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Saturday 30 March 2013

Mars and Venus: Giving and Receiving

One part of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book is about the fact that women often think they should give more to receive more, but it isn't how it works.

A woman's tendency to be compulsive relaxes as she remembers that she is worthy of love - she doesn't have to earn it; she can relax, give less, and receive more. She deserves it.

...

When a woman realizes she has been giving too much, she tends to blame her partner for their unhappyness. She feels the injustice of giving more than she has received.

Although she has not received what she deserved, to improve her relationships she needs to recognize how she contributed to the problem. When a woman gives too much she should not blame her partner. Similarly, a man who gives less should not blame his partner for being negative or unreceptive to him. In both cases, blaming does not work.

Understanding, trust, compassion, acceptance, and support are the solution, not blaming our partners. When this situation occurs, instead of blaming his female partner for being resentful, a man can be compassionate and offer his support even if she doesn't ask for it, listen to her even if at first it sounds like blame, and help her to trust and open up to him by doing little things for her to show that he cares.

Instead of blaming a man for giving less, a woman can accept and forgive her partner's imperfections, especially when he disappoints her, trust that he wants to give more when he doesn't offer his support, and encourage him to give more by appreciating what he does give and continuing to ask for his support.

...

Most important, however, a woman needs to recognize her boundaries of what she can give without resenting her partner. Instead of expecting her partner to even the score, she needs to keep it even by regulating how much she gives.

Monday 25 March 2013

Mars and Venus: John Gray and Paul Dewandre

Sometime ago my wife and I were given a DVD in french about a ''Mars and Venus'' show by Paul Dewandre. We watched the DVD and found it very funny, very true and very insightful. This DVD is based on a stage show that Paul Dewandre has been running very successfully in France and french speaking countries since 2006.

Paul Dewandre based his show on the very famous Mars and Venus books and relationship couseling teachings by John Gray.

So I decided to buy the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book by John Gray. This book has sold more than 50 million copies and it was the "highest ranked work of nonfiction" of the 1990s. I found this book to be quite different from Paul Dewandre's show, but very true and insightful too.

What I find very interesting is that the book is based on the following idea:

Gender insight helps us to be more tolerant and forgiving when someone doesn't respond the way we think he or she should.

The above idea is the first thing that is highlighted in the Introduction to the Paperback Edition. And what I like about it is that it talks about being tolerant and forgiving. There are many blog posts on this blog about forgiveness.

Other interesting ideas hightlighted in the Introduction are:

We too easily blame our problems on our partners rather than our own approach.

Gender differences show up the most after getting involved in an intimate relationship, having children together, or when we are under a lot of stress.

Men often complain, She is over-reacting and women complain, He doesn't listen!

When we correctly interpret a situation it is never as bad as we thought.

Friday 22 March 2013

The Alchemist: Listening to One's Heart

Here is the last extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho that I will post.

They crossed the desert for another two days in silence. The alchemist had become much more cautious, because they were approaching the area where the most violent battles were being waged. As they moved along, the boy tried to listen to his heart.

It was not easy to do; in earlier times, his heart had always been ready to tell its story, but lately that wasn't true. There had been times when his heart spent hours telling of its sadness, and at other times it became so emotional over the desert sunrise that the boy had to hide his tears. His heart bet fastest when it spoke to the boy of treasure, and more slowly when the boy stared entranced at the endless horizons of the desert. But his heart was never quiet, even when the boy and the alchemist had fallen into silence.

"Why do we have to listen to our hearts?" the boy asked, when they had made camp that day.

"Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure."

"But my heart is agitated," the boy said. "It has its dreams, it gets emotional, and it's become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me, and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I'm thinking about her."

"Well, that's good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say."

During the next three days the two travelers passed by a number of armed tribesmen, and saw others on the horizon. The boy's heart began to speak of fear. It told him stories it had heard from the Soul of the World, stories of men who sought to find their treasure and never succeeded. Sometimes it frightened the boy with the idea that he might not find his treasure, or that he might die there in the desert. At other times, it told the boy that it was satisfied: it had found love and riches.

"My heart is a traitor," the boy said to the alchemist, when they had paused to rest the horses. "It doesn't want me to go on."

"That makes sense," the alchemist answered. "Naturally it's afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you've won."

"Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?"

"Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you're thinking about life and about the world."

"You mean I should listen, even if it's treasonous?"

"Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you'll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them."

"You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it's better to listen to what it has to say. That way you'll never have to fear an unanticipated blow."

