Technically Religious
S1E9 - The Only Constant is Change

S1E9 - The Only Constant is Change

April 30, 2019

In IT we know that the only constant is change. And for the most part, that's OK. What is difficult is when standards or processes are framed as immutable, and THEN they change. How do we adjust when the company spends $5million on a data center expansion, and then moves everything to the cloud 2 years later? Or when Windows abandons the GUI and goes to CLI, while Cisco moves away from IOS commands and on to GUI and API-driven interfaces? Does our religious/ethical/moral background help (or hinder) us from accepting and adapting to these moments in our work as IT pros? In this episode Kate, Josh, and Leon try to unpack the question and formulate some answers. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone. It's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked", and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Kate: 00:25 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experience we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion (or lack thereof). 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: 00:49 Last week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints made an announcement which sent shock waves through the Mormon community and tremors throughout many other religious communities as well. We'll get into the details about that in a minute. But it caused us here at Technically Religious to think about how supposedly immutable truths, whether we're talking about replacing Latin with English during mass or Microsoft's adoption of open source, affect us and how we deal with those changes. Joining the conversation today is Kate Asaff

Kate: 01:17 Hello.

Leon: 01:18 And Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:20 Yeah, it's still cold in Canada!

Leon: 01:23 and I'm Leon Adato and it's slightly warmer here in Cleveland. So Josh, do us a favor and run us down just the main points of the announcement from last week.

Josh: 01:34 Sure. So this announcement was made in early April, and in order to understand it, we have to go all the way back to November, 2015, and maybe even a little further. So the Organization of the Mormon Church, or the LDS church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is such that it's a top down organization. So the President, or prophet, of the church, he makes a declaration, often he has to get his two counselors and the other 12 men that sit on the quorum of the 12 apostles. And then those 15 men make these proclamations. So in November of 2015, the church released a policy internally, that was leaked, and then they had to address it publicly, that said that any child who had parents who were of the same gender, so you're in a same sex-relationship or a same-gender relationship or if you are trans-gendered - first, they were now labeled apostates. And that's really heavy language within any religious community. There's one thing to have transgressed, but there's another thing to be considered an apostate. And then in addition to them being an apostate, they also said that no child whose primary residence was with those same sex couples could receive any ordinances within the church. So that spans the entire gamut of: You could not be blessed as an infant within the church; to: you couldn't be baptized; to: if you were in the church - there are certain things that you that you undertake within Mormonism, you know, if you're a boy at the age of 12 (and now the age of 11) you can receive the priesthood - just things that you can't do, many of those rites of passage. So last week, and of course we're recording this in the early days of April, so last week the church came out and said, "Hey, that policy that was put into place in November of 2015? We're going to change that policy. And we're going to make it so that now if you are the child of an LGBTQ family, you can be baptized as an infant, you can be blessed within the church, under the understanding that of course the church is going to reach out to you and, throughout your lifetime because you are now officially a member of the church, once you're, once you're blessed and in the LDS church. That's a huge change because leadership within the church and members at large - admittedly myself prior to my transition away from Mormonism - defended that policy with a couple of talking points. First and foremost that the prophet, he specifies what is the will of God. He speaks for God. He's God's mouthpiece on earth. And second that this was an act of kindness, because we didn't want to - as a church - we didn't want to have people, with their children attending the Mormon church where the Mormon church was teaching that their parents were apostates. And then having to go home to their parents and say, "Hey mom and dad...", sorry... I got... hey, look at that. "Hey Mom and mom, dad and dad." Or "Hey, mom and dad, you know, dad and dad or mom and mom. You're an apostate." Or "You know, we think that you should be excommunicated." And all those horrible things that go along with that. So yeah, that's um, that was huge. I was pretty... I'll admit I was pretty pissed off on Thursday. Not because I disagree with the change that children should be allowed to join whatever church they want to regardless of their parents. I was just pissed off because lots of people put a lot of time and effort into setting aside their personal views and trying to make it so that they align with what they were being told from the top of the church. And then the church went, "Hey, by the way, we're going to change."

Leon: 05:36 Right. And you'd actually mentioned in an earlier episode when we talked about opposing as you follow, you said that that was one of the things that caused you and your family to move away from the Mormon church for a while. And then you came back and you suffered censure and a bunch of other things for those views. So you directly experienced some of that just for expressing an opinion.

Josh: 05:58 Yeah. And that actually goes back pretty far in my marriage. That goes back probably 15 years ago when that particular experience happened. I mean, just to give some context and then, and I know that we want to talk about this as a foundation for IT. And I think there's a great parallel. And Leon, thanks for calling it out. Harold B. Lee, who was the president of the church from July of 1972 until his death in December of 1973, he said this: "You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory." So, you know, pretty powerful language from the LDS church. Fortunately in IT, apart from Mac users, right Kate? Nobody thinks that their salvation from any of their other platforms.

Leon: 07:09 I think actually, yeah, there is actually a Mac airbook that blocks the gates of hell.

Kate: 07:14 It's actually an iPad.

Leon: 07:18 Oh, of course. It would be. And that, with making a little bit of lighthearted humor is where I actually want to go, which is the IT aspects of that. But before we dig too far into that can we think - the three of us - can we think of any other analogs in religions that may have been that same kind of thing? Again, I'm not talking about the fact that things change. I'm talking about things that were supposedly immutable, or somewhat permanent, and then the group, the organization sort of pivoted away from it. And, and I brought up one which was the change from the Catholic mass from Latin to English, which you know, happened I think in the seventies, if I remember correctly? I could be wrong because I don't pay very much attention to that kind of stuff. But I remember that it caused quite a bit of a stir,

Josh: 08:13 Yeah, the ordination of women in the United Methodist Church, which happened well before I was born back in the mid fifties is an interesting one. Again, linking it to Mormonism. A woman named Kate Kelly founded an organization called Ordain Women. She's a lawyer and an activist and she was excommunicated by the LDS church in June, 2014. So everyone kind of waits for the day in which women will be ordained within the Mormon church or within the the LDS church. I don't know if it's going to happen, but we certainly see that adopted. And that's a huge thing, right? Because traditionally, you know, as far back as tradition goes religions tended to be very patriarchal. Where, you know, men were the heads, the household, they were the heads of the church. And so for the United Methodist to allow women to be ordained officially, even though it had been doing it for a long time, unofficially. That was huge.

Kate: 09:04 It kinda reminds me in the 90's when the Catholic Church decided to start allowing girls to be altar servers. I remember there was a cardinal in Boston who had saw these girls serving and before the proclamation came from the Vatican, the story I heard was that he told the congregation, "Get these girls out of here." He didn't want to see them serving and that it was something, obviously 20 years later it has stuck with me

Leon: 09:34 With religion you have things that really are dogmatic. Sometimes we throw that word around somewhat flippantly but religion actually is dogmatic. It has, you know, strictures or rules that are, at least in the eyes of it, internally immutable. And so you've got that. But pivoting to the IT piece, I want to talk a little bit about, about that. What are some of those changes? It's not going to change and then it does and you have to suddenly cope with it. What are some of the ones that we've either heard about or experienced ourselves?

Kate: 10:08 Well since you guys were poking fun of me a little bit earlier as being a devoted Apple fan girl I will bring up the 2006 when Apple changed from Motorola to Intel processors. That was a huge thing for the Apple community and you know, many of us had spent years structuring these complex arguments as to why RISC processors are better than CISC processors and you know, insisting that megahertz and gigahertz aren't true measures of processing power. And then all of a sudden, like everything for us was just blown away overnight. Now Macs were Intel based and we kind of had to let go of, you know, our are sworn allegiance to the Motorola chipset.

Leon: 10:56 That's, I'm going to say funny, not funny ha ha, but I just had, I would never have expected that to be overwhelming to a community. But I can see that the way that you describe it, I can absolutely understand that you had an emotional investment in a particular hardware standard.

Josh: 11:16 Yeah. Well, I think that functional workspace, right? You know, Kate, you talked about defending the position of you know, RISC processors. That's why it's good. That's why it's the thing that makes Apple as awesome as it is. And we all go through that. You know, I've been in the industry long enough that I remember walking into data centers and seeing literally big metal, there were mainframes sitting on the data center floor. The idea that we would virtualize? It blew people's minds and I was like, I thought that was a great idea. Let's virtualize, let's get density. I will admit to being a little slower to adopt a shift to cloud because it, it put in place some barriers to entry for me. When I started my career, I loved the idea of networking, although I'm not a networking engineer, but I loved the idea that you could plug in cables and lights would start blinking and things just work. You know, there was, there was a command line and I actually, I had a reputation for asking questions in class, like "How do you do that from the command line?" But it got beaten out of me. I was that guy. But it got beaten out of me because Windows was the thing, Windows and at the time, a Netware were the platforms for for server managers and that's where I was headed. We've made this swing to having to code, and I don't code, but everything is code now. Networking is code, storage code, servers are code, everything is code. I'm made a very firm stance early in my career that I didn't want to code because I wasn't good at it. I'm still not good at it. I feel like I'm fumbling with 14 hands tied behind my back. I don't know what the analogy is. I just feel dumb. I feel like I'm the guy smashing his face on his keyboard trying to make things work anytime I code. So I get it. Those shifts are hard, and they're not hard because we don't, I don't want to accept the shift to cloud. It's hard because it makes me address other deficiencies in myself that I don't know that I'm 100% ready to address.

Speaker 1: 13:24 And I think that that's actually a good point is that the change, the changes themselves may not be so troublesome, but they address either inadequacies or perceived inadequacies in ourselves and we don't like that. We don't always like to have a mirror held up to it. Sometimes I think it's not that though. So given a quintessential example, and I think many of us in IT have experienced this, where on Monday the business says, "Hey, you know, this event is occurring," whether it's a merger or an acquisition or whatever it is, "but don't worry, nothing's going to change for you. Everything's going to be just fine." And then Friday, metaphorically, they say, "Oh, by the way, we're shutting down the location" or "You're being let go" or you know, "We're moving this entire department to merge with this other department" or whatever it is. And, whether it happens in days or weeks or months, "You first told me nothing was going to change. And then it did." And that's the part that I think a lot of us have a hard time coping with. Don't tell me that it's not going to change when you know full well that it is. Enough times in business, things change and everyone says, oh yeah, we had no way of knowing that was going to happen. Those changes are unpredictable and so you just deal with them. But when it's clearly predictable, that's the part I think that is more difficult for us in IT to deal with. And I think that's the whole point of vendors offering what's known as LTS, Long Term Support, for something, like "We promise we're not going to pull the rug out from under you for x years."

Josh: 15:09 I want to make sure that we understand or at least that we agree that IT is not religion. Religion is not IT. There's certainly some overlap and are dogmatic beliefs on both sides of of the row. But I tweeted earlier today and I'm going to read it, "A gentle reminder that you are more than your nationality, favorite sports team, political party, or religious ideology. Be more than the sum of your parts. Be better than your weakest part. Be human." And I think that that applies to IT as well. You might have been the person who was responsible for gateway computers, probably cause you liked cows. I don't know. Just because that is what you've always done doesn't mean it's what you always need to do. You are more than capable of transitioning and learning something new. And a coworker of mine, Zach, if you're listening, shout out, he will, he will admit that I am not a great scripter, but I'm also more than capable of being taught how to be an okay scripter, you know? Under his tutelage, I've become kind of useful with powershell and I have even remotely built some shell scripts recently. So it's possible you can be something more than what you thought you always were. And that is really a beautiful thing, both in IT and in humanity.

Leon: 16:31 And I've written about that in the past. And I probably will again in response to this podcast about that's actually not what you are. You might be, you know, a Cisco IOS command line jockey. You might be, you know, you might know everything there is to know about the Apple platform, whatever it is, but that's not actually what makes you a great IT professional. What makes you a great IT professional is your sensibilities. The fact that you understand how networking works, how hardware reacts with software, how architecture and design and you know an idea converts itself and moves through the pipeline into an actual product. Those are the things that make you a great IT practitioner and those things will persist even when the foundational platform - software or hardware - change. But again, just to drive it back again, the point is that, you know, we know things change, but when we are told something is not going to change and then it does, what do we do about that? So my question does our perspective, our outlook, whether it's religious or philosophical, whether it's moral or ethical, does that make it easier or harder to deal with? Kinds of events that you know, we promise it won't change it than it does. On the one hand, I could see someone saying that if you are heavily religious, you come from a strongly dogmatic frame of view, then you carry with you baggage of what "forever" means. And when a vendor or my employer says "It's never going to change, we are standardizing on x," and then they change. That can feel like a betrayal because I brought along, "No, no wait, you said the f word, "forever", so you know that means something to me and you just broke your promise." That could be much harder than somebody who might not have, like I said, that baggage coming along with it. I don't know what, what's your take on that?

Kate: 18:36 We talked about this a little bit before, but what I found was interesting about that question was that as an atheist, I obviously have a somewhat fluid view of, you know, how the world works and how things are. I am also, technology-wise the quintessential early adopter. I'm the first day that it's available. I will consume it, upgraded, download it, in any way that I can get the new stuff. I'm on board.

Josh: 19:03 So I think that that makes you Kate an IT relativist. There's this great thing within Mormonism about moral relativism and how it's such a bad thing, which that is a whole different discussion, but I think that the very best IT practitioners are those who can balance a bit of that. Conservativis... can't say that word... Conservativism plus that moral relativism within IT that you see the changes, you're willing to bring them in, but you do it in a way that requires that you parse them through your personal and your community experience and then say, "Yes, that's something we actually want to bring in to our enterprise. We're willing to adopt it." You need to know about it so that you can also say to someone who has read a shiny brochure or seen a vendor pitch about how amazing a product is and say, "Nope actually that's not something that we want to do and here's why." And being able to speak to a multitude of points. I think makes us great IT practitioners, if you are just that sole sourced individual who only knows about one technology, you're going to find yourself in some IT challenges. I've got a great friend, who coincidentally is also ex Mormon and his name is also Josh. Interesting point. It's interesting for me to listen to him talk about his challenges within his career. He's a great DBA. He is actually not just a DBA, but he designs databases and he's worked on a bunch of different areas and he has really struggled because he thinks that he's only in that data space. And I want to say to him, "Hey Josh," which is a little weird cause I'm calling my name, "Hey Josh, you need to understand that you're better than what you think that you are because first, you're willing to look at your career and figure out the parts that are really useful for you and you know where your weaknesses are." That, for me, is the big part. Are we willing to look at what we're doing today and understand both its strengths and weaknesses and then leverage the strengths and minimize the weaknesses by adopting other technologies? It would be kind of like me saying, "Hey, Mormonism is still really awesome," - which I do think. There are some wonderful things about Mormonism, but I also am willing to adopt some ideologies from Judaism. Thank you Leon. And I'm also willing and very open to adopting that moral relativism that comes along with atheism and other non traditional religious beliefs."

