Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The power of learning

When I finished my Ph.D., something changed in me and it took me all this time until this last weekend to realize it. I was tired of learning, I was tired of expanding my knowledge into new and exciting areas. I felt like it was time for me to apply what I've learned into something productive.

No, it's not that I didn't learn in the process, it's not that every day I haven't really learned anything new, it is just that I had lost the desire to learn. I had lost the wish to stay up until late at night reading papers, reading books, studying a new score, talking to new people. I put myself inside a hole and decided that I was going to build a way out using my own limbs.

What changed this was something very simple: I was home alone in the weekend and looked at an IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering and decided to go through it. Suddenly I found an article that seemed kind of interesting, "Fast and Memory Efficient Mining of Frequent Closed Itemsets" by C. Lucchese, S. Orlando and R. Perego. It's not an extremely well-written article, but it contains some interesting aspects that I was always searching for during my research: namely memory efficient algorithms for data mining.

Suddenly, when I realized, I was reading the whole issue, and looking for past issues, searching the internet, digging and learning. Not only that, I looked at my clarinet and when I realized I was playing! Terribly, but nevertheless I took my clarinet out of the box and played around with it for about 30-40 minutes until my embouchure couldn't me maintained any more. My neighbors must hate me now, but I was happy.

I realized that I suddenly was getting interested in reading the news, analyzing how business was doing, and this wasn't really making me grow in any way. Business is plain boring. Companies go up and down, bigger companies buy smaller companies, and nothing really new happens. Non-business news is the same thing. Wars, people claiming that other people are wrong, accidents, deaths, stupid people going to jail for silly things... Also nothing really exciting.

So I guess I'm a researcher and that's what I'll always be. Surely I'm not a very good one for many reasons, but it's what keeps me excited.

Some people right now might be thinking: but what about your job? Are you leaving your job and going back to academics? Actually this idea didn't even cross my mind (well, it did, or else I wouldn't have written it here, but not in this way). I'm very happy with my job. It keeps me entertained and focused on the difficulties that exist in the world. It gives me the challenges, but I'm the one that should look for the solutions.

But now I should try and get some sleep and stop getting people worried.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Banks and money

So today, like many days, I receive a check on the mail. It was a $10 check by Chase saying that if I cash the check I'll be automatically enrolled to their 2% cashback deal. Then you start to read the details of the deal:

2% cashback in the first $5000 of the year, or up to $100 per year.

Then you have to go and dig for the cost of it... Only $11.99 a month!

WAIT! $11.99 a month for a whole year is more than then potential $100 that you can make a year! Or did I just forget all my math???

Actually there is a "benefit": special deals with companies that might give you up to $500 in discounts a year! Sure, if you decide to buy all the merchandize they offer you, like a couple of watches, pens, this great odorizer that you put in your car, auto-adjusting sunglasses... Only high-tech stuff that everybody needs to buy! You also get a couple of cupons worth $40! So, in a way, you end up making almost $500 a year! What a deal!

Anyway, I'm just a little bitter today. Work has been very tiring. Just as a baseline: it's Wednesday and I have already worked about 50 hours this week. Sure, I've done much worse in my life, but what worries me is that things are still far from over. I still expect to be at work until late for the rest of the week and into the weekend.

Alright, time for me to get some things done here before heading to bed.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Coincidence of common names

Today my cell phone rang with a 405 number (Oklahoma). I didn't recognize the number, but I answered it anyway. Here is a transcript of the conversation:

- Hello?
- Hi... Michael?
- Yes?
- Is Amy there?
- No... She is not here...
- Oh, is this the (a name I won't write down)'s residence?
- No...
- Oh, I'm sorry, I must have dialed the wrong number.

Yes, that proves that both Michael and Amy are very common names. I think my name should be Michel from now on.

The pain of statistics

Yesterday was my first choir concert with the Cascadian Chorale and, just like my first big choir concert I had in Brazil (Mendelssohn's Elijah), I got sick just the day before the concert. At least this time was much milder than the one in Brazil, when I had a very high fever and I can say I don't remember much of that concert. I have a cold, my second one this season.