The boy continued to listen to his heart as they crossed the desert. He came to understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as it was. He lost his fear, and forgot about his need to go back to the oasis, because, one afternoon, his heart told him that it was happy. "Even though I complain sometimes," it said, "it's because I'm the heart of a person, and people's hearts are that way. People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don't deserve them, or that they'll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren't, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly."

"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity."

"Every second of the search is an encounter with God," the boy told his heart. "When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I've known that every hour was part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I've discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve."

So his heart was quiet for an entire afternoon. That night, the boy slept deeply, and, when he awoke, his heart began to tell him things that came from the Soul of the World. It said that all people who are happy have God within them. And that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from the desert, as the alchemist had said. Because a grain of sand is a moment of creation, and the universe has taken millions of years to create it. "Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him," his heart said. "We, people's hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few people follow the path laid out for them - the path to their destinies, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.

"So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won't be heard: we don't want people to suffer because they don't follow their hearts."

"Why don't people's hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?" the boy asked the alchemist.

"Because that's what make a heart suffer most, and hearts don't like to suffer."

From then on, the boy understood his heart. He asked it, please, never stop speaking to him. He asked that, when he wandered far from his dreams, his heart press him and sound the alarm. The boy swore that, every time he heard the alarm, he would heed its message.

That night he told all of this to the alchemist. And the alchemist understood that the boy's heart had returned to the Soul of the World.

"So what should I do now?" the boy asked.

"Continue in the direction of the Pyramids," said the alchemist. "And continue to pay heed to the omens. Your heart is still capable of showing you where the treasure is."

"Is that the one thing I still needed to know?"

"No," the alchemist answered. "What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream. That's the point at which most people give up. It's the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.'

"Every search begins with beginner's luck. And every search ends with the victor's being severely tested."

The boy remembered an old proverb from his country. It said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

The Alchemist: Departure

Here is yet another extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Fatima appeared at the entrance to the tent. The two walked out among the palms. The boy knew that it was a violation of the Tradition, but that didn't matter to him now.

"I'm going away," he said. "And I want you to know that I'm coming back. I love you because ..."

"Don't say anything," Fatima interrupted. "One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving."

But the boy continued, "I had a dream, and I met with a king. I sold crystal and crossed the desert. And, because the tribes declared war, I went to the well, seeking the alchemist. So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you."

The two embraced. It was the first time either had touched the other.

"I'll be back," the boy said.

"Before this, I always looked to the desert with longing," said Fatima. "Now it will be with hope. My father went away one day, but he returned to my mother, and he has always come back since then."

They said nothing else. They walked a bit farther among the palms, and then the boy left her at the entrance to her tent.

"I'll return, just as your father came back to your mother," he said.

He saw that Fatima's eyes were filled with tears.

"You're crying?"

"I'm a woman of the desert," she said, averting her face. "But above all, I'm a woman."

...

From that day on, it was the desert that would be important. She would look to it every day, and would try to guess which star the boy was following in search of his treasure. She would have to send her kisses on the wind, hoping that the wind would touch the boy's face, and would tell him that she was alive. That she was waiting for him, a woman awaiting a courageous man in search of his treasure. From that day on, the desert would represent only one thing to her: the hope for his return.

...

"If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return."

The man was speaking the language of alchemy. But the boy knew that he was referring to Fatima.

Saturday 16 March 2013

The Alchemist: Love and Destiny

Here is yet another extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

The boy didn't want to talk about the Pyramids. His heart was heavy, and he had been melancholy since the previous night. To continue his search for the treasure meant that he had to abandon Fatima.

"I'm going to guide you across the desert," the alchemist said.

"I want to stay at the oasis," the boy answered. "I've found Fatima, and, as far as I'm concerned, she's worth more than treasure."

"Fatima is a woman of the desert," said the alchemist. "She knows that men have to go away in order to return. And she already has her treasure: it's you. Now she expects that you will find what it is you are looking for."

"Well, what if I decide to stay?"

"Let me tell you what will happen. You'll be the counselor of the oasis. You have enough gold to buy many sheep and many camels. You'll marry Fatima, and you'll both be happy for a year. You'll learn to love the desert, and you'll get to know everyone of the fifty thousand palms. You'll watch them as they grow, demonstrating how the world is always changing. And you'll get better and better at understanding omen, because the desert is the best teacher there is."

"Sometime during the second year, you'll remember about the treasure. The omens will begin insistently to speak of it, and you'll try to ignore them. You'll use your knowledge for the welfare of the oasis and its inhabitants. The tribal chieftains will appreciate what you do. And your camels will bring you wealth and power."