Leon: 21:36 I definitely think, Kate, that we have a new topic idea on the horizon, which is whether or not being staunchly religious makes you more or less likely to be an early adopter of technology. I think as an IT person, I really want to solve that problem because I like new technology and I would hate to think that I'm predisposed as an Orthodox Jew to like not want to do the things. Of course I could be an outlier. I could. So Josh, to your point, I think that that IT is not like religion in the sense that no matter how strongly a vendor or an organization says that something is never going to change, it's gonna. Right? Yeah. I mean we just know that that's the nature of IT, is that things are going to change and probably sooner rather than later when you look at the long game. However, I think one of the things that makes this issue, you know - "It's not going to change," and then it does - similar in both religious and IT contexts is what we as people hope and expect from that event. Which is, I think, that whoever's making the change needs to be transparent about it. I think they need to be intellectually honest about it. And they need to be consistent about it. And what I mean by those things is that they need to say that "This change is happening. We saw it coming, even if we couldn't tell you at the time, but we're telling you now that we knew it was coming. We just had to," you know, whatever it was, the merger was coming, but we couldn't say anything because blah, blah, blah, legal, blah, blah, blah, Wall Street, whatever. Right? Um, it needs to be intellectually honest. We're doing this because it supports our brand values. It supports our corporate goals. It, you know, whatever. And it needs to be consistent. And I think most of all, if people were hurt by that first statement, this is the way it is. "This is the way it's always going to be." And then it changes. And people were hurt. You know, an example that happened a couple of jobs back for me: $5 million investment in a data center, building it out, putting tons of hardware in there, and then they moved to the cloud. What are you kidding me? Like, we just bought all this stuff and the company did say, "We know we hired a lot of you for your depth expertise in on-premises data center operations. And now we're asking, you - we're in fact demanding - that you move to a cloud based model. We know that some of you are going to be upset by this. Some of you may want to leave. We're going to support you in whatever decision you make, but this is the direction we're going. That kind of statement makes it a lot easier to accept the, "We never will... Oops. We are" kind of thing. And I think just to tie it back to our opening topic. I would hope, although I'm not in the community, but I would hope that a statement is made to the families that were hurt within the Mormon community for, you know, the years of being called, you know, apostates and all that stuff, and say "We're really sorry about this and we're going to do what we can to make it better." I would hope that that statement would be forthcoming. I guess time is going to tell.

Josh: 24:55 Time will absolutely will. Unfortunately Mormonism does not have a history of apologizing. The unfortunate reality of some of the current leadership has come out specifically and said that the church does not ask for, nor does it offer apologies.

Kate: 25:12 A long, long time ago I worked for MCI Worldcom and, if you recall, it is now Verizon business. It was sold to Verizon about 18 months after the CEO promised all of the employees that he was not looking to sell the company. MCI is also a huge company. It had definitely been in the works. So your comment about honesty really struck home with me. Nobody likes to be blindsided by change, but even more, nobody likes to be lied to about it.

Josh: 25:45 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.

Kate: 25:59 To paraphrase and old Greek guy, "the only constant in IT is change."

S1E8 - The Four Questions

S1E8 - The Four Questions

April 23, 2019

When you start “doing” monitoring, there are a few questions that you get asked over and over again. Technically Religious member Leon Adato came to think of them as “The Four Questions” (of monitoring), as a kind of inside joke reference to the Four Questions that are asked during the Passover. The joke became an epiphany, and the epiphany became a book. With Passover upon us, Doug, Kate and Destiny talk with Leon about the book, the process of creating it, and how it gave him a chance to link his religious and technical experiences together in a unique way. Listen or read the transcript below:

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone. It's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked", and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Destiny: 00:24 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.

Destiny: 00:48 Hey, I just got this great new ebook this week.

Doug: 00:51 No, no, no. I got this great new book.

Kate: 00:53 Wait a minute. Did Leon send you a copy of his book, too?

Leon: 00:58 Hey everyone!

Destiny: 00:59 Did you set up a whole podcast just to talk about your ebook?

Leon: 01:04 Maaaaaaaybe?

Doug: 01:06 Wow. That is both lame and kind of brilliant.

Kate: 01:09 aaaaand we're off!

Leon: 01:11 Okay. I admit it, I admit it. But it does fit, right? Technically Religious is a podcast about the merger between our religious lives and our technical lives and the book, you know, The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Going to Get Asked is kind of that right?

Destiny: 01:32 Definitely.

Doug: 01:33 Which came first, this podcast or the book cause it sounds, it's a real similar kind of a set up when you think about it.

Leon: 01:44 The answer is both. Uh, The Four Questions has been something that I've talked around and about for over two and a half years. And as a joke it's just sort of an inside joke I've been talking about since I've been doing monitoring. Um, because it is a thing, at least in my head, it's a thing. So the podcast really came out of conversations with Josh Biggley and myself about religious synergy and again about the overlap between our religious and and technical lives. And the decision to write the book probably started about two years ago. I've been working on it on and off. So they both sort of arose from the same desire to share that worldview, but they came out in slightly different ways.

Destiny: 02:32 and I think they came out because of in our work life. And you know, in general we write a lot and you've seen the questions and you've seen a lot of the user interaction and customer needs. And I feel like it's kind of a good thing because you've waited just long enough to understand those needs so that you can answer them.

Leon: 02:48 Right when I, yeah, I started to have like a full, a full story and some of the talking, honestly, some of the discussions I've had in synagogue, I'm trying to explain what do during the week to people. Um, that also sparked a lot of ideas. And so the four questions is really, like I said, this inside joke because during Passover, which is actually the holiday, we're in the middle of when this podcast is airing during the, the service or the, the meal, the youngest kid at the table asks these four questions, it starts off "why is tonight different from all other nights?" And, but there are these four sort of iconic questions. And as I was working in monitoring for questions kept coming up over and over and over again. And so I started to, you know, just jokingly refer to them as the four questions. And if the person I was talking to his Jewish or had friends who were Jewish, they were like, "oh yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it." And, but then I realized that there's a lot more parts of Jewish philosophy and the Jewish culture that fits both it and monitoring, especially around the idea of questions of skepticism of, you know, really inquiring past the pat answers, you know, really debating for the sake of making things better, not debating for the sake of winning. So those were all ideas that fed into the idea of the book.

Destiny: 04:11 It's pretty interesting. I like the idea, the skepticism because like for any religious aspect, everything is skeptical. From an outsider looking in period. And anytime we ever talk about monitoring and we'er at work / at an event is there's always skepticism. Like, "I need a solution. There's no way you can provide it." Right? Like "I know you, I know what you guys do, but you're not going to be able to help me." It's like we're... Yechh...

New Speaker: 04:37 "You sales people are all the same." And that's why I tell them there's actually no salespeople allowed to go to conventions for our company. We're actually all engineers, so you know, and they're like "whaaaaaaat???". Yeah. And so we're like, yeah, "oh, I was totally, yeah, I wouldn't have believed that either. Here, let me show it to ya."

Kate: 04:52 I was just going to say it's also, uh, we talking to customers a lot of times. Um, there's a, a skepticism of the data that they see, which I think is really the, you know, you should never just blindly trust anything, but it's definitely there as well.

Destiny: 05:07 How Paranoia. Yeah, I know all about that. Never trust the data. Right. But we run into that all the time where we'll have people that are like, hey, I need the data about this. I want the RAW data. And then there's an argument, is this the raw data? "Is this just what you're giving me? Why are you giving me the data? Why don't I have full access to the data? I don't understand." And then that creates a whole other realm, right? Because there's always a skeptic.

Kate: 05:35 Yeah. Why is it different than I expect it to be?

Leon: 05:37 Right. And that feeds back into sort of the, the conversationsq that drove the book, which was, um, you know, you need to be prepared for those questions. Again, one of the lessons, one of the lessons for Passover is that there's this story about the four children and there's the scholarly child, there's the skeptical child, there's the uh, quiet, we're stupid child. Uh, and then there's the silent child. And uh, everyone thinks like, oh, you have to decide which one you are. Are you the scholar? The one, are you the rebel? Are you the whatever? And actually when you get right down to it, it's, it has nothing to do with who you think you are. It's that if you want to try to teach people anything, you need to be ready for those four archetypes in every combination of those archetypes. You know, to you, you don't get to pick your students. You don't get to pick the people who are going to ask you questions. And if you're not ready for all of them, if you're not ready to actually just do cheerleading for the silent child, because they actually don't know what question to ask there, they're just sort of sitting back and like, "I got nothing for you." If you're not ready for that, that really rebellious, skeptical child, you know, to to put you on the spot about everything. If you're not ready, then you're not ready. And I think that is monitoring engineers especially, but IT people generally, we also need to wrap our heads around that. Like the person who comes into the meeting room and says, "I don't believe any of your data." They're actually your friend, you know? And the reason, the reason why I say that is because again, during the Passover conversation, the skeptical child, everyone says, oh, well, you know, he shouldn't be here. No, no. He chose to show up. That's the thing. The opposite of love isn't hatred. The opposite of love is apathy, you know, so the skeptical child showing up and saying, "All right, you just, what is all this to you? What? I don't, I'm, I'm on the fence. I'm not even on the fence. I'm over the fence here." But they showed up. You know, when they say, "I don't believe that this redundancy, you know, redundant design is going to work. I don't believe that this is really secure. I don't believe that. You know, you're really going to catch this problem." Whatever it is, they're actually your friend. They're actually there to make everything better. They may have social issues that don't allow them to communicate in a way that may be pleasing to you, but they're still there.

Doug: 08:02 And that's what makes The Four Questions work so well. Because in essence, what you're, you're what you're telling, whoever's reading the book, and there's a lot of people who this book is going to be good for, but basically you're just saying, you gotta be prepared for these questions and there's nothing, they always say a lawyer never asks a question they don't already know the answer to. Well, this is sort of the flip side of that. You basically need... you're going to get asked these questions so you better know the answers to them when they, when they, when they come across your bow and if you do, all of a sudden your credibility goes right through the ceiling because you're prepared. You're not blindsided. It's not a, "let me get back..." well, you might have to say, "Let me get back to you on that." But if you're at least expecting the question, you know that it's coming and you don't look like deer in the headlights.

Destiny: 08:52 I think that's important for anybody, right? Like if the employee versus the manager / CTO like yourself, Doug, it's one of those things up. If you know The Four Questions, it makes you a good interviewer, right? Like I know how to do this. It also makes you the good interviewee because you know the questions of which that are going to be asked. And you also know as the goal attendee, right? Like you're the goal guy, you're the CTO, you're needing these things to be answered by your lower level and you should be able to have the trust in the, you know, the actual confidence in them to be able to provide those when they lead up to you, they had the correct summary.

Leon: 09:25 Right? I just want to clarify one thing though, which is that it's, this is more than the four questions regardless of the book or not. Uh, you know, um, is the four questions are there not only as a CYA but also because if you think, well, how would I answer this question? You are naturally going to start designing your monitoring solution in a way that is more robust and more redundant and more comprehensive than you might otherwise. So it's really about making the solution better. Even if even if you're not worried about, you know, people putting you on the spot, even if you're not worried about, you know, maybe maybe everyone in the company loves you and loves monitoring and loves everything about it and they're all super fans and they cheer and sing for you as you walk through, you have your own theme song when you enter the office... is it getting a little deep in here?

Destiny: 10:15 Okay, we're not talking about me.

Doug: 10:19 Oh it's all rainbows and unicorns and I don't think so.

Leon: 10:22 Right. Okay.

Kate: 10:22 I really to visit this company.

Doug: 10:22 What color is the sky in your world?

Leon: 10:22 But even there's , right? Exactly. So even so the point is is that if you think about these ideas and say, well how would I answer that? You're naturally going to make a better solution because of it.

Doug: 10:37 Yeah. I was thinking less of a CYA, although CYA, it can be important sometimes, but as you were saying, when you're asking those questions, you are thinking through how does this thing need to be built and as a result you will be ready then when the questions come, cause you will have built it correctly in the first place

Destiny: 10:55 It's not even correctly. It's just more of a, you're giving thought. And I think that's something that we don't do hardly anymore. We just, we don't think about the end game. And that's like what ADHD, right? They're the ones that run up the tree and don't remember how to get down. So it's like, you know, right. It's like I would just want to go up. Yeah, I just want to go up the tree. I don't care how I get down. I just want to get down there, you know, up the tree. And so it's Kinda like the same thing. A lot of times when I've talked to people they want to do monitoring and they will go full force ahead, turn everything on, have everything going and then they're like, what did I just do? But they're not ready. They don't, they don't have the questions to ask. They don't understand the entities of which they are monitoring. They don't know what the goal is for the company by even having these metrics. And some of the times it's like, it's overwhelming. They'll turn on a freaking fire hose of events in a sim tool. And they're sitting there [and I'm] going, Well, are you gathering logs?" "Yeah." "Well, what does it look like?" "There's lot of, well, there's a lot going on here." Like, you know what I'm saying? Like that's the thing though. It's if you don't have questions like Doug was saying and you don't have a direction, you don't have a confidence of where you're heading to, you've got this huge, just abundance of data. It doesn't matter if it's Raw, it doesn't matter if it's accurate. You have no idea how to actually get to the information that you actually need and that's pertinent to you and it's just a plethora.

Kate: 12:30 You end up trying to drink from the fire hose.