This actually got me a little worried. I rarely get sick, about maybe once a year if that much, and why did I get sick twice this year - even after I, for the first time in my life, took a flu shot? Well, suddenly my statistics neurons fired and gave me the answer: if your chance of being sick each year is about 50%, the chance of you getting sick more than once a year is still quite high. If you model it as a random process where the probability of being sick each month is 1/12, the probability that you will be sick at least twice a year is about 25% (you get the same result if you model it as a Poisson distribution - but I thought it would be easier to understand in the normal probability way)

The concert itself was quite interesting. I had about 70% of my voice, so I could still contribute some. There was only one big issue with the concert, as a concept: we only have one 2 1/2 hour rehearsal a week, and there is a limited amount of things you can rehearse this way. So we end up going through a lot of material in the beginning and then focusing the rehearsals on things that are supposed to be more challenging. Problem is that when we get to the day of the concert, we are asked to remember pieces we haven't sung in the choir for more than a month! And they were in Latvian, Catalan, Mongolian, Estonian... While melody and harmony wasn't that difficult to remember, the text was a whole other story. But it all ended up fine. We can always use the fact that you can't really understand the text sung by a choir.

Now I'm just sitting on my couch, listening to some music and thinking what I should do for the day. I'm trying not to do much, but I just can't stay on here the whole time. Maybe I'll bundle up and go for a walk soon, try to breathe some fresh (and cold) air.

Oh, yes, talking about cold air, we had our first day of snow here! But it was just too warm outside, so there was no snow on the ground... We had what is called "white rain". It's been pretty close to freezing in the last couple of weeks.

Alright, back to trying to do something that doesn't require my brain to function.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Close to madness

No, that's not really me, but I just didn't know what to write in the title.

Life is going alright here. Been really busy lately, with a lot of late nighters working on work-related things and on the program for the choir concert this Saturday. Me, as a "yes" guy decided to help out and suddenly I had just too much work to do. But it was done and not it's with the printer. I'm not sure if I'm excited about this concert or not. The music is quite interesting, but I guess I've been so tired lately that my feelings are simply numb. And, hey, I'm not complaining.

Now for a view of the world out there:

* Real-state in downtown Bellevue is going quite crazy! There is a new mall that just opened about 3 weeks ago, they have plans of another one in a couple of years and there are two new apartment complexes also being built right now. One of them in place of a half-finished structure that has been around here for many years (I can only attest for one year of these many).

* Christmas is coming and with it some terrible music. Worse is that I live 2 1/2 blocks from a mall and from time to time they blast the music so loud that I can hear it from my apartment with all windows and doors closed.

* This is a little old, but some people might have missed it: Kansas now allows schools to teach about "intelligent design". At the same time, the Vatican says that evolutions does not contradict the bible.

* This is also a little outdated, but there is this interesting note about Tamiflu: Suicides raise fears over Tamiflu. If they distribute Tamiflu for all US citizens... Well, I don't think it will change anything! :-) Actually this article reminds me how weird our brain really is - how some things might cause very strange reactions to the way we deal with the world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New services...

I've decided to start updating my blog with new services, and I found out about something quite intriguing: PheromoneTrail. Not that it really works right now, but the idea is to capture the path that people take around the internet. Because I am curious and would like to see what it actually will do when it's up and running, I decided to add to my blog. Right now the script seems to be down, but when it's up, the icon in the left side, under history, should have a popup iframe with information about how people get to my site and out of it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Geek, me???

I've received a worisome email the other day suggesting that I was getting geekier and that this was a bad thing.

I first have to say that I do agree that it is mostly a bad thing. But being a geek has its advantages too: it keeps you busy and happy. But I won't say that I'm that much of a geek yet. I still go to choir, I still study music, even compose, go to concerts, cook, enjoy reading non-geeky novels (although I have to admit that most of the latest books I've read were very geeky), I go out do non-geeky stuff, like... Like... I don't know, what is there to do out there that you wouldn't consider geeky? Hiking is getting more difficult because of the weather, going out to restaurants is something I have been doing lately, but it's not non-geeky. I haven't been able to watch movies, because my free time does not match with anybody else's. Oh, well... I try.

But I think the major problem is that lately I have been quite busy with work. It has been invading my mind every minute. Just lots of things to do! Lots of interesting things to do, and that's the major problem. But I keep on being busy and trying not to be called a geek too often.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Digging and finding the list of geek novels

I've been looking around on digg, a news "aggregator" that is starting to rival the great slashdot, and found the following article:

Top 20 geek novels.

It's an interesting list. The sad thing of it is that I've read about half of them and I only haven't heard about 2:

10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks

My favorite out of the list? It's hard, but I think I'll go for:

18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson

Way down to the bottom of the list, but one of the most enjoyable read I've had.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Such a tiny world

There are a lot of things to post about, but I think I won't have enough time to get to them anytime soon. So, I'll just leave you with this very strange observation that I've made last week and has just been stressed even more today:

I was at the gym last week and suddenly, besides me, there was a guy with an OU t-shirt! OU meaning the University of Oklahoma, the other university in Oklahoma (the famous one, because they have a better football team, the Sooners). He was busy working out so I decided not no bother him with this coincidence.

