce themselves, have a shameless plug, or basically engage with you in some other form. Uh, so Faria why don't you go first?
Faria (01:57):
Hi, I'm Faria. I'm a mental health advocate, storyteller, dancer, and cohost of a podcast called vulnerable views. You can keep up with what I'm doing in all those areas on my instagram @followingfaria and my website in terms of religion, I was raised as a Muslim and still identify as such.
Alex (02:15):
and Yum.
Yum (02:16):
Okay. Uh, my name is Yum Darling. I am a community manager by day and by night, which is very long. I am a mom to two children. Um, which is why I'm hiding today at my parents' house so that you don't have to hear it. My dog, my cats, my children, and my husband yelled at me all at the same time. I don't really do as much on social media, so don't bother following me. I was born in Israel. So culturally I'm Jewish and I have gone to Jewish schools pretty much my entire life. So that is where the bulk of my, um, religious education is. But, um, spiritually and religiously, you know, I just like learning about religions. So I have a little bit of Buddhist knowledge, which isn't really religion if you're but whatever. And Judaism paganism. So ask why I will be happy to, you know, answer your questions.
Alex (03:06):
And just to round out today's podcast, my name is Alex Nevaro. Again, I am the founder of a creative agency called running their production house. You can find us on Instagram at that same handle. You can also find us on our website, which is that same name or any of your production And I was actually raised as a Catholic by a Catholic mother and a father who was a Jehovah's witness at the time. I didn't stay that way. We'll probably get into that later on in podcasts, but now I identify as a nondenominational Christian. So if you were not able to keep up with those amazingly, uh, short introductions, relax. It's okay. We're going to have everything posted in the show notes for you so you can just sit back and enjoy the conversation and let the amazing ideas flow over you. So, moving on to our first topic of discussion, when you hear the word modesty, what ideas or reactions does that conjure up for you in a religious context?
Faria (04:08):
So when I heard the word modesty, one thing that comes to mind in a religious context is a story of the prophet Muhammad. Peace be upon him. Um, and to those who know the story better than I do, I might mess up some details, I apologize. Uh, but there's a story that he was traveling with another man and they saw a woman who was quote unquote immodestly dressed in some sort of way, right? Um, but the prophet, instead of telling the woman, you know, Oh, you shouldn't be wearing that, or you need to change or whatever. Um, because his friend was just staring at the woman, he, I think took his hand and like moved his friend's face or covered his eyes, um, or averted his gaze in some sort of way. And that's always struck me as really powerful. Cause I think a lot of times when I hear the word modesty, even absent from religion, it's talked a lot about women and what they should or should not be doing. Um, so that story when I heard it as a kid always really, uh, struck a chord with me because it just reminded me that it's modesty is so much more than clothing, right? Which I think we'll talk about as well, but it's also on men to be modest and to do their part on all people.
Yum (05:16):
It's pretty much the same in Judaism. Um, modesty is, uh, how, how did an old friend put it? Uh, it's about women being a team player. And the whole, the whole interaction between men and women and modesty is that modesty equals privacy. Snoot or modesty and Hebrew is about how much you respect herself and how private you would like to be. So it really is the woman, the woman's decision. Now, of course, there are guidelines, if you will, if you would like to, how you could, you could dress modestly. Um, and everyone will have a different opinion on that. I'm sure we'll get into that later. But um, yes, pretty much, pretty much the same story there as Faria. You know, we, we tell our our men, if you don't want to pray in front of this woman who is distracting you, um, go somewhere else.