"During the third year, the omen will continue to speak of your treasure and you destiny. You'll walk around, night after night, at the oasis, and Fatima will be unhappy because she'll feel it was she who interrupted your quest. But you will love her, and she'll return your love. You'll remember that she never asked you to stay, because a woman of the desert knows that she must await her man. So you won't blame her. But many times you'll walk the sands of the desert, thinking that maybe you could have left ... that you could have trusted more in your love for Fatima. Because what kept you at the oasis was your own fear that you might never come back. At that point, the omens will tell you that your treasure is buried forever."

"Then, sometime during the fourth year, the omens will abandon you, because you've stopped listening to them. The tribal chieftains will see that, and you'll be dismissed from your position as counselor. But, by then, you'll be a rich merchant, with many camels and a great deal of merchandise. You'll spend the rest of your days knowing that you didn't pursue your destiny, and that now it's too late."

"You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny. If he abandons that pursuit, it's because it wasn't true love ... the love that speaks the Language of the World."

Wednesday 13 March 2013

The Alchemist: Love at First Sight

Here is another extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I love the way he describes this kind of encounter.

Finally, a young woman approached who was not dressed in black. She had a vessel on her shoulder, and her head was covered by a veil, but her face was uncovered. The boy approached her to ask about the alchemist.

At that moment, it seemed to him that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him. When he looked into her dark eyes, and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke - the languagethat everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. Something that exerted the same force whenever two pairs of eyes met, as had theirs here at the well. She smiled, and that was certanly an omen - the omen he had been awaiting, without even knowing he was, for all his life. The omen he had sought to find with his sheep and in his books, in the crystals and in the silence of the desert.

It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing. He was more certain of it than of anything in the world. He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming commited. But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language. Because, when you know that language, it's easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it's in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one's dreams would have no meaning.

Maktub, thought the boy.

The Englishman shook the boy: "Come on, ask her!"

The boy stepped closer to the girl, and when she smiled, he did the same.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Fatima," the girl said, averting her eyes.

"That's what some women in my country are called."

"It's the name of the Prophet's daughter," Fatima said. "The invaders carried the name everywhere." The beautiful girl spoke of the invaders with pride.

The Englishman prodded him, and the boy asked her about the man who cured people's illnesses.

"That's the man who knows all the secrets of the world," she said. "He communicates with the genies of the desert."

The genies were the spirits of good and evil. And the girl pointed to the south, indicating that it was there the strange man lived. Then she filled her vessel with water and left.

Monday 11 March 2013

The Alchemist: Prologue about Narcissus

As I said in a previous blog post I love Paulo Coelho's books and his most famous one is The Alchemist. So, here is the prologue of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I love this very small but interesting story.

The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had bought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.

The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.

But this was not how the author of the book ended the story.

He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

"Why do you weep?" the goddesses asked.

"I weep for Narcissus," the lake replied.

"Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus," they said, "for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand."

"But ... was Narcissus beautiful?" he lake asked.

"Who better than you know that?" the goddesses said in wonder. "After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!"

The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:

"I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected."

"What a lovely story," the alchemist thought.

What I understand about this story is that it teaches that wonderful people are not only wonderful by themselves, they are also wonderful because we feel wonderful with them, even if we don't realize how wonderful they are. Sadly sometimes we only realize how wonderful they were after it is too late.

Sunday 24 February 2013

A Typical, Ordinary Lack of Forgiveness

I saw this story about a boat being seized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a few days ago and it looks to me like the result of an unfortunately very usual lack of forgiveness.

What is kind of funny, or sad depending how you see it, is that I am sure both of the people involved, the male writer who want his boat to cross the Canada/USA border, on one side, and the female DHS agent who seized it, on the other side, are both thinking that they are acting in good faith, that they have done what they could to nicely solve the problem and that most of all they didn't accept what the other asked for because of their integrity.

If you look at the comment you will see a lot of them saying things like: "Integrity! It’s so refreshing, thank you." But I am sure the colleagues of the DHS agent are also praising her for her integrity, because she did not let the guy get away with his boat without signing the form as is.

But I don't think it is really integrity that is at stake in this case. Because it is not a corruption problem at all. It is just a question of an amount on a form that might be a little different from what it should be. And in fact even that is not sure because it might have happened that the conversion rate on that day was exactly 1.00, so that it was exactly the same amount in canadian and american dollars. Or something else. It might even just be a simple misunderstanding.