So today I was opening my computer, trying to look at emails and work. Well, my internet wasn't working, so I decided to check if I was connected to the right wireless network. When I looked at the list of available wireless networks what do I see? A network named "OU_Sooners". As Robin would say: "Holy coincidence, Batman".

Hope everybody is having a good week there. Mine has been quite busy. Just having fun with JavaServer Faces and building something much bigger than I should be building. I probably should just give up right now and get some sleep.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Yay - time for nerdy stuff

Before I get back to writing web pages (oh, lots of fun), here is an article that I was reading the other day:

Fuel's paradise? Power source that turns physics on its head

It is about a scientist (our "scientist") that claims that he found a way to create more energy by, at the same time, breaking some laws of physics! Two in one, what a great discovery!

What do I think about this? Well, I think I'll just wait and see. I'm not all that hopeful because of the amount of hype that is around this, but, at the same time, it would be great to find a new clean and efficient energy source. We are in great need of that right now! So, good luck to you Mr. Randell Mills!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

ongoing · Wikipedia Notes

This is my first post trying to use ecto combined with NetNewsWire. ecto is a weblogging client that is actually paid. I'm using their 20 day trial right now. NetNewsWire is an RSS reader. What I can do is look at a news article and click on "Post to Weblog" and this is what I get:

ongoing · Wikipedia Notes:
Wikipedia Notes
This week I had a pleasant, relaxed, sit-down conversation with Jimmy Wales, the main man behind the Wikipedia. The purpose of this note is to pass along some interesting facts about the project that I hadn’t previously known. This is timely in that there has been a recent flare-up of the usual Wikipedia controversies, with mostly the same old players flinging the same old slime; those who care might want to revisit my essay from last year, which takes a careful look at the project as contrasted to the world of conventional reference publishing. I stand by my conclusion: the Wikipedia dwarfs its critics. The rest of this piece is just a recitation of facts, but some of them are surprising. [Update: PHP@Yahoo!]


It is actually interesting as a concept, because it makes passing on links much easier. At the same time it is just forwarding information and not really helping you create something new (and don't talk to me about creating something new, because I always have hundreds of ideas inside my mind, some using weblogs, but I never get time to actually develop them... Who knows one day I might...).

Anyway, just logging technology accomplishments!


It's been another while that I don't post. I'm sorry for it. Life has been just quite hectic for me! When I get home in time not to just go to bed, I am so tired that I can't really do any writing. At the same time, there isn't much to talk about in the personal front. Life has been quite the same. Today I had another round of volunteering for GambiaHELP, an interesting organization that helps some Gambia communities. We did book sorting, separating children's, middle school, high school and college books. I had flashbacks from when I worked at the Amazon fulfilment center, looking at the quality of the books that people have bought and donated.

This weekend Amy is in California for homecoming, so I'll be home having fun with my personal projects. I've worked a little too much last week (including Thursday to Friday when I pretty much was only able to sleep for two blocks of 2 hours to get everything done for an urgent change that was going live on Friday), so I decided that I won't work this weekend. At least not directly; I might do some studying for things that are related to work.

There are a couple of news that I found interesting and wanted to share and enrich people's life (as I can't do that by myself):

UK Female Sci-Fi Viewers Now Outnumber Males - This is a little depressing, actually, for two reasons: first the reason for it is the popularity of Buffy, Lara Croft and Xena. There are so many better things to watch! The second is that if these shows made the difference it means that the better things are watched very little! Quite sad.

'Splogs' Roil Web, and Some Blame Google - This article is not that interesting per se, but I liked it just because it continues to show how much Google influences the web. Its behavior (and misbehavior) define how professional web developers (spammers are pretty much the definition of it) deal with the web. Amazing power!

Alright, time to go and have some time for myself. I'll stay away from birds and enjoy it.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Time goes by

And I'm still here. That's what I always say... Sometimes it's just as if I'm in some kind of highly sticky substance and I just can't move as fast as what is going around me. I get to do a couple of things and when I see 4 hours are gone!

As you can see, not much has been going on lately. I have been really tired for some reason, but not getting that much accomplished. My projects are still only theoretical, I can't say I'm learning anything new, although I have been trying. I've been looking around and reading, trying to get ideas of things to invest on, but really nothing seems that interesting. Maybe that's why people say it's the best time to start your own business: there is nothing else to invest on. But this is not in my plans right now. I just want to do something useful with my time, and not feel like I should be working right now, because work is much more interesting than anything else I have the chance to do.