Alex (06:10):
Well, it's, it's interesting that when we hear the word modesty, it seems like the first thing that comes to mind is, is how we dress or how others are dressed. And that's definitely something that was drilled into my mentality when I was growing up as a Catholic because there are definitely certain rules that you had to abide by when you were entering into the house of God. And so that I feel like what people can relate to whether they were brought up in that religion or not. But um, it's an interesting concept also when we're talking about the workplace because we're talking about modesty. A lot of people sometimes associate that with not being braggadocious. But if you're a woman in the workplace, particularly in the tech industry and the workplace, could it sometimes be a disadvantage for you because you are quote unquote being too modest and you're not speaking up for yourself. Whether it be something like a good idea that you have in a large group meeting or speaking up about a great accomplishment that you've done for the organization.
Yum (07:12):
Sometimes modesty is um, equated with humility and submission and women that are um, more covered up or more modest or even just more quiet are seen as more submissive at home in the workplace, in their religion. And yeah, it can definitely work against you. Women that are that way sometimes get put in that bucket at work, whether people don't listen to them as much or don't take their voices seriously or um, don't give them the opportunity to say something. Sometimes you have to pause and let someone who might not be as loud as you are, come forth and say something meaningful from their perspective. And a lot of time we tend to take people who are more modest, a step next to us and just put them in that bucket of silence and submission and oppression and, and their views kind of go away. And that's sad in religion and in life and in the workplace,
Alex (08:10):
I think it's really easy for people to get an impression of you before you open your mouth. Right? So what are they going to go off of? They're going to go off of how we look and a lot of times for women, how we're dressed, how much we're covered up, how much makeup we have on, you know, if we decided to do our hair that day or night. I mean there's just, there's so many ways for people to sort of misinterpret who we are as a person. And I feel like if we're not mindful of how quote unquote modest we are in the workplace, then are we sort of doing that to ourselves. And then I also think there's a very fine line of that level of modesty because very easily, like you mentioned, young, if we're just naturally loud and we naturally just have this sort of emphatic tone, all too often it can be misinterpreted in a negative way. And I feel like that is something that is very specific to women. So what do we do? Do we need to be less modest?
Faria (09:20):
Heck no.
Yum (09:23):
Um, I do think there's this, there's a place for women to stand up for other women in this context. Um, I definitely think men allies are awesome, but sometimes that permission from a man to speak is just really patronizing. Um, so what, what I would say is if you work with a woman who is more modest or even a woman who is on the opposite and is loud and vivacious and does not dress modestly, um, perhaps bringing their voice into a conversation or just pausing and letting them speak. Um, and as a woman, of course, definitely inviting those women to the conversation and into outside life as well, especially in the tech industry. I find you make really close friendships and you, you do things outside of work and sometimes the women who are seen as more religious, I am doing air quotes, uh, are, aren't invited because they're seen as, they would not enjoy this simply because of the way they dress and what we think their religion is.
Alex (10:22):
That's a very good point. I completely agree with that and I feel like that's something that probably both men and women are, are guilty of. Take the time, I guess take the time to get to know someone instead of sort of making an assumption based on how they look or how they appear. So. Okay. Do you, do either of you kind of find yourselves being mindful of this in your own workplace? You know, especially when we're talking about, you know, in the world of it, is there a balance that you try to find for yourself that you're trying to create when it comes to being modest, whether it's, you know, how you're dressed or just, you know, how you are being interpreted by others in the workplace.
Faria (10:59):
I don't think I really take that into consideration to be honest. Yes. I had a great conversation this week where someone told me I should enter every room with the confidence of a white man. And so that's something I'm working on that thing.
Alex (11:16):
Oh my g... that is gold. that needs to be on bumper stickers. I want a tshirt that says that.
