Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Control explains everything

Sometimes I just feel like I was born to be an observer. Actually I feel like this more often that I feel like I have to do something in life. The whole world just is around to be observed and admired. Not really understood, but you don't need to understand something to admire its beauty.

Beauty comes in the unexpected results you get from something you don't do, or what other people do, when something different happens in their lives. For example, get a poor person and give this person a US$100,000 check. It is amazing to see what happens to this person's personality at this point on, until it goes back to its initial state (yes, most lottery winners are back to being poor right now). It's like a plant in control systems that you throw a pulse or a step and learn how to model it based on its response. The most important thing is not to do anything. You step back and study the result...

I don't have much more to say. Work is killing me, and research is always lagging behind. Today I realized the reason why I don't really want to talk to anybody: I am ashamed to tell them that I still haven't finished my Ph.D.! It's depressing the fact that I'm loosing track on the date that I will finish it. But it will be done! It will be done! I just have to stop looking at other people and concentrate on my things.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Perhaps, even after some time, people don't really learn anything about you. I guess that's something to be expected, because a person is a complex system with multiple things to learn, but it was just strange when I realized that last evening. Probably it's all my fault, because I don't make myself easily understood, but I always thought that this is the whole point. There are things about me that I can't understand myself. If I try to explain to a person who I am, I'll give to this person a biased view based on what I think I am, but not really based on what I do.

Anyway, it's water over the bridge and now I'm just trying to get back to the essentials. My day was spent cleaning and being shocked with the fact that not only my parents are coming in a month, but my sister is coming with them. This is great in a way, but in an apartment that can only right now take one person, there is still a lot of things that have to be done (and, especially, bought) to accept three more people. But, well, I guess I have to just go for it.

Oh, on Saturday I was finally able to get a package that has been waiting for me since last Monday: I'm finally the owner of R.E.M.'s new CD, Around the Sun. It is an interesting CD, very R.E.M.-ish, and not one of those extremely innovative ones. It's simple and good.

I'm also the owner of a DVD! The first DVD I've ever bought, actually, and the 4th in my collection (all the others were gifts): Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. It's actually a BBC miniseries, with 6 episodes of half an hour each. It's just like the book (that was actually written after the script was written, but has some things that he couldn't make in the original). Very enjoyable! Envy me, Mr. G!

Yesterday I went to services in the morning, and I decided to try something new again. Because I had gone to all conservative synagogues already, and one modern orthodox, I decided just to try a Reform temple. It was an interesting short service, with lots of singing and with a real singer as a chazan. But the extremely abbreviated service is just too akward for me. Hard to recognize it and follow it. Sad... I guess I have to give up on finding something that matches exactly what I want for a service and just realize I have to get used to something.

I guess that's what I had to talk about. It's interesting how messy my life is right now. Not in the terrible way, though, it's just that when weekend comes I just loose sense of schedule. I wake up early usually (except today that, for some strange reason I woke up and it was almost 11 am) and then I have breakfast sometime in the morning, lunch at around 4 pm (because I force myself to eat and not that I'm hungry), I work, clean or whatever and then when it's time to go to bed I don't know if I should have dinner or head straight to bed. And that's what I'm trying to decide right now. I had days like this in the past, but not every weekend. But I did some major cleaning today (again). My living room is almost empty (and that's a little sad)! I think I need just a couple of more weekends and I'm done with all these boxes!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Ah... My office is ready!

This is my first post from my "new" office! I'm so excited that I finally got it ready! I even had to do some magic to be able to get the hutch on top of the table. Imagine this: a piece of wood and glass weighting around 80lbs (40kg). I had to move it from the floor where it was lying to my table that is around 80cm from the floor. The most difficult part is that the hutch has a back panel that is very weak and a little longer than the side bars that are strong. If I try to stand it upright on the floor, the back panel would break! It was hard and painful, but I got it all done!