What makes things worse is that with the small projects I have going on right now at work, it is hard to compete...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Still alive and busy

That's all what my life has been lately: just busy and quite confusing. At the same time that a lot of things are starting to get in control, I have this tendency of getting into these cycles of "useless" creativity in which I have a lot if ideas, but I just can't seem to get any of them out of the ground really. I start on something and then I move to something else and so on. Let me list you some of the projects that I'm working right now:

a) Reviewing a paper I'm coauthoring
b) Building a dirt-protected wireless terminal for following recipes in the kitchen
c) Keeping track of my finances
d) Planning for investment
e) Continuing my research with a couple of analysis I want to make on product extraction from the web
f) Making my printer work under my Mac
g) Going back to the gym (I was sick last week so I had to stay at home - this week I just haven't had time yet)

And this is just a very simplified list that doesn't include any of the projects I'm doing at work.

One thing though that I'm enjoying right now, in the lines of (d), I have downloaded an RSS reader for my palm and now every morning I go, synch my palm and I get all the news to read in the bus! Very convenient and, more importantly, paper-free! I'm getting there, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, where our world is free from this terrible paper thing.

There are a lot of things that are going on in this world. For example, Amazon stocks went down today because we had another quarter of lower revenue. This time it was due to a patent lawsuit that snatched $40 million and greater operation expenses. The company is certainly still growing, getting more and more market share, but the cost is always great. I'm excited with what is coming up in the future (no real secret projects that I know of, though - I don't hang out with these secret project people), but always a little worried as I'm a stock holder.

The other thing that is making a lot of people think is the Google Base: a free database service offered by Google. No, it's not available yet, but there are enough discussion about it already. People think that if Google can pull this off, it will bite a huge market share from eBay and eBay-likes (such as Craig's List), because it would be free and would have the Google seal.

I hope that the project actually works. Not that I want eBay to die, on the contrary! I like eBay, but I think that an open scalable generic database can do so much! Once it's out there, I can play around with some of the infinite ideas that are going through my mind and let you know what happens. I just have to find time... Find time without forcing myself to disappear even more.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

This came from a CNET blog article: Want to be immortal, check this box. Quite an interesting option you have of killing your best friend and becoming immortal. I chose no.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Back from a tough Yom Kippur

This High Holiday season for me has been quite interesting. Much less introspective than the previous years, but much more nervous. Somehow, somewhere I've gotten a little bit out of sync with things and it is just corroding me from the inside. Not literally yet, though.

Fasting was tough. I think it's been the first time that I join an orthodox service from the beginning to the end. Imagine this: You stop eating at about 5:30 pm. Then you go to services that start at 6:30 and go all the way to 9:30. You go back home, can't turn on or off any lights, so you just try to go to sleep and is only able to get to it at about midnight.

Then you wake up at 6:30, without any alarms, go around the house, read a little, get dressed and go to services that start at 8 am. Stay there (remember, no food since 5:30 pm) and mostly stand until 7:20 pm, when the shofar is sounded and you can happily go back home to have something to eat. It was rush hour, so it took me some time to get home, so I was only able to eat something at about 8 pm.

It was tiring. But these kinds of experiences is what really makes you experience religion as it was supposed to be in the early days. Something that takes you away from your ordinary life and makes you go through disconfort, especially when you are talking about such important religious event as asking for forgiveness for your sins.

Anyway, I'm alive and well. Had too much to eat last night, had a tough headache that is still with me this morning, but I'll live. Now I have to get back to a LONG day I'll have today.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Anonymous people are welcome again

I've decided that the best thing to use against spammers is not blocking anonymous people but to add the basic "write down this distorted word" method that blogger allows you to use. So there it is! Welcome back you that want to remain unknown.

On Intelligence

I just finished listening to my second audiobook ever: "On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee. It is quite an interesting book. I can't say that I was impressed by any of the ideas - none of them seem novel to me. The discussed a lot of the things that I was actually looking into 6 years ago when I started the license plate recognition project (that actually didn't work) and then when I was working on my first Ph.D. research topic.