Leon: 12:32 I want to be clear about that. That's not the end it feels like it's going in right when they turn on the fire hose. Drinking isn't the part... No, it's much more uncomfortable than that. Right. It's really, um, and that actually goes straight to the, one of the chapters is called a, I called it "The Prozac Moment,"q which is actually the second stage. The first stage is, you know, turn it all on and it's, you know, the turning on the fire hose of data and then they have this moment where you basically have to intravenously applied Prozac because they're like, "It can't all be this bad!!" A) Ad Populum Theorem, Doug, uh, it can all in fact be this bad. And B) you know, you did ask for that.

Destiny: 13:20 Well, and I think that's something that talk about those that it can all be that bad. And I've seen a lot of people, and I know you have to, and I'm sure Doug and Kate has, where people have turned things on and it is bad. And then you have the people that are like, "Let's just put that back under the rug." You know what I mean?

Doug: 13:38 "We did not see this. "

Destiny: 13:39 "Yeah, let's take 10% of this and evaluate it and look really good, but let's ignore the 90% of it until, I don't know, a review comes around" like, like let's just, they don't want to handle it all at once because it's overwhelming, but they don't actually implement a correct plan on how you stage, that categorize it. Is it low, medium or high? They just are like overwhelmed. "Oh my God, my review is coming up. I have things that are monetarily going to be associated with this data that's now represented. I need to control it." So what they actually do is turn off the fire hose. They only allow certain little things to come through and you're in a bigger mess honestly because you're just getting that much more behind.

Leon: 14:26 So something I'm curious about and you know, I'm, I'm too deep into it to really know. But you know, obviously this is a book that has some religious stuff in it. So my question is, what was your take on that? Like good blend or it was way too much. It was blunt force Judaic trauma or you know, how did, how do you respond? How did you respond to it as you were reading it?

Kate: 14:47 I'll tell you a little origin story of my atheism because it's kind of relevant to that question. Um, when I was much younger, uh, in college I was going to a nondenominational church, um, because I wanted to impress a guy and the pastor gave a sermon about how God wanted to get into the hard drive of your mind and reboot it. And that was the moment when I said to myself, yeah, I'm an atheist now.

Leon: 15:17 So that's perfect. I, I probably would've been right there. I would be second in line out the door with you.

Kate: 15:26 Then I'm mixing technology metaphors with religion has as sort of been like an instant "no" for me. Um, but I will say like, I really appreciated the fact that, you know, I could read the way you had everything laid out. It was really easy for me to, to sort of separate it and say "This is an interesting, like his bit of history and of fact," and I can stick to the technology part and I didn't feel like they were too, you know, meshed together, if that makes sense.

Doug: 15:56 I came at it from a sort of the other side because I'm less interested in the technical and the monitoring side. Yeah. Just the way I am. But I found the, I found the religion really fascinating because as an evangelical Christian, we are grafted onto the Jewish scion, at that's what we believe in, we won't want to go any further than that. But so knowing the basis of the, uh, of the Passover, which is, um, let's face it, a very important, um, Jewish, right. And a lot of our symbolism and Christianity comes from that whole, the whole Passover image. Um, it was, it was great both getting more detail on the actual Passover itself, but then I thought the questions were really nicely tied into the technical side without it's being, it's not beating you over the head with the Torah. It's just saying, "Here's, you know, here's this question now. How can that work from a technical standpoint without actually making your hard drive, get rewritten and rebooted?" Oh my God, I would become an atheist also.

Destiny: 17:08 I think for myself being hugely technical and hugely religious, that on my side of it, the mystery, uh, more of the Passover intertwining with the Jewish as well as the Christianity on my side. Like, I know that you, Leon have done a lot of things with my husband on the Torah and things of that nature and just that extra knowledge slash background of how we all kind of mesh together of where we all decide that we don't agree that, um, but that's like a lot of things though of, of when we go into that realm, when I'm looking at the technology I take from it from not only a Christian like type of the viewpoint of how I see things and how I view things, but also because of my knowledge of knowing you through the years as well as understanding the Torah a little bit better through my husband and your sessions of understanding from the Jewish background that goes way further than Christianity does. So I think there's a lot to be said there that marries religions together. Like there is a stint point, there is a spear of destiny per say. Ah Ha! That, um, I think that all creation period, like whether you're an atheist or anything that comes across there, there are things that we can take from history that's been noted in books, literature itself. I mean even outside of religion that we can tie in together to times to what is happening now.

Leon: 18:29 Uh, I'm going to pivot from there. The book is available both as an ebook but also there's a, you can buy a physical actual hold it in your hand and there's been some very strong opinions expressed both within the Technically Religious staff, both folks who are on the, you know, on this episode and not, and then also out in the community for people who've had pre-release copies. So I just want to get your feeling, you know, ebook physical book. Like what, what's your take on that? This is it. This is an IT question. How do you consume your words?

Kate: 19:01 I was all in for the ebook from day one, like the format in general. Um, because if you ever, you know, sort of had the college experience where you move a lot of dorms are a lot of apartments, you realize quickly how much having a lot of books can really suck unless you happen to be a power lifter. Or a body builder. Um, so I was thrilled when the notion that, you know, all of my books that I wanted to read suddenly weighed no more than an iPad.

Destiny: 19:30 Oh yeah. But that's a good ploy though. And I'd have to say like for me, because I'm constantly in college and constantly like upping myself in certs and stuff. But uh, I was for a long time buying the actual book. I just liked the feel of the paper. I like to be able to highlight and there was something about it just being on my shelf in a tangible, like I could just grab it and touch it and relate to the moment when I was reading it. But I do have to say in the past, probably year, year and a half, and I know that that's actually quick, right? Like, that's pretty quick in my time of I've started to really enjoy ebooks and audio. I can, not that I have a long commute because I work from home, but when I'm doing things that, you know, like if I'm like driving through town or if I'm having a break, I can do the audio now and I'm starting to do that. So I think there is a lot to just where you're at in life.

Kate: 20:21 I think going back to my point though, the fact that you moved within that time period has something to do with it.

Destiny: 20:26 But I brought everything with me. I brought every book with me and did not get rid of it. But I started to reevaluate and like I said, just even before I moved, just it was, uh, an easier thing probably because the increased travel, I travel a lot now, so a lot of the, it's way easier to continue my studies, continue my learning or if I'm out at an event and somebody suggests something, well I, I want to remember it. So I just like download it, read it, start doing it on kindle or something. You know, like that's just super easy and there's just a lot to it. I just think like I've finally been pushed enough I guess to where I just gradually fell into the ebook market. But I feel like I'm late to the game. Is what I'm getting at. I feel like I'm late to the game. I wish I would have converged or went towards it earlier in life.

Doug: 21:14 Yup. Well, since I'm older than dirt, I came, uh, I basically came at this from books. In fact, uh, the, the first thing I did in college was I got an account at the bookstore, which of course got me into immediate, incredible trouble financial as you might imagine, because I've loved books forever. So I had books upon books upon books, and as Kate said, I moved him everywhere. I, yeah, I used to be in better shape, but, uh, finally about three or four moves ago, I basically ended up selling everything, all the books just because I got tired of moving them. I still have... Except for my cookbooks. Of course I still have those. But about four years ago, something like that, I was going to work overseas for six months. You can't take all of those books that you're going to need to read for that period of time. Didn't have access to the library, everything. So I got myself a nook for goodness sakes. Don't ever want to have one of those again. But the thing is I was able to go ahead and borrow books from my public library back home, electronically, read through the whole game of Thrones and about 15 other books for the six months I was there. And I am now a convert. I, you know, on a kindle, I still get books because my wife wants books. Books doesn't want to read them electronically. And just last night I was, I had to take the shade off the lamp cause I realized that the lights in my bedroom or no longer set up for reading in bed because I'm used to having something that has its own little glow. I'm, I'm, I'm a convert.

Leon: 22:45 So I have to say from my side that part of it is just the nature of the Jewish beast, um, that, you know, every week for 25 hours, we're completely offline. So, uh, if all of your books and reading material are online, it makes it very difficult for at least that, that one day period. But I dunno, there's, I still, you know, there's something about holding a book in your hand and being able to flip through it and the visceral experience of it, you know, the ability to say, oh, that's on page 34 in the upper right corner, you know, next to the picture of the this or that. There's something about that for me. But at the same time, everything that you have, all of you have already said, um, that, you know, it's just so convenient to have and it doesn't matter where you are or whatever, it's, you know, tap, tap, tap, and there it is. And, okay, so you don't know what's on page 32 because you can do a search and find it in the book or whatever, but...

Destiny: 23:45 See and me and my new house, it's one of those things of, it's almost scholary like you know, it has like a, its own sense of essence to it to have books because like where I live in a resort, when people came over to my house, we do have a pretty good like library of books and things that come across there like beautiful books, Alice in Wonderland with all of the beautiful pictures of which that are within there and things of that nature and, and like Girl Genius and like little, you know, comic books and things like that. Like there's things of which that we have that just haven't an own art realm to them. Right. That is almost has its own, it's like a, a class of society in a way. It's like, you know, it's, it's like, "Oh my gosh, you have a library!" right? Like it's like things like that of which that you have to think of.

Speaker 1: 24:29 So yeah. So I think that that's, that's definitely a trend is that books have moved from being the thing that have all the words in it. And I don't really care as much about the aesthetic to something that must have both an aesthetic and a, you know, a content value to me because otherwise I can just put the words on a electronic, you know, form and just work through it. I will say that there has been a call for a, the four questions to be moved into an audio book. I could see that that is, that is in the works for those people who, uh, are thinking the same thing as you're listening to this. That is definitely gonna happen in the next, you know, few months or something. Hopefully it will already have happened depending on when you listen to this. Um, so that's definitely a thing.

Destiny: 25:15 Does everybody else like audios?

Doug: 25:17 I like it when I'm driving. I mean, otherwise I don't, I mean I, it was just funny, I was in radio for how long? And you know, you would think that I would just eat that stuff up. And the reality is I just don't, because it, for me, it only works if I'm concentrating. Um, you know, it's like if I'm working around the house or something, I can't be distracted by the book. So that's not gonna work, you know? But when I'm driving long distances, if I drive from Dallas back home to see my mother in Ohio, we go through novels. I've got a question about all the words.

Leon: 25:50 Okay.

Doug: 25:51 It's a lot of words. A book is a lot of words. I've started to write a novel like four times. Um, so I mean, you wrote a book, Dude.

Leon: 26:04 Indeed I did.

Doug: 26:05 You did. Well, I mean, it's a lot of words. You put it all together. You've finished, you sat your rear in the chair and you went ahead and wrote it. How hard is, I mean, do you have any advice for people who want to... IT people who think they want to write a book?

Leon: 26:20 Uh, okay. So for all three of them, uh, there's because, because IT people are sort of stereotypically not interested in flat out documenting their stuff, let alone, you know, writing a book. But if you have an idea for, you know, the great American novel, the hard work is, is getting those words written out. The thing not to do, is to constantly second guess yourself. "Is this good enough? Has someone said this before? Is this..." this is your take on a topic. It doesn't matter if you are writing about ping or uh, you know, this is, this is how to set up active directory or whatever it is. It's fine that there are 12, you know, or 12,000 other books on it. This is yours. Um, and there's a lot of things that you'll discover along the way that makes the whole effort worth it. So that's my, my cheerleader. You know, "You can do it, go try!" you know. Um, and sometimes you, you end up writing, starting to write one thing and then realize that there's this other thing, this other topic that was hiding behind it. That's actually way more interesting. So, uh, it is a lot of words, but they're always worth it. It is always, always worth it. And obviously, write something that you find really interesting yourself. Um, if you're writing about Active Directory because you hate it and you know, you're just a masochist, that's, that's, I guess that's a thing, but it's not gonna be easy. Those aside, because that is the work of the work. That aside, everything else is ridiculously easy these days. Um, you don't have to pitch to a publisher. You don't have to. The, the most expensive part of writing this book was the editor that I hired and I very consciously hired her on because I've worked with her before Ann Guidry. Um, she's amazing and she's edited my work in the past and she was incredible. And, and that was where most of the money, went. I'll be honest, the book cost $3,000 to produce, start to finish. Um, it was, you know, a couple hundred bucks for the cover art. Uh, Rob Masek of Masek Designs did the cover for me and he's also incredible. Um, and Ann did the editing. And then there was a little bit of incidental stuff here and there for, you know, the plugin module on the website to do sales and things like that.

Destiny: 28:43 But Ann's is really good at helping you stay who you are.

Leon: 28:46 Right. She, she like any good editor. She helps me sound more like myself.

Destiny: 28:52 Right. And when I did my first ebook and you helped me with it, my first E-book, not a book book, but when I did my first Ebook, she was the one that did the editing on that. And you're the one that helped guide me on like, Hey just make it fun and do things. And I realized real quick the difference in somebody that's editing it for their own gain, if that makes sense. Versus editing it to make sure that it's who you are. But like grammatically correct obviously, but more of your tone, right? Like it was more so like who you are and you know the [sic] related, right? Like white, this is how she wants to say it because that's how Destiny talks, right. You know, like this is, this is how this is done and this is meant to be. And I have the confidence and letting it lie. I thought that was really cool for as an editor for her that she really grasps.

Leon: 29:43 Yeah, no, she absolutely got that. And, and which made the investment worth it because I knew that the product, the end product was going to be so much better because of it. Um, in terms of the rest of it, you know, Word, you know, just type, like really no pad would be fine too. I'm a big Evernote, you know, person in terms of tools, I write a lot in that. Um, and as far as putting it together, uh, there's, there's plenty of services I happened to use Smashwords, which gets it distributed all sorts of, all over the place. And then Kindle, you know, Amazon, you have to do on your own, separate from that. And as far as the printing, I used IngramSpark and again, minimal investment. So if you're thinking, oh my gosh, you know, I can't write a book because the production part is really hard, that's not anymore. That barrier to entry is completely gone. Um, so that you can focus as a writer, you know, just doing that part. And I'll tell you a trick and Destiny, you sort of hit on it, which is, you know, if you're thinking, wow, this is too much for me to do, invite some friends, you know, talk about it. If this is a technical topic and you're talking about it at work, talk with the folks and say, "Hey, you know, do you want to do a chapter? Do you want to, you know, contribute some ideas and I'll flesh them out or vice versa?" And you know, three, four, five people. Again, Amazon doesn't care how many author names you put on there. You know, it's not like a, a real flesh and blood publisher says, "No, no, no. We wanted to have the exclusive rights and all of you must sign a contract and your first born child." like nobody cares. Really.

