Technically Religious
S1E13: Disaster Recovery

S1E13: Disaster Recovery

May 28, 2019

Weeks ago, the world watched helplessly as he Notre Dame Cathedral, burned. While this event was notable for many reasons, one of the things that struck us here at Technically Religious was the protocol used by emergency responders: Save the people, save the art, save the altar, save what furniture you can, then focus on the structure, in that order. We know what can be rebuilt and what can't.” In this episode, Josh and Leon compare and contrast that disaster recovery process to the ones typically used in IT. 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!

Leon: 00:25 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.

Josh: 00:45 A few weeks ago, the world watched helplessly as one of the iconic buildings in Paris, the Notre Dame cathedral burned. While this event was notable for many reasons. One of the things that struck us here at Technically Religious was a response by one of the bystanders, who understood what was happening on the ground. He said,

Leon: 01:04 "The fire department in Paris followed a protocol. Save the people, save the art, save the altar, save what furniture you can, then focus on the structure. In that order. They know what can be rebuilt and what can't."

Josh: 01:17 Now that smacks of a disaster recovery policy to us. But I think we in IT might look at it differently. Which is what we're going to do in this episode. Joining in the discussion with me today is Leon Adato.

Leon: 01:31 Hi everyone. And of course, the other voice that you're hearing is Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:35 Hello. Hello.

Leon: 01:36 Okay, so I think the first thing, because we're talking about disaster recovery, is let's get our terms. Let's define our data library and differentiate between redundancy, high availability, disaster recovery, risk mitigation, all those things. So do you wanna take a crack at it? Do you want to just collaboratively? Do this?

Josh: 01:58 I love redundancy. And in this world of cloud, I think redundancy is the thing that we do really well now because you know, you can set up a system that is in two regions and so if one of your regions fails here, the region will pickup, you can do a multisite region. Redundancy to me feels like a descriptor that actually bridges across HA and DR and risk mitigation. Um, yeah, redundancy feels like a catchall term, right? It's not something you can achieve. I don't know. What do you think, Leon?

Leon: 02:36 All right. All right. So I think redundancy at its simplest is "there's another one of them." There's another

Josh: 02:42 Oh, like RAID

Leon: 02:43 Yeah. Okay. Right. There's like RAID, you know, having multiple disks - RAID 0 - which is just having two discs, one backing up the other constantly. Or RAID 5... any of the other flavors of raid. So I think redundancy means "having more than one" and yes, redundancy can fit into a high availability plan. But high availability is more nuanced. High availability means that no matter what happens, the "thing" - the service, or the the network, or whatever, is going to be available. That can also be done by doing load balancing. It can also be done by, you know, in networking terms, channel bonding, so you can have those. So redundancy by itself is just "more than one of those at a time." So if one fails, the other one is still going or can take over. But high availability I think has more flavors to it. And then you have disaster recovery. That means that all your beautiful efforts at high availability have failed and it still went down. And so now you're left trying to recover from the failure. But at that point the failure is done. It has occurred, the system has crashed, you know, the meteor has hit the data center. Whatever it is and now you're trying to rebuild or pick up the pieces or whatever it is. Then you have risk mitigation, which sounds a little bit like, "We believe that this disaster could potentially occur, and we want to see what we can put in place to completely avoid the disaster, but we're going to do that ahead of time." So in the case of the Notre Dame fire, it might've been, you know, a sprinkler system. Just something like that. Like that would have been a nice little risk mitigation idea.

Josh: 04:37 You know, I wonder how many of those risk mitigation things that we do on our lives are really, uh, to make us feel better.

Leon: 04:46 Okay. So like the, you know, security theater kind of stuff,

Josh: 04:50 Right, right. Yeah. Like, um, you know, locking your front door. I mean, if someone really wants in your house, they're just going to kick your front door down. I mean, if the police want in, they're going to get in, you know? No deadbolt you pick up at home depot is going to keep them out. Right?

Leon: 05:08 No. Um, and, and I know this is a topic that Destiny Bertucci would love to be part of because this is one of her big things. But, so the thing about the dead bolts in the house, it's first of all, they don't need to kick down the door because you have windows. And I don't mean the computer system...

Josh: 05:24 Ha ha, ba dum bum!

Leon: 05:26 Yeah, we'll be here all week folks. So the thing about deadbolts is that it is way of avoiding, I guess, avoiding risk. It's a deterrent. It's not a protection. I saw some statistics recently that said, unless there was something specifically in your house that that individual wants - you have a Renoir, or a priceless Monet painting, or something like that - then they're just looking for what can get quickly and easily and a deadbolt is absolutely an effective deterrent because breaking a window is too risky and too loud and too noticeable. And if the door can't be easily opened, they'll move on to the next house or structure, where the pickings are easier. Or they'll walk around the house. And I've seen the statistics in neighborhoods where I've lived, that's occurred. Where they tried the front door, they tried the side door, they went around to the back door and "oops!". That one didn't have [a deadbolt. because], "who would go to the back door?!?" Everybody who wants to get in your house would go around to the back door. YOU go around to the back door right when the front... So everyone goes around. So having a dead-bolted system on all of your doors is the most effective deterrent to that. But I think we've gotten a little off topic, you know, in terms of Notre Dame. So I think we've defined redundancy, high availability, disaster recovery, risk mitigation... but what they're talking about, what they talked about in this whole, "first save lives and then save the art, and then save the...", you know, that's different.

Josh: 07:05 Yeah, it is, isn't it? Because they almost - well not almost, they gave a priority to specific items. Right? And I appreciate the fact that they said "save lives," lives are irreplaceable. So..., and there are things, there are some beautiful things in that cathedral that were also irreplaceable. Right. But you know, to their credit, human lives come first.

Leon: 07:31 Right. And, and I think that that's a pretty obvious one. After that though, taking the priority of lives, then art, and then, um, sorry I'm going back and looking at it... right. "Save the people, save the art, save the altar, save the furniture, then focus on the structure." So, you know, why did the roof, you know, get so hot it melted? Because it was just not part of the protocol... They hadn't gotten to that part of the protocol yet. And also what was said later was that not only is that protocol in place for overall, but it's in place room by room.

Josh: 08:06 Oh, interesting.

Leon: 08:09 I think there's an order of which rooms they tried to get to first. Again, looking for people. Once they knew all the people were safe throughout the structure, then they were going to specific rooms and looking for specific things to make sure that they could get those out before they moved on to the next category or even the next room. So I find it all fascinating. But the other thing is, do we do that in IT? Do we set up a protocol for which things we save first?

Josh: 08:42 You know, I'm thinking back and I don't recall ever having a, "Howell moment" and by Howell I'm referencing Gilligan's island and the Howells and the, "Oh deah save the furniture first!" you know,

Leon: 08:58 Save money, save the money!

Josh: 09:01 Yeah. I don't know that we've ever had one of those situations. Now, I will say though, we've taken risk mitigation efforts. Back in the days of doing tape backups, you would keep.. now if someone here isn't, you should, but you keep your backups offsite, you would move them to iron mountain and other similar facilities.

Leon: 09:26 Well, and, and bringing it forward a little bit, the 3-2-1 policy for backups, which is you have to have three separate backups, physically discrete backups, on at least two different kinds of media, with one of them being offsite. And offsite can be cloud, that's okay. But you know, 3-2-1" three backups to different media, at least two different media. One that is not where you are. So I would say that there is an order, but I think it's almost so self evident that we don't bother elaborating on it, which is: Save the data first.

Josh: 09:59 Oh absolutely.

Leon: 10:00 Yeah. So data in... Okay, and we're not talking about a fire in the data center, which changes the nature of everything. But you know, the first thing is save the data. The data equals lives in the Notre Dame protocol. If we, if we want to say it that way. And maybe the application is, you know, art, if we want to think of it that way, like the next thing. Once we know the data is secure, then save the applications, make sure, and by save I mean make sure the application can keep running, post disaster, post outage, whatever that is. So, we're both network folks and, we'll say "the network has gone down," All right? The main circuit out to the Internet, to our customers, whatever that circuits gone down. So what's the first thing? Let's make sure the data wasn't corrupted. Now, we might make sure that that happened before the outage by making sure that the system of rights is, you know, won't get caught in the middle of something that we're doing. Whether it's the particular kind of logging on the database or what have you, that those things are taken care of. But make sure the data's fine. Then make sure the application can get out to... "the signal must flow." The signal has to keep going. So can make sure the application is okay. Maybe the next thing in an IT version of that protocol... Uh, I don't know what would it be?

Josh: 11:32 So, you know, we've talked about keeping the data, we've talked about getting the application out there. Then it's, "can I get the people who need to be connected to it, connected to it." So one of the things when you have a major disaster, is you're often worried about addressing your largest customers and getting them back. But maybe you've got a remote workers and you don't have the VPN, so they're not going to be terminating in your, your new data center. Or swinging those circuits, those VPN tunnels from your original data center to your new data center. Maybe that wasn't part of your disaster recovery plan. So all of those things I think that's the, "Okay, now, now go get all the bits that make the, make your application experience comfortable. And again, I'm a remote worker, you're remote worker. So being able to connect and provide the support to the business is very important.

Leon: 12:32 And I can get behind that in terms of, like, we're the furniture.

Josh: 12:34 Yeah. I mean we've been sat on before. It's all right.

Leon: 12:39 Right. Sat on, stepped on, brushed aside,

Josh: 12:43 and knocked over.

Leon: 12:43 Yeah. Right. Yeah, sure. And I think the structure is, it literally that, it's the organizational structure. Make sure... but that's last because it's the thing that can be rebuilt easiest. The other thing about the Paris, the Notre Dame issue was the other comment: They knew it could happen and by that they knew it would happen again because Notre Dame was trashed back in the French Revolution or "The Terror" as someone referred to it. But the thing that was interesting was they weren't making any meaningful changes to Notre Dame even though it had happened before, and they knew it could happen again. And again, I find this fascinating. I've talked and written before about black swans in IT. You know, that really big event where "the application crashed and we couldn't sell widgets to our customers and we lost blah, blah, thousands of dollars." And you know, all that stuff. "And now we need to make sure that never happens again!" Okay. Yeah. But it was a meteor falling on the earth. I can't... why are we spending time even talking about it? And yet businesses spend lots and lots of time trying to protect themselves from the next Black Swan, which is going to look just like the last Black Swan, even though that one is a black swan because it was unpredictable. So why would they not make meaningful changes?

Josh: 14:09 So, I wonder about that, right? Like why would we not make meaningful changes when we know that something has happened? And I think you've nailed it there. These are black swan events. The chances that, the realistic chances of "The Terror" happening again, were reasonably small in the grand scheme of things. They also knew that the cathedral itself, although it is iconic, it can be rebuilt. So get the things that will go into the new building and in the new building will have new designs. So here, a tale from Mormonism. The Salt Lake Temple was one of the first buildings that was built in the Salt Lake Valley - major building that was built in the Salt Lake Valley after the Mormons moved there from Nauvoo. And when they got there, they built this temple out of stone that was quarried from the nearby quarries. That temple has stood the test of time. It's, it's been there for, uh, geez, I don't even know how many years. Well over a hundred years at this point. They are shutting the temple down in the center of Salt Lake because they are going to make some changes. They're going to redo the foundation, which at one point had cracked, and then they had to tear it out well before the temple was finished and then put it back in and then finish the temple. But they're going to protect the temple from seismic events. And not that, not that there's ever been a major earthquake in Utah, but you know, there could be, and it's hard to take such a landmark off the grid. People literally from around the world to see that that temple and downtown Salt Lake. So I imagine those changes to the Notre Dame cathedral would have been equally... uh, no, let me rephrase that. They would have been more impactful to a tourism around that facility and the worship services that go on in there.