It is difficult to summarize the book in a post, but I'll try without boring you with the details (and focusing on the ideas I found most interesting): The point he tries to make in this book is that the brain works by hierarchical prediction. A set of inputs in any layer of the brain causes it to try and predict the next set of inputs and pass it down the hierarchy. This has two positive results: you know what happens next so you automatically build a model of how the world works - this lets you plan what to do, where to look, etc.; and also helps the lower levels of the brain learn how to represent something in an invariant fashion. If you move a pen and you expect it to write a letter "a" on a paper, your lower level neurons that actually look at the "a" would associate this "a" to the concept "a" independent on where in the page it appeared.

I know it might sound a little confusing if you haven't read/heard the book. He spends about 275 pages or 9 hours or talking to explain these points. You shouldn't expect to understand it all in a paragraph. It's not a romantic novel or movie I'm talking about here. :-)

Alright, time to move on and get some cleaning done.

Disaster season

I'm not sure if it's because I'm paying more attention to them, or I'm looking more at the media that is highlighting them more often, but it's been quite a natural-disaster-full period in the last year. Tsunamis, hurricanes and now the earthquake in mid-to-south Asia. Before and during all this we have Iraq, Afghanistan... Then Israel... But these last ones weren't natural, just due to human stupidity. A disaster anyway.

All this made me think a little about life and what to do in the potentially short period that you have to stay around. I know it's a little morbid, but if I died today, would I be happy with what I've accomplished? All this thinking is boosted by the "great" 8 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The time that you look back to the year that just finished and you try to atone for the things you did wrong, or didn't do right. There were lots of them this year, actually. Starting with my difficulty in sending emails and calling friends. But I won't list them all here, because or else this post will haunt me beyond Yom Kippur.

But one thing I will post here: I'm sorry! The "Michel" people know has changed a little too drasticly. I've closed myself in a cocoon waiting for me "creative and active" period to cease. I wake up with ideas of things to do and if I don't get them done because I spent time blogging, writing email, talking to people on the phone, going out with my girlfriend, etc., I suffer. So I end up just leaving out the things that people won't haunt me face to face for.

One way of solving this problem is to try and organize my life enough to leave time to be "social". Biggest issue with that is that creativity is not something you can schedule.

Anyway, I'll figure something out. I still have until Wednesday to think of something.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Huge and scary

This is both huge and scary: Google and Sun team up. It could mean nothing, because they don't give out that many details, but it could also be a huge change in many things. Sun wasn't doing that great for a long time, and this annoucement didn't change much on anything. Google stocks fell about 2.5% today (but it could have been before the announcement, I'm not sure), Sun stocks are still worth nothing.

But who is currently scratching their heads are the people at Microsoft, of course. It is interesting the huge fear that MS has of Google, fear and near hatred. The hatred is also shared towards Sun. So, naturally, if you are an enemy of my enemy, your are my friend, right?

Let's wait and see. I'm not buying Sun stocks right now, for example... Distributing the Google toolbar with the JRE is just silly. And I'm not buying MS stocks either.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Yes, that's what I did yesterday, my first volunteering event in Seattle! It was quite interesting. We went to the Hillman House, organized by Multifaith Works. It is a house for AIDS/HIV victims. Most of the things I did were gardening work, but I also helped moving furniture around and talking to people.

One of the most interesting talks I had was with one of the residents there that spend his whole day doing penny stock trading. If you don't know what this is, well, I'll tell you that this is what is considered "forbidden" in all "how to win in stocks" books: pretty much the most risky side of the stock market.

Take an example of PTS Inc.. Their stocks currently are worth 0.008. Yes, 8 tenths of a cent. So why would you have a share that cost this little? Because if it goes up 1/10 of a cent it is more than 10% increase! You don't get that in your everyday stocks! However, they tend to be quite volatile. Jumping tenths of a cent up and down, requiring you to be quick and a little lucky to cash on these stocks.

The interesting thing is that it does fuel people's hopes. Most probably they will either end up losing a lot of money, or maybe they will just not make any money and keep themselves busy. The stock market is great at making people busy, because there is so much information you have to absorb to be able to get anywhere in this are...

Alright, time to continue getting some cleaning done here. And I'm getting hungry.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What do I want?

Directions change
The grass on the floor under me
It is getting brown and disappearing
Oh, sun, why did you stay here with me
While everybody else just went away?

The brown grass
As if you could call it grass
Dead and gone, as if it has never been
But there is no one to see it
Just me looking at my own shoes

Where to go? Why to go?
My shoe laces are untied
If I move I'll fall
Or can I just tie them?
Why change? Let it be, it's better

Silence around me
Where am I?
What do I want?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Transfering license tags

Finally today I got everything I thought I needed (including time) and went to the department of transportation to transfer my tags from Oklahoma to Washington. I went through their website and was quite confused with what I needed, but I read the following:

"If a lienholder holds the title, you will need to supply a fax or photocopy of the title being held by the lienholder."