Destiny: 31:20 Thank God I've alread got a few!

Leon: 31:23 Right, right. You can, yeah. Children to say, yeah, it's, you can put a few up. Exactly. They must be teenagers. So, uh, you know, but you can, you can do that so you can actually spread the load. And uh, on, on this book, on The Four Questions, a friend of mine, a Rabbi Davidovich, uh, who's here in Cleveland, he also, he's got a lot of great ideas. His public speaking is incredible, but he just found that that hump of writing to be a little bit daunting. And so I'm like, yeah, "You're going to do, you're going to do a chapter for me." And so he's got, uh, you know, he's got a whole insert in there. Um, I actually had to bribe him with a pan of baklava and coffee and he was able to, he was saying... It works, man.

Doug: 32:11 Oh, well. her baklavah.. your daughter's baklava is so good, I mean really...

Kate: 32:16 I would do literally anything you asked of me for a pan of baklavah.

Destiny: 32:20 So would Tim. Tim would totally be down.

Leon: 32:23 Duly noted. Okay. See, so everyone who's listening, like you just have to know the people around. You just have to know what their bribery level. Um, so anyway, you know, so there's some other ways to go about writing it that isn't the same. And the last piece of advice that I would give is, is if you like writing, but the idea of writing a book is daunting. Don't. Write blog posts, write short essays. You'd be amazed at how quickly they bundled together into an anthology, or that you start to see themes come out. It's like, "Oh, but if I, if I wove this one into this one, if I connected that to that and I just rewrote a little bit of this" and whatever that all of a sudden the book is there. You actually already did it. You just didn't realize it. Um, so those, those are just some, some, you know, other ideas from inside.

Destiny: 33:14 So I have a question. If you're going to summarize your book how would you summarize The Four Questions for somebody who has no idea what they are? Like coming in to this podcast right now? Like if they were like, "Okay, I hear a lot about four questions. What the hell is four questions?? What is going on?" Like, what is it?

Leon: 33:32 So there's, there's two ways to answer. First of all, the book is really the combination of what Jewish philosophy and history have to say about it. And monitoring specifically. That's the overarching theme. So it's really about monitoring with the Judaic piece as spice or a through line to keep you, as Kate said, "to keep you awake." What the four questions are is a pretty simple, these are the four questions that I've gotten asked over the 20 years I've been a monitoring engineer: Why did it get an alert? Why didn't I get an alert? Uh, what are you monitoring on my systems right now? What's going to alert on my systems right now? And then there's a fifth of the fourth questions. Just like, there's five cups of wine or four, we're not sure, during Passover. There's four - or five - questions and that is "what do you monitor standard" is the last question. So those are the questions. So as far as where you can get it, um, you can find all the links to it on my website, but you can also find it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Smashwords and those links will lead you to everywhere else that you could possibly want to find it.

Doug: 34:39 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: 34:53 It's a very engaging topic. In fact, it's so interesting and meaty that I don't think one book is enough. You're probably going to have to buy two just to make sure you get it.


S1E7 - Opposing As We Follow

S1E7 - Opposing As We Follow

April 16, 2019

In religion (and the religion of IT), we often find ourselves accepting the majority of the dogma while having to choose to reject the minority. In this episode, Josh, Doug, and Leon talk about how to support something that you disagree with because it’s just part of a larger system that is mostly good. Listen or read the transcript below:

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone, it's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked," and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of it with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks.

Josh: 00:25 Welcome to Technically Religious, 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: 00:48 So tell me, what do you think the hardest part of your job is?

Josh: 00:54 You know, when I lived in Las Vegas, a retired LAPD gang squad detective that I knew, I think he said it best, he said, In order to be in leadership, you have to tell people how to go to hell and have a good time getting there."

Doug: 01:08 Wait, what does that even mean?

Josh: 01:10 Well, I think that it means that sometimes to lead, well, you have to tell people things that they don't want to hear, but you have to do it in a way where they don't hate you or hate the process.

Leon: 01:21 Okay. And that takes us into our conversation for today, which is, opposing something even as you are a part of it. Even as you follow it. What we're going to talk about is where the majority of the thing that you're in, your work, your religion, the club you're in, most of it you like, it's good, but there are certain elements that you absolutely can't stand. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. So how do we as good IT people, as good practitioners of our faith as good members of our family - How do we oppose something while still being part of it, rather than just rage quitting. So that's the topic for today.

Josh: 02:09 Well, I'm going to oppose the fact that we've started this podcast without introducing Doug.

Leon: 02:15 Oh, right, sorry, everyone, uh, sound off

Josh: 02:18 Josh Biggley

Doug: 02:20 Doug Johnson

Leon: 02:22 and I'm Leon Adato. Thank you. Okay, good. That... See? So sometimes opposition can be good, and be done respectfully. Right?

Josh: 02:28 Well, you know, I, I if you've been on the Internet lately, I think that they would disagree. I'm just going to say that Reddit and every comment on every article I've ever read says that you have to oppose by burning down the world.

Leon: 02:43 Right? Right. They would oppose the idea that you can oppose something respectfully.

Josh: 02:47 Absolutely.

Doug: 02:47 Yeah. It seems like, but it seems like what they're doing is by burning down the world, they're burning down the very thing that they want to preserve. It drives me crazy that people are just like, "Let's just go and destroy this thing cause I hate this part of it. So I'm going to ruin everything for everybody."

Leon: 03:04 Everybody. Right. And, and Doug, just a little background for the listeners that don't know you really well, you, um, the way you described yourself to me first is best, uh, Steve Martin once said that, "two years of philosophy is enough to screw up anybody." And you've had four.

Doug: 03:18 That is correct.

Leon: 03:18 So I can only imagine that some of the arguments that you see on the Internet are maddening for you.

Doug: 03:26 It can be and I've actually gotten off of all of the long form ones because I was tending to do too much real arguing. So by staying on Twitter, I've only got 140 characters to go ahead and make my point to be really succinct to tell people what idiots they ar... sorry, to tell people that they're thinking maybe not quite as tight as it should be.

Leon: 03:50 Right, exactly. Okay, good. Um, so I think we should probably talk about, um, some for instances, you know, when we talk about being part of something but opposing, um, so let's start off in IT. What are some examples in the world of it where you might oppose something but you know, again, not want to burn the entire building down.

Josh: 04:09 I was going to say a cloud versus on prem, but that feels like a burn the building down. So I avoided that one

Leon: 04:17 Well, and I'd say why not both, right? I mean, you know, hybrid IT is a thing. So you don't, you don't have to, I mean not, not that anybody ever asked for it. Uh, but you know, it's still a thing. So I don't feel like that's, I was thinking more of things like just generally speaking, design choices. There are times in our lives as IT professionals where someone makes a particular design choice. No, we're not going to have redundant switches here. We're, you know, going to go with RAID 5 not, you know, solid state storage or RAID 10 or whatever where you're like, this is wrong. This is a bad, bad idea. And yet for whatever reason we can't afford it. We're not going to do it. We don't see the reason for it. For whatever reason, the design goes ahead as planned. And you just have to sit there and say, oh, oh, okay, but this is wrong.

Doug: 05:05 And are we thinking wrong here though? Or, or like religious choices, like for instance, PHP versus python.

Leon: 05:14 So

Doug: 05:15 Well no, I mean I've just, I've seen this of arguments where teams can actually split on which way they should go with it because it becomes a religious war as a of the topic. I agree with you that, you know, I'll work in any language even if I don't know the language, I can learn the language. I'm not stupid. I've got 19 languages so far. I think I can learn another one. But I've seen teams that just get to logger heads over, you know, what languages are going to be used in different, like on the backend or something along that line.

Leon: 05:44 Right. I, and if you're making a good point, which is there's a difference between, "it's not my preference" versus "it's suboptimal" versus "this is actually not going to work."

Doug: 05:56 So we're talking about things where we actually believe it's a bad idea and it's not, it's going to affect the project negatively. Very strong.

Leon: 06:04 Yeah. Yeah. So, so to give an example, and I'll put it back in my own league, uh, I work at SolarWinds, I work with the SolarWinds tools and SolarWinds is very, very clear that their modules really need to be installed on a RAID 10 or better storage system. Do not install it on RAID 5. It's in all the documentation. It's everywhere. And yet in one particular organization who shall remain nameless, both the dbs and the storage team insisted that they were going to put it on RAID 5 because they had very, very, very fast disks and it's going to be fine. That wasn't the problem. But no matter what information I brought to them, it didn't matter they were going to do RAID 5 one way or the other. They're like, okay. And sure enough, three months into the implementation, the system wasn't running correctly. It was more than just dog slow. It was failing, it was losing data, it was not performing the job it was supposed to perform. And as the conversation began to swirl around, "well maybe SolarWinds isn't as good as it's supposed to be." It's like, "No, you have it running on this... you're running on the wrong platform. And as soon as we moved it to RAID 10, it worked the way it was supposed to. So that's an example of standing in opposition. Like this is wrong, not just philosophically in my opinion, but wrong. Wrong.

Doug: 07:25 Got It. So when a situation like that, how do you oppose and, and...

Josh: 07:29 To go to Doug's question, um, sometimes you, you have to oppose by just stating your opposition. So I had a, an instance I, in the past couple of weeks, my VP gave a recommendation to do something. Uh, and I, I sent an email back to my VP, my VP, and I don't email directly often. Um, so for me that leap over my manager, my director and go straight to my VP was a bit of a, uh, uh, a taboo. Yeah. It was a leap. I running long jump actually.

Doug: 08:02 Over crocodiles with lasers because why not, right?

Leon: 08:09 Yup.

Josh: 08:10 And so I said to him, "Hey, I recognize that you've made these recommendations and I'm just wondering why, you know, what is it that you see in these recommendations versus the recommendations that I've made that, that you think is the right thing to do?" And and my director sent me an email. He's like, "Hey, look, you know, if you're going to oppose, you shouldn't do it over email." And I was like, "Oh, I, you know, I respect that. I didn't realize that my opposition came across that way." And so I, you know, I had to send an email to my VP and tell him, "Hey, look, I wasn't being oppositional. I was really asking these questions because I wanted to know." And so there are times when we, we don't think that we're being oppositional because we're innately curious as engineers, we want to go in and find all the things and when we want to understand and wrap our heads around it. And I'm one of those people that if you tell me to go and sell a product and it sucks, my pitch is going to be, You should buy this product. It sucks. But if you don't, I'm going to starve to death."

Leon: 09:14 There's your compelling sale.

Josh: 09:15 That's it. That's all I've got. I tried to sell vacuum cleaners, once. I lasted two days. So there you go.

Leon: 09:21 Got It. Okay. So, some other, some other for instances, uh, you know, open source versus commercial software is often an IT argument. Um, and again, sometimes like Doug said, it's philosophical. I just liked this better, but sometimes it's, "No the product that you're talking about is going to be expensive and won't do the job." So there's that. So let's dovetail for a minute because we are technically religious here. Um, let's talk about some points in religion where, uh, you know, whether it's ourselves personally or things that we've seen that, that people tend to oppose or be an opposition to.

Josh: 09:58 Like religion in its entirety.

Doug: 10:01 There are those.

Leon: 10:03 So there are some people and it's too bad that some of our members of technical sure aren't here to chime in. But yeah, who just oppose the whole concept of faith based behavior in general. And that's fine.

Josh: 10:14 It is, it's totally cool.

Leon: 10:15 You know, we're, we're good with that. We do not oppose their opposition. Um, but uh,

Doug: 10:21 We will defend to the death your right to be stupid. I mean...

Leon: 10:27 Ohhh... Now I'm happy that our other members aren't here because they would kill you with their pinky. So I was thinking, so an easy one to, to call out is sexuality. I think that lots of religions have as a basic tenant of faith, an opinion about sexuality, whom it can be between and how it should be performed and things like that. And I think that that many individuals, whether they embrace the religion as a whole, find themselves challenged with those faith-based opinions about, sexuality and relationships and things like that. That's a, that's a good example I think of of one.

Doug: 11:05 Yup. And also is a really good example of places where everybody continually falls down. Even while they go ahead and say that they believe this stuff.

Leon: 11:15 Right. And that takes you back to how to oppo... I mean, is the proper thing to oppose something like that? You know, I'll be honest. You know, as, as an Orthodox Jew, you know, uh, Judaism, especially Orthodox Judaism is very, very clear about same sex relationships. It's incredibly, you know, there's no waffling about it at all. I stand in opposition to that, but I don't really find myself agreeing. I also don't find myself debating the point with my co-religionists very much because, you know, I just, again, it's, it's a fact on the ground in terms of the Orthodox Jewish religion.

Doug: 11:54 But in my case has an evangelical Christian. The same situation applies the all the tenets we pull in all the old, all the tenets from the Old Testament, and we add some more from the New Testament that says that it's wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. And yet we have this religion that basically says, God takes you where you are and we'll save you from anything. And, and, and if you look at all the lists, you know, Gossiping and Sodomy are actually put right next to each other.

Speaker 2: 12:27 Right.

Doug: 12:28 And yet we don't have people saying, well, we can't have any gossips in our church. I mean, yes, we say that, but honestly, we don't shun them. And so I just see, I see situations where people in leadership are literally driving people away who frankly, you know, might do well to have the love of Christ in their life and whether they would at that point then turn away from their "sin". I, you know, I, that's not for me, it's not my job to straighten that out, but I am opposed to us being so oppositional too, because we're supposed to be there for everybody.

Josh: 13:05 So, you know, being, uh, being a, a post Mormon, an ex Mormo.. nah, a post Mormon because I technically still am Mormon. Um, as I had to explain to a family member today... they haven't thrown me out yet, um, 15 years ago, um, I left Mormonism for about eight months over that very matter. Um, and when I, when we opted to return to the faith, um, we were actually disciplined for our views and the view was you cannot support gay marriage and be a member in good standing. And so we opted to just not go. Um, it's not necessarily a stance that I would recommend for people. Um, you know, uh, your dying on a hill of gif versus jif. That's one thing. Um,

Leon: 13:53 And that's a hill I will die on.