That's why I think the problem is really a problem of big egos. It would have been a very small effort to do what the other asked, but no, both of them chose not to compromise.

It makes me think that even if we manage to take care all the technical problems in the world and to live in a world of material abundance, there will still be many people who will find a way not to be happy because they will be so upset about this kind of problems.

Why don't people realize that a little bit of forgiveness is really needed and goes a long way in those cases?

Instead it looks like people prefer to escalate these problems to their lawyer or boss, and to accuse the other side of things like "I’ll probably get droned now, too" or "The officer in question vilified by this rich individual now has to endure all the grief posted here and elsewhere by Mr rich guy".

How long will it last? What do they expect? That they will become heroes this way?

And what the next step is going to be in this way? Is the DHS agent going to sue the guy for harassing her on the Internet? Will the guy be tortured by DHS agent at each airport?

Can't they realize that the real solution is to overcome their fear, forgive and talk to each other, to find a simple, cheap and effective compromise? And can't the other people around this story realize this too?

Conference Git Merge 2013 in Berlin, May 9-11

This year there will be a Git conference called Git Merge 2013 in Berlin, Germany, from the 9th to 11th of May.

It was announced one month ago on the Git mailing list and I registered at that time.

Friday 22 February 2013

Mark, a Great Guy and Colleague

On Sunday the 10th of February 2013, so nearly two weeks ago, a very nice young guy died at home from an heart attack. We had been working in the same team since August 2010 when I joined Murex, my current company.

In fact during my first few weeks at Murex, I worked mostly with him learning about a software he was responsible for. Mark knew an incredible amount of thing about the build, the production, the release and the version control systems and tools used in the company. He used to help me, everyone in our team and even in the company very often.

He was also very nice with everyone. When we asked him how he was going, he very often replied "Very, very well!" with his large usual smile. He had a very nice low voice with a charming lebanese accent.

After I came back from a 3 day trip in Lebanon for work in 2011, he asked me a lot of questions about how I liked everything there, what I had learned to say and things like that. I regretted that I hadn't had the time to learn a lot, because if I had, I could have discussed more with him. Everyone talking to him feeled warmly appreciated.

Mark was single, but his father and sister came from Lebanon. There was a short ceremony for him on Thursday, the 21st of February, yesterday morning, just before his body was repatriated. Many very sad colleagues and friends attended.

It is in those kind of moments that you regret a lot not having said to the person how much you liked or loved him or her before.

Thursday 14 February 2013

The Myths of Violence

Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 13th of February 2013. It is based on the great content I found on the following web sites:

Update: here is the presentation I used with this talk: The Myths of Violence

Last year I saw a TED talk by Steven Pinker called "The Myth of Violence" without an 's' at the end of 'Myth'. And during the following month I realized that there are indeed many myths around violence in our developed countries.

In this speech, I choose to talk first briefly about 4 of them, and then to discuss what's wrong with the situation of having many myths about such an important subject.

The first myth, the one Steven Pinker talks about in his TED talk is:

Myth 1: Violence is Increasing

In the Middle Ages, some cities started to report how people had died. So we can compare the rate of homicide between then and now. And the result is that there were around 100 times more homicides.

If you take wars into account, the results don't really change. There are some periods of time when violence is rising but the general trend is a decrease.

Now let's talk about the last period from the beginning of the sixties to the beginning of the nineties when there was a significant increase of violence in the US, with the second myth:

Myth 2: Violence is Intrinsic to Human Nature

What was strange with this increase is that it was followed in the nineties by a very steep decline, a decline by 60% in this decade.

The reason of the increase and then decrease was lead in the gasoline. Lead in the gasoline goes in the car exhausts, then in the atmosphere and then in people's lungs and then in their blood and their brain.

And lead even in very small amount is very bad for small kids. It really poisons their brain. They often suffer from decreased IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems and when they grow up from alcohol, drug, teen pregnancy and violence problems.

Unleaded fuel was introduced in the late seventies in the US and this single change is enough to explain a 56% decline in violence during the nineties.

Another myth is the following:

Myth 3: Most Victims are Women

Generaly speaking, it is true that men are much more often responsible for violence than women. But it is also true that men are more likely to be victims of violence than women.

Even about domestic violence, there are studies saying that these days it is a 50/50 thing. Though it is often more serious when women are victims.

And about rape, there are studies saying that in the US, there are more rapes happening inside prisons than outside prisons. So it might not even be true that more women are victims of rape than men.