Faria (11:31):
Yeah, no, it was very eyeopening. Right. And I think, and we can have probably a whole nother podcast episode on just confidence in itself. Um, you know, right. But I think it relates to modesty, to your point of how you carry yourself. Right. Um, and going back to actually Yum when you were talking about, you know, someone who's loud and vivacious and who, uh, dresses less modesty though modestly, that was interesting to, because I think I know a lot in a lot of loud and vivacious people. So I come, I come from a more conservative Muslim background. My family is pretty conservative Muslims. And I was raised in a small town in a small Muslim community that was pretty conservative. Uh, but I know a lot of loud, vivacious Muslim women who are like that with their personality. But then in terms of dress, they wear the hijab, which is the head covering or the niqab, which covers everything but your eyes. So it's funny cause it's like there. What would you be defining Montessori as, right. So as someone who is more of a voracious, who is more loud and more outgoing, I try to be more quiet and listen to other people I'm working on not interrupting others has been something I've been really trying, actively trying to work on. Because by nature I love talking and I will talk over other people. Um, which is not the right thing to do. So giving others a space to converse and also active listening. So not, I'll admit it, I did the listening where it's like, okay, I'm listening to you because I'm waiting for you to finish. So I can say what I have to say. Cause I have three thoughts in my head right now, but active listening, of holding a space for this person to communicate with my full attention because that is what they deserve.
Alex (13:07):
So, okay. What about,you know, this kind of is making me thinking about just kind of how I was supposed to or not supposed to, I guess maybe how it was expected to behave when I was, you know, at Sunday school or when I was at mass or you know, when I was even, let's say around a certain group of people that maybe only interacted with me when we were at, you know, church gatherings. Um, I feel like for me personally, it was a certain Alex that people interacted with when I was at Catholic functions and at Catholic mass and so on and so forth versus the openness I guess that I found when I started going to Bible groups and Bible studies and, um, functions for the nondenominational church, which for me, that journey started happening when I was in college. And I don't know if you know, that is a Testament to those two religions or if it was just my experience personally, but I definitely would say that I felt like I had to be a certain level of modest when I was being brought up in the Catholic faith versus when I switched over to being nondenominational. Christian. Did either of you have some kind of experience similar to that?
Faria (14:28):
I feel like I kind of did. Um, so yeah, I grew up coming from a more conservative Muslim background I think. And I know not only am I less modest when it comes to talking a lot, but also in, um, kind of my habits of dress. So I was the first woman in my immediate family who did not wear the hijab, the head covering, um, every, almost everyone I knew more for at least some period of time. Some took it off. Um, so from just the very get go, um, it wasn't something I wanted to partake in. And I'm more the type of person who it's hot outside, like I'm gonna wear short sleeves instead of committing to something like that. Um, that's not saying anything about me as a person, good or bad. That's not saying anything about people who choose to dress that way. It's just, I noticed very early on I was different in a sense. So yeah, the Faria that went to the mosque, uh, obviously I wore a hijab there. I covered my hair cause it was a place of God. Uh, I interacted a little differently because, uh, it, it was, it just was a little bit more of a conservative setting and toned down my mannerisms. You know, a lot of it was for Sunday school, so you can't get all my monks just there. I mean you can, but that's how you get Sunday school detention. Your parents aren't happy. Um, so yeah, it was in college actually because I was in the same town for the first 18 years of my life, which I didn't. I thought that was everyone's normal. And then I realized it wasn't, I went to a bigger university with more people and um, not just more people and more Muslims, but a more diverse group of Muslims too. So my family is Pakistani. Um, so I met Muslims from all different kinds of countries and who, you know, different, um, sects too. My family is Sunni Muslim. Um, and I didn't even know about some of the sex cause there wasn't that, uh, open-mindedness I feel like taught to me and my faith journey growing up. And that's where I really kind of started to see how there are so many different levels and how you can be modest in so many different ways. And that's something I started gravitating to. I started to lean more towards, I don't have to cover every inch of my skin to be modest. And that became my personal choice.