Josh: 13:56 Right. Totally worth it. Um, there are some other things in life that just aren't worth it and that's what we, we ultimately decided is we weren't willing to, uh, die the proverbial death on that hill. Um, oddly enough, you know, 15 years later I'm out anyway. So, um, I could have saved some time and money, I guess.

Leon: 14:15 Taking it back from sort of the nuclear option in religion there. I think there's other things that people stand in opposition to, whether it's a certain foods, whether they are or aren't kosher. In my case, uh, Josh, you were telling me before about the Mormon position on, you know, caffeine caffeinated beverages.

Josh: 14:33 Yeah. So, uh, and, and Mormonism, there's this concept of the word of wisdom and the word of wisdom says... It has a bunch of things that you shouldn't partake of and there's a bunch of things that you should do. And Mormons generally speaking, tend to focus on the things that you should not do - the prohibitions. And one of the prohibitions is around hot drinks. So hot drinks was later clarified to be coffee and tea. So now the question is, well if it was hot drinks and coffee and tea. What if I drink iced coffee or what if I have ice tea? And so when, when my parents were growing up, there was this whole thing that you can't drink caffeine. And how we got from, you know, hot drinks to coffee and tea to caffeine, I'm not really sure, but today, uh, in Mormonism drinking caffeine is, um, is widely accepted. In fact, many of the church leaders have said, hey, it's okay. So there were people who are super oppositional. In fact, I remember the exact moment in time when I tasted Dr Pepper for the very first time. I remember the wind, the sun felt in the school yard. I remember where I was standing. I, it was, it was almost transcendental. Um, so there are times in which opposing my parents and drinking Dr Pepper, uh, produced, uh, an, uh, a euphoric experience. It was, I still remember, and that was a long time ago.

Doug: 15:53 All hail Dr. Pepper.

Josh: 15:53 Right. All hail.

Leon: 15:55 That's incredible. Okay. So we talked about some IT stuff and uh, we talked about some religious stuff I'd like to do for those listeners who understand SQL databases, this is the INNER JOIN ALL where religion and work or IT come together. Uh, we are things that people tend to feel very oppositional both within an IT and the, the religious content.

Doug: 16:18 Little Christmas decorations everywhere. Excuse me, HOLIDAY decorations everywhere that just happen to look just like all the Christmas decorations.

Leon: 16:28 As I did say to one HR person when they told me, "No, they're not Christmas, the'yre holiday..." I said, "I do celebrate holidays around this time of year and nothing in my house looks like those!"

Doug: 16:37 Right. There's not a single dreidle or menorah here anywhere. And even then, even if there were, you wouldn't know what to do with them. So really,

Leon: 16:44 Nor was I asking, I am very much, you know, at work I'm very much like please include me out. Like I don't, I don't need your really bad attempt at trying to make this work. No, no, just I'm good.

Doug: 16:59 Well and, and I'm the same way, but I mean as a born again Christian, I'm supposed to love Christmas and frankly I hate the holiday cause it's about everything that Christianity is not. So all of the stuff that goes up, it's just like, it's celebrating all of the wrong things as far as Christianity is concerned. I mean it, yeah, love and peace for all mankind. But honestly, no, that's not what I mean. It ends up being everybody trying to

Leon: 17:29 "Get out of my parking spot I have five minutes to get..."

Doug: 17:33 Exactly and that's my Tickle Me Elmo we're both holding on to and I will kill you for it. I mean, really, come on. I've had pastors ask me why I'm so down on Christmas and then they'll always regret having asked me cause I tell them.

Leon: 17:48 Right. So the other one that comes up and I swear to God, you know, hand over my heart, this happened. They were about to push code to production and before they did, the lead programmer said, "I just liked us all to sit and have a moment of prayer before we..." Like, no, no! I just... I get it. You know, it's, it's an extension of that joke: "as long as there are tests in schools, there will be prayer in schools also." Like, it's a very funny joke. It's cute. It's pithy. I get it. And yet I don't believe that all of our code pushes should be accompanied with, you know, a quick psalm or two or whatever.

Doug: 18:29 The question is who are you praying to it? That particular one, since you're pushing code, you should probably be praying to Satan and it's going to be a better, I mean, let's face it, he's the one, he's the one that's in charge of all the IT projects, right?

Leon: 18:45 And, and we all know computers are tools of the devil. Right. Okay. So, uh, moving forward, you know, we have the our for instances. Doug I want to come back to your question one more time is that we find ourselves in opposition to this thing, whether it's the people who were chosen to be on a project, you know, a project team or the design choice or my synagogue's stance on a particular point of, of Jewish law or whatever. And I find that I am really in opposition to it. That one thing. Everything else? Basically good. So what are some healthy good ways to deal with it? Josh, you talked about, uh, sometimes just stating your opinion, but saying it in the right forum. Like what else do we got?

Josh: 19:28 Well, I, you know, I'm not sure that I have anything else other than just again reiterating that the importance of, uh, stating, stating the facts.I like to say the people at work don't mess with the enterprise monitoring team because we have data. And so if you're going to be oppositional, being oppositional because it's the way that you feel about something technical? That doesn't fly, at least not in my world. You can't say to me, "Well, I know, I feel like this thing isn't going to work because..." Give me the data. Right? Like you absolutely have to. You have to give me some data. And it can be someone else's researched it. It can be actual empirical data. And don't just pick and choose because you know, there's a great saying about, uh, statistics, right? There's three types of lives in the world, lies, damn lies and statistics. So don't just give me your stats, let me see your source data and let me touch it and feel it and that. Um, but you know, if you're going to oppose, oppose with intelligence, with intellect, um, don't oppose, you know, with feeling because feeling is a good way to ask questions. And I think that asking questions is a very different thing from outright opposing unless you're being super passive aggressive and then shame on you but you can ask questions without being confrontational, without being completely oppositional. But if you're going to oppose, hey, you know, do it with some class.

Doug: 20:59 Right. Well, and the thing is that you can use feelings are really good when you're trying to convince people. I mean, if I can get, if I can make you feel a different way, then I can go ahead and convince you to my point. But when I'm in, when I'm in opposition, I'm with you. I, I like to have facts. Um, in a religious context. I was, I was once late for teaching a Bible study. I mean, keep in mind, I was traveling 45 minutes to get to this church and the elder pulled me aside and said, "It's disrespectful for you to be late." And I thanked him very much and then went and taught the class, went home, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Came back the next week. And I said, uh, I pointed out to scripture where Saul had ah... where Samuel had arrived late and Saul had already sacrificed. And I pointed that out to him who got in trouble? Samuel, the guy who was late? Or Saul the guy who went ahead and he went "Point taken." And he apologized because I gave him the facts, right? So I was oppositional to my elder without actually being nasty about it.

Leon: 21:57 Okay. So, so key point is a level of courtesy, that you can be courteous at the same time you're being oppositional. Um, I liked the point about data. I also think that, and, and you are both going to be shocked that I'm the one saying this sometimes. Maybe just keep it to yourself. Like I, you know, you can be, you can oppose it. You can feel strongly about it, but unless it is a hill to die on, which we'll talk about in a minute, maybe sometimes it's like, yeah, I don't agree with this, but it's, it's part and parcel of this thing that we're part of, you know, it is the way the company culture runs. It is the, you know, again, there are certain things about Orthodox Judaism I can never, will never change. And so it's just, it's there. If someone asks my opinion, absolutely, I will share with them some of how I feel. But at a certain point, again, it's not going to change it, so don't, don't dwell on it either.

Josh: 22:58 I have a great story about this. So I, I grew up in small town Ontario and the town next to my town. Um, there was a great rivalry between the two high schools and there was a catholic high school and a public high school, but great rivalries between these two small towns and southern Ontario. I moved out here to Prince Edward Island. And, uh, you know, I get on Twitter and I am talking with some people and they realize that I'm, I'm from that area. And this guy says, "O, I grew up in this town." And I'm like, "Oh, that's weird. I grew up in THIS town." He's like, "Oh, I wonder if we knew each other?" Cause we're about the same age. And as we started to explore, we realize that we were different in almost every way. Of course, you know, he was from THAT town and I was from the town I was. I grew up Mormon. He grew up, reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is, you know, the, an offshoot religion and everything. Everything that we talked about on Twitter, we, uh, we opposed and we would clash all the time. But I know this is gonna sound crazy and you're gonna think I'm nuts. But we almost always would get to the point where I would say, hey "Dave, I don't think we're going to agree." Or he would say, "Hey, Josh, I don't think we're going to agree. That's cool. You know, I, I'm, I'm okay with the fact that we don't agree." And we would just leave it at that and it's, um, it's allowed us to maintain a rather friendly relationship. I wouldn't even say it's just cordial. I would say it's a friendly relationship, um, especially as I've gone through my own faith transition. So I think it's really important that we, that we learn how to have that opposition, um, while still maintaining our humanity.

Leon: 24:35 The other thing that I want to point out is understanding the context of opposition. I mean, we've been talking about it from a very personal standpoint, which is, you know, "I oppose x or y", but when you're on the other side of it, somebody is opposing you. Um, it's important to understand that sometimes they're not opposing it because they hate you or they hate this or you're wrong or you're bad. That there's a lot of reasons. I mean, Josh, you talked about, um, you know, being, you've talked before about being devil's advocate and you know, just sort of pushing on an idea. Um, and I think that that's true. Sometimes people do that, but just like some people have a very dry sense of humor and you can't tell that they're joking. Sometimes they have, for lack of a better term, a dry sense of, of opposition. And I think that sometimes when we're in that opposite heel situation, and I'll, I'll make it both personal and external, right? If someone's opposing, you just consider the fact that they may be coming from a different place than just "This sucks and I hate it." And at the same time when you're opposing, clarifying, "I am not saying that I hate this project, I hate this tool, I hate this, you know, whatever it is. I'm saying this one thing I need to challenge to make sure it's as strong and solid as it possibly can be." You know, and, and again, I've seen people respond so wonderfully when, when you tell them that's what you're doing.

Doug: 25:53 I on the other end have done this in some corporate situations where politics reigned and have found that that is less than welcome.

Leon: 26:03 I, and I think a lot of our listeners probably feel the same way. Like you do have to understand your audience, you do have to understand your situation. No doubt.

Doug: 26:12 And unfortunately with my personality, let's just say that there are jobs that I probably would still have if I were not me.

Leon: 26:21 Okay. We should, which does take us to the last thing that I wanted to hit on today, which was, um, when you can't let it pass. When, when there's something that you oppose and it's, it is basically a non negotiable. So what's that like? Do you have any examples? What do you do about that?

Josh: 26:42 You want go for it, Doug? I have a story, but it's a little long, so

Doug: 26:46 You go for yours.

Josh: 26:47 All right. All right. Um, so when I started my faith transition in the spring of 2018 one of the things that I began exploring was the position of the LDS church on blacks in the priesthood. So for, for historical context, up until 1978, no man who was of African descent was able to hold the priesthood. So that meant that they, you know, they couldn't be leaders in any congregation and they couldn't partake of any of the ordinances or administrating of the ordinances, including in their own homes. In the mid 1970s, a guy by the name of Byron Marchant lived in Salt Lake City. He was a, an active white member. He was a well respected, he was a tennis pro and he was also actually employed by the church as a custodian back when the church had custodians that they employed. He also happened to be a scout leader. And, in his particular scout troop, he had two boys that were, were black. These boys were exemplary citizens and he decided that he wanted to make them the scout leaders, troop leaders. At the time though, there was a policy in the church - and Mormonism and the Boy Scouts of America, up until just last year were almost one in the same, especially within the church, you know, they were linked. So Byron decided that he wanted these two young men to, to serve. In this capacity. And so he asked for an exemption to a rule that said that the deacons quorum - and deacons in Mormonism are ages 12 and 13 - so he said, "Look, I know that these boys aren't the deacons quorum president and the first assistant, but I want them to serve in this capacity. And they said, "Well, no, they're not the deacons quorum president." He said, "Yeah, but they're black. They can't hold the priesthood. So, um, you know, they are really the best candidates." And they say, "Yeah, but they're not the deacons quorum president." And he said, "I know, I get it. I understand how this works." Um, and it became a huge thing for, for Byron Marchant and he started to actively oppose. And by actively oppose, I mean like holding up signs outside of the church headquarters in Salt Lake. And it culminated in October of 1978. Byron Marchant... during the semiannual general conference there is a sustaining of church leaders. It's the law of common consent where if anything is going to be accepted by the entire church, it has to be put forward. Everyone has to vote. Most of the votes are unanimous. Byron voted opposed and he was the first to vote opposed, I would say, in like 80 years. It was, it was, "Oh my goodness, someone voted opposed." Byron, shortly thereafter it was ex-communicated. If you don't remember what excommunication is, he was kicked out of the church, had all of his rights privileges taken away with regards to Mormonism. In June of 1978, um, the church reversed its ban on giving black people the Priesthood, which means that these two young boys could have been the deacons quorum president and first assistant and have served in that capacity. Sometimes when we are standing in a position of opposition, we hope that people are going to acquiesce to our demands. But like Byron Marchant and many people, whether it's religious or IT, sometimes our opposition has unintended consequences. And, and just as a side note, my father is the one who taught me about being true to yourself. My father has left a number of jobs much like you and Doug because he was morally opposed to things that the company was doing. And my father is one of the most upstanding and truthful men that I know. But taking that stance caused him a lot of financial and mental anguish because it meant not being the breadwinner for our family. He lost his job and, spent time on employment. So yeah, you just, you can't pick your consequences, right. We teach our kids that, but sometimes you just have to, even though you don't know what's going to happen, you just have to say no.