Leon: 16:21 So, yeah, not that Notre Dame doesn't undergo renovations. In fact, this all occurred during a renovation. They certainly were renovating. I just, I wonder about, why not a sprinkler system or whatever. Although, as I sit there and I say it to myself, again, working in IT, well, why don't we put sprinkler systems in our data center? Oh, that's right. That's why we don't do that. And you know, the art, the paintings, the whatever, you know, maybe

Josh: 16:51 The servers

Leon: 16:52 The servers. Yeah. The wiring, the electricity. A water suppression system would probably be be more damaging than not, than the fire, which I guess people feel that they can outrun. And they did, in large part. You know, they really did. And also that the next step up, a halon system is simply not possible in a structure the size of Notre Dame.

Josh: 17:27 I think the key here, though, is don't make any changes because once you make changes, you introduce variables that you can't control. Like really, "no deploy Fridays"? They're a thing. I mean, they should be a thing.

Leon: 17:39 So I hear that, although I think that Charity Majors, from, is on a campaign for getting rid of that. But...

Josh: 17:48 I'm just going say she was the one I was thinking about when I said that, I was thinking "Charity is totally going to kill me."

Leon: 17:53 But I will say also that she is presupposing that there is a vastly different architecture in place than A) the kind of structure that Notre Dame is; and B) the kind of day to day small, medium, even large size businesses, but sort of the, the monolithic businesses that we, you and I, are used to working in, I think that she's presupposing that's not the case.

Josh: 18:21 Most definitely not. Right. I think if the equivalent of a of honeycomb in architecture would be something akin to.... Boy, I can't even, I I have no idea. I'm like what, what would change as often as an environment monitored by honeycomb?

Leon: 18:43 Yeah. So neither one of us is architect enough to come up with a good analogy, but...

Josh: 18:50 I have one!!

Leon: 18:51 Oh, go ahead.

Josh: 18:51 What about a 3-d printed house, one of those ones you can build in a day that like puts the concrete down? I think if you had something like that,

Leon: 19:01 ...if that was the case then you wouldn't worry about you. Yeah. You'd deploy changes all the time because you just reprint your plans, right?

Josh: 19:09 "Oh honey, I think we're going to put an addition on this afternoon." "Okay. Hit print." All right. There we go. So Honeycomb is like a 3-D printed house.

Leon: 19:20 There we go. I'm going to tweet that and see how quickly Charity jumps on there to tell us "erm, no!" Okay. Um,

Josh: 19:30 I have a question. You mentioned to me, when we were talking about this episode, about this comment about the "long now in action" and how that resonated with you. Tell me only, what was it about that phrase "the long now?"

Leon: 19:45 I loved the idea - and just to put it in context from the tweet (and we'll have it in the notes from the show.) But the original comment, "They know what can be rebuilt and what can't." (I'd said that before) "...the protocol has been in place since the last time the cathedral was destroyed. Sacked during the French Revolution. The steeple and beams supporting it are 160 years old. And oaks for new beans await at Versailles, the grown replacement for oaks to rebuild after the revolution. This is the long now in action. It's what happens when you maintain civilization." So a few more pieces here about why the protocol is in place and how they do it. They actually do have a sense of disaster recovery. They're growing it! There are trees. And in the thread of the tweet that we quoted, the gentleman who tweeted it posted pictures of Versailles with the oaks that have been grown to replace pieces. Now, of course that's also meant to replace pieces that just wear out after a while, or become decayed or something like that. But the entire idea is that they have their disaster recovery. They have their replacement process in place. But the idea of calling it "the long now" - I think in American we call it the long game, right? But the long game has a whole different flavor than "the long now." The long now means that life is happening - now. We are in it - now. But I'm not just looking at this moment. I'm not living for just this moment. I'm living for this moment, and also to ensure that every other moment is able to be sustained or maintained like it. That my children will experience THIS now. They will walk into iconic structures like Notre Dame and have the same experience I'm having in in large part, if not completely. So I just like that. And from an IT perspective, I think that we would do well if we could build in awareness of the long now - and by the way, which things don't need it. Which aspects of our architecture really are momentary and shouldn't be given the "long now" treatment, like Y2K is a great example of not doing that. You're not thinking about the long now, and you're not building in obsolescence into your code to say, "No! At the end of five years, this has to go away. It has to, we have to do something else with it." So that's the opposite of it. I just, I was just enchanted with both the terminology and everything poetically that seemed to be wrapped in with it.

Josh: 22:31 Yeah. And, and as I, as I've listened to you wax eloquent about that idea, I do think that that is it. That is really an enchanting idea. Maybe to make it a little more base and brutish. It's that whole argument of pets versus cattle. And I think Netflix was one of the first companies to really push that idea. Don't get so attached to your tech that you can't kill it off. Right? We've got this dog, her name is Mabel. She's a Boston terrier. She's the purebred. And she is literally the most expensive gift I have ever purchased for my wife. Not because she was expensive to buy. But in the first year of her life, she is undergone close to $4,500 in surgery because apparently Boston's have bad knees. Who would have known?? And so for my pets, for this pet in particular, we're willing to literally move heaven and earth to make sure that she's comfortable. Right. But I also enjoy eating cows and I would not move heaven and earth to save a cow.

Leon: 23:47 You might spend extra for a really tasty cow, but that's a very different thing. So I have long said both in IT context and also in my home that it's not the cost of the puppy that's gonna get ya. It's the cost of feeding the puppy.

Josh: 24:02 Children too, actually.

Leon: 24:04 Yeah. Well that's, it's all of them. Right. Iit's like "but you know the puppy's free!" No, it's not. It's not buying the puppy, it's feeding the puppy. And I think that again in IT, we would be well served to remember which of our projects, which of our architectural choices, which of our things that we do during the day, which of our activities, are cattle and can be really sort of thoughtlessly left to the side. And which of them are pets. Cause I'm not gonna say that all of it is cattle. Not, not everything in it can be treated like cattle. We want to do a certain level of commoditization, but it's always gotta be the things that are intrinsically not valuable that, that we can change it. Another corollary in the Dev ops mindset that, since you've brought up Netflix. Netflix is named, but also, uh, other companies are referenced in a book called "The Phoenix Project." And the Phoenix project also mentions this thing called Disaster Kata. Now a kata in karate terms is simply a set of actions that you take, and you do them over and over and over again until they just become muscle memory. And so they do disaster recovery or emergency or chaos kata. So they practice being in trouble and getting themselves out of it when it's not really an actual problem. So that when there's a real problem, you have that muscle memory, you jump into the situation. And that's true of military training. That's true of true disaster responders. They do the same thing. They practice certain behaviors, so that they don't have to think really hard about them when they come. And I think that we see this in the Notre Dame cathedral experience also. Is that they had done their kata. They had figured out the protocol and practiced it or talked through it so they knew what they were doing. And this was an example of it. And again, we in IT would be well served to think about which types of failures, which types of disasters and recovery actions we would be well served to practice beforehand. You talked about backups a little bit ago, you know, practice your restores. Otherwise you have what has become affectionately known as "Schrodinger's backup." The backup is both there and possibly not there, and you won't know whether it's there until you try to restore it. And if it's at the worst possible time and the answer is "the cat in the box is dead," then you're going to have a problem.

Josh: 26:42 What you have is you have a branding problem. If you don't know if your backups are there or not there, what you really have are "quantum backups!" You won't know what state they're in until you observe them. So just as long as you don't observe it, then you can assume that they're there. Right?

Leon: 26:58 Um, that's, I, I'm,

Josh: 27:00 I'm trademarking that too late.

Leon: 27:02 That's fine. Quantum backup. It just makes it sound far more exciting and sophisticated, and also then management may want to buy more of it. "Don't check it. Don't check it! You'll let the quantum state out! That's we're paying for.

Josh: 27:18 I love it. See, were gonna be millionaires. Millionaires!

Leon: 27:21 We are, but we're also not going to be able to show her face in IT conferences ever. "THERE THEY ARE!! GO GET THEM!" All right. So I want to turn this around to the religious perspective and talk about you know, this idea of disaster recovery, this idea of, what we protect and what we don't protect. Now you talked about how the Mormon temple is being restructured because clearly they don't want to lose it. They can't 3-D print the temple in Salt Lake City. So yeah. So they're not gonna even try to do that. And also they know the hit to the community that it would represent if something bad happened to it.

Josh: 28:03 And historically, the LDS church has been ransacked right? When they were in Kirtland, the Kirtland temple was destroyed. It was literally burned with, well, I won't say burned to the ground, but it was, it was burned and desecrated. So there's, there is a history in Mormonism, even though it's a relatively new religion from a religion perspective, you know, founded in 1830 of having, it's it's sacred objects desecrated by people who were against them.

Leon: 28:35 Right? Okay. So, so in terms of disaster recovery - and again, we'll presume that every church and every synagogue and every temple of whichever stripe or flavor we're talking about, has their own structural, organizational protocol for what to do if the building is on fire - if that happens. But there's other things that had been disaster and disaster recovery. So there's two I'm thinking of, one big and one small. And the big one was the destruction of The Temple (capital letters), The Temple in Jerusalem. And not only was it the building that got destroyed, not only was it the entire organization of the priesthood that was effectively demolished with the loss of the temple and the single focal point of sacrifice, but the religion - Judaism itself - took a hit because at the time Judaism was a sacrifice based religion that, you know, when you wanted to say, "I'm sorry" or "I messed up" or "thank you", the method that you did that through was to go to The Temple, and bring a sacrifice, and the priest would sacrifice on the altar either all or in part, and you would either eat some of it in celebration or not. And there's all sorts of wonderful flavors of that. But you couldn't go do that in your backyard. That was absolutely not an okay thing to do for a variety of reasons that would take too long to go over. There's some wonderful videos that I might link to in the show notes for this episode. But what's Judaism going to do now? The Temple's gone. There's no longer away to say I'm sorry or I messed up or thank you or I'm happy. There's no longer a way to do that. So does the, does the religion just disappear? No. There was a pivot. First of all, the location moved from a Jerusalem to a town of Yavne. And also what happened was a philosophical change that instead of sacrifices on an altar, it became sacrifices of the heart. That prayer took the place of the sacrifice. First and very, very literally by reading the laws of sacrifice. It was analogous to doing the sacrifice. And so every morning in morning prayers, still to this day, Orthodox Jews will read through those laws of sacrifice and the process and the protocol to do it as a way of metaphorically or philosophically saying this is still alive. But also prayer itself. Also, everybody's home has become an altar that on Shabbat, that Sabbath offering that we bring the two loaves of bread and the wine and everything has taken the place of it. So the religion was able to pivot from a very visceral, physical experience of divinity and connecting to the divine to a very, I'm going to say, intellectual and mental connection. And that was a big change. And for the religion to be able to do that was really remarkable. Not to have people just say, "Oh, well yeah, the building's gone. Yeah, that's it. I guess I'm going to be a, you know, I dunno, a pastafarian or, you know, whatever. I'm not trying to offend any pastafarians. The giant invisible spaghetti monster is a fantastic being if or if it does not exist. So that's the big one. The little one though, the little story is actually in the middle of disaster and having this protocol and how it saves more than you expect. So a friend of mine here in Cleveland was telling me a story about his grandfather. His grandfather was a young man in Morocco and, very hilly, you know, a lot of mountains and stuff like that. And they were sort of look in the low lands I guess. And in the spring, you know, the spring melt and the water was coming in. And I guess one of the rivers overran its bed, and the grandfather could hear the water coming at the town, like a flood was coming and he could hear it. And so what do you do? He ran to the synagogue and he grabbed the Torah because you know, that's the thing like, just make sure you have the Torah. Like again, we're not going to worry about the structure. Nobody was in the building, so he grabbed the Torah. Now the thing that you need to understand is: many people have seen a Torah and they see this parchment that is rolled between two scrolls and then covered with a cloth. That is not what a Sephardic - or people from the Middle East, the Spanish country. There, it's in a box. If the scrolls are strung between two poles, but then that's all wrapped in a box itself. A wooden case. So he picks up this case and he realizes he wasn't fast enough. The water is now there. It's coming into the synagogue and it's rising really fast. And he's waiting through this water with this Torah, this huge boxy Torah in his arms trying to get out, and the water just completely sweeps him off his feet and now he's going down the street, you know, still holding onto the Torah. Which is a big wooden box. That holds air inside. And so he's holding it and now the Torah is holding him up. He's floating down the water, this, this deluge holding on for dear life, both metaphorically and physically to this Torah that is keeping him afloat. And it saved him. And on top of it there's a saying that many people say in Hebrew "etz chayim hi lamancha zikim ba" - "It's a tree of life to those who hold fast to it." And that story was passed down generation by generation that in making sure he followed this protocol, making sure he saved that thing, that one artifact, made sure that he was able to survive also.