Yum (16:34):
Confession time, baby. I'm only went to shool slash synagogue, slash tempo, whatever you wanna call it. Um, for school purposes. My parents lived and I obviously, um, our family lived on a little Hilltop in Israel, in the North of Israel, just South of Lebanon, surrounded by other little Hilltop villages, um, surrounded by, um, hilltops of Arab villages. And I went to school with, um, most of the people in the surrounding areas. And the schools in Israel are Jewish. It's a Jewish state. And we do, you know, celebrate every, every, uh, Friday. I almost said Yoshi, but that would not make sense to most of your listeners. So every Friday we would have a couple of Shabbat at school where you would welcome a Shabbat. We welcome, um, the day of rest Saturday for Jews. Um, and that was my normal at school, at home. Never ever, ever. My mom, I don't, I love my mom dearly and if you're listening, I'm sorry, but she, um, she doesn't cook much or at all. She is a grandma now, but not your stereotypical Jewish grandma because I make all the chicken soup. So we, I had a very different upbringing, what you would call a religious Jew. I would, I was more of a, of a secular Jew with a lot of Jewish history. But my understanding of modesty, um, came so much later, like way into college. You guys like were into college. I went to NC state, go Wolfpack and um, we had this NC state is made up of red bricks. They signed this, I don't know if actually this is a rumor, maybe someone out there can validate, but uh, apparently they signed a contract and got a lot of their bricks for super cheap because they bought so friggin many. Um, so the entire campus is RedBrick including the well known brick yard, which is, you know, made a brick and very slippery in the winter or when it's raining, which is, you know, full time in North Carolina and you can't walk without slipping. So you have to be real careful what you wear because when you slip on brick, it's not just going down, you're going down, legs up. And we had the lovely Brickyard preacher who used to stand on his little, I don't know what it's called, a box. Um, I'm sure there's another name for it. It was, it's, it's just a little, it's a cute little box with a little, um, podium. And he used to yell at people walking by about, um, the, how much they are sitting and where he thinks they should go and isn't it lovely? Great. I feel like I feel like they're pretty universal. And I was walking by wearing my normal young clothes, um, which at the time was probably like gym shorts and a tee shirt on my way to biology class, thinking about what I'm going to dissect today. And he like yells at me when I walked past whore and I'm just like, I'm 18, I don't know what you're talking about. Oh no, you guys, that was, it was hurtful. I don't, I w you know, totally not what I was expecting. Of course it was raining that day and I slipped and fell legs up right in front of him. Luckily there were, there were some very burly, um, football players that were walking right behind me who like pulled me up and started walking me away. And there's two things you should probably know about me. One is I can control my temper and two is I have no filter. So, um, something like this could be really bad for all parties. So thank you. Burly football man that I never met again for, um, you know, probably rescuing me from being arrested. Um, but yeah, Brickyard preacher dude taught me about modesty and taught me about how modesty sometimes is in the eye of the beholder and sometimes it's in the eye of the be the bearer, if you will. Yeah. So, so that was really an eye opener for me.
Alex (20:40):
That's really interesting. I think maybe you bring up about, you know, when, when we're talking about modesty in terms of our appearance and more specifically what we're wearing or not wearing. You know, that's an interesting question is it's the person's responsibility who is wearing the clothing or is it the person's responsibility? Who is Ewing the clothing? And then, you know, to take that a step further, if we're going back to the story that Aria shared earlier about, you know, sort of averting your eyes, if you will. Um, and I'm going to attempt to say this correctly, so young helped me if I, if I bought this, but when it comes to the ha ha that says, thank you that says don't pray in front of an in, modestly dressed woman and we have to divine define those terms. Right? So is it, are those terms in the IBD holder or the terms in, you know, the person who's wearing the clothing and then to take that even further, maybe go cry somewhere else?