Besides that I think I just have to find something to eat. It's 10 pm and I haven't even thought of dinner yet. I know I don't have pretty much any food at home and I'm almost sure all restaurants are closed right now, or closing. What to do? I'll figure it out!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Giving thanks to not much at all

Today is Thankgiving day (almost was right now) and I can't say that I really had a great time. Last evening I realized that I had a package waiting for me outside (they put it inside my storage room outside the door): my office desk!

The result from this: I spent the day assembling the desk and didn't really work on my research. It actually took me a long time to assemble it and I haven't finished assembing the hutch yet. But it looks nice so far! The only thing that doesn't look nice is my hand that is very sore from using the screw driver. I actually decided in the middle of the day that I needed an electric screw driver. I went out to find one and, after driving around for a good time, because most stores are closed today, I bought one.

However, when I got home I found out that I couldn't use it for another 9 hours, because it required charging. So I went back to the manual method and not I'm really sore. But, hey, soon I'll have a clean dining room table!!!

Not much else to talk about, thought. I went out with a co-worker for dinner. He also doesn't have anybody to enjoy Thanksgiving with. We drove around for a while to find an open restaurant but we did and had really good food (a little on the expensive side, though). And that's pretty much it. I think right now I'm off to bed to get ready to work tomorrow. It's strange not to work on a Thursday and then work on Friday. I feel like it's Sunday and that I have a whole week ahead of me, but there is only one day and then it's weekend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The strangeness...

Transformation, confusion, uncertainty, future? Things got strange instead of resolving themselves. No sleep and no decision. The future lost its charm and became a monster on the hunt. The doors are closing, the bridges are falling. The golden path is full of mud. Water keeps falling on the rocks of decision exposing their components, washing away what binds them.

I'm afraid, but I just don't have time for it right now. I have to move on... I have to go to work.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The pain...

It is over. It was painful, and it actually is still painful, but it was something that I still want to believe that had to be done. I'm sure that the world will move forward and will take us with it and this will solve the pain.

Anyway, besides this I don't have much to tell. I've been doing lots of work and I decided that I'll make my research easier and just drop all the C++ stuff. I'll go back to my old method that I can improve and make it work almost as fast as if I did it from scratch. I don't have time for working things from scratch any more.

And, by the way, I still need to eat dinner. I just don't know what to eat, so I guess I'll go out now and buy something from the grocery store.

Strange, my mind can't really think straight any more. It's been just a tough day, and much tougher evening.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Ah... Finally my Linux is working with network. The only "problem" is that now I don't have an excuse not to work on my research any more. And currently I'm stuck with such a silly problem that I don't get any motivation to actually work. But I'll do it!

Anyway, today I just continued cleaning my apartment and went around for a walk and to visit the local gyms. I'm considering joining one now that I'm not walking as much as I used to walk in Stillwater. Actually, in my last months in Stillwater I wasn't exercising as much as I used to and I was feeling the difference (and I felt the difference this morning when I decided to do some Yoga and I realized how stiff I am).

Another thing I did was to take some pictures of the surrounding area that I am going to upload and make available some day.

Then I came back to work and did lots of different things, including studying for my long days of programming coming up this week at work. It is going to be "fun"!

Oh, yes, before I forget, I found this interesting article: The Worst Jobs In Science

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A mixed day of delight and...

Well, I think I should keep my post happy, right? So let's start by saying that yesterday I did go to the R.E.M. concert and it was great! Because I didn't get there that nervous like last concert (the one I got VERY late and lost about 1/3 of the concert), it was just delightful. I was sitting closer this time, because the concert hall is smaller than the one in Dallas. They played a good mix between old songs and songs from the new album. It was amazingly great. It's difficult to find words to describe the experience.

Oh, the opening band was called 5'8" and is a small band from Athens, GA (the "birthplace" of REM, but not really where all of them live right now, but I'll get to this). It was a pretty interesting band, very noisy, with very depressing, but somehow funny lyrics...