Josh: 35:11 Thanks for making time for us this week. To hear more of Technically Religious, visit our website,, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions, and connect with us on social media.

Leon: 35:24 We didn't start the fire,

Josh: 35:26 ...but you can be damn sure we're going to be asked to pull an all nighter to fight it.


S1E12: Fixing the World, One Error Message at a Time

S1E12: Fixing the World, One Error Message at a Time

May 21, 2019

Acts of hatred in our most sacred spaces. Curable diseases going untreated. War tearing countries and families apart. Global climate change threatening our very species. It’s enough to make anyone feel that this world is broken beyond repair. As people with a strong religious, moral, or ethical point of view, we are sensitized to inequality and injustice, but these problems leave many of us feeling both frustrated and hopeless. However, our work as IT professionals has conditioned us to look at problems, breakdowns, and error messages in a very particular way. In this episode of our podcast, Leon, Josh, and special guest Yechiel Kalmenson will look at ways in which our IT mindset helps us approach secular, existential, and religious challenges in ways that non-IT folks ("civilians" or "muggles") typically don’t. Listen to the episode, or read the transcript below:

Doug: 00:00 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.

Josh: 00:25 Today is May 6, 2019, and while we try to keep our podcasts as timeless as possible, in this case, current events matter.

Leon: 00:35 It hasn't been a good week, and that's putting it lightly. The US political system continues to be a slow motion train wreck. Measles cases in the US are at levels unseen since the disease was eradicated in the year 2000. A report on climate change shows over 1 million species are now at risk of extinction. And just over a week ago, a gunman stormed into a synagogue in Poway, California. This is the second attack in a synagogue in the last six months. and part of a horrifically growing list of attacks in sacred spaces nationwide.

Josh: 01:03 News like that leaves most people feeling hopeless and adrift. And even folks who are part of a strong religious, ethical, or moral tradition who are sensitive to injustice and seek to repair the world - we're also left uncertain on how to proceed.

Leon: 01:18 Which is why an article in the "Torah & Tech" newsletter caught my eye. In it, the author presented the idea that we as IT professionals may be predisposed to view these kinds of problems differently, and to address them the same way we deal with blue screens of death and abend messages. I'm Leon Adato and the voices you're going to hear on this episode are the always-effervescent Josh Biggley

Josh: 01:40 Hello.

Leon: 01:42 And also our special guest and the author of Torah & Tech, Yechiel Kalmenson, who provided the inspiration for this episode. Welcome to the show Yechiel.

Yechiel: 01:49 Hi. Thanks for having me.

Leon: 01:51 So before we go any further Yechiel, I want you to have a chance to tell all of the listeners about Torah & Tech. I think it's perfect for the Technically Religious crowd because it merges those two things - tech and religion. So where can we find it? How did it start? Just give us a little bit of background.

Yechiel: 02:09 Torah & Tech was an idea of a friend of mine, Rabbi Ben Greenberg, who's also like me, an Orthodox Jew now working as a developer in Israel. We came up with the idea to merge, you know like you spoke about in the first episode to have the synergy between these two worlds, which mean a lot to both of us. So we started this weekly newsletter, which features a Torah thought every single week that relates to tech and also tech news that relate to Judaism or to Torah values in general. You can find it, you can subscribe to it in the link which will be provided in the show notes. I also cross post a few weeks - those that I write - I cross post them on my blog, which you can find at

Leon: 02:51 Fantastic. I guess we'll dive into this. What is it about IT and working in IT that makes us think differently about these types of world breaking world, you know, horrific events that that just shouldn't be?

Josh: 03:08 You know, I think what makes me think about those things, and I have an interesting story that I'll share, but it's that desire to fix things, to see them resolved and in order to do that, you have to understand where they came from. I remember quite distinctly when I had this first realization that I was a "fixer". I was in 10th grade. I was in a class and we had a presenter from the community - or who I thought was from the community - who came in, and she talked about the genocide and that had happened in East Timor. She was East Timorese and she had talked about how the Indonesian had invaded East Timor and killed off a third of the population. And I thought, "Man, I've never heard of this before. How can it possibly be that such a tragedy has happened? And no one's talked about it." And it was in that moment that I realized I wanted to do something. And it's only been with 25 or 30 years of retrospect that I realize that that was that transitional moment where I knew I wanted to be a fixer. So I dunno, I, maybe it's something that happens to us by nature, by nurture. I don't know if I want to fall down on either one of those sides, but for me it felt very natural.

Speaker 2: 04:28 Excellent. Now Yechiel in the newsletter, you actually mentioned something about the fact that, you know, we as IT professionals - and certainly as programmers and developers - error messages... We don't respond to error messages the same way that I'm going to say "normal people" (Muggles) do. Can you, can you elaborate on that?

Speaker 3: 04:46 Uh, sure. It's actually, I noticed that it's one of the first things, one of the first like switches I had to go through in order to learn development. Before I was a programmer, I did tech support and I can't tell you how many times I got a phone call where someone calls up and says, "Yeah, there's something wrong. The machine is broken." I'm like, "what's wrong?" "Like I don't know, it has an error message on it and like...", "Well what does it say?" "I don't know" And I was like, "I can't really, you know... Can we go through the transaction again and see which error we got?" "I Dunno, it's just broken and it got an error message." As, I mean, ever since I was a kid, I always had this curiosity where I would, you know, try to figure things out. We know when something broke to try to take it apart. And when I learned to program, so that was one of the first lessons I had to learn because error messages pop up all the time. You make a small typo, I make a small, you know, you add an extra semi colon or you're missing a semicolon and the whole thing blows up at you. And as a "muggle", as you put it, whenever our computer throws an error message at you, it's always this scary thing. You know, it almost feels like the computer is, like, shouting at you and you know you probably did something wrong. And now everything is broken and nothing is working. But as programmers and in general people in IT, error messages are actually, that's what we're here for. That's what we do. We fix error messages. Error messages show us where the code is broken. What has to be fixed. Some are easier and more helpful than others of course. But that's basically what we do. Our whole approach to broken systems is different. You know, I mentioned the quote from Steve Klabnik in the newsletter he said that "...programming is a moving from a broken state to a working state. That means you spend the majority of your time with things being broken. Hell, if it worked, you'd be done programming!" I mean nobody's hiring programmers to take care of working stuff. So that's what we do as, that's our job description.

Leon: 06:43 How many of us have said, as you're sort of struggling with a problem or you know, "how can you keep working on this? Hour after hour?" (and we respond) "that's why I get paid the big bucks."

Josh: 06:55 I just want to call out that the blue screen of death. I think that that was invented to BE scary. Like really, you know, suddenly everything fails and you get this dump of data like that (gasps), I don't know, when I see the blue screen of death on the server and I haven't... knock on wood, I haven't seen one in a long time. I'm always afraid,

Leon: 07:18 Right. But of course you have to remember that the blue screen of death came after a long string of operating systems that gave you nothing more than like the "sad mac". Like that was all you got. You didn't get any other error messages. So perhaps the pendulum swung a little too far in the other direction of giving more information than you wanted, versus just, you know, "I'm not happy now," but even that is, to Yechiel's point, is a way of of trying to fix things by error message, I mean, you know, this error message is actually not useful. And so I'm going to fix the error message by giving more information, but they just went perhaps a little further in that direction.

Josh: 08:01 So I learned last week, or two weeks ago about this great Easter egg in an error message. So you know when you're in chrome and there's no network connectivity and you get that pop up that says that there's no network connectivity? There's a video game in that popup message!

Leon: 08:21 Trying to make it less scary by looking for firewall things in the middle,

Yechiel: 08:25 I will not admit out loud how many hours I wasted with that dinosaur.

Leon: 08:32 But it is some number greater than zero. Good. All right. So I like this mindset. I like the fact that as IT people, we are, as Josh said "solvers" and that we approach brokenness in a very different way. We see brokenness not as simply, like a broken pot, a Ming vase on the floor that is broken and will never be the same, but more as IT folks we're, "Oh, that's just, that's how everything starts," And now, now we have the work of the work. I'm curious about whether being people from a religious, moral, ethical point of view. Are we predisposed maybe to see these errors or these patterns differently than folks who are from a more secular point of view?

Josh: 09:27 I'm pretty convinced that the answer to that question is yes. I think about the... in case you haven't been paying attention, I was raised Mormon and I'm now post Mormon or ex Mormon or no longer Mormon, whatever. You wanna do this, do you want to call it

Leon: 09:46 The artist formerly known as Mormon?

Josh: 09:48 The artist formerly known as Mormon - I think actually, that is every Mormon because the church doesn't call themselves Mormons anymore. Anyway, that's a, that's an entirely different episode. But the entire premise of Christianity at large is this realignment or uh, yes, realignment is the best way to describe it, of ourselves with God. So God being perfect, the idea of there being an atonement means that we have to, that there's something wrong with us. And so there's, you know, scripture is full of indicators when someone goes wrong. So one of the great indicators in the book of Mormon, which is the, the book of scripture that is unique from the rest of Christianity inside of Mormonism is when Jesus is crucified and when he dies on the cross, and while there's been people who've said, "Hey, you know, things are, things are not going well. You know, this is going to happen." Suddenly the, you know, the earth shakes and the ground breaks and there's darkness and there's, you know, cities fall and they burn. These are all these warning signs that something has gone wrong. And those people who are astute to that, they recognize that something has gone wrong and they're the ones who, you know, who raised their voices up and, um, you know, then there's goodness that rises. Yes. I know it's a bit of a stretch to say that in that mindset, we also become good engineers - so that when we see the warning signs, we know we're looking for them, we start to see, "Oh my goodness, there's error messages popping up. Like that's, that's kind of weird." And then when the thing ultimately fails, we're the ones who are there to say, "Okay, all right, it's failed. We got this, we can bring this back." I don't know that that's necessarily how people perceive it, but I certainly, I'm certainly a big pattern person, and in patterns, you know, whether you're talking about the book of Revelation or you're talking about Nostradamus, or whatever it is you're talking about, those patterns all exists and I think they're powerful for us. Um, both personally. Um, but also from a technical perspective.

Leon: 11:57 So I think that Judaism approaches things differently. Obviously, you know,

Josh: 12:02 yes...