And the last but not the least of the myth is:

Myth 4: Others are Dangerous

If we look at the suicide rates and the homicide rates together, we can see that, in France, you are 13 times more likely to be killed by yourself rather than by any one else. In the US, you are "only" 3 to 4 times more likely to be killed by yourself rather than by any one else.

So if you think other are dangerous, what should you think when you are looking at the mirror?

In France we often say that we notice it when trains are late but we don't notice it when they are on time. It's even more true with violence. We are very upset by violence, but we notice nothing when it doesn't happen.

And fiction writers, journalists and politicians know this, and are using this to make us pay attention to what they say.

In fact, the more we think that others are dangerous, that we are likely to be victims, and that violence is increasing and intrinsic, the more benefit for them.

And we will be so upset that we will accept any solution one pretending to be "tough on crime". But if politicians really wanted to be "tough on crime", they should address the root causes, like lead, psychological problems, family problems, and there are probably many others.

Friday 8 February 2013

Aleph, Believe Even When No One Else Believes in You: Forgiveness

Here is another extract from the book Aleph by Paulo Coelho. This part of the book is when Hilal forgives.

'We can never wound the soul, just as we can never wound God, but we become imprisoned by our memories, and that makes our lives wretched, even when we have everything we need in order to be happy. If only we could be entirely here, as if we had just woken up on planet Earth and found ourselves inside a golden temple, but we can't.'

'I don't see why I should forgive the man I love. Or perhaps only for one thing, for never having heard those same words on his lips.'

A smell of incense begins to waft towards us. The priests are coming in for morning prayers.

'Forget who you are now and go to the place where the person you always were is waiting. There you will find the right words and then you can forgive me.'

Hilal seeks inspiration in the gilded walls, the pillars, the people entering the church at that early hour, the flames of the lit candles. She closes her eyes, possibly following my suggestion and imagining some music.

'You won't believe this, but I think I can see a girl, a girl who isn't here any more, but who wants to come back...'

I ask her to listen to what the girl has to say.

'The girl forgives you, not because she has become a saint, but because she can no longerbear to carry this burden of hatred. Hating is very wearisome. I don't know if something is changing in Heaven or on Earth, if my soul is being damned or saved, but I feel utterly exhausted and only now do I understand why. I forgive the man who tried to destroy me when I was ten years old. He knew what he was doing, and I did not. But I felt that it was my fault, and I hated him and myself. I hated everyone who came near me, but now my soul is being set free.'

This isn't what I was expecting.

'Forgive everything and everyone, but forgive me too,' I ask her. 'Include me in your forgiveness.'

'I forgive everything and everyone, including you, even though I don't know what crime you have commited. I forgive you because I love you and because you don't love me, I forgive you because you help me stay close to my Devil, even though I haven't thought of him for years. I forgive you because you reject me and my powers are wasted, I forgive you because you don't understand who I am or what I am doing here. I forgive you and the Devil who touched my body before I even knew what life was about. He touched my body, but distorted my soul.'

She put her hands together in prayer. I would have liked her forgiveness to have been exclusively for me, but Hilal is redeeming her whole world, and perhaps that is better still.

Her body starts to tremble. Her eyes fill with tears.

'Must it be here, in a church?' Let's go outside, into the open air. Please!'

'No, it has to be in a church. One day we'll do the same thing outside, but today it has to be in a church. Please, forgive me.'

She closes her eyes and holds her hands aloft. A woman coming into the church sees this gesture and shakes her head disapprovingly. We are in a sacred place, the rituals are different here; we should respect the traditions. I pretend not to notice and feel relieved because Hilal, I realise, is talking with the Spirit who dictates prayers and the true laws, and nothing in the world will distract her now.

'I free myself from hatred through forgiveness and love. I understand that suffering, when it cannot be avoided, is here to help me on my way to glory. I understand that everything is connected, that all roads meet, and all rivers flow into the same sea. That is why I am, at this moment, an instrument of forgiveness, forgiveness for crimes that were committed; one crime I know about, the other I do not.'

Yes, a spirit was talking to her. I knew that spirit and that prayer, which I had learned many years ago in Brazil. It was poken by a little boy then, not a girl. But Hilal was repeating the words that were in the Cosmos waiting to be used when necessary.

Hilal is speaking softly, but the acoustics in the church are so perfect that everything she says seems to reach every corner.