Speaker 1: 31:16 So, uh, just to, to wrap it up into nice, neat little bow, I think that for everyone listening, you know, being in opposition to the larger part, again, you like the most of larger part, but there's just these pieces. I think this is an integral skill that we as a people of faith, people who are part of, you know, ball clubs, people who are a part of, you know, boating communities, people who are a part of IT, the IT world. I think this is an integral skill to, to think about and to build. Um, you know, how to be this, uh, maybe a minority opinion, a strongly held, but minority opinion without being subversive, without setting up whisper campaigns, without being, you know, maliciously compliant. Um, it's something that we all need to think about. Like how would I go about doing this in a way that I'd be comfortable looking at myself in the mirror in the morning when I did it?

Doug: 32:08 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.

Josh: 32:22 After all that, I think we can all agree...

Doug: 32:25 no, we can't!

Leon: 32:25 wait, what?

Doug: 32:27 Sorry, I just got a little carried away.



S1E6: Being “Othered”

S1E6: Being “Othered”

April 9, 2019

Identity is a complex concept. "Who we are" is comprised of a rich tapestry of experiences and relationships. We try to control which of those aspects we share and which we keep private. But there are times when the world around us - strangers, coworkers, and even friends - define us in ways that don’t match the view we have of ourselves. That experience can be merely surprising or terribly upsetting, and many of us struggle both with the fear of it happening and with how we should deal with it when it does.

Listen to this important episode or read the transcript below:


Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone, it's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called, "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked" and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Kate: 00:25 Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experience we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We're not here to preach or teach you our religion - or lack thereof. 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: 00:49 So back when we were recording episode three, in the middle of our conversation about something completely different, there was an interesting side conversation that happened between Josh and me and Roddie. Um, so I want to play it for you right now"

Josh: 01:02 I will point out though that as diverse as we, uh, as we think that IT is, we're three white males on a podcast, and...

Roddie: 01:13 I'm not white.

Josh: 01:13 So I mean... you look white...?

Roddie: 01:17 I know I do. I do look white. I'm undercover, but then I'm full. I'm full person of color. I'm, I'm half of the... And actually thinking about this podcast for the last few months of where Leon wanted to go with it, I knew kind of that would come up because I can identify as white, right? Most people look at me and say, "Well, he's just another white guy." I'm not, I'm full. I'm half Lebanese, half Palestinian, so I'm full Arab blood. Um, but it's, but it's, it's great that you actually mentioned that

Josh: 01:48 That I broached it, right?

New Speaker: 01:49 (dialogue fades out)

Leon: 01:50 So we ended up cutting that particular exchange out of the episode, but, uh, we here on Technically Religious wanted to circle back to the concept of being identified as somehow different or what we're calling being "othered". And that's what we're going to talk about today. Uh, I'm Leon Adato and with me today. Uh, I've got Josh Biggley.

Josh: 02:12 Hello-Hello.

Leon: 02:14 And also Kate Asaf.

Kate: 02:16 Hello.

Leon: 02:17 So those are the voices that you'll be hearing on this episode.

Josh: 02:20 Well, you know, Leon, I don't think that we can start this episode or really any episode without talking about, uh, what has gone on in New Zealand. If for some reason you have been living under a rock for the last two weeks, week and a half, you know, 50 people were killed at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand by an Australian guy whose name we're not going to mention because he's not important. What is important is that he took 50 lives. It's interesting when, when I heard the news I was, I was a little gob smacked because about 18 years ago my wife and I almost moved to Christchurch. We had the process all started and I thought, "Holy crap, that is a city that we seriously considered living in," and I... The Prime Minister of New Zealand is also a post-Mormon, an ex-Mormon. Uh, she grew up LDS as well. So, you know, one other tie I, I can't say enough about her and her response and I don't even know how, I can't process it in my mind very time I sit and think about it, it just, it, I think it really ties to what we're going to talk about today, about this being othered. Because if you viewed people, um, if you viewed people as human, you would not do the things that, that, that man did and that he's not the only one. There are many people throughout history who do it, but, and I'm not suggesting that what we're going to talk about is even remotely as weighty as what happened in Christchurch to those people, both who lost their lives unto those who are, who are, who are still left, but damn right, we, we, you know, my heart breaks for those people. Right?

Leon: 04:04 And, and in a larger context, the far too many incidents of violence that have happened just in the last 12 months and you know, you can keep going back. And just to underscore what you said, you know, this conversation about our personal experiences of being othered or the things that we've observed is in no way meant to diminish those large world shaking events. But really just personalize them and, and bring some, you know, an element of specificity to it. So, uh, I think maybe the next thing we need to do is, is define what it means to be othered. What do we mean? There's, you know, the dictionary definition, I guess which revolves around the them versus us mentality. When you are othered, you are being called out as being somehow negatively different, lesser, not on the same plane as the person doing the othering or the group doing the other thing. Um, it's not, it's not a positive thing and that's how it differs from, let's say, you know, I say that, you know, Tom LaRock, one of my coworkers, you know, he's really tall. He's in fact circus tall. Now that's a phrase he's actually used to describe himself. That's not intrinsically othering him. Uh, because first of all, it's very specific to Tom. And second of all, uh, it's also a way he describes himself. By the same token, when I talk about a former coworker, Chris Paap, and saying he has biceps the size of my head, which is true, that isn't necessarily othering, I think. And please tell me if I'm wrong, tell me if I'm, if I'm edging into dangerous territory.

Josh: 05:57 I don't, you know, I, as you were talking about being other than, and I do remember that moment when I, you know, said to Roddie, uh, and, and yourself, hey, you know, we're three white guys on the, you know, the whole debacle about me. Uh, assuming that Roddy was white and he's not a, sorry Roddy, um, you know, welcome to my white privilege. I apologize. Um, I'm wondering though, is there a, is there a time in a place where being othered, um, is not negative, you know, you use that word, um, that, uh, that made me think that maybe there's a moment where I want to be othered. I want to stand out and I want to be different. I'm, and I'm, I'm trying to think of where that might apply. So, you know, my context is, you know, I made a very conscientious decision to step away from Mormonism and, and really to turn into a, a critic of some of the things that I thought had taken Mormonism away from what I knew about it and loved about it. Um, but I don't, you know, people who are still in Mormonism, they view me as what the word is "apostate", right. So they view me as as apostate, but does that, I do, I view that as a bad thing? Because I made the choice and I, I know that Tom didn't make the choice to be, you know, circus tall. And I, I know that Chris Papp, he probably didn't intend to specifically have biceps larger than your head, although I'm sure he's glad to know that, you know, he's reached that pinnacle.

Kate: 07:26 I don't know if that's like a specific measurement he was going for.

Josh: 07:29 Right? Yeah. Right. You're like, you know, 16 inches, 17 inches, larger-than-Leon's-head. I like, I don't know if to scale it works like that. Right. Um, but I, I just wonder if there are times in which we, we specifically act in a way that, um, the in which we know that we are going to be othered. Um, but we do it anyway because that's who we have to be in order to be true to ourselves.

Kate: 07:50 I think that the point that you hit on there being true to yourself is that it's, it's okay when it's on your terms, right? Like, I, if you've never seen me, I have pink and blue hair, which is something that I choose to do and which occasionally

Leon: 08:05 Today,

Kate: 08:06 Yes, yes, for this week. Um, and that gets me some strange looks, but I know that, you know, I choose to do this and it's something that I'm proud of even being a woman in tech. Like that's not super rare anymore, but it certainly was when I started and I am very proud to be a part of that group, even though it's, it comes with some strife.

Speaker 3: 08:31 Hey, we, I've got, I've got a story here about Kate, and she's heard this story before, but a couple of years ago, uh, we had, we had done an upgrade of, of our platform and we got to a point where we were having some difficulties and literally got within five minutes of having to rebuild our entire environment. And Kate swooped and saved the day. I had no idea at the time how to rebuild our environment. Like, and I was just like, oh my goodness, if Kate does not save me, I'm so screwed. Uh, and it's, it's interesting because when they said, hey, you know, we're bringing in this, you know, we're bringing in this engineer and you jumped on, Kate, it didn't even cross my mind to think, "Oh, you know, that's a woman. How should you going to help me?" I was just like, "Okay, Kate, you know, you gotta save me!"

Leon: 09:22 "She's saving my bacon, that's all that matters!"

Kate: 09:27 I could've been a lizard person at that point and you would have been happy to see me.

Josh: 09:31 It wouldn't have mattered. Yeah. So I, I'm really interested obviously, uh, you know, White Male, uh, you know, grew up, you know, middle class, uh, lived a middle upper class life. I want to know what it's like to be a woman in tech. Could you tell me?

Kate: 09:45 Well here's the funny story that you're, your thing reminds me of which, by the way, I very clearly remember that upgrade. So glad I was able to save you. Um, I was talking to a customer once and it just so happened that his escalation path when he talked to Destiny and then he talked to me. Um, and when we were on the phone, super nice guy, he said, "Let me ask you a question: is SolarWinds a woman owned company?" And I thought that was kind of strange. And I said, "No, why?" And he said, "Well, I just think it's so great that they have two women working as these escalation tiers and you guys are the engineers. And I just think that's great." And I'm like, you were so close to paying us a really good compliment. Why would solutions have to be a woman owned company for us to be in these positions? Uh, but, but thanks for the effort."

Leon: 10:39 Yeah, right. I guess nice. So I just want to jump in here and say, and it's slightly pedantic, but I do that well, that, that Josh, to your point and Kate, your, your example illustrates it is there's a difference between being recognized and being othered. And sometimes, uh, especially the, in the, in the mind to the speaker, that difference can be really hard to detect and oftentimes in the ears of the listener, the target, the difference is really obvious. But there's a difference between, between being recognized for either an achievement or accomplishment or simply a state of being. Again, we're going back to Tom being circus tall. There's a difference between, between being recognized - "Oh, I need to get the really good scotch off the tall shelf. I'll go ask Tom." Versus being, being either othered or outed or, or identified as something like, I didn't think it was going to be that good, but it turns out that you actually did fine. "Thanks for the compliment? I guess?" You know what I mean? It, it is again, you know, being recognized for something versus being othered can seem like a very fine distinction, um, until you're on the receiving end of it. Uh, and, and that's, I think part of it. Um, and, and again, a lot of it has to do with the, the sometimes not so subtle assumptions that go along with it. And by the way, to bring this back to tech, right, I think that IT is not immune from the... pure it forget about people with strong, you know, religious or nonreligious views or whatever it is. Um, you know, like "Those network people" or, you know, "I, I don't understand why anybody would ever want to do storage" or, you know, "oh good. You've joined or you know, you were on the virtualization team, but now you're on the cloud team. Does it feel good to get out of the basement?" Or stuff like that? Like, "No, I was, I was really proud of my, you know, vmware certification. I was really excited about all the years I spent doing, you know, quote unquote boring old route and switch networking or whatever, like that was not, uh, uh, you know, a penalty in my mind and you just turned it into one

Kate: 12:57 That was actually a big thing for me, getting out of support and going to engineering because that was, everybody sort of looked down... There were, there was this perception that I escaped, you know, or that I finally have a real career and I personally loved working in support and would, you know, go back to it if the opportunity and the circumstances were right. So, but definitely, you know, support was kind of seen is that when you said the basement, that's immediately what I thought of.

Leon: 13:32 Right. And, and I think that, I think in our minds in IT, we have that IT pecking order, you know, where it's like you work the help desk until you can, like you said, escape, you know, and you work your way up and whether you're going to do the, the server application track or the network, once upon a time voice in all, you know, that track or whatever. I think there's more directions to go. You know, we believe that there are these tiers as opposed to... No, no. If you can work a help desk and take any call from any person and deal with it and resolve it and triage it, that is, you know, that at the top of the show, you know, Josh expressed basically his undying love for you. Um, and I know that's not the first, you know, proposal you might have gotten over the phone, Kate. So, you know, being able to do that for somebody is not a trivial skill. Um, that, that's so, you know, again, just keeping this tech focused. Um, I think we have that. So in fact, you know, keeping on that does, does being othered manifest differently, either better or worse in IT? Like how does, how does the, the othered-ness come out in IT in ways that are either, "Oh wow. I was othered but it was kind of interesting, or, "Oh, it's actually worse than it would be in an accounting office" or something else.

Josh: 14:57 I wonder if it, if it isn't worse. Um, and, uh, so I had, uh, an interesting, uh, situation just recently where I was, uh, I was tasked with figuring out how to reduce, um, a very large spend, a into a, a much smaller span. You know, it really is not the goal that we all have. "Hey, can you do the same thing with, uh, with less money?" Great. No problem. And so I, I took a couple of the ideas that I had and I, and I, I built these ideas not, um, with, with just myself. I built it with a, um, a multidisciplinary team that I'm working with. And I've got people that know tech. I have people that have no clue about tech, but they work in IT. And I, I'm using the air quotes. Um, they work in IT, but in a very different IT, it's, it's not a, it's not the pure play IT that we think of. And, uh, the initial response that I got from some of the engineers who worked in the space that we were trying to look at was, "No, you can't do that. Nope, sorry, that's not going to work." And fortunately, I'm stubborn. Um, and a little bullheaded. Um, so says my loved ones and we, uh, we pushed really hard and to ignore those people and we stumbled on what we think is going to be, uh, the killer solution. We're super excited about it as a team. Uh, we talked to some, uh, we call them principles in my office. So, you know, engineer, senior engineer principles, uh, you know, these are the, the few, the upper echelon of engineering. We talked to one of those principles and he was super excited about it. He thought, "Hey, that's awesome." So, you know, we still have a lot of work to do. But I thought, you know, isn't it interesting that some senior engineers looked at us as, you know, a group of engineers and not even engineers and thought, well, you can't do that because you didn't think this idea. Um, you weren't part of the design. You know, we're the senior engineers and now here we are presenting an idea that is completely out of context, uh, for what we would have thought at the beginning of the project that might not only introduce, uh, you know, better functionality but might reduce costs. And I love the idea of a things like a kaizen where you bring together multidisciplinary people, it intentionally brings together others, um, and puts them all into the same, in the same room and says, hey, solve a problem. Uh, I think that doing that intentionally doing that in our organizations is extremely important. It brings in perceptions. I know we've talked previously about, uh, education and the differences and being a, someone who has an IT degree versus someone who has, I dunno, like an acting degree. I don't know anyone like that. Or someone like myself who has no degree and no real college to speak of, you know, edit a six month training program, uh, at a technical college. But that was it. That is how I launched my IT career. I technically have a two year degree or two year diploma. Um, but I've never actually gone to school before. I've never been to a college or a university. Um, I just, I think it's really important that we, we acknowledged that othering exists, but that we let it be a good thing and we learned that that diversity makes our team stronger.