Faria (21:38):
Um, yeah, so I think I'll go, I don't know too much about Judaism, so not speaking to these specific rules or trying to offend anyone. But when you say that Alex actually reminds me of my favorite Bollywood movie or one of my favorite Bollywood movies, there's a line where, um, the, the lead actress or whatever is talking to her sister and she's like, why did you wear that to the tumble? Everyone at the temple was staring at you and her sister's like, well, if everybody in the temple was staring at me instead of God, that's their problem, not mine. Um, and I was just like, yes, cause I love that scene. Um, and I recognize that not everybody has an opinion. Uh, but I do, I, you know, with that, I think it opened up that I lean more towards, it's, uh, on the responsibility of not the person who is dressing her appearing that way. But the other, because I think yes, modesty is, is very, can be very physical, right, in terms of dress, in terms of makeup, things like that. But my take is you don't know that person's intention behind it. Right? Like I, my mother, I think the first time Yama was really bonding with your story because, um, I mean, I love my mother a lot more than I'm sure you'd like that preacher, but she called me like a whore once I was 16 and I wore red lipstick for the first time and she said, uh, she said I looked like a streetwalker. Uh, but she said it in ODU, so to add some color to this podcast, her exact words were [inaudible], which means you look like a woman of the night, which meant hooker. And I was like, thanks mom. I'm 16 and you and dad said I could wear this and now that I've worn it, you're mad. I'm so sorry.
Alex (23:09):
Faria (23:10):
Yeah, I know. Yeah. She was like, why do you look at woman on the street? I was like, I didn't even know what meant like hooker. Like that part came later. By the way, I was like, I am a woman and we're about to start one of the night. Yeah. I was like, I am a woman and it's night and we are about to go somewhere. Like it didn't click till later bless my baby Faria heart. Um, cause I was like, where are you mad? Yeah, man. I'm just like, it's fine. It's fine. I was like, wait, but she seems upset. So I lean more to the side. That is, it's the responsibility of the person who is seeing or witnessing any other type of dress or the person who is dressing quote unquote modestly or modestly. Because I think intention plays a big role in that. And we don't know people's intentions, right? We don't know what's going on in their head, but what we do know is ours, our thoughts and feelings and what we can control is our actions and how we choose to react or handle a situation that we feel is in modest or too modest or however you'd put it.
Yum (24:05):
I'm just going to say that once I was the, the on the side of the be-wearer, it is in the eye of the bearer. What he or she thinks is modest. Um, but I think I've switched to the camp of both.
Alex (24:18):
Oh, interesting.
Yum (24:19):
Yes. And it's been a very recent switch you guys because of this very last 2020 Superbowl that I have switched.
Alex (24:29):
Are you referencing J-Lo and Shakira?
Yum (24:32):
I am. In fact, yes. First of all, let me preface this by saying that I have a huge amount of respect for them and for Adam Levine who was, you know, the year before shirtless, the energy that my Facebook stream had that night and probably for a week afterwards commenting on what they were wearing, how they were dancing, what they were doing, what they were saying really kind of struck me as, you know, it doesn't really matter what they were thinking they were wearing. Everybody else is hating on them except for not because those women are in their forties and fifties and they look better than I do right now. So really I wasn't hitting on you, Shakira and J-Lo. I love you and just going to share a little tidbit with you. Part of my fitness routine is pole fitness. So seeing J-Lo up on that pole is like my life's goal. Really? Yeah. Do you see her in hustlers? I did. In fact here in hustlers, I've done one of my classes before. It is not easy girl. It is what got me in shape after two babies. Um, the core strength that it takes and the arm strength and the back strength don't even get me started. This is way, way, way, not what we were talking about before this podcast. I asked, um, my mom's group who are very varied in their beliefs and in their personalities and I respect all of them a whole lot. What they thought about modesty in general because we did have a thread talking about whether we covered our children's eyes during the halftime show and kind of what we landed on was, you know, what was really to blame was camera angles. And I'm going to bet that the person behind the camera who's deciding where the camera's going to go and what it's going to look like was not a woman. So at the end of the day, at the end of the day when they're saying, well she shouldn't have jello, shouldn't have done that. Like widespread slide. Excuse me, how are you going to slide without whites, without like widespread legs? People who have never tried to slide are saying this, but people who are saying that because, Oh my gosh, the camera was right there. Who put the camera right there? Ladies and gentlemen, not the ladies. So I think, I think there is a something to be said for the people who are watching to bring it back to Israel. There was a situation in the military where um, Israel wanted religious men to serve in the military and Israel. Everyone at 18 serves and religious men often get exempt to go study. And Israel said, nah, actually you're going to go in and be part of part of the military. You're going to serve as well for your three years. And they said, we can't serve or we can't. So they have their, they have, um, the more religious men have their own little, um, segment in the Israeli military. So we do try to accommodate. But they said they couldn't come to a, uh, event because there was a choir at the beginning and that had women in it who were wearing skirts that did not reach their knees and that would, that would give them inappropriate thoughts and they therefore they could not go and then they wanted to get out of the military altogether. Pretty much what I'm saying here is I do think that it, I think sometimes it gets mangled, but it is both who is wearing it and what we feel about it and whether we feel modest in what we're wearing versus what, um, Faria you can look at me when, you know, when we're together in a room and be like, Holy crap, that shirt is a low cut and that's, you know, your prerogative and I can't stop you from thinking that. And it's fine if you think that I'm still gonna wear the shirt.