Leon: 12:03 it approaches things very differently for a lot of things. That's a true statement. The brokenness of the world is sort of built into it and I don't know that it's worth going into the, the whys and wherefores, but there's this concept in Judaism of Tikun Olam, which translates to "repairing the world." And because that's a thing like the fact that that phrase exists, tells you that the world needs repair and that's built into the system. Otherwise that phrase wouldn't be a thing. Now there's two ways of looking at Tikun Olam, the, the sort of, bubblegum pop way of looking at it. And I probably just offended to thousands of people and I apologize. The first level view, or the easier view of Tikun Olam is just doing good deeds to make the world a better place. Donating money and helping people out if they need help and things like that. But there's a deeper, slightly deeper level of it, which is that there are these hidden sparks of holiness and it's almost like a scavenger hunt. And that our job is to reveal these sparks of holiness to collect them up. And the way that you do that is by doing these good deeds. Yechiel, I don't know if you have a take on that.

Yechiel: 13:18 You did pretty well. It's stressed a lot stronger and Chasidic philosophy, which, which I'm trained in. But yeah, when God created the world, He created it with His goodness, with His kindness. And that kindness is everywhere. Everywhere in the world. Even in the darkness. When we find the spark of goodness in the darkness, we're actually revealing the purpose of creation of that part of the world and bringing the world closer to its ultimate reason for creation, which was to become a place where godliness and goodness, out in the open rather than hiding in dark corners the way it is now.

Leon: 13:57 One of the parts of Judaism that I like so much is that certain... these good deeds, these acts, are labeled as Mitzvot, which, you know, a lot of people say, "Oh, that's a good deed, right?" No, no, no, no, no, that's, that's a commandment. That's an obligation. Why are you giving charity or tzedakah is what it's called in Hebrew. Why are you giving that? You know, because it makes you feel good? No. Because it's a good deed? No. Because I'm obligated to, I am commanded to. The commander in chief gave me an order and I'm just being a good soldier. I'm just doing it. And I think that that also, as somebody with a religious point of view, lets us look at these these broken moments, these broken times as, "Nope, that's part of the job." This is a hurdle that was placed here so we could try to overcome it. Moving forward just a little bit. I think that because we see these errors, do we, do we feel compelled to address them? I mean, like, do we have to?

Josh: 15:07 Something that I'm I'm told very often is "Josh, stay in your lane," and I'm not good that at all.

Leon: 15:14 "Keep your nose out of it. Just deal with your stuff!" Yeah. Yeah.

Josh: 15:17 I mean, I'm really, really bad at it, so I'm going to say that yes, I feel very compelled to fix problems, much to my own detriment though, sometimes. Solving my own problems is challenging, but solving my own problems and other people's problems? That's, that's a weighty thing. Sometimes I feel like I'm better at solving other people's problems than my own.

Yechiel: 15:42 So yeah, do we feel compelled to justice? I feel like that's part of what we spoke about our different approach error messages in tech. You know, when a nontechnical person sees an error message, yeah, he's compelled not to do anything about it. And it just shut the whole thing down and turn it on and hope for the best. But as a developer, if I see an error message and figure, "Okay, it's broken. That's it. That's how that, you know, that's how it is." Then I'll pretty much find myself without a job very soon.

Speaker 2: 16:13 Well there's one phrase that I think I've quoted on the show before, but it's so good, I can't let it go. Do we feel obligated to address these? And in one of the books of Mishnah, a section called Pirkeh Avot, there's a phrase that gets quoted a lot. "You're not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." And I think that's a big part of the mindset. Yechiel of the three of us, you are the most "a programmer". I'm more of a systems guy. Josh is more of a systems guy. And I know that when you're looking at one of these big problems, like you said, you can't walk away from it, but at the same time, I don't think you go into it thinking, "Well it's me and it's only on me and there no one else who's ever going to do this", I think, you know, going into it that there's a team behind you, there's people that you can rely on, there's people you can go to or who will pick up the work if you have to take a break or put it down.

Yechiel: 17:20 Very true. The stuff I'm working on now, you know, it's problems that were around for a lot longer than I've been on them. And they will still be problems way after I'm off the team already. And yeah, it's, you know, you're part of IT, you're part of a much bigger picture. You are not the be all and end all the project will go on without you, but at the same time, you have an awesome opportunity to improve it and to move it one step forward and another step and another step.

Leon: 17:51 And, and I, I have to put this in here because I said I'm a systems guy. Really, you know, my great love in IT is monitoring, and I consider myself to be a monitoring engineer more than anything else. And I think that I feel compelled to address things because usually I'm the one who sets up a monitor to watch for that condition - to check and, you know, is it healthy? No. Alright. Why? And once you have that, once you have that error message, that alert, "Hey, this is no longer within the boundary of what we would consider healthy or good or up or okay." At that point, if you haven't put in something to try to fix that problem, that alert that you've just triggered, then you haven't done the full job of monitoring. You know, monitor, collect the data, alert when it goes out of your specification, and then act. And if you're not acting, then you haven't done a full job. That's from a monitoring standpoint. But again, I feel that it translates into the real world. So now that we sort of identified it, I wonder as IT folks, do we have anything to offer non IT people (again, muggles) to approach these problems. Is there a mindset that that non IT folks can adopt that would make it easier when they see these big problems in their community, in the world to not feel so overwhelmed?

Josh: 19:20 Oh, me, me! I've got one. I've got one! There's this great, there's this great idea in Mormonism, about having one foot and Zion and one foot in Babylon. And I don't know if it's strictly from Mormonism, but I feel like I'm one of those people, because I was afraid of error messages in my early IT career, I was absolutely horrified. To me when they broke it felt like I had done something wrong. Like, "Did, did I, did I make it do that?" To quote Steve Urkel, "Did I do that?"

Leon: 19:56 Another great voice in Geekdom

Josh: 20:00 The great geek of all Geeks, right? Steve Urkel. So I think that I would love for people to take this: Don't be afraid of, of of error messages. When you see them, first decompress a little because you're freaking out because things just broke. But then read what the error message says. You know, this is not like the Twitter fail whale. It's not like the spinning pinwheel of death on your brand new Mac book. Like these things are generally helpful. And if not, shame on you coders for not putting in helpful error. Messages.

Leon: 20:37 Uh oh, he's throwing shade at you. Yechiel

Josh: 20:39 I maybe.. I mean a little..

Yechiel: 20:40 No, that's actually a very valid point. And our last tech conference I was by, it was a Ruby conference, but almost every talk I was at was trying to discuss how to make our error messages better. And I think in general, just teaching people that it's okay when things are broken, it's not okay when they stay broken for us, but it's okay when they are broken. And that just shows that there's room for us to get in here and help things out.

Josh: 21:12 And I love that idea of making our error messages better. Going back to Leon, your love of monitoring, my love of monitoring, the big push now in the monitoring space is that everything is telemetry. It's not just time series data, like everything, your error messages, the strings that get vomited out of your code. That's all telemetry. So, yeah, please, if you're a developer and you're listening make your error messages something that we on the monitoring and event management side, that we can take in as telemetry and use it to help people to go and do things to bring the systems back.

Leon: 21:53 Right now I'm not about to go in and approach God and say, "I'm not sure your error messages are comprehensive enough. I'd like things a little clearer." Partially because it's a little egotistical to think that I have anything to tell God about how to run the world. And second of all, when I've asked for clear messages, I've gotten them and they're usually very sort of blunt and brutal. So I don't do that. But as far as having non IT folks approach these world issues, these sort of error messages around, one of the things - and we hit on it earlier is remember that you're working in teams that very rarely in IT are you an army of one. That there's people that you can fall back on. There should be people that you can fall back on. Find your tribe. If you have... there's an area of the world that really bothers you, that you're sensitized to, then find your tribe that's addressing that. Whether it's the #metoo movement or you're fighting climate change, or you're looking for creating lasting peace in your neighborhood or anywhere else, find that group and work within it so that you can pick up your piece, but you don't have to try to pick up the whole piece. So that's one thing that I think IT folks sort of intuitively understand.

Josh: 23:16 So I love that, and I want to build on that. My son today, who's in high school, he came home and he said "Hey, just so you guys know, today's the first day of Ramadan and I'm going to be participating in Ramadan with my friends." And I thought, "Whoa, like, whoa." We're like, "Where did that come from? That so awesome." He's feeling very connected. And so I love that idea of finding your people and working in teams. I have this wonderful old lady who lives next to me. She's been around forever. And whenever her computer breaks she calls me and says "Josh, can you come fix my computer?" She knows how to do the things that she knows how to do, but she also was very willing to admit that "I can't do this. I can't fix this thing." And to me they're very rudimentary. Like, okay, yeah, I'll help you with that. But to her, it's something foreign. And don't be afraid of foreign things. Admitting that you don't know something is just as good, if not better than faking that you know something when you don't, I mean, our last episode talked about that, that fake it til you make it. You don't have to fake this and it's okay to say, I don't know.

Destiny: 24:26 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: 24:40 To quote Five Man Electrical Band from their 1971 classic, "Thank you lord for thinking about me. I'm alive and doing fine."



S1E11 - Imposter Syndrome

S1E11 - Imposter Syndrome

May 14, 2019

Imposter Syndrome is a well known condition in IT circles, but it exists in religious contexts too. On this episode, Leon, Josh, and Doug look at the ways in which imposter syndrome manifests in both spheres, and how our experiences combating in one area may help in the other. Listen or read the transcript below.


Imposter Syndrome is a well known condition in IT circles, but it exists in religious contexts too. On this episode, Leon, Josh, and Doug look at the ways in which imposter syndrome manifests in both spheres, and how our experiences combating in one area may help in the other. 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 impostor Syndrome is a well known condition in IT circles, but it exists in religious contexts too. On this episode we're going to look at ways in which impostor syndrome manifests in both spheres and how our experiences combating in one area might help the other. I'm Leon Adato. And the other voices you're going to hear today are Doug Johnson.

Doug: 01:07 Hello,

Leon: 01:08 JAnd Josh Biggley.

Josh: 01:09 Hello.

Leon: 01:10 All right, so I think the first thing you probably ought to do is define impostor syndrome. So who wants to take a crack at that?

Josh: 01:18 Well I would, but I'm not qualified, so...

Doug: 01:22 All right. We're there!

Leon: 01:24 We just, we hit it and we hit the ground running. Doug, that means it's you.

Doug: 01:30 All right. I'm just reading a definition-definition from good old Wikipedia." A psychological...", uh, sorry. "Impostor Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts his or her accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all that they have achieved. Individuals with impostor-ism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.

Leon: 02:09 Right. And again, this is something that IT folks, many IT folks struggle with quite a bit it is an aspect of the Dunning-Kruger effect. And I first heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect a long time ago, and my immediate thought was, "oh my God, that's me." Meaning that, you know the report that I was reading talked about people who thought they were really good at something. And in fact they were so bad that not only did they not know they were bad, but they looked at people who were good at something and they thought they were bad at it also. So they not only misunderstood their own skill, but they would rate other people lower at it who were demonstrably good. And I thought, "oh, what if that's..." It was my first thought was, "what if that's me?"

Doug: 03:03 And of course, there's your impostor syndrome, right? But the classic example of that is, I read a study somewhere that 80% of all people think they're above average drivers.

Leon: 03:14 Okay,

Josh: 03:14 I mean, I am.

Doug: 03:17 And that's the point. 80% can't be above average.