'I forgive the tears I was made to shed, I forgive the pain and the disappointments, I forgive the betrayals and the lies, I forgive the slanders and intrigues, I forgive the hatred and the persecution, I forgive the blows that hurt me, I forgive the wrecked dreams, I forgive the still-born hopes, I forgive the hostility and jealousy, I forgive the indifference and ill will, I forgive the injustice carried out in the name of justice, I forgive the anger and the cruelty, I forgive the neglect and the contempt, I forgive the world and all its evils.'

She lower her arms, opens her eyes and puts her hands to her face. I go over to embrace her, but she stops me with a gesture.

'I haven't finished yet.'

She closes her eyes again and raises her face heavenwards.

'I also forgive myself. May the misfortunes of the past no longer weigh on my heart. Instead of pain and resentment, I choose understanding and compassion. Instead of rebellion, I choose the music from my violin. Instead of vengeance, I choose victory.'

'I will be capable of loving regardless of whether I am loved in return, Of giving even when I have nothing, Of working happily even in the midst of difficulties, Of holding out my hands even when utterly alone and abandoned, Of drying my tears even while I weep, Of believing even when no one believes in me.'

She opens her eyes, places her hands on my head and says with an authority that comes from on high.

'So it is. So it will be.'

A cock crows in the distance. That is the sign. I take her hand and we set off back to the hotel, looking around at the city that is just beginning to wake up. She is clearly somewhat surprised by what she has said, but for me, her words of forgiveness have been the most important part of my journey so far. This is not the final step, however. I still need to know what happens after I finish reading that letter.

We arrive in time for the breakfast with the rest of the group, pack our our bags and head for the train station.

'Hilal will sleep in the empty berth in our carriage,' I say.

No one makes any comment. I can imagine what's going through their minds, but I don't bother explaining that it is not at all what they think.

'Korkmaz git,' says Hilal.

Given the look of surprise on everyone's face, including that of my interpreter, the words are obviously not Russian.

'Korkmaz git,' she says again. 'In Turkish that means "he goes and is not afraid".'

I didn't know that "git" means something in Turkish :-)

Saturday 2 February 2013

Aleph, Hilal's Eyes: Extraordinary Meeting

Here is an extract from the book Aleph by Paulo Coelho. I like this part of the book where the 2 main characters have their first extraordinary meeting.

Hilal shows me the photo on her mobile phone, possibly taken just after dawn. It's a photo of a long cloud in the sky.

'Do you see?'

Yes, I can see a cloud.

'We are being accompagnied on this journey.'

We are being accompagnied by a cloud that will long since have disappeared for ever. I continue to acquiesce, in the hope that the conversation will soon be over.

'Yes, you're right. But let's talk about it later. Now go back to your own compartment.'

'I can't. You gave me permission to come here once a day.'

Tiredness must be affecting my reasoning powers, because I realise now that I have created a monster. If she can only come once a day, she'll arrive in the morning and not leave until night-time, an error I'll try to correct later.

'Listen, I'm a guest on this journey too. I'd love to have your company all the time, because you're always so full of energy and never take "No" for an answer, but you see...'

Those eyes. Green and without a trace of make-up.

'... you see ...'

Perhaps I'm just exhausted. After more than twenty-four hours without sleep, we lose almost all our defences. That's the state I'm in now. The vestibule area, bare of any furniture, made only of glass and steel, is beginning to grow fuzzy. The noise is starting to diminish, my concentration is going, and I'm not entirely sure who or where I am. I know that I'm asking her to cooperate, to go back where she came from, but the words coming out of my mouth bear no relation to what I'm seeing.

I'm looking at the light, at a sacred place, and a wave washes over me, filling me with peace and love, two things that rarely come together. I can see myself, but, at the same time, I can see elephants in Africa waving their trunks, camels in the desert, people chatting in a bar in Buenos Aires, a dog crossing the street, the brush being wielded by a woman finishing a painting of a rose, snow melting on a mountain in Switzerland, monks singing exotic hymns, a pilgrim arriving at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, a shepherd with his sheep, soldiers who have just woken up and are preparing for war, the fish in the ocean, the cities and forests of the world - and everything is simultaneously very clear and very large, very small and very quiet.

I am in the Aleph, the point at which everything is in the same place at the same time.

I'm at a window looking out at the world and its secret places, poetry lost in time and words left hanging in space. Those eyes are telling me about things that we do not even know exist, but which are there, ready to be discovered and known only by souls, not by bodies. Sentences that are perfectly understood, even when left unspoken. Feelings that simultaneously exalt and suffocate.