Alex (27:51):
So taking, taking this concept back into the workplace, if we're talking about let's say the it version of modesty, is that really just boundary setting and then, you know, is it, are we sort of setting these boundaries to sort of protect people from themselves, whether that be, you know, security risks or whether it be potentially preventing you from getting eyed for a promotion because your direct supervisor is getting the wrong impression from either your low cut shirt or maybe the fact that you wear ripped up tee shirts and jeans to work every day. When is it okay to have boundaries setting in the workplace when it comes to modesty?
Yum (28:35):
So I think IT is a really interesting, um, subsection of people. Uh, especially. So I come from a, um, small business SaaS background and the people I worked with came to work in leggings and ripped up jeans. And, um, every time the company wanted to give us a gift, it was a hoodie. Like this is the kind of people that I worked with. And they were, they were expecting the same for me. There was never an expectation that I get very, very dressed up to come to work. In fact, some of the women who did come to work more dressed up, and I'm not talking like more modestly because those t-shirts come up to your neck. So it's not, it's not that kind of a problem. I'm just talking about like, you know, sharper. I'm more sharply dressed. They were seen as the ones that were trying too hard. Yes, they were most of the time busy, uh, sales women and they needed to feel the part in order to speak the part. You know, nobody sees them, um, where we do most of our sales by phone, but it was important for them to feel that way. And I do think that more and more we are coming to a place, work and life are intersecting in a way that it hasn't before. And I think boundary setting is probably one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves. Um, I don't know about you too, but I'm a millennial and what we, what we kind of grew up on was a work life balance. But I heard on a radio talk show that gen Z is actually talking about work life blending where they want, um, they want businesses to be more okay with their life and their work really being one thing. If you expect me to answer an email at 7:00 PM, it's okay for me to go to the doctor at 10:00 AM and for you not to know about it. See what I'm saying? Like it's, it's more of a blending than it is a separation, which is what, which is what we were taught to want. Right. They were like, you're going to find a nine to five and then you're going to leave your work at work and go home and do your thing. Um, as a community manager, that's impossible. I answer emails all the time. I answer emails on PTO. Not that I should, but I do. Am I inviting people to treat me a certain way? Probably and I should probably stop. That's kind of, it's kind of expected of me at this point. At what point do I say I have this amount of self-respect, which is related to modesty, because modesty is having enough self-respect to dress in a way that shows that you are not trying to be overtly sexual or overtly whatever, or maybe you are good for you.
Alex (30:58):
So is it maybe because your boundaries are, have become less modest that now this is sort of what's expected of you because this is the impression that you've given to people and that's what they've perceived in terms of your availability, in terms of, you know, your work life blend or balance or lack thereof. You know, is it sort of we're setting these boundaries by determining how modest we are with our time, with our words, with our actions, with our dress. So kind of like what you were saying earlier, I think that it does fall back on us a little bit, but it's still also in the eye of the beholder. So I would agree actually. I think it's both
Yum (31:49):
Welcome to my "both" camp. Population 2: you and me.