New Speaker: 03:21 Even, even if the numbers weren't funny everyone's demonstrable experience says that that's not true. There's, there's another, so there's a Jewish aspect of this, which is a Jewish mysticism talks about a group of people called the Lamed-Vav-niks. Lamed-Vav is simply the number 33. And these 33 people are truly righteous and it is on their behalf - for their sake - that God does not destroy the world and start over again. And if even one were to cease to exist the world would immediately be destroyed. It wouldn't be good enough. And the corollary to that is that if you wonder, in the back of your mind, "I wonder, maybe, maybe I'm one of the lamed-vav-niks?" that is proof that you're not. So there's, there's just all sorts of layers to this idea of impostor syndrome and who has it and how to deal with it. So let's dive into this. When does this occur? When have you seen this in it context? When have you seen the Dunning-Kruger or the impostor syndrome really manifest.

Josh: 04:31 I mean when I first started to apply for jobs as a remote working... and I didn't know that I wanted to be remote working... but as a remote working monitoring engineer. Boy, my world got real shaky. I was, you know, I'd come out to Atlantic Canada to work for a company, but it was a small company and I was horrified at the thought that a Fortune 25 company would want to hire me - and hire me sight unseen - and oh my, you know, I just like, "I can't do it. There's, there's no way..." I think that when, when you aren't in that comfort zone of what you've always known in your career, and for me it was making that leap into being a 100% remote worker, you don't know what you're going to do. You feel like the exception to everything we'll talk about later, but I think that there's power and embracing that exception, but yeah. Starting new jobs, starting a different type of job, becoming some sort of, um, you know, change in, in your career trajectory, whether you go from being an engineer to being a manager or vice versa. Those things are, yeah. For me, huge challenges.

Leon: 05:46 Okay. So change, like when you, when you're going through major, changing in the status quo, that's when you're more liable to doubt your ability to actually do it, even if you've proven time and time again that "I do this all the time."

Josh: 05:58 Yeah. And that goes back to the art. One of our previous episodes where we talked about the consistency of change. Now I just listened to... re listen to that episode today but the only consistent thing in IT is change. Therefore, if I was successful last week, then I can't be successful this week because IT has changed so much that I can't possibly do it. So then if you know, just reinstall it, that impostor syndrome right back into everything. You do it, it's, yeah, welcome to my life.

Leon: 06:27 Oh, good. GOTO 10.

Josh: 06:28 Yes.

Doug: 06:33 Yeah. I mean, on the, on the topic of jobs, I mean, there's nothing like it. I love the IT jobs. "We're looking for a rock star contributor! We're looking for people with a passion to go ahead and change the world." And I'm like, "Really? Um, how about if I'm kind of good at what I do and when things need to be solved, I figure it out. But I don't know whether I qualify as a rockstar." I mean, I used to be a disc jockey. Rockstars bust up hotel rooms and stuff. They don't necessarily do good things. Do you want a rock start working on your IT software? I don't think so.

Leon: 07:09 Right, right. "Rockstar" used to be a pejorative, like "You don't want your child to date a rock star, do you?" That would... you don't want to bring home that!

Doug: 07:19 But now everybody wants... and you're sitting there going, "Am I a rock star? I don't think I am." I'm good at, I mean, I've been doing this for what, 30 some odd years. I can't tell you how many... I never, you know, clients never leave me. They always get upset when I need to move on to something else, you know, but I don't feel like I'm a rock star.

Leon: 07:40 Right. And one would argue that when you talk to folks who are in that business, they don't feel like it either. So, you know, that's, once again, we're right back to impostor syndrome. Okay, so that's one place. One thing that I've seen it is when you're either giving a conference talk, about to go onstage and give a conference talk; or just thinking about submitting for a conference talk, impostor syndrome hits with a vengeance. "Who am I to stand up in front of those, you know, 30, 50, a hundred, 300 more people and tell them anything? Like, what, what gives me the right to do that?" And not to mention the fact that you're painting a big old target on your back and front, but that's one of those places. And a corollary to the conference talk is working at a convention, working the booth at a convention because then not only do you wonder, like people are coming by, it's like, yeah, "I worked for..." Josh to your point, "I worked for a fortune 20 company and we have 9 million devices and I set up things with using, you know, bash scripts and, you know, can you give me a better way to do that?" "Um, no, no, I can't. I don't, I don't think so." But it turns out that I can! Now you're feeling sort of impostor ish and they're coming up with a "prove it, you know, prove it to me. I dare you" kind of attitude. So it just makes things even more complicated. And, um, and that gets even more difficult if you are any sort of minority, you know, people of color, women, women of color, etc. Destiny, who is another of voice you'll hear regularly on this podcast, I remember one of the first shows I went to with her, there was about 10 of us in the booth and somebody came up and was talking to one of my coworkers, another guy and he was pointing over at Destiny's way and he says, "Well, she's not... she's not really like... You just, you just hired her to be in the booth, right? And the guy, without missing a beat he says, "Oh, I think you absolutely should walk over to her and ask her technical questions and see what happens. I think, and I'll watch. In fact, I'm going to film it because this is going to be funny." And he didn't quite get it and sure enough he went over to Destiny and she just eviscerated him. Not, I mean, with a smile and a chuckle and just technically took him to the cleaners. Because that's Destiny. But the fact is that having to deal with that does cause you to question like, "do I really know what I'm doing?" You know, every person who walks up to the booth is another challenge too... you know, another question mark in your own mind. Like "Maybe I've been, maybe I've just gotten lucky so far. Maybe I haven't had real people ask me questions." You know, on the third day of a 27,000 person conference, you still have those doubts. It's amazing. Okay, so that's, that's the technical side of it, I think. But since this is Technically Religious, where does this occur in a religious context? Does this occur in a religious context? Do we have impostor syndrome in our religious life?

Doug: 11:07 Oh, you bet.

Leon: 11:10 Okay.

Doug: 11:11 Well, I mean, in the Christian world, we have prayer warriors. These are people who can call down fire from heaven and can get people healed and just, you know, and, and they're just, they're put up on this, uh, alter. I was gonna say pedestal, but honestly, we're in church, so, there are these wonderful people and you just sit there going, "I can't pray that good... I don't... I... You know?" And, and the reality is they are some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. They don't raise themselves up that way, but other people do. And it just makes you feel like, I'll never, I do this,

Leon: 11:54 I'll never measure up to that. Wow.

Doug: 11:56 And the answer is, and it has more to do with my ADHD than anything else. I just can't sit there that long. Yeah. So TeaWithTolkien, the Twitter handle for the person TeaWithTolkien, said the other day and it caught my eye. She said, "Me: (praying one time and remaining mostly focused.) I'M A MYSTIC!" Like, just that one time. And it's like, "Oh, I see the whole world now!" Just because I can do it one time. And you watch other people who are just praying with such sincerity and wiwth such focus. Like every time you're like, "yeah, no."

Doug: 12:42 Wish I could. Doesn't happen.

Josh: 12:45 That's weird. I thought Mormons had this... well I thought we had the market cornered on really awkward prayer. So semi annually, there's a huge conference that is telecast from Salt Lake City. It's called the General Conference and it's two days, 10 hours of instruction. And the prayers that open and close these meetings, they're legendary. They, uh, we, uh, we often make fun of the people who say these prayers to open these meetings because they are so eloquent. But it's not like, "oh, that was really good and sweet." It was, "oh my goodness. That was horrible!" So I laugh, I laughed Doug because when I hear those people pray, I think, "Are you kidding me? Like, do you pray like that at home? Because I think you're just putting on a show. I think you're faking it till you make it."

Leon: 13:45 Wow. Okay. And I'm holding off on the fake it till you make it, because I have very strong feelings about that, but...

Josh: 13:51 OK, we'll put it aside.

Leon: 13:52 I was not expecting where you were going with that story. That it was bad. Although we were talking about study sessions, learning, and the number of times - whether it's IT or religion, when I go in thinking, "I don't know anything about this topic and I'm really excited because this person is going to teach me all this stuff" And I walk out and like, "I could have taught that class. I could have done that." So I think sometimes we do fool ourselves. Now in Judaism there's a couple of other aspects to this. First of all, there's the language, Hebrew. So if you're not good at reading Hebrew, and I am not, then, being asked to go up and lead the prayers... Now it's not only lead, not only have a level of eloquence or music quality to it, but also in this language, which has a lot of sounds that English never makes and never should make, and do it quickly. So there's that piece. And then also even in learning, there's, I mean, if you took the Talmud and you read one page a day, it would take you seven and a half years to get through the whole thing, start to finish. Just to give you an idea of the volume. And that's the Talmud without commentary. Then there's commentary. Then there's more and more and more and more. And there's people who have vast swathes of it memorized and, not only quoted but analyze it and dig into it and, and you can't, you just can't fake that. Like there's no, "well you gave it a good shot." Like there's just nothing you can do about that. So again, feeding into the impostor syndrome is when you see a whole community of people, where many, many people are fluent in these ways. I was like, "Yeah, I'm not. I'll just sit here and watch." You know, that's, that's another thing that I think contributes to religious impostor syndrome. Because so many people grew up with this. Now, what I will say, and this is an interesting aspect, is that the judgingness that I feel and I have seen in IT contexts, in a Jewish context is not always or often there. I've watched, you know, 10 11 year olds get up to give a lecture on a piece of scripture and, you know, very - not simplistic - but a very basic reading of it and a room full of rabbis, you know, 300 years of combined experience represented in the room, all listening, very attentively, all focused, completely asking pointed questions, not above the child's level but asking questions. "So when you read this thing, you know who said that again was that, was that this rabbi or that rabbi?" you know, just clarifying things and really giving their full attention to it. And the result of that is that the kid walks away 11 feet tall, having had that room's attention. Feeling validated and justified. Not a whiff of being patronizing or you know, just like, "Yeah kid, just say your piece and, and get outta here. Cause we have important things to do." Never that. And that has that stuck with me that Judaism has that feeling of anybody who's going up there, you know, you give respect to the person, you give respect to the Torah, that really what's being represented is Torah, and that gets our utmost respect, regardless of who's bringing it to us. You know, that's sort of, that's the counter... That's the antidote to impostor syndrome, I think.

Josh: 17:39 I do like that idea that that's the antidote. I oftentimes will hear people quote "out of the mouths of babes" as a justification for the things that children say that are insightful, as though we're somehow surprised that children are insightful. And I think more often than not, we need to embrace that idea that children are insightful. I know that we're getting to how do we solve this idea of impostor syndrome? But maybe because I regularly feel as though I'm an impostor in a vast majority of the places that I engage in. I love to instill that impostor syndrome into people. I love to bring people who, for all intents and purposes, have no business being involved in a situation because I do think it democratizes the approach to that problem. I know we've talked in the past about this idea, this challenge that we had or that I had at work, which was to figure out how to make a very large, uh, annual sum of spend go away when nobody believed that it could go away. It was "the cost of doing business." And what we did is we brought together this group of people who really, they were impostors, they weren't... some of them were not IT people. And we asked great questions. And in the end we achieved an 87% cost reduction for something that nobody thought could be done. So I love ... and I'm going to steal that, Leon. I'm going to steal that mindset of "let's get the least among us, quote-unquote, "least" (air quotes", and bring them and let's learn from them. Let them teach us, because obviously their insights aren't clouded. And I know we're solving this impostor syndrome thing, but I think it's actually something we should just be grabbing onto and embracing. It seems to have worked so well in my career.

Leon: 19:46 And Judaism emphasizes that the, the highest praise you can get in, in yeshiva, the Jewish school system is, in Yiddish is "du fregst a gutte kashe". (You ask a good question.) That's the highest praise you can get. It not, "oh, that's a really insightful answer." Answers are easy. Like there's plenty of answers, but asking good questions, that's the part that gets the highest praise. So I think that that, you know, to your point, finding people who can ask good questions regardless of what their background is or where they come from is more valuable in both an IT and in a religious context, but certainly in IT context. You mentioned a couple of times "solving it." So one of the things that people talk about solving impostor syndrome in IT contexts is "Well, just fake it till you make it." Like, just pretend you know it and soon enough you actually will know it. You'll be the expert. That bothers me because it reinforces in the mind of the person who's doing it, that they're faking it, that they don't really know. I don't know what your feelings on that are.