I have a lease, so I don't have the title. Last Monday I called Honda and asked them to fax me the title. Well, they finally did it on Friday (according to them, the title is held on a fire-safe building, so it takes some time for them to retrieve it - shouldn't have taken more than 2 days, but it took 4). So there I was, ready to pay I don't know how much to get this all done. Waited in line for about 40 minutes (it's because I got there just after it opened) and then the lady in the office looked at me and said: well, in Washington we need the actual title and a P.O.A. (Power of attourney) letter so they had to fax Honda themselves to get all this info.

They were pretty nice about it, getting all the information they needed by themselves and just asking me to call back for further instructions on Wednesday. The only thing that bugged me is that I thought I had read that I only needed the copy of it on their website... And that's what it was written there! Grr... I hate the web!

Well, there isn't much what to talk about here. It's getting colder and a little cloudier. You can feel people getting more nervous because of it. Quite an interesting topic for a study in psychology.

Alright, time to go and start cleaning all the mess around here. It's quite scary how much mess I can produce in a week without much free time.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Ah... Giants fail all the time...

I was looking around for news as I try to do in the morning, and, when looking at Google News I found the following articles grouped together under the "Health" section (the most terrible at Google News):

U of I: Student body growing
More dead birds in county testing positive for West Nile
2 more county residents confirmed with West Nile

Why do they still bother with all these silly mistakes? And they keep hiding behind this ridiculous "Beta" stage, where they will probably stay for the rest of its existance...

Yes, Google wants to take over the world, but they will never get anywhere that worries me if they still only create betas and never actually continue growing their beta systems (ok, Google Maps is still growing).

I know I still haven't left. It's just that I get caught with these thousands of ideas that go through my mind and I had to continue reseaching... It's an addiction!

Turning on the login requirement for comments

Dear commenters,

I'm sorry to announce that right now in order for you to post comments on my blog, you have to be registered. The reason for that is that lately blog spams have been pretty active. Most probably it is a direct consequence from the "wonderful" blog search that Google added.

I'm sure this is not a perfect solution, because I have been spammed in the past by registered users, but I'm sure it helps. If registered users spam me, I can always send and email back to Blogger telling them to cancel that user's account, or something like that. Anonymous users are untouchable.

So what if you want to be anonymous when you post something? Well, just create an anonymous account! I don't want to have a negative effect on the amount of comments I receive because of that. Yes, I am aware that I don't write pretty much anything that people would be even marginally interested in commenting on, but who knows if one day I will learn again how to blog interesting things... But first I will have to relearn how to actually blog, because this has been a quite rare event in the past many months.

Anyway, time to go to work. It is interesting what happens when I wake up early and get ready quickly... I find other things to do, like looking at a friend's wedding pictures (second friend that got married in the last week) and playing around with Opera and having crazy ideas of a new "secret project"...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Out of a concert, back into oblivion

Here I am, just back from my first concert as a season subscriber of the Seattle Symphony. It was a wonderful concert, with 3 pieces:

Aaron Kernis's Musica Celestis: the only piece in the program that I hadn't heard before, and I was positively impressed. Celestis it is, arranged for string orchestra. Peaceful with powerful moments, but just plain soothing.

Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto, Op. 14: I was never a big fan of Samuel Barber's work and unfortunately this is another of his works that I can live without. It's not bad, especially the soloist, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, was impressive (although I don't trust musicians with their own web page that have worked a lot with "crossover" stuff). But... I just can't say I can really feel the music. Hopefully it's just me.

Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in E minor, Op. 94, "From the New World": Well, this does not need a lot of introduction. Just a wonderful work of art. The guest conductor, Andreas Delfs, was amazingly energetic, although he made the piece a little faster than I would conduct it myself. The first movement was crazy with amazing tempo changes, congratulations Seattle Symphony! Just delightful.

Now I'm back to my office, but just waiting for the next bus (that will be out in 10 minutes, so I have to run). I'll get back to the oblivion another time.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sometimes blogger makes life harder

Free time has been rare lately and twice trying to post and not getting Blogger to do the posting makes life harder. Sure you can claim that it was all because I took 3 hours to finish each of my previous posts, but, hey, the system has to get used to my posting style, not the opposite! :-)

Anyway, not too much to talk about. I've been busy, but surviving. Work is starting to let me get back home earlier, and also choir has been keeping me positive as for doing things besides work. My TO-DO list keeps growing and this does worry me and put me on a bad mood from time to time, but it's how life goes, I guess.