Another thing that I learned is that out of the 6 people that built the REM concert band (3 fixed members and 3 "invited musicians"), 4 live in Seattle! You learn things every day. I even learned today that critics didn't quite enjoy the concert, but, hey, they are there not to enjoy things, right? ;-)

Not much else I should talk about here. I spent the day here cleaning, chatting with my parents and working a little on my research. Now I'm actually hungry, but I don't know what I want to eat. I think I'll get my car and see if I can find an interesting restaurant around, then back to my research and trying to make my Linux understand Internet.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

More about elections

A day of talking about election stuff, I guess... So here comes another report, this one from Wired.com: Researchers: Florida Vote Fishy. This is actually a scary report about some statistical studies made comparing the counties where the vote was electronic with the counties where the vote was using the paper system. The strange results were that in the electronic counties, Bush got much more votes than in the other counties, considering all the statistical variance and all the variables such as gender, income, race, etc. If this study is proven right it won't actually change the result of the election, but it will make some heads roll... And continue to prove how ridiculous the election system is in this country.

Anyway, I finally have internet at home! For some strange reason, my internet is not working on my Linux (something very strange seems to be happening when I turn on Linux), but I can blog from home! And also work with high speed internet (although I also wasn't able to make the wireless link work - as you can see, there are lots of things that I still have to deal with).
I have to post this... Although most of you must have already seen it:

Sorry Everybody. The tale from the 49%.

By the way, talking about elections, the governor race here in the state of Washington is not over yet. Rossi is winning by 261 (0.0093% of the votes), but they are recounting. Imagine that less than a week ago they found new ballots that hadn't been opened! What kind of election system is this???

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Just keep waiting...

Yes, I'm waiting for many things. Among them my computer desk (I have to mention that the name of the manufacturer that is shipping me the desk is called Bush Furniture, right?) and my phone line to be connected. I do have a new phone number, but they messed up with the cable connections (at least that's what they claim they did) and I got a phone line from somebody else. More than that, I should have DSL, but I can only have it when I have my phone line. Hopefully this will happen sometime today and tonight I'll be able to enjoy the internet in my apartment (but without my computer desk).

Not much else is going on, though. I've been working and receiving more work to do. I'm starting to be anxious for the R.E.M. concert on Friday, and that's all that is really going on. By this weekend I hope I'll have a more liveable apartment, without all the boxes and piles of paper. It's actually not too bad, if you ignore that I still haven't thrown the boxes out. But I have most of my books on my bookshelf (my bookshelf is already full and with double rows of books - most probably I'll need another bookshelf soon), my clothes in my closet and kitchen stuff in the kitchen. The only things that I have to deal with are my papers (tons of them - I still have to sort through then and find out that most can go to trash), gifts (I need shelves for these) and all the boxes and wrapping paper that need to get out of my apartment. My only worry is that once all this is taken care of, my apartment will look very empty again and I'll start planning on spending more money. Not good...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Home, messy home...

Yes, I finally moved! Now I'm in my new apartment, but I can't say I'm enjoying it that much. I'm still waking up in the morning and not really recognizing where I am and wondering when I'm going back home. Then I realize I'm home! I have a whole huge apartment just for myself!

On Saturday I received my mattress (or I can call it the tall flat stone - I really like it!) and my dining room set (table, chairs and a hutch - very fancy one, actually!). Then I had a living room full of boxes and these pieces of furniture. After chatting with my parents, I went shopping for a microwave oven, bed sheets and some other small details. I spent the rest of the day trying to open boxes and organize my apartment. However, I found out soon enough that I wouldn't be able to get anywhere, because I didn't have enough organized storage space (no drawers or shelves in any of the rooms, except the kitchen, bathroom and the new hutch). So, on Sunday I went out and bought bookshelves and a 4 drawer dresser.

I spent pretty much the rest of the day building these things (yes, you have to mount them). Actually I wasn't feeling great, maybe because I did more work than I was ready to do, so, before I was able to finish the bookshelves (the only thing that is left to do is to stand it straight and choose the position of the shelves) I decided to stop and rest for the rest of the evening (this was very early - something like 8:30 pm). However, I din't sleep that well. The whole time I thought I was going to wake up late and be late to work! This was a very ridiculous thought, because I would never be able to sleep that much to get late, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. And I wasn't feeling too good either. It was interesting that I was feeling cold and hot at the same time. Parts of my body felt cold and others were drenched in sweat. Very strange night indeed. But I feel better today! The only thing now is that I have to decide what I should work on.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Things are getting more stressful here, because I'm being requested to work on a project that is getting pretty big quickly. I was working on it until very late last night, and woke up early this morning to try to finish it, but there are still some small details that I need definition.