Doug: 20:54 I'm just not fond of the concept of faking it, period. I mean, fake to me is not a positive description of something. If you say somebody is being fake, it's never good. And the problem is an awful lot of people think that faking... It is, I understand that it's "fake it until you make it," but a lot of people just stop right at "fake it." You know, that's good enough. I don't need to put in the work to go ahead and make this happen. So I'm not fond of the expression. I understand the concept, but I think the faking it part really has a bad spin to it.

Josh: 21:45 So when, when I served as a LDS missionary in Las Vegas, this whole idea of "fake it till you make it" was something that we said to each other quite often. Whether you were a struggling emotionally or spiritually or intellectually. People who had to learn new languages (And I was not one of them) often, it was just "fake it." And now as an adult, I look back, and I realize how truly dangerous that was in a religious context. You take young men and women. When I went, it was 19, was the earliest eligibility for men and 21 for women. And you put them out into a situation where they are on their own and you tell them, "you just fake it." And you try to be successful. And if you're not, you just pretend like you are. Now, remember these missionaries are going into people's homes and they're teaching them about the fundamentals of Mormonism. And you just want them to fake it? That is, to your point, Doug, that's super disingenuous. Right? They should not be out saying, "Hey, I know that this is true." if you don't know that it's true. And I encountered friends and colleagues as a missionary who didn't know, didn't believe in the things that they were saying, and some of them did the right thing and they laughed and some of them stayed out and ultimately got assimilated by the Borg, for lack of a better term.

Leon: 23:19 And I think, in an IT context, um, it ignores the, the real power of the words., "I don't know." I think all three of us have spoken on this podcast and elsewhere about how powerful it is personally, but also how powerful it is in a team. And for a company, for people to be comfortable saying, "Yeah, I don't know that off the top of my head," or "I don't know that at all, but I'm going to go do some research" or whatever it is. I think that's powerful. What I have found though, in terms of, again, solving for the problem - solving for x where x is equal to impostor syndrome, is, the word "imagine." Now imagine is different than "fake it." Imagine is personal, it doesn't mean "go play pretend," which is similar to fake it. What I mean is that if you feel stuck and you feel like "I'm not equal to this problem, I don't know how I'm gonna deal with this." Take a minute and close your eyes and imagine that you did. Imagine that you knew how to approach this. Not "imagine you have the answer" because if you did have the answer, you'd have the answer. But imagine that you knew how to approach this and what do you see yourself doing? What do you imagine that you would do next? To find out how to proceed, how to address the problem, how to go about fixing it, whatever it is. Right? And imagination, as we know from children is a really powerful tool that we can use. And that helps people get unstuck. You know, to Doug's point, you know, you don't want to fake, you don't want to imagine outwardly. You don't want to just be somebody who pretends to know things and hopes nobody notices. That's even worse for people who suffer from impostor syndrome, but using imagination to get past that, "Oh, I couldn't possibly write that CFP for a talk." "I couldn't possibly give that Bible study class." Well close your eyes for a minute. Imagine that you could. Imagine that you were expert enough to do that. What would that look like? How would you, what would you do next?

Doug: 25:20 I've used that multiple times. I used to teach continuing education at the college level and I'd come across a topic that I knew was really, it was interesting and it looked like it was going to be a big thing. So I would write up a course description and I would submit the course description. Keeping in mind that at this point I knew nothing about it. And sometimes, because this was back in the days when it was all print stuff. So I had at least six months before this class was going to happen at the earliest. And I had at least four months from the time it got accepted or didn't get accepted because of the lead time. So I'd come up with this idea, I'd say, "if this course existed, here's what it would teach, and I bet there'd be a really good teacher for it. Oh, that might be me!" And so you would go ahead and I'd submit it and they'd approve it and then I would have to study like heck, because I knew I had to teach this thing, but it's not faking it, exactly. If somebody had said on that day that I submitted it, "Do you know this to... could you teach this tomorrow?" The answer would be no, but six months from now I can.

Leon: 26:28 And that's, and I think that's where impostor syndrome hangs a lot of people up is, you know, "hey, I'd like you to do this." "Oh, I can't do that." Well, it wasn't asking to do it now. I was asking you to do it three months from now, a year from now. Are you interested in doing it? And some people implicitly hear that and some people hear when that's actually not true. I really do need you to do this right now. And think that's how personality lays out. So that's how we address in IT. I guess the question is, flipping back to the religious side, does it translate to religious life? Now, I already mentioned that in some contexts that's not true, right? You can't pretend or imagine you know, Hebrew or that you've learned all of Talmud or whatever. If you don't know, you can't make it up. But everyone is a learner. And in fact, one of my big frustrations when I became more religious was that when we were studying text, when I would go to a class, the only verb people would use is learn. "I have a person that I'm learning with." "We're learning this piece of text." "You just have to learn it." And I finally got fed up and I said to an advisor, you know, my rabbi, I said, Why not 'memorize', not 'analyze', not 'read' - any of those other words? Why is the only word we seem to be able to use learn?" He said, "You're missing the point. Everyone is using it in the Hebrew context. In Hebrew, there's only one verb: limud. And it means "to learn", but it also means "to teach". It's the same verb. And that's not just like a cute little happenstance. That's on purpose. Because when you go in to a class, you may think you're the one who's teaching when in fact you're the one who's going to be absorbing information that the other person is giving that you didn't even know they have. That maybe they didn't realize was relevant, and vice versa. You may be going to a lesson thinking "I have nothing to offer, I'm just going to be consuming," and all of a sudden you realize, "Oh, but I do have life experiences or insights or things to bring to the table that the other person just had never considered." And so it, it's, it's intentionally a bi-directional verb. You can't fake knowing something, but at the same time you never know whether you're going to have something to contribute. You can't predict that either. And so you shouldn't hold yourself back from something simply because you just assume you have nothing.

Doug: 29:00 We've all had experiences where somebody in the group who's just sitting there, all of a sudden they get this epiphany. This light bulb goes off in their head, they get excited and they share it and then the whole group just comes alive because of this little thing that this person, they just saw it at a completely different way that all of a sudden just opens your eyes. And it can be, it's happened in Bible study. Scripture groups has happened in IT teams where we're trying to solve a problem and then it's just like, it can come from the least expected person there, but if they get that little insight, it can just energize the whole group.

Josh: 29:39 When when we see somebody who is struggling, we have two choices, whether we're talking in a religious context or within an IT context, or really within the greater part of humanity. And that is we can see that weakness and tear them down, or we can hold them up. And I love that idea of holding someone up. Now, my Old Testament knowledge is not great, but I believe that there is an instance and it... was it Moses who needed his arms held up? And I think that that is what I want to be. Moses certainly didn't feel as though he was qualified to do what God wanted him to do. And there was a time when he needed others to hold him up. And so if we see that, how do we solve impostor syndrome? We solve it by when we see it, we don't say it, but we act as though it exists and it can be eradicated. I love, I love that imagery.

Leon: 30:48 It's a really good point because the three people involved was Moses, Aaron and Joshua, and in that battle, whenever Moses had his arms up, the Israelites would win. And as he got more and more tired, his arms would start to fall down and the Israelites would lose. And he realized that that was the case. And so Aaron and Joshua would hold his arms up for him. But throughout the Torah cycle, the narrative, in different situations, Moses upheld Joshua or Aaron upheld... they would each hold each other up. So, to your point is that, maybe I'm the one who's doing the supporting today with the knowledge that my team is going to have my back, is going to support me later on and help me do that. And I think that's a wonderful image. And again, maybe I don't feel up to it, but if I know that the team has my back when I falter, they're going to be there to help in some way so that I don't fall flat on my face.

Destiny: 31:54 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: 32:08 This podcast is going to be great!

Doug: 32:10 Well, it'll be pretty good.

Josh: 32:12 Uh, maybe okay?

Doug: 32:15 Well if I don't mess it up too bad.

S1E10: Religious, Parent, & Geek - A Kid’s Worst Nightmare

S1E10: Religious, Parent, & Geek - A Kid’s Worst Nightmare

May 7, 2019

Mom puts a filter on the router, and daughter Mary installs a VPN. Dad sets up cell phone monitoring software, and son Donny learns how to soft-boot Android to remove it. For households that strongly ascribe to a specific religious, moral, or ethical outlook, the standards for what is appropriate can be even more strict, and send those cat and mouse games spiraling to new levels. Unless Mom or Dad happen to work in tech. Then things get a whole lot more interesting. In this podcast, Leon, Josh, and guest Keith Townsend of CTO Advisor talk about parenting with a bible in one hand and a packet sniffer in the other. Listen or read the transcript below:

Leon: 00:25 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 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. 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 Mom puts a filter on the router, and daughter Mary installs a VPN. Dad sets up a cell phone monitoring software and Donnie learns how to soft boot android into safe mode to remove it.

Keith: 00:57 The game of parental cat and mouse seems never ending for households that strongly ascribe to specific religious, moral, or ethical outlook. The standards for what is appropriate, can be even more strict and send those cat and mouse game spiraling to new levels.

Josh: 01:15 Unless mom and dad happened to work in tech. Then things get all whole lot more interesting. In today's podcast we're going to talk about exactly that situation. IT professionals with a Bible in one hand at a packet sniffer in the other and what it means to the kids who have to live with us. Joining in the conversation today and telling us the age of the kids in their house are Leon Adato

Leon: 01:41 Hello everyone. Okay, so I have a 27 and 24 year old daughter and then I have a 19 year old and 16 year old son and we also have my 27 year old daughter's two kids, so my grandkids, who are three and two.

Josh: 01:55 All right, perfect. And Keith Townsend of CTO advisor.

Keith: 01:58 All right. I have a 31 year old daughter who has an 11 year old granddaughter that visits us every day after school. I have a 28 year old son, any 25 year old son,

Josh: 02:11 And I'm Josh Biggley, and in my house I've got kids ranging from the ages of 16 to 25 and everything in between, it feels like.

Leon: 02:19 All right. So the first thing in this podcast that I would like to clarify is that we're not talking about VPNs, or that you should have a good password manager, or any of that stuff. That that's all important, and we will definitely do a podcast episode about that later. But what we're talking about is the fact that we as religious, moral, ethical parents have already decided that there's things that we need to keep our kids away from. And that's part of our job as a parent. So this is all about how we as IT professionals keep our kids away from the "nasty stuff." So I think the first part of the conversation for the three of us is what's the nasty stuff?

Josh: 03:00 Okay, "warez"? Do we know what...? Oh, I'm old, aren't I. Warez? Pirated software? Sorry? Right? You know, I can't... "ware-ez"? Aw man, I might be only one.

Leon: 03:15 Yes. Yes. You're that old. We are all that old.

Keith: 03:17 Yeah. We're all that old that we, the seeing that we have all have grandkids.

Leon: 03:25 Yeah, exactly. Um, okay, so warez, okay, so let, let's extend that to let's see. Napster? No, no, that's still old. Uh, BitTorrent.

Josh: 03:37 Limewire?

Leon: 03:40 Fine. Okay. So we're talking about, uh, illegally acquired stuff.

Keith: 03:47 That was very controversial in my home. The other thing is a porn. So we are in the US so, you know, we really hate, as religious folks, we hate porn.

Leon: 03:59 It's challenging and I think we're going to get into why it's challenging in a minute. So how about specific types of music or a specific type? Not, not things that are flat out pornographic, but things that are in some way just the content is objectionable to us. So, whether that's music with particular lyrics or movies with particular themes or things like that, is that, does that fit into the topic?