Leon: 18:14 So I think it is one of those places where the degree thing really shines that within the rank and file. I found very few, I'm going to say actual IT people who honestly give a rat's ass about like your degree or whatever it is. Now when you get through the HR machine, it's a whole different story. And I think it's a point of frustration for a lot of this in IT, that, that getting the job requires us to have to have certain things that actually don't matter at all. And I think that that's a whole other conversation about, you know, a whiteboard interview, um, for coding.

Kate: 18:56 Oh yeah. We've all seen the job listing where it's like, must know SQL, and Java, and c++, and, you know, BASIC, and COBOL, and, and you know, have a master's degree, pays $30,000 a year.

Leon: 19:09 Right? Right. And, you know, 15 years of experience with AWS and like, yeah, you know, those kinds of things. Right. We've seen, we've seen those. Um, so I think that that is a place where, uh, it's better. Quick story just where IT is kind of different. Um, for those people who are new to the podcast. Again, this is Leon. I'm an Orthodox Jew. Uh, I'm a sort of a very out and proud orthodox Jew. I have the funny little hat or, you know, kippah, or yarmulke. I have little fringy things hanging out of my pants, you know, I'm, you know, black pants, white shirt, full metal, penguin, Orthodox, right? That's how I present. And the first time I was going to speak for my company, um, and I was sort of out in front of about 300 people and I realized that this is me, but I'm, I'm representing the brand. And so I pulled the, the manager aside and I said, "Okay, we're, we're in an HR free zone. This is not about lawsuit. This is, I just want to understand. Are you comfortable with me looking like this, representing the brand or do you want me to tuck the strings in? Do you want me to put a ball cap on? Like what do ya...? And he actually turned and said, "I actually have no effing idea what those things are. I thought it was like a hippie thing." And uh, I realized that I was perhaps overthinking it a little bit. Um, and so again, in it, he had othered me, but he had othered me in a way that was honestly so ridiculous in my mind that it was like, "Oh, okay. Like moving on," like, you know, like it just didn't, it, you know, it was, it was not a problem. It was like Kate, the time that we were doing THWACKcamp and the problem with you on camera was your Wonder Woman shirt that was like, okay, all right, I understand, you know, but it, of all the things that, that - horrifically- people might have pointed out about you, it was, yeah, we're not sure if the logo was okay on camera. Like, "Oh, thank God. Like, that's so, that's so wonderful. And I'm not changing my shirt. Just to be up-front about it."

Kate: 21:24 Legal did eventually approve it.

Leon: 21:27 Right. But it was just, you know, like those kinds of, so sometimes it can be, it can be good. Um, all right. So any examples where IT tends to do the other thing like worse?

Speaker 2: 21:38 I do think that we, in IT have a, a tendency to jump to the eye. Rolling. Are you stupid? You know? Oh my God, I can't believe you don't know that. Well, you know, there's, we all had to ask the questions at one point as well. Um, I think it's important also to try and call out that sort of jerky behavior if you, if you see it and if you can, um, that's something that I've been challenging myself to do is not let things slide. If I see something wrong with it, you know, try to correct it even in a friendly sort of, "Hey, we don't, that's not helpful or productive and we don't really need to be jumping on this person." Or some of like the little micro aggressions you see as a woman in tech and meetings. Um, well my, my big pet peeve is somebody repeating what I have just said as if it was a new point. Um, I have made it a huge point to jump in and say, "Yes, thank you for repeating what I literally just said."

Josh: 22:43 Bravo, Bravo. But it's hard,

Speaker 2: 22:46 Especially when that person, I have a great relationship with my boss and my boss's boss and you know, above them. But in that moment, it's hard to, you know, sort of jump in and derail the conversation to call it out. But I think it's important

Leon: 23:01 if you're, if you are the bystander, you know, it is incredibly powerful to, to reinforce and say, "You know what, I, I actually said that word wrong for like a month before somebody corrected me and you know..." or whatever it is. Right. You know, um, you know, getting the words wrong, but knowing how to use the technology, right? Like are you really going to get in someone's face about whether they, you know, pronounce it scuzzy or they say SCSI or you know, something like that. Now I do draw the line at GIF versus Jif...

Josh: 23:36 I KNEW it was going to come up again,

Leon: 23:40 But, okay. But aside from that and, and more, more importantly, Kate, what you were about, like, you know, how much more powerful is it when you know you're about to jump up and say "Thank you for..." when somebody else says "you know, there's an echo in here," you know, or whatever that, that you're not the only one who has to be listening for that. Who has to be, um, you know, trying to, to make sure that people recognize this just happened.

Kate: 24:08 It's a huge relief when I see, you know, someone else do it. Because I think a thing that a lot of women struggle with is it's important to correct it, but you start to feel like you're the asshole if you're always interrupting the conversation or constantly calling out the behaviors and when no one else says anything, you feel like no one else has a problem with it. So it's, you know, tears of gratitude and joy and, and you know, much many props to anyone else who can sort of see that and stop it so that it doesn't always have to be me or you know, the, the victim, so to speak, uh, responsible for catching that kind of stuff.

Leon: 24:49 Right. Having to do, having to do that, that work have, you can't have any carry that load. Right.

New Speaker: 24:54 I love this idea of, um, of being an active bystander. And I guess once you're, once you've acted, you're no longer a bystander. Um, especially in the workplace. Something that, uh, that I tried to do and I'm not, I'm not perfect at it, but I, I make a really strong effort at it. And that is when someone does something that is good, I, I call it out. Um, and I try not to do it too, you know, just my female coworkers or to just my new coworkers. But when someone is truly has done something awesome, I like to call that out. And I think that goes back to the, the value of being othered, uh, for a good reason. You know, if you, if you've gone above and beyond the call of duty in, in your job or in a project or, or really in general life, cause you know, there is life outside of IT. I know that it doesn't feel like it sometimes, but I promised the entire world does not revolve around it. (Yes it does.)

Leon: 25:58 I was going to say, STOP IT! STOP IT! YOU'RE RUINING MY WORLD!

Kate: 25:58 Nobody believed you as you said it.

New Speaker: 26:05 I know. I didn't, I didn't believe myself. It's okay. It's okay. But I think it's really important that we take the time to reach out to people and say, hey, you know, thanks. And not only, hey, you know, thanks for doing that, but also going up that level and saying to their manager, "Hey, I really appreciate the work that, you know, uh, you know, Kate did or Leon did because it made my life easier in these ways." Um, and learning how to value people is it, it'll make you a better engineer. Learning how to value people will also make you a better human being. Um, and we, we just, we need to figure it out. Um, my wife and I were actually talking it oddly enough just today about this, about how to make sure that, uh, people, uh, feel valued around you. And what we distilled was when you, it doesn't matter how good a manager or an engineer you are, if people, if people feel valued around you, then they will want to work for you. And that means you don't need to know everything. So you don't need to be the person who knows storage and virtualization and Java and cobalt and knows how to do assembly language and you can solder with your eyes closed with your left arm tied behind your back. You don't have to be that person. You just need to be the person that really talented people want to work with and in some cases want to work for. Um, I know that I've actively sought out people who I want to work with and for, and when I get into a new company, I look for those people, I look for those people whose strength and who have othered themselves because they're not like, you know, the rest of the quote unquote, you know, typical engineers. And when I find those people, I love to latch on to them. Um, it makes me better. Uh, and again, I've got lots of privilege, right? I'm white, I'm Canadian. Um, you know, middle class, middle, upper class, upper class,

Leon: 27:56 (chuckles)

Josh: 27:56 Hey, don't laugh about... being a Canadian, that's a privilege, man.

Leon: 28:01 No, no, I'm laughing because it's true.

Josh: 28:07 It's only cold here for a little while, you know, months at a time.

Leon: 28:11 I'm from Cleveland and the cold never bothered me anyway.

Josh: 28:18 But, you know, I, I do think it's really... you know just to finish. I just think it's really important that we recognize that othering. Uh, we can take the othering. Uh, we've talked about being negative and we can actively switch that and make it a positive thing. Um, you know, so when you see that, and I, and I had never thought about the idea of being actively engaged as a bystander. Uh, but if we, if we are and we get involved and we say, Hey, this is, you know, this is good, that's bad. Um, how, how powerful is that? Uh, and it, I think it, it starts to dissolve the, uh, the efficacy of that negative othering. Um, and yes, we're all different, right? Uh, each one of us on this call today on this podcast, but we're different. But that's, that's what makes us so awesome and so unique to, you know, what we have here.

Leon: 29:13 Right. And that goes back to, you know, taking this idea of being othered, which is, is intrinsically sort of negative and turning it into recognition, you know, then I think that's where the, that's where the real power comes. All right. Well, I, I want to thank you both Josh, Kate for, uh, joining, uh, joining me today and, uh, look forward to having everyone back on for the next episode.

Kate: 29:37 It was great talking with both you guys.

Josh: 29:39 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.

Josh: 29:52 I think this was a really good session.

New Speaker: 29:54 Yeah Leon you did really good.

Josh: 29:56 Well, for someone from Cleveland

Leon: 29:58 Oh for crying out loud!


S1E5: Jokes I Wish I Could Tell

S1E5: Jokes I Wish I Could Tell

April 2, 2019

Religion and IT share a common ground when it comes to humor. In both cases, if someone doesn’t “get it”, it could take HOURS to explain enough for them to understand. in this episode, Leon, Josh, and special guest Doug Johnson talk about whether that is unique to IT/religious people, our own experiences with tech- and religious-based humor, and whether (as Josh asserts), Mormons just aren't that funny. Listen or read the transcript below.

Leon: 00:00 Hey everyone, it's Leon. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know about a book I wrote. It's called "The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked," and if you like this podcast, you're going to love this book. It combines 30 years of insight into the world of IT with wisdom gleaned from Torah, Talmud, and Passover. You can read more about it, including where you can get a digital or print copy over on Thanks!

Doug: 00:24 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 the ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious,

Josh: 00:49 So we just missed a very special holiday.

Leon and Doug: 00:52 Wait, what? I...

Leon: 00:54 International women's Day?

Doug: 00:56 Ash Wednesday?

Leon: 00:57 Mardi gras?

Doug: 00:58 Pi Day!

Leon: 00:59 The opening of Captain Marvel!!

Josh: 01:00 Uh, no, no. It's that special day when we as it pros, we do important work, like changing everyone's password to "butthead" or setting everyone's email quota does zero, or setting off 500 alerts, you know, for no reason.

Leon: 01:15 Oh April Fool's day.

Josh: 01:18 Exactly. And in honor of that blessed day we're going to talk about jokes

Doug: 01:24 Religious jokes?

Leon: 01:25 Well, kind of. I think that religion and IT share a common ground when it comes to humor. In both cases if someone doesn't get it, it could take hours to explain enough for them to understand it. And by that point it's not funny anymore. So today I think we should focus on "jokes I wish I could tell."

Josh: 01:39 So like religious jokes, you can't tell at work, not because they're bad but because it requires too much background knowledge?

Doug: 01:48 Sure. But maybe also tech jokes that you can only tell the other it people.

Josh: 01:53 Or even tech jokes you can only tell other folks who understand YOUR sub specialty? Like enterprise monitoring?

Leon: 02:01 That would be like the story of my life as a monitoring engineer. Exactly. So before we dive into the topic, I do want to do some introductions. With us today is Doug Johnson. Say, Hi Doug.

Doug: 02:11 Hey, hi.. uhey,

Leon: 02:14 You missed it.

Doug: 02:15 I know! All of a sudden I realized.. and oh no. I hate those jokes.

Leon: 02:22 "Good night Gracie" Okay. Well, and today especially, we can talk about the jokes that we don't appreciate. So that's, that's fine. That's fair. I didn't mean to set you up for a joke you didn't want to hear. Um, so like I said, I think the tech and religion have like similarities to them that they're in the, you know, if you're not in the "in" crowd, you don't get it. But the other part of is that I think as IT people and also as people with a religious background, whatever, we keep TRYING to tell these jokes to people like, "No, really, you're going to love it once you understand it." Like, we keep doing that. Um, and, and that expands, I think to nerd or geek culture overall. The number of times I've tried to explain, you know, Harry Potter or Star Wars or whatever to people who just did not want to, did not want to hear it. Right?

Doug: 03:08 Oh, I know. One of the problems that you run into is, you know, here we are, we, we've got all of these jokes that we really think are great and maybe they're jokes in our religious area or they're jokes in our technical area and there's a whole bunch of people we can't tell them to, but there are jokes. Right?

Leon: 03:23 Right. And they're our people. You know, just because I can't tell, you know, something that really funny that happened at synagogue or a, a funny Jewish joke to people at work... But they're still my friends. Right? So I want to share those aspects of my life and vice versa. I want to, you know, share a RAID array, joke with, you know, people you know, at shul and they're just, they're not going to care.

Josh: 03:46 It's funny, as you were talking Leon, I was thinking first you've just described my entire teenage life, sitting in the corner, you know, laughing about jokes that nobody else gets. And the harder you laugh because you know, you're making fun of that football player who looks like the ogre from your campaign last night and then suddenly you know you're running because you're, and you're trying to run and laugh and you know, you're dropping your "Magic, the Gathering" cards and like it's just, it's a, it's a nightmare. Um, yeah, sometimes you're, you laugh and sometimes you're laughed at.

Doug: 04:21 But then the other thing that comes out of that though is if you think, I mean, we want to share the jokes, but sometimes as you note, you're just laughing so hard. Everybody says, "No, no, no. Tell me what the joke is." I mean, they actually, they try and get it out of you and you're going, it would just take too long.

Leon: 04:35 Right. Okay. So that, that leads me to, I think the first big question that we should address, which is: is it really that specialized, you know, is religious based. You know, humor and/or geek tech humor so much different from say, sports humor or city location humor or humor that you would only understand if you were of a certain age or whatever.