But in the middle of all this stress, on Tuesday evening, in a well-thought impulse I decided to go and watch a concert with the Moscow Virtuosi. I say "well-thought impulse" because I already knew of the concert and I wanted to attend (actually I knew of it since my second day here), but I didn't know if I would have time. At 5:30 pm I decided that I was going to make time and called the ticket office to know if there were any tickets left. As there were, I got one. $50, not a very good place, but it was a great concert! They played my favorite piece: Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht.

This piece has 3 different versions. The original is for string sextet, and it's my favorite version. Then it was transcribed for orchestra and then modified for orchestra and this last one is the most common of the versions to find around, and it's my least favorite. What they did is that they played the sextet version, but transcribed for string orchestra (12 violins, 6 violas, 3 cellos and 2 basses). It wasn't as nice, but it was good enough. Great tuning, wonderful control and interpretation. I was delighted.

Another interesting thing about the concert is that it attracted the whole Russian population of Seattle (and maybe neighboring cities). At least 50% of the people sitting around me were Russians. And I even saw the "stereotypical" Russian thing of a guy walking with two over-produced women. It was almost hilareous, because they gave that impression that they were among the owners of the theater (even though they were sitting in the cheapest area of it).

That's it. Saturday is arriving and there are so many things to do until then that I just don't want to really think about it. But on Tuesday I should have high-speed internet at home (without a computer desk - it was first expected to arrive tomorrow, but I called the factory yesterday and they hadn't even sent it yet, but that's a minor detail, right?)

Alright, back to work!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Time for some advertisement here:

Check Amazon.com for the Amazon Theater! It's an interesting initiative with some fun short films to watch for free. They showed to us two of the movies, Agent Orange and Tooth Fairy, and they were really fun! Hope you enjoy!

Besides that, I don't know what else to talk about. Maybe later I'll have what to write.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I got my boxes today, so my apartment is starting to look like it has some stuff. But one interesting thing happened with all this: I realized how much bigger my new apartment is comparing to my old apartment. When they were putting all the stuff in boxes there, after all boxes were filled, there was barely space left to move in the apartment. Now they put all the boxes inside my living room and it almost didn't use 1/4 of the living room space. 27 boxes! It's so cool! :-)

I also got the bus from my new apartment to work this morning and I'm sad... I just have to walk about 2 blocks for the bus stop and it's the second stop of the bus, so it's very empty. The result of this is that I'll end up walking less and I'll have to find other ways to exercise. The bus takes 30 minutes to get to work, but it drops me half a block from work. I'll just have to start taking some books to read.

Finally, there are some things that surprise me, but I just don't have words to describe this post. Very interesting indeed.

Oh, I only had one big issue to sort out today: I was chosen to lead one of the largest projects on my group. We were setting deadlines for it and it ended up having to be delivered by mid January, with a second part being delivered in mid February. Do you know what this means? Simply that I just don't know when to schedule my Ph.D. defense any more and when I'll find time to work on it. It's just a lot of work that I have to do until January! I can tell you that I'm genuinely scared!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Something is really wrong in this world. At least in my world, the world where my friends live. I go and read their blogs (1, 2) and the only thing I see is people depressed, disappointed, desperate. It is very sad to see this happening at the same time to too many friends, but what really makes me sad is that there are things that I could do to help them, but I just don't think I can afford it right now. The last thing I want to do is to increase chaos in my own life, so I just keep away from all this and change the topic.