Today I went out to see if I could find a new apartment/house to live in. I've visited a quite interesting house. Hardwood floors in most of the place (that is pretty much the sole reason I'm thinking of moving - hardwood floors are more allergy-friendly than carpet, and I've had some pretty bad days in the past), a very nice backyard, a reasonable kitchen (not that great, but not worse than my current one), and not too big so that I don't have to spend more time cleaning. There are only two downsides: the rooms have different sizes, so my furniture does not fit as well as I had it fitting my current apartment; and it's a house and potentially it requires more maintenance (and taking care of the lawn, although I can add this maintenance to my rent).

Oh, and there is one more important downside to moving in general: taking my very heavy furniture from one place to another!

Anyway, the other thing I had to talk about was about how the world is close to a very important change. Mostly economic, but big changes in economy sometimes cause political changes with it. I'll get into more of that some other day.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The un-blogger

I haven't been blogging much, because I have been going through an un-blogging moment, the time that you feel that everything you say will be used against you in the future, so it's better not to say much.

Some of the things are not really my fault, but surely most of them are. But I'll go through the things that are not my fault, like the front page of the Seattle Times on Wednesday: "25 relatives are coming - Olympia family scrambles to make room for sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews"

Surely it's a neat story about what is going on with people after the great Katrina, but this story making to first page headlines... This is a little too too much, it's beyond too much. What is wrong with people's priorities???

You can think that this is just the US newspapers that are wrong, right? Of course this is wrong. I opened today the "Estadao" and what did I find on the first headlines? A picture of Gisele Bündchen full of tatoos and the title: tomorrow she will be wearing only tatoos for sandal comercials [source - in Portuguese]. It just makes my life much harder to see where this world is going. Then people claim that I should watch more TV and play more video-game.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Useful calendar

iCal is an interesting program that allows people to share very useful calendar, like this one that changed my life:

D'ni Holidays

Amazing. That's the only word for it.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Back to real life

Here I am in Seattle, sort of feeling like I've never left, for some reason. Work has been interesting, as expected, and my apartment is a mess. But I'll forget all this, and leave some final discussions about Brazil for some other post, when I'm less tired. For this post I'll just leave this interesting article (blog post):

Has Google Peaked?

It is an interesting article that talks briefly about something that I think will be the subject for next year's tech wars: Apple hitting the PC and scaring Microsoft. It will all come down to Microsoft's major trump card: Office. How will it behave on the new OSX and how it will behave on the new Vista. If MS stops supporting the OSX version of its suite, Apple will have a lot of trouble to conquer the Windows market. Let's wait and see...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Another eternal fight

Just to wander a little bit away from the last topics, here is an article that I found quite intriguing. (I'm trying not to sleep too much tonight, so I'm doing many things to keep me awake and one of this pointed me to the article)

Homeopathy's benefit questioned

It is an old fight, as old as the creation of homeopathy. The concept behind this type of treatment is very odd... Imagine getting something that gives you the same symptoms of what you are feeling and dillute it to a level that the chances that you will injest a molecule of the thing is quite small. Scientifically, why would this work?

I've used homeopathy in the past and I don't know if it really worked. It is always hard to separate what our own antibodies are doing from what the medication is doing. My conclusion: do what makes you happier. The least stress you are going through while you are sick, the quicker your body will react to it and make you feel better. Never use a medication you don't believe, but do believe in medicine! Thousands of years of research must have brought us something good.


There is so many things to talk about that I'll probably won't write much.

Sao Paulo is a great city. A living entity that is always moving, always changing, but not really evolving. It's growing, eating things, but the problems are still there and only get worse. Today, for example, I was listening to the news and they mentioned that there are 120 cars are stolen violently, i.e. using guns or other weapons, EVERY DAY in Sao Paulo! My sister's fiance was robbed of his cellphone, money and briefcase by a guy on a motorcycle the other day. This guy pointed a gun to him (although later he got the impression that the gun was a fake) and asked for everything. As easy as that. When he went to the police to tell what happened, the police officer said that there are about 20 of these A DAY in that region!

So violence is still here. Traffic is still here! Especially on Fridays when people try to get home earlier (and end up just leaving work earlier but probably getting home at the same time as always).

Happy people are still around too! Despite all the chaos in politics as I mentioned before, people are still hopeful of the future. They still think that things can get better and only need time to fix. So they go out, have fun, stay out until late at night and go to work as always on the following day (having a lot of coffee!)