Josh: 05:00 Uh, yeah, Canada jokes, ya hoser!

Leon: 05:04 Okay. But again, you know, we're not talking about jokes that make fun OF somebody. We're talking about humor that you'd only understand if you were Canadian. Right?

Josh: 05:13 I have a perfect example for you. Okay. So, uh, and this is a great extent. This is a great example of how I have to give you the backstory. So, uh, one of the former prime ministers of Canada, his name was Brian Mulroney, and he was recently in the, in the news for making a very derogatory comment horde, a young politician. He called her" little lady" a way to go. Brian. Brian is famous for bringing in something called the "goods and services tax". It's, it's one of those taxes that was supposed to be temporary and it never was. And so, um, to the tune of the Tiny Tunes theme song, we used to sing a, "...we're tiny, we're twoney, we're all a little loony, since Brian Mulrooney invented GST."

Leon: 05:58 Okay...

Josh: 05:58 And we think it's Hilarious, right? Where it, and it takes not only an understanding of Canadian politics, but you have to be someone who appreciates children's... uh.. not-children's cartoons... NOT children's cartoons. Yes.

Leon: 06:12 Right. Okay. So to my point is, is the premise of this episode not to, you know, pop poke holes in the premise the episode, but is is the stuff that we're talking about tech jokes and and religious jokes. I they is it really so specialized?

Doug: 06:27 The thing that makes things funny is the element of surprise that comes, I mean, so that's why the one, two, three for jokes worksheet thing number one, thing number two, and then thing number three comes out of left field,

New Speaker: 06:39 ba-dum-bum

Doug: 06:40 Ba-da-boom. Right? That's, that's sort of the nature of all at least verbal humor. The problem is in the case of religion or IT or Canada or sports or whatever, you have to have enough knowledge to know what is normal so the setup works, if you don't understand the normal, then there's no surprise cause it doesn't seem any different from the first two parts that were there in the first place. I mean it's, I don't know that it's necessarily that different from other very specialized areas, but the fact is it's a specialized area that requires a knowledge for there to be a normal for there to be a surprise.

Leon: 07:22 Right. And, and I would also argue that the populations that we're talking about are significantly smaller. It, it's a lot easier to find a group of people who would probably understand a, let's say a Cleveland joke or again, not to joke about Cleveland, but a joke that only Clevelanders would understand.

Josh: 07:42 Did you just insinuate that Cleveland has more people in it than Canada.

Leon: 07:45 Uh, no, I was not that at all. I was actually supporting it or it can, you know, Canadians,

Doug: 07:51 They do have more people who are willing to go ahead and laugh at themselves though.

Leon: 07:56 Canada does. Canada is very, yeah. Um, yeah. Clevelanders are just tired of it all. So, uh, anyway, um,

Josh: 08:05 So Doug, when you were counting, I feel like I was, I was, uh, almost having to hold myself back, um, about making a number two joke, you know, you're like number one and number two, I feel like there's a, there's a universal joke that every everyone gets and I feel like, you know, boys get it around the age of three or so, like as soon as those sentences start being stitched together.

Leon: 08:30 And they never lose it,

Josh: 08:32 They never lose it.

Leon: 08:33 Or as somebody said that, you know, all babies when they're first born have to be burped. Um, boys just do it on their own from that point forward. Um, and you're right, there was a study that was done and they found it two specific... Specifically two types of humor work regardless of culture, regardless of where you're from or how old you are or anything like that. And that is scatological or a fart and poop jokes and mother-in-law jokes. Uh, those are appreciated everywhere. Right?

Doug: 09:02 Makes Sense. But, and the one that the, I've also heard that it's like universal and frankly it doesn't appeal to me at all, Is physical humor, slapstick stuff. I mean, if you look at even the comedy that we got in the beginning of the, uh, the film era, that was all slapstick stuff, right? And everybody loves it. I just don't, I don't know. It's not me.

Leon: 09:25 Exactly. And I think that's another important point, right, is that whether you understand the joke is different than whether you like the joker. Appreciate the joke. Um, you know, to give an a, an a tech example, a lot of people who know even the littlest bit about networking say, you know, there's no place like one right? Okay. There's no place like home, there's nobody, you know, or I could tell you a UDP joke but you probably wouldn't get it right. Ha Ha. Okay. That's all right. I, you know, but there's, even though that is, uh, that is a joke and, and some people will laugh at it. There's a lot of networking people who are like, really? I just, that is the 1024th time I've heard it. Right.

Doug: 10:09 Oh Man.

Leon: 10:18 So, uh, yeah. And, and it, there's a group of people right now her listening to this podcast who are like, "I don't, I don't get it" so, so

Doug: 10:26 You just need to wait a bit

Leon: 10:27 So "getting it" and "liking it". Right. Uh, oooooh. So, um, so you're liking it and getting it to, okay, this is where things get interesting. Um, I, I was playing around with the idea of like worlds colliding. Like are there jokes that you have to be both? Do you have to be like you have to be a Mormon and also a network engineer, you know, FULL INNER JOIN to get, you know, certain humor, stuff like that. I didn't know if you've run across any of those.

Speaker 3: 11:01 Well, having been Mormon for 41 years, I, and as we talked about an episode two now post Mormon, I can tell you that the majority of Mormons, so that I know have, uh, no sense of humor. And it's not that they're not funny, it's just the things that they laugh at our really contextualized for Mormonism, um, like, um, pickup lines at a BYU, right? Um, you know, hey, well things like, um, uh, "Baby, I came here to feel the spirit, but I didn't know that I would see an angel." I, you know,

Doug: 11:38 Oh yeah...f

Josh: 11:40 So as I was looking for, for Mormon humor, I realized that most of it is around getting married. Uh, which I think is, that ties with the youthfulness. And you know, LDS people tend to get married younger than others. And generally, if it's not about Green Jello with carrot in it, if it's not about a, the relief society, which is the women's organization, uh, making ice sculptures, there's a whole, there's a whole trope of Mormon movies like "The R.M." Um, well "The R.M." is the one that we laugh at the most and it's, it's takes all of the sticks about Mormonism and cram them into, you know, 90 minutes of, of stories about people's lives. Um, all of those things, although we laugh at them, they're not really that funny. It's just, it's more self deprecating humor. So maybe we're really good at picking on ourselves. I don't know.

Leon: 12:35 Huh. And then again, trying to get the technology in there is probably a little tricky.

Doug: 12:39 It just doesn't happen. That's what I mean. We're just not that funny.

Leon: 12:42 Huh. So I did here. So a friend of mine, Phil Setnik, posted on Twitter a little bit ago. So just for context for those listening, even though this is the April podcast, we did record it. Uh, not yesterday. We recorded it a couple of weeks ago and Purim the Jewish holiday of Purim is coming up in, one of the things about Purim is that you are commanded to drink. This is where everyone starts like, "Wait, wait, I want to convert!" Um, you know, you're commanded to drink until you don't know the difference between the sentence that the phrase, uh, "wicked is Haman" and "blessed is Mordecai". And so Phil posted that on May 4th, we're commanded to drink until we can not tell. The difference between "blessed is Obi-Wan" and "Cursed be Vader". This is the, this is none of the Mitzvah. The commandment known as "Ahd Lo Yoda".

Doug: 13:31 Yeah.

Leon: 13:33 Right, right. Okay. So requires deep knowledge of both Geek, you know, culture and also whatever. So I just wanted to get props out that, that this is a difficult brand of humor to, um, to perhaps a trade in and yet Phil managed to do it. So hat's off.

Josh: 13:52 Does this mean that we had to have watched Star Trek?

Leon: 13:54 Uh, no, no, it doesn't.

Doug: 13:59 If you come down to it though, it just comes down to audience size really. I mean, we would go back to mother-in-laws and fart and poop is relatively universal, whereas people who both have seen Star Wars and know the stuff+ behind Purim are relatively few.

Leon: 14:18 Right, right.

Doug: 14:19 So you're, I mean you'll, I'm sure you, you'll kill it, your audience, but it's not the two people.

Leon: 14:28 Exactly. It's Phil and me and maybe one other person. Yeah, exactly. Um, there's a few of us, but you know, it's, it's definitely a small group. So, so talking about that, like what are some occasions when, because it's so hard to find these populations. I want to hear about some times that you've tried to tell a joke to the group and they just, they didn't get it. Like what are those?

Doug: 14:55 I live those every day. I work out at my home, so, uh, you know, I do all of my social network stuff while I'm sitting down in the living room next to my wife and I tend to laugh out loud when I read things that I find funny and my wife will be sitting there, she'll go, "what?" And you just do a take where you sit there going, how long would it, how much do I have to explain for her to get it to make it worthwhile? And then it always comes down to, and all the, all the answer is, is "Geek joke" and we're done. It's just she, she now has, cause we tried in the, you know, years ago, she would say, "No, no, really, I'll get it." And we'd go through it and she'd just eventually realized that it's not worth it to her for me to explain it to her.

Leon: 15:50 So I had that the other day. And, and uh, again, for background context, uh, I, I work from home, so I had the same situation, you know, my wife and her sitting at the table for breakfast and we're doing, you know, reading stuff. But on top of it, my, my daughter and her children, my grandkids are living in the house with us also. So I have a three year old and a two year old and all of the things that they, they do and they listen to and their very sophisticated music that they listen to. So all of a sudden I'm laughing hysterically and my wife says, "what?" And I said "wireshark, do, do, do, do, do wireshark, do do do do", because you have to understand that that "Baby shark" is sung probably 52,000 times a day in my house. So it was just one of those things and she's like, "I don't get it." You were so close, you had everything except that one little piece. So, yeah. So Josh, how about you

Josh: 16:52 Not to feel left out, I also work from home and I'm super grateful for it. One of, uh, one of the engineers on my team who lives in Boston. So if he's listening to the podcast, you know who you are. Um, he always drops these great, uh, pop culture references. Um, he is a veritable catalog of pop culture, uh, both current and historical. And the problem is that, I mean, I have no idea the other engineers, you know, they're like doing the ROFL and the LOL and you know, emojis are flying and I'm googling like a madman trying to figure out like what is so funny about that. And then I'm like, oh yeah, right. Ha Ha, lol, lowercase. That is my life. I get it. It's hard. But you know, fortunately worked from home and Google have made me seem kind of hip, you know, like,

Leon: 17:44 right, exactly. And that's not just like IT people to non-IT people. I think it works for people who work in one area of IT and you know, versus another one. I think there are jokes that, you know, you have to be a storage engineer. You have to be like to "get it" right?

Josh: 18:02 Yeah. We actually have a, we have a saying that it's kind of an inside joke. And I think that a lot of these jokes that we tell are really inside a humor as opposed to the traditional, you know, uh, a "Jew, a Mormon, and an atheist walk into the bar." They don't start like that. But we have, um, so our, our cloud team, uh, whenever they do something that were, uh, upset about, we'll say "what the cloud?" because that's our thing, right? It's, it's almost like, you know "what the fork?" or "holy shirt!", uh, from "The Good Place." If you haven't watched that on Netflix, you should. It's hilarious. Teaches you how to swear without swearing. It's great. Uh, but I think we all have those little sh...ticks that we throw out and uh, that is the ultimate insider jokes are the ultimate exclusivity of humor, right? You have to literally have been there and done that in order to get in on it. Um, and we've got them for technology. We've got them for a situational humor. We've got them for, uh, our religious things. Like I said, you know, the, the Green Jello joke, it just goes over roaringly, uh, and, and Mormon theology, uh, discussions and everyone else is like, "What Elliot? I like Green Jello. You guys put carrot in it? That's weird man. I don't understand you Mormons"

Doug: 19:20 Thing that it does is the exact opposite? We talked about, you know, how you trying to go ahead and reach out to other groups and it's really hard. But what Josh is basically saying is we can actually use our humor to go ahead and cement the solidity of our very tight group. Oh Wow. That's so many of the jokes that are coming out of this pop culture type stuff. And you know, you are willing to go ahead and Google pop culture. And I appreciate that, uh, Josh I just, I admire your willingness to do that. I've just, uh, I've reached the point where I just don't care anymore. I was a disc jockey for like, you know, 12, 14 years. I was in pop culture. I would say celebrity, blah, blah, blah. I don't care. I haven't listened to I, it's not, we were just talking about that today. My wife and I said, I, I don't know if I've ever heard a Taylor Swift song I may have. The fact that I know that she exists is pretty much it. And so I not only am not current on pop culture, but I've also now reached the point where I don't care. I just don't care anymore.

Leon: 20:23 And I think that that's sort of like you've reached your final form, you know, not only, you know, not only do you not get the joke, you don't care to get the joke. It's not, you're not curious about the joke. You just like, you know what, you know what you think is funny and everything else is like you do you, but I'm going to stay over here

Doug: 20:43 Pretty much it, and they're perfectly willing to not explain it to me. That's one of the nice things about reaching a certain age is youngsters no longer care to even bother explaining it to you anymore.

Leon: 20:55 Right. They just assume that you don't know.

Doug: 20:57 Yeah, yeah.

Josh: 21:00 You can always get back at them Doug. I found that as my teenagers drop jokes and they will sit with their friends and banter back and forth and they're just dying laughing. So the way that I get them back is that I, I drop their vernacular. I'm like at the dinner table, you know? Um, so I'll be talking to my wife and I, and I'll be telling her a story about work and I'll say, "Yeah, today I was a real baller at work. I was, you know, totally..." And my kids, let's just look at me and say, "What are you doing?" Um, so when you get, when you get to our age, I think, isn't it? You can really, the, the joke is on them. We don't actually care and we're just going to pick at you for thinking that you're, you know, so funny and welcome to old age or middle age or I don't know what we are the, we won't talk about that.

Leon: 21:55 My kids have banned me from being jiggy with anything anymore.

New Speaker: 21:58 (conversation fades)

Josh: 22:01 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 with us on social media.

Doug: 22:15 Hey, thanks for having me on. Until next time, I've got a funny story...

Leon: 22:19 You know what? Nevermind, you probably had to be there.


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