I am standing before doors that open for a fraction of a second and then close again, but that give me a glimpse of what is hidden behind them - the treasures and traps, the roads never taken and the journeys never imagined.

'Why are you looking at me like that? Why are your eyes showing me all this?'

I'm not the one saying this, but the girl or woman standing before me. Our eyes have become the mirrors not only of our souls perhaps, but of all the souls of all the people on this planet who are at this moment walking, loving, being born and dying, suffering or dreaming.

'It's not me ... it's just ...'

I cannot finish the sentence, because the doors continue to open and reveal their secrets. I see lies and truths, strange dances performed before what appears to be the image of a goddess, sailors battling the fierce sea, a couple sitting on a beach looking at the same sea, which looks calm and welcoming. The doors continue to open, the doors of Hilal's eyes, and I begin to see myself, as if we had known each other for a long, long time ...

'What are you doing?' she asks.

'The Aleph ...'

The tears of that girl or woman standing before me seem to want to leave by those same doors. Someone once said that tears are the blood of the soul, and that is what I'm beginning to see now, because I have entered a tunnel, I'm going back into the past, and she is waiting for me there too, her hands pressed together as if saying the most sacred prayer God ever gave to mankind. Yes, she is there before me, kneeling on the ground and smiling, telling me that love can save everything, but I look at my clothes, at my hands, in one of which I am holding a quill pen ...

'Stop!' I shout.

Hilal closes her eyes.

I am once more in a train travelling to Siberia and beyond, to the Pacific Ocean. I feel even wearier than I did before, and although I understand exactly what has happened, I am incapable of explaining it.

She embraces me. I embrace her and gently stroke her hair.

'I knew it,' she says. 'I knew I had met you before. I knew it the first time I saw your photograph. It's as if we had to meet again at some point in this life. I talked to my friends about it, but they thought I was crazy, that thousands of people must say the same thing about thousands of other people every day. I thought they must be right, but life ... life brought you to me. You came to find me, didn't you?'

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Paulo Coelho

I started reading books by Paulo Coelho a few month ago and I like them very much.

Paulo Coelho is a very well know Brazillian writer. He understands the Internet because he pirates his own books! And thanks to that, he has sold more than 150 million books in over 150 countries worldwide, and his works have been translated into 71 languages. He is the all-time bestselling Portuguese language author.

His books are philosophical and spiritual. I love them because they talk about many subjects I am interested in.

For example his main book The Alchimist talks about the "Personal Legend". The "Personal Legend" "is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is."

See this very interesting interview about the Personal Legend.

I will probably write some blog posts about some his books soon. I am sure he won't bother if I post some parts of them in these blog posts :-)

Sunday 13 January 2013

Happy New Year 2013

I wish you all a very happy new year 2013! I especially wish you great success in your personnal and professional life! And I wish you a great health too!

2012 has been another great year for me. I didn't travel as much as 2011, but I did some travel and I moved from an appartment in Asnières to a house in Colombes.

I especially read an amazing book from Bonnie Ware, I started singing and I had great holydays. I enjoyed very much the LinuxCon Europe where I met some wonderful people. In 2011 at LinuxCon North America I also met wonderful people, so I definitely hope to attend another LinuxCon this year.

I also met great people at other places. And unfortunately there are many people I know that I would have like to meet but couldn't.

I wish you again the best for 2013, especially Peace and Love to all!

Friday 21 December 2012

The Gift

My previous blog posts about Bronnie Ware's book talked a lot about some gifts we are given. This great blog post by Paul Buchheit is called The Gift and is about the same kind of gifts.

He talks about what happened to his daughter who had very big health problems after she was born. And then he says:

In every tragedy, there is a gift, if we are able to see and accept it. From my brother, I received a personal understanding of death, and a constant reminder to live my life as though it may end at any moment. From my daughter, I learned what it means to love unconditionally, without expecting anything in return, a true gift.

These gifts were delivered at great cost, but still I often struggle to retain them. Life gets busy, and I forget what matters. But the reminders are all around us, if only we can open our eyes.

[...]

When our lives are smashed to bits, and it feels like the ground has disappeared from under us, we look for guidance, for our North Star, for a God that can provide meaning and direction to what remains of our life.

Then he starts to talk about God and tells us a little story about God and the Devil that ends with the following:

God was betting on Love, but the Devil believed that Greed and Fear are stronger than Love, and therefore even good people could be tricked into following him.

He then explains his idea behind the story and says:

God brings union through unconditional love. The false Gods bring division through fear and greed.