Alex (31:52):
but when it comes to it, you know, there are definitely certain scenarios where being more modest is without a doubt. A plus. Right? Like if we're talking about security measures, if we're talking about, um, just really kind of helping people to protect them from themselves, cause you may not be a malicious user, but you may just be a user who's too busy and trying to do too many things at one time and then you become a security risk to the organization and you should have been a little bit more modest about your passwords.
Yum (32:21):
Yeah, I think you're right Alex. I think, um, companies need to be very modest with the access they're giving their users. And I think users need to be, um, respectful of the boundaries that they're setting and the boundaries that their work is setting. I know a lot of times we get, um, for laptops from the companies that we, that we work for. Um, and perhaps, um, being respectful to yourself and being respectful to the company and not using that laptop as your personal machine and inviting in, um, security risks that way. Or even just, you know, at the end of the day it can go in and take a look, see and see everything you've Googled for the past. You know, however long you've been working for the company and do you really want that? Cause I don't,
Alex (33:05):
right, right. In case in case anyone was unaware that that is going on at their workplace, it's definitely happening. And you should, uh, adjust accordingly.
Faria (33:16):
Okay. I'm going to be honest, I have a lot of Buzzfeed articles, the ones that are like incentivizing you to buy this thing under $15 because you need it in your life and it's because they pop up and I'm like, bookmark, save, go look and buy all the things later. So yes, sorry. Office people
Yum (33:32):
Faria that is, that is the least of their worries. Um, as a, as a side gig, I am a writer slash, editor and um, my biggest issue is I'm Googling how to murder people, but we can talk about this some other day.
Alex (33:47):
So would you say that, just to kind of bring this back and kind of round it out, is there something from your faith or your religion that maybe I think IT could learn from or maybe even that you've taken that principle or that idea and it's carried over into your professional life?
Faria (34:11):
Yeah, I would, I would say don't be afraid to be open-minded and challenge what you've been taught because I feel like this is like, you know, take a dog or take a drink every time she says she came from a conservative background. But yeah, like I didn't question things for 18 years. Right. Um, and just kind of accepted what I heard and believed, which was all great and wonderful. Uh, then maybe not the best fit for me. Right. So I think also as someone in her early career, um, I'm at just my second company right now out of college. So, uh, being new, kind of in that early career stage, there was a lot of, uh, maybe X, Y, Z is exactly what I need to do to advance or to meet the goals or to do the things. And I get afraid to challenge or to speak my mind or to say something different because that's not the way it's always been done. Um, and so yeah, just kind of learning to be open and to trust myself I think is something that resonates with me in modesty or in faith. And also in the workplace.
Yum (35:13):
I'm actually going to draw from my, um, educational experience about theology in general. Um, and, and across many, um, the many religions that I've learned about both pretty in depth and just surface level, almost every single religion way of life. Um, anything, whatever you want to call it, spirituality has, um, some sort of need either privacy or or sneeze or modesty or whatever you can call it. And I think, um, companies can learn from that as well, especially in it. Every company should have their proper use of computer bylaws and rules of engagement within their company and an understanding that people come from different backgrounds and it's not always easy and it's not always comfortable. Um, and sometimes it gets real awkward if you meet, for example, uh, a Jewish man who will not high five or will not shake hands or a Jewish woman who won't, um, give you a hug, which is apparently, you know, accepted or expected of, of women. Nowadays, I think that's, that's this generation's you should smile more. But I do think that, uh, every company should understand modesty, understand self-respect, understand boundaries. Um, we'll see when we get there.
Destiny (36:33):
Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of technically religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect to us on social media.


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