Today I went for Shabbat services in Mercer Island. Mercer Island is an island (oh, wow, who would have imagined that?) in Lake Washington, between Seattle (where I live right now) and Bellevue (where I'm going to be living starting next Saturday, hopefully). Very nice place, with beautiful houses, but it is a dormitory community. There is nothing there to do, only houses (and the synagogue, actually more than one). Services were great too, with very friendly people. Most probably next weekend I won't be able to go to services anywhere because I'll be waiting for the delivery of my mattress (yes, I finally bought it today!) and my dining table, but I think I decided which community I'm going to join. One step closer to having a "normal and steady" life here.

I bought two more things that were bothering me: silverware and a set of pans. And in this last one I went all out and bought a very expensive but good set. Hey, I have been cooking here pretty much every day, I deserve good pans, right?

Tomorrow I decided that I'm not going to go shopping. Most of the very important things I already bought, so I'm staying at home and working on my research. I also have to work on some documents for work, so it is going to be a pretty busy day. Monday I have to be at my new apartment to receive my boxes, so I should work tomorrow to compensate, right?

You know, I like my work. I'm learning a lot of interesting things and getting to establish the basis for something that I see as a huge change for the Internet as a whole. But it is a bold bet, a high-risk project. We can very well not get to what we want to get, but we know how to compromise. How to get to part of what we want and increase value to the service anyway. Lots of challenges, it's good to be a developer! :-)

Alright, time to go back to work here. I actually haven't had dinner today, and my lunch was very light, that's why I'm feeling a little hungry!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Right now we here are going through a very active selection process to hire new people. Every time I see this happening here, I remember how different the process is here comparing to my experience in Brazil. I know I talked about this before, but one of the most important issues that people talk about here is loosing good people to other companies. Advertising the company is a very important thing.

My experience is that most people in Brazil are "beggers", it means that if the company hires you you don't really think twice, you just go there. If you receive more than one offer (something that doesn't happen every day), then you may think about it for a while. I've seen people here rejecting an offer just because they didn't like the company, and not having anything to fall back on (apart from credit cards). It is very interesting.

Anyway, I finished one of my big reports that was due today and now I'm trying to relax a little before I go back to realizing that I have two other use cases to write. Document writing is just a lot of fun!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

And Mr. Bush won... I saw this coming since the beginning of the whole process, but, well, it's what the majority wants, let them have it! At least this time there was a real majority of voters that wanted him to continue as president. And I'm not going down the path of analyzing the states that actually made him win. I'm not going to discuss average literacy and education levels... But some people have to think about this one day.

Anyway, I'm not here to talk about the elections. Oh, first, just to let people know, it's sunny here today! I haven't seen the sun for a while here, but it's not that my office has any windows anyway.

It's not that I have too much to talk about, at the same time. Work has been using all my brainpower and when I get home at night I can't even decide what I'm going to have for dinner, and how I'm going to cook it, and so on... My research is very close to a complete halt and I just don't know what to do about it. Yesterday, for example, on my way back home I decided that instead of going home, I should just walk around and try to breathe. It was a long walk, but I can't say it did me much good, though. I got home hungry and I still couldn't do much for the rest of the evening. I just tried to work, then I went and continued to change my address on many different places where they have my address, and that was it.

Ok, back to my head-scratching here. Defining systems that if I got wrong would only delay my graduation date is one thing. But defining systems that if I get it wrong could mean a much more catastrophic (money-wise) event, is another thing. And I don't know if I got all the details of the system yet to really decide. Oh, well, I have to move forward anyway.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

There isn't much to talk about. I'm starting to receive lots of work, and that's a good thing in one side, because I come to work and I know what to do, but at the same time I go back home and I don't have much time to work on my research any more. It is interesting to see how busy I am lately by the mess that is starting to appear in my living room and bedroom. I did get to work a little later than usual this morning to clean up a little, but my research is starting to worry me.

At the same time, with all this going on, I still get people all around me trying to say that I don't shop well, and that I should have already built my whole apartment. If I can't find furniture the way I want, I should just buy the closest-looking one and then modify it myself! The only thing I can do about all these people is listen to them and remain calm. It is hard for people to understand how little free time I have, and how little experience I have in "modifying" furniture and that related directly to the amount of time that it would take me to make even simple changes.

Anyway, I have to get back to work here. I have two hard documents to write today...