Keith: 04:25 I think that does.

Leon: 04:26 Okay. Um, one of the things that I was talk about because it's actually not an issue for myself and especially in my kids, but what we call "metal on metal" violence. So you know, like Transformers, which we might consider that movie to be offensive artistically or in terms of the canon of the Transformers that we may have grown up with, but the idea that it's violence, but it's so clearly animated or non human violence that maybe we give that one a pass. I don't know how you folks feel about it.

Keith: 04:59 Yeah. We, we had a rule in my family that you can play first shooter if it wasn't people shooting people.

Leon: 05:06 Okay. So like doom where you're shooting zombies and stuff.

Keith: 05:10 That was a little bit too, you know, the whole demon thing was a little bit too much for me. So you could do like robot shooting similar transformers or robots shooting other robots, etc.

Leon: 05:21 Okay. Or duck hunting or hunting. Okay. Got It. All right.

Josh: 05:25 Those poor defenseless ducks!

Leon: 05:28 Right! Except the thing, some versions of the ducks were armed too. But anyway, we're off track as we do. How about like mature themes? Like what would we consider, what are we talking about when we say mature themes?

Keith: 05:42 So you don't, we're a getting in an area that, uh, you know, so, we're in the US... So the concept of a same sex marriage is obviously a right that as Americans we respect, but as Christians or religious people in general, you know what, that's, that's a gray area. And what, what age do you want expose your child to. It is a pretty interesting debate these days.

Leon: 06:09 So when do you want to have the conversation about how, you know, Sally has a girlfriend or a Bobby has a boyfriend or stuff like that, whether or not as individuals and as adults we are okay with that idea. But to explain it to our kids, we might find that it's difficult within the context, again of a religious conversation. "But wait a minute in Sunday school I just learned Xyz," you know, we want to have a consistent message. I can see that in fact our last episode was specifically about how our religions are approaching same sex relationships and things like that. So it's interesting that it comes up as a theme that we might still want to filter in the house.

Josh: 06:55 As a Canadian, right? Politics in some contexts can be touchy. Right? I'd really love to ban a certain individual from being able to be seen in my house. But you know, I think when it comes to...

Leon: 07:15 So... from the south. Government from the south is what you're talking about like American, as a Canadian having to deal with American politics...

Josh: 07:20 That's no way to talk about South America. Leon, you leave South America out of this.

Leon: 07:26 I wasn't talking about Argentinian politics. Not for a second.

Keith: 07:29 Okay. I don't know. I want to blog, but race is also a really tough conversation at a young age. And how much, you know, do you want to say, "This is the reality of what's in the world, that even at a young age you may run into, but I still want to protect your ideal of what a wholesome relationship with other humans will look like."

Leon: 07:54 So I think what we're getting at here is that we're not blocking things because necessarily we find it objectionable. It's that we're concerned that the viewer may not have the maturity to understand the context and therefore it's going to cause them more confusion or frustration, than it's going to... Than the material, whether it's a song or a movie or a comic book or whatever is going to open their eyes to.

Josh: 08:20 Yeah. And you know, I love that you just mentioned comic books because I grew up in an era in the eighties and being being formerly Mormon I remember being counseled quite explicitly, "do not watch R-rated movies." But that advice was given in the 80s. Well what was an R-rated movie in the 80s is maybe PG today, PG 13 if you really want to stretch it. So what does that mean? Does that mean that we need to - and I remember having this thought - if I'm going to sit down and watch a movie and it's PG today, do I need to consider what it would have been rated in 1984? Or is it okay that I just accept it? And then I would then I would turn around and I would look at my comic book collection as like, you know, 12 or 13 or 14 year old a kid and I'd be like, "Oh, these comic books are rather racy. And the movie I just watched looked like, you know, it was Walt Disney." So yes, today we're arguing about, "oh, you know, the Internet gives our kids access to," but now are we going to filter what they also can get from the library? I mean, I met read some racy books as a kid from the library. And my parents were like, "Yeah, go to the library, have a grand old time. It's books. What could possibly go wrong?" Oh my goodness, mom and dad.

Leon: 09:46 Right. And the interesting part there is that they expected the library to do a certain task, to fill a certain role of filtering that, you weren't going to be able to get pornographic - true pornographic - magazines from, but there was a lot of material that was at the very least titillating and certainly challenging from a political, again, Keith, to your point, racial social view. There's a lot of things like that. So you're right. It's, I think two points. One is that a parent's role hasn't changed in the sense that we still need to be communicating with our kids and talking about what they're consuming. However they're consuming the internet just adds a particular modality. It doesn't change the nature of our job. But I think also that what is objectionable really rests on our shoulders because it's based on family values, religious community values, and also what we know about our kid. Some things that I would allow my 16 year old who has a much more solid footing in terms of, you know, "this is just beyond the pale and I don't even want to deal with it", aren't things that I'm comfortable with my 19 year old seeing because his impulse control is a lot less strong. So you have to know your kid too.

Josh: 11:06 Yeah. And that's a great point, right? Because there are some things that we want to shelter our kids from and things that we would have sheltered one child from that we're not going to shelter another child from. For example I have a similar scenario. My youngest has a fairly broad scope of what we're willing to allow him to watch. Now when it comes to music, he's not allowed to listen to music on his portable speaker that has vulgar language and whatnot because I just don't want to hear it. If I'm going to sit down, also rap, you're not allowed to listen to, to filthy rap on your speaker. But if he wants to listen to what I was headphones, I'm giving him that latitude. Now. Part of that is my transition away from Mormonism over the last year, admittedly. But those views have been very much formed by having older children and watching how they struggled or didn't struggle with certain things. And realizing that sometimes when I set the boundaries too close to the, or I guess too far away from the edge of "I want to approach this mom and dad", that it really entices them to go forward. Versus, "Hey, you know what, look, this stuff is out there. I really don't think that you should look at it. I don't you should listen to it, read it, whatever. But if you do come and ask, let's have a discussion about it." And that's the way we chose to approach it. When we get to talk about the security tips, I have a funny story, and I'll bring it up later, but let's just say sometimes your very best efforts as an IT professional parent are undermined by the most wily of children.

Keith: 12:46 Yeah.

Josh: 12:47 I'm going to put the, I to put it off to the side. We'll, we'll talk about that.

Keith: 12:50 Yeah. it's a really interesting delta between my kids. Some of them, a couple of them embraced boundaries and, the oldest just... Boundaries were explicit signs to, "yes, I must go there. There's a boundary there. Then there's obviously something good behind that door!"

Leon: 13:13 Right? Sometimes the worst thing you can do is tell your child "you may never...", and the sad part is when you figure it out and you try to tell your child, "you may never eat broccoli! Never!!" They figure that out real fast. So I, I think it's worth asking why, what are we objecting to and why? I mean, we've talked about the topics, the categories, but you know, this stuff is in the world and are we doing our kids a disservice? This is, as an Orthodox Jew, I hear this a lot in conversations around the water cooler at work. "Are you really doing your kids a disservice by sheltering them from information so that when they finally get to it either it's so enticing, they can't stop themselves because they didn't learn early?" And the other part of it is, are we not serving them because we're making them so naive that they don't know how to deal with things later. That's at least those are things I've heard. So why are we objecting to this? Like what, what's going on here?

Speaker 3: 14:15 So I have an interesting view on this. We all are older so we have the benefit of experience. So one of the things I'm morphed from was trying to always protect the oldest of the kids from seeing stuff, to saying, "You know what, our house (and we've extended this to the granddaughter now) our house is a Godly home. And in our home we want to maintain a Spirit. You're going to see stuff out in the world that I can't protect you against. But our home is where we make kind of a hedge around the world and we respect our religious views." You know, kind of the whole Joshua "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" type of perspective. So the thing I can control is the spirit of my house. I can't control the spirit of the world.

Leon: 15:14 Nice.

Josh: 15:15 I like it. And I also approve of the use of Joshua. You know, a good prophet name.

Leon: 15:22 You might be a little biased.

Josh: 15:24 I may be a little biased. You know, I think that this question is, this is a tough question, right? So the people who might say to us, "Hey, you should really let your child see X because your blocking them from understanding Y scenarios," those discussions get really complicated. It's like, and this is, this is really a straw man argument, but it's like saying to somebody, "Hey, you should let your children watch child pornography because if not, they're not going to know it when they see it." Or "You should let your children watch a racially charged hate rant by somebody because you want them to have those discussions with them" or "hey you should smoke weed or do crack or..." You know, like those things are, are really challenging. And I think Keith, I love your idea of "hey, I'm going to make my house a place where people can be comfortable coming in, where they can feel the spirit of my home. They can feel the spirit of my family. That this is a sanctuary for my family. You come in, it's just the rules of the household." When my when my youngest has his friends over, we tell them like, look, I don't care what you do outside. I don't care what you do in your own, your own home. But when you come into our house and these are the rules, we expect you to abide by the rules. You're a guest in our home. You're welcome in our home anytime, but don't break the rules.

Keith: 16:59 Yeah. One quick point on that whole household thing and our friend, our kids obviously are going to have friends that don't share the same morals. So, you know, for those of you don't know, I'm Black and I grew up in the inner city and for period of time, my family lived in the inner city, but our house was a gathering point for all of the young men, all of the boys to come and play basketball and hang out. And for me to mentor, and I had this one rule for when you played basketball - no one could curse. And if anyone cursed the game's over, "We'll see you guys. Please come back tomorrow, the next day." And that was a very difficult thing for the kids to initially grasp. But over a period of a couple of weeks, they, they get it. And our home was, they came and they drank Gatorade. They cookies, they played basketball. They didn't curse even if they did it at school.

Leon: 17:56 On a completely separate point, one of my friends is Lee Unkrich. He's one of the directors, or was until just recently one of the directors at Pixar, he directed 'Toy Story 3'. He's been around since almost the very beginning. And I was talking with him one day about 'Finding Nemo'. It had been out for a while. And I said, "What do your kids think about it?" And he says, "They're actually not allowed to watch it." Okay, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. It's Finding Nemo. I mean, like, this is the quintessential Disney G-rated perfectly wholesome... Like, why would you not let your kids watch it? He said "They get too wrapped up in it. They are at that age where they identify with the characters so much that when the shark is chasing the dad, they're terrified because they can't disassociate their emotions of what's happening to them and what's happening to the character on the screen. So I can't let them watch it until I know that they're able to watch the movie, get excited about the themes or the ideas or the scene that's going on there, but at the same time that they, they don't feel actual terror." And I thought that was an interesting perspective for a parent to have about their child. And I think it lends itself to hear that we have to understand the ability of our kids to... Keith, to your point, to understand that, "yep, my friends swear at school and, you know, but that's not something that we do in our house." And my kids knew they could code switch. They knew exactly what words were okay in the house and what words weren't okay in the house. And we knew that they used other words, other places. And I think that as parents, we have to recognize when they have that sophistication and when they don't. And that also goes into our decisions about what to filter, whether again, it's library books or Internet and what we don't

Josh: 19:55 Got down, sat on a bentch, cheese and rice, Leon!

Leon: 20:01 Shut the front door! Right?