Genuine, unconditional love is a gift that must be freely given and freely accepted, with nothing expected in return. Love can not be delivered at gun point, or with the threat of eternal damnation. That's more like rape.

My opinion is that indeed when we are in a tragedy, we often have to choose between on one side following Unconditional Love and Forgiveness, or on the other side following Fear and Greed. This choice is very important. It is not a definitive choice though, we can choose to forgive or to be afraid later about what happened.

So the gift that tragedy gives us is this awareness of this choice we can make, if we are open enough, we get to taste Unconditional Love, and sadly Fear too.

I already talked about Love and Fear in some previous posts like this one.

What is interesting is that we get a choice. We are free to choose. We are free to decide which kind of spirit will lead our life.

Paul's blog post ends with:

In this winter of fear, suffering, and division, the God of Unconditional Love gives comfort and direction. His spirit is reborn in our hearts when we give the gift of unconditional love and forgiveness to others and, most urgently, to ourselves.

As Christmas is near, let's try to give others and ourselves this Gift.

Friday 14 December 2012

About Singing

Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 26th of September 2012.

In February this year, I started to have one on one singing lessons every week. My teacher is a senior woman who still sings professionaly for RadioFrance and at some events.

I want to share with you some of the things I learned from her, because singing is like public speaking except with more vocal variety. That's why I think everyone here can be interested by the following topics I am going to cover.

First I learned that many things, that you do with your voice when you sing, can be great things to do when you speak publicly. So I will talk about these things too.

Then I learned is that singing is not just about voice. It is something physical that involves a big part of your body. So I will talk about this too.

In the end, singing, like public speaking, is about expressing yourself and opening yourself up. I will try to convince you that it's a good exercise.

So first let's talk about things that you have to do with your voice when you are singing and that are good things to do when you are speaking publicly.

When you are singing you have to articulate even more than when you are just speaking. Because of course the sounds you make are very important when you are singing.

Then my teacher says that one trick that works very well is to insist on the first consonant of each important word in every sentence. And also to insist on duplicated consonants. It works in every language, not just french and english. And it makes whatever you say or sing more interesting for your audience, even if the content of your speech or song is not interesting at all.

Now singing is something that involves a big part of your body. It is especially about breathing. In fact in one of my singing exercise booklet it's writen that singing is the art of breathing. So there are a lot of exercises about that.

My teacher says that to sing well you have to learn to breath using your belly. So there are exercises where you have to do that. And there are exercises like this one which are about training your floating ribs to work. Or this one where all the muscle involved have to work. First the muscles between the ribs, then the pectoral ones, then those in your back, then those in the belly, then those in the buttocks, and then those in the legs.

Body language is important too, and I will talk about it now as it is part of expressing yourself and opening yourself up.

So singing is about expressing yourself and opening yourself up. My teacher often tells me that when I am singing properly then the audience can hear everything that I am thinking. What she means is that all the feelings and emotions you have are going through to your audience if you are singing well.

This means that for your audience to enjoy your song, you need to feel something great inside and be open.

One good way to start doing that is to open up your face. You can do that by opening your nose, your mounth and your eyebrows at the same time like this. That's why the first exercise she asks me to practice everyday is doing this.

But to really feel something great, you have to control your feelings and emotions like an actor. And I think this skill is a very interesting one to have in life in general.

To try to explain you this last part I will give you a short example:

I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready to love...

So I hope you could get a broader picture of what singing is about. It is not just about vocal variety. It involves the whole body, especially breathing. It is also about some pronunciation skills to make what you say appear interesting. And it is very much too about mastering your own emotions and feelings.

Friday 26 October 2012

OSDC.fr 2012 Videos are online

All the videos are now available online on dailymotion.

The video of my presentation in french is online. The slides in english are also online on slideshare.

There is Jonathan Perret and Arnaud Bailly's presentation in french too.

Saturday 29 September 2012

Presentation at OSDC.fr 2012 in Paris on October 12 or 13

I will give a presentation at OSDC.fr in french on October the 12th or the 13th in Paris. My presentation as usual will be about git bisect. Jonathan Perret and Arnaud Bailly, who are working as consultants at Murex, the same company I am working in, will give a presentation too. Their presentation is about the Haskell language.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

We moved to a House in Colombes

Just a few words to say that we have been living in Asnières near Paris since 1996 in 2 different apartments, but last August we moved to a house with a small garden in Colombes. It is a few kilometers aways from our previous places in Asnières but it feels different. It is nice and relaxing though our previous places were calm too.

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