Josh: 20:06 Yeah, those are, those are the interesting batteries that I don't think we can control. Um, I'm really interested because, and this is a perfect time for me to tell my story. So my oldest son has autism. And one of his, one of the things he loves most in all the world is to watch movies, but he doesn't like to watch movies like you and I like to watch movies. He likes to watch movies and then pause them and rewind them and then pause them and then go forward frame by frame. And of course, you know, youtube is just an awful thing for him because it allows him to indulge in those stimulations. So we tried to block it and I spent hours and hours trying to configure this blocking software without blocking the rest of my family because I wanted them to be able to use the computer. And I was like, "oh my goodness, this is, I think I've got it." And we said, okay, come and sit down. And he came, he must've been, I don't know, 14 or 15 at the time. And he came and he sat down. I thought, "okay, great clicking, wonderful..." I turned around and walked away. Came back and there he was on the internet watching Youtube. And I'm like, "Are you kidding? You just undid like hours of effort." And I still don't know what he did. I don't know where he figured out how to turn it off. So I'm interested as an IT pro parent who quite honestly, I've really struggled with the best security practices for my family and myself, aside from, "Hey, I'm just taking away your Internet access." What can I do? How do I handle this? And, you know, what are my options for "Oh my goodness I'm cutting the the cable from the house to the Internet." And I'm like literally cutting it... to "All right. You know, you can have access to some things." What can I do here guys?

Leon: 21:47 Right. So before we go into that, I think it's important that our listeners, and we, as parents, have to answer one question, which you started to get at, which is "what is it that you're trying to accomplish?" And, and that's an IT question, that's not a religious or moral or ethical or a parenting question because if you're trying to block 'oopsies' - you know, once upon a time, my daughter was eight years old and she misspelled play House Disney, she got an eyeful, and that was at the time when there were popups and pop unders and it was, it was festive and she was eight. So she didn't really know what she was seeing, but she knew it wasn't what she wanted. Are we blocking that? Are we blocking momentary weakness? You know, it's 10:30 at night and no one's looking and you're thinking, you know, and, and whoever it is at the computers, just thinking, "Why don't I just check that out?" Are we blocking? And Josh said it like, "I just don't want to hear that. I just, that does not need to be in my brain." Or are we blocking, like, like you said, "I have a determined person in my house who is, you know, going full guns to go find this thing" and so I think that's the first thing is that you need to define what you're doing. Having said that, I don't think we can answer that for all of our listeners right now, but I just want to be clear. You have to know what you're trying to accomplish or else you're going to get the wrong technology.

Keith: 23:17 So I tried a ton of things. Well my case when I was raising kids and I had this specific problem, MySpace was all the rage. So that dates me and my kids, and I tried a ton of things - going into the cache of my sons Windows XP thing. And he ended up finding a way to install shadow profiles, so I wouldn't go under his profile to look at the cash. He got really good. So what I had to basically... for it to end - and I think this is specifically for teenagers - I had to basically lay down the law. Like, "You know, I am the god of the Internet when it leaves this house." So I installed a key logger on his laptop. And I told him, "There's nothing you can do on the Internet that I don't know." He said, "That's, that's not possible." I said, "You know what? I know you're your MySpace password." He said, "no you don't." I said, "Yeah, it is. It's 'monkeybutt1234'." "What?!? How'd you know that?" And so as you know, when his peers came over, they, he like, "No, no, no, don't do anything. Because my dad, I'm telling you, I don't know what he does in that room of his, but he can tell anything. He can, he even knew my, my space password." Right. So for teenagers, you know, the fear that there's nothing you can do that I can't discover, kind of killed the cat and mouse in my house, my household.

Leon: 24:47 But that's, that's almost like security by obscurity, right? Like we've, instilled the fear of our technical prowess and until they're much more sophisticated, they don't get it. In terms of like things that people would, you know, can do today. Uh, I think one of the things that I use a lot is OpenDNS or any basically any DNS redirector. I think that's a really powerful tool in a parent's arsenal because not only does it block whole sites, but it also blocks the popups, the sidebars, the ads, you know, it may be fine the site that they're on, but that site may be repeating ads that we would really prefer don't show up both for ourselves and for others. There's actually a Raspberry Pi How-to that is not about blocking things for your kids. It's about speeding up your internet overall. Because what they do is they use an in-house DNS redirector. And so all those ads don't take time to load because they all are redirected to and that speeds up your browsing immensely. So there's a secondary benefit. SO OpenDNS is one. What else do we got?

Keith: 26:00 So I use these Arrow Mesh network Wifi routers and you could subscribe to kind of the security plus and the security plus is also that basically OpenDSN type of a DNS protections. But also, you know, one of the practical - it's not keeping my granddaughter away from bad stuff. She just won't get off her iPad at 11 o'clock at night. So being able to control, by Mac address, who can access, creating these profiles, you know, I want my wife to be able to watch Game of Thrones at 11 o'clock, but I don't want my granddaughter to be able to surf at 11 o'clock. She should be asleep.

Leon: 26:51 Right, right. Okay. So I'm same thing. I use a ubiquity. I like their gear. Now it's considered prosumer. But it gives you a really high degree of control over the same thing, the Mac addresses, and the granularity that you can control devices. You can see devices, you can also see the other wifi systems that are around you to make sure that your kids aren't hopping onto the neighbor's Wifi and just completely busting out of the system. So you can see that going on as well. And the other thing that ubiquity gives is netflow insight, which is really good because it's not just that my son's laptop or his whatever is using 277 Gig per second of bandwidth. But this is the breakdown of where it's going. So netflow by itself, however you get it. But also, again, Ubiquiti gear is the same thing as Arrow mesh. It's that pro-sumer it gives you that deck granularity.

Josh: 27:54 So I'm really curious and I hope that our listeners will weigh in and let us know how many parents out there are getting the netflow, S-flow J-flow data off of their network gear and logging it. Like, I get it, you know, we're geeks. That might be something that we're going to do, but is anyone else out there doing this? Is Leon the only one? I don't know. I think this is great. You know, hey, we can install this pro-sumer gear. Even OpenDNS for people who don't practice or live in the IT world might seem a little daunting. Is there something that they can do that is straight-forward or are they just going to have to do the Keith Townsend parenting methodology, put the fear of God into them and be like, "If you, if you don't, you know, I'm going to..."

Leon: 28:44 It's a good question. So for the Orthodox community in Cleveland, myself, and there's another association that actually will do some of this stuff for families. So, you know, I'll do it for some of the people that are in my circle is to set up OpenDNS and I'll manage their exceptions and things like that. That doesn't scale particularly well. But there are a lot of services like that, that will help you out. And I think that for the nontechnical parent, that's one of the things. One of the other things, one of the other technologies that I use is much more manageable for, I would say the mere mortal Qustodio, which is spelled with a Q - Qustodio is something that goes on both phones and also compute devices. So laptops, I think it goes on raspberry Pi, things like that. It blocks both applications and also browsing, and it has very specific controls for social media. But as a parent it's much easier to manage than some of those pro-sumer tools that that are usable. And so there's really... This market is a fantastic market right now because they really are reaching out to the less technical. The fact is you're going to have to be somewhat technical. You're going to have to be somewhat savvy in the same way that, you know, when, when rap and that really hard rap was just coming out. Parents were like, "But I don't listen to my kids' music." Well, you're going to need to start, you know, or you're going to need to throw your hands up and say, what am I supposed to do? Like listening to your kids. Music is not the biggest challenge on earth, but you can't say, "I don't like what they're listening to, but I refuse to actually listen with them in some way." And to that point, I think that going back to netflow, it isn't something that you need to have the "eye of prophecy" upon you to be able to do. There are some wonderful tools that will make netflow easy to install, easy to digest, and will even set up alerts so that you don't have any traffic going to limewire or whatever, but if something starts, you'll get an alert when that happens. You know, there's stuff like that. And so I just want, again, even the non-technical parents to know netflow is one of those technologies that can give you a high degree of control.

Keith: 31:06 And then there's some are like consumer grade, like friendly. I don't know how well they are because I don't have kids that young that I would install it. But you know, they have Disney. Disney has bought a, I think some companies or web protection companies and make it kind of disney-easy. I was trying to find the guy's name. He does, "This Week in Tech" with Leo LaPorte sometimes, Larry.. I want to say it's Magid, or... I can't pronounce, I can't remember the exact last name. I've tried to Google him and he runs something to the effect And he gives a lot of great tips on just protecting your kids online from, you know, kind of a kid friendly social media, to tools like this is, that's how I remembered the Disney tool. Because if, and when I give my granddaughter a phone, which, you know, I'm kind of, you know, this, this conversation station scares me. The fact what happened is when she just has naked LTE and I, you know, I'm trying to protect her from naked LTE. How do I do that exactly. And that name and product kind of stood up in my mind.

Leon: 32:20 Got It. Yeah. And that's a good point is when you control the Internet, it's a simpler time, but once they have that cell phone in their hand and that cell phone can act as a hotspot or whatever, that was why I discovered Custodio honestly. And, and the person who turned me onto it was actually Destiny Bertucci, one of the other Technically Religious speakers. Because that works on the device regardless of where the Internet is coming from and you have control of it. Like, I literally, when my son is two states away, I can see that he's on a site I don't want and I can push a button and that site is no longer available to him. Period. End of sentence.

Keith: 33:02 So what happens, uh, going into a little bit more technical, so if your child does a VPN somewhere, is that an automatic conversation? Like how do we protect against that?

Josh: 33:13 Oh, you know, I'm just sitting here listening because I honestly have no sweet clue. I follow, I really, I honestly follow the Keith Townsend parenting model. I tell my kids, "Look, don't do that. If you do I might have to sell you." And so far so good.

Keith: 33:32 Yeah, know, I think that's the thing. Once they get to that age, it becomes a conversation of... You guys, we have older kids, so you know, our kids have made life decisions sometimes that we don't necessarily agree with and learning to balance between, okay, I'm a father that's giving great advice, to I'm a father that's trying to nag my child to live their life the way that I want them to live. There's a balance and you know, once you get to that age that they can figure out VPN, they're actively going after this stuff. And that's a different conversation. You know, this People-Process-Technology... this is a people and process problem versus a technology problem.

Leon: 34:11 I 100% degree. That doesn't mean that we necessarily throw our hands up because you know, one of the first things that my son went on youtube to find after we put Qustodio on was "how do you disable Qustodio" and the tutorials are all over the place and he was not particularly old or sophisticated. It was just, "you told me the name of the thing and I want to get rid of the thing and so I'm going to go find the...", but it was a conversation like, "Look it, you can get rid of this, you can probably find a way to work around it. And I will know sooner or later I'm going to find out. And at that point, you know, I'm going to have to fix the problem some other way." So Keith, to your question, I think that once your kids are starting to actively work around it, you're right, you may not be Johnny on the spot. You won't know it instantaneously. They're going to say, "Well, you know, I have a window of hours or days or weeks before mom and dad are going to notice." But I think that we have to impress upon them. We're gonna notice. And at that point we're going to have a really hard conversation about what that means. And my 19 year old who's, you know, in school with younger kids, you know, and those kids have burner phones to get around these particular things and stuff like that. And he's like, "You can do that, but they're going to find out - your teacher's going to find out and they're going to tell your parents... Like, it's not going to last that long. You're not, you haven't really fooled them. You've bought yourself maybe a day or two." And then a world of hurt comes after that, not to mention loss of trust.

Keith: 35:46 And I think the key part is that world of hurt has to come. If the world of hurt doesn't come then.

Leon: 35:53 Right, and not to say that it has to be punitive. I think that when your kids are at the age where they can install a VPN, unless they're really, really sophisticated at young age, but it's not about punitive, it's about "now we're going to talk about how you've broken my trust. Now we're going to talk about the interpersonal consequences of what that means. That that was a grownup choice and there's a grownup consequences about that."

New Speaker: 36:20 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: 36:32 Did you click on a link for Geeks gone wild last night?

Keith: 36:35 And don't lie to me because I've already checked the log files!

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