Changing subject a little, my father went to a lecture this morning with an economist and this economist mentioned how worried he is about the world economy. One of the most interesting point he made was the real state bubble going on everywhere in the US (except from the midwest - but the money isn't in the midwest anyway). Houses and apartments are just ridiculously expensive and all the money that is driving this spike in prices is generated by other countries investing in the US, and not by the US that is way deep in deficit.

I'm a little bit more optimistic than this guy (although he is a professional and I'm just a very naive and uneducated guy). He thinks that everything is going to burst in less than an year and we will go down into depression again. I don't quite think that depression is that easy to get. The economy is much more stable right now to go through such a quick depression! But I'll have to wait and see...

I guess that's all I'm going to talk about right now. I was going to discuss some business opportunities I see around here, but I'll leave this for another day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Getting lost in the chaos of the last week

The last week of my vacation arrived very quickly and now I'm a little lost on what I should do. I'm trying to organize to meet with some friends that I haven't met yet (because they were either traveling, or they don't answer emails and I lost their phone numbers when my PDA died, or because of mutual lazyness). The thing is that things end up happening in spikes of activity. One day nobody can do anything, the other everybody is free, but I can't take a person to dinner at the same time that I go to a choir rehearsal or have to meet somebody that lives and works in the other side of the city (just for the people that don't know Sao Paulo very well, the other side of the city does not mean 30 minutes from here, or 10 if you live in Stillwater, but it can mean anything from 1 to 3 hours away).

So, right now I'm home. My mother is asleep. I went to my father's company for a visit and had lunch in a really great fish place. I felt bad that I had forgotten to take my camera with me! The restaurant was very typical: a large area with simple tables. Around the place you had a small town by the dam surrounded by trees (very unlike Sao Paulo - I was not in Sao Paulo, by the way). The food was simple and delicious.

Then I went shopping with my mother. She had to buy a wedding gift, but she went away empty-handed. Then we drove back home. Tonight I have a work discussion with my father then dinner with some friends at 10 pm.

Tomorrow I'm going out with friends in the morning, early afternoon, mid-afternoon and then trying to drop by the choir to say hi to people. Thursday I'll do some touristy stuff around Sao Paulo with my sister and in the evening I'm tying to meet some friends for a pizza dinner. On Friday I'm going to go to a "churrascaria" with my other sister. Friday evening I think family is coming here for Shabbat dinner and Saturday I'm packing, buying some gifts and some stuff for me and catching the plane in the evening. In other words, it's going to be very busy last days here.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Unique Sao Paulo

First I have to rant a little about Blogger. It has been not very nice to me lately, not allowing me to publish posts, publishing things three times when I press "Publish Post" only once, things like that.

Anyway, that's not what I want to talk about. I'm here to discuss what I've seen on my long ride on the bus back home on Wednesday. First I was hit by the lack of good information about buses around here. There is a website where you can check bus itineraries. You enter two big avenues and it finds buses that connect these two places.

Note that there is no time, no regularity of the bus, just its number. Then you can go to the number and see what the itinerary of the bus is to have an idea how long it takes from one point to the other. And that's all.

With this tool, I found a bus line that connected two streets that I could use to connect where I was to my house. So there I went to the bus stop... I saw at least 15 different bus lines driving by that bus stop, at least 3 times each! So one hour after I got to the bus stop I decided that I should try something different to get home. So I went to another bus stop and asked the driver of a bus that went approximately to the place I wanted to go about how to get there. He promptly said that I should stay in the bus for one more stop and then transfer to another bus in the next stop. I've done it and I was on my way home, arriving safely.

Now for the interesting thing that I've learned on this trip.

Buses are very interesting in Sao Paulo. Some are old and not very confortable. They can get pretty crowded, especially on peak hours. Crowded enough that you have to squeeze your way out or else you miss the stop (that's what I had to do and almost missed my stop). But they show a lot of what life is about. You just have to stop and listen to people talk, and look outside on the places the bus goes through. Here are just small excerpts of these observations (lots of them needed pictures, but taking a digital camera inside a bus is never a good idea):

- A paper ad glued to a post: "Call Miss XYZ: Tarot, and a large list of other related future reading methods. Get your love to love you in 01 days!"
- A discussion between two high schoolers: "blah, blah, blah about boys. So what are you doing about it? Well, I'm going to talk with my grandmother and she always gives me good advice about it..."
- A set of very new buildings all made of glass and a homeless man walking with his cart full of trash and just ignored by everybody else.
- Very poor looking people entering the bus and paying their tickets using a very interesting smart card system (I'll get to this system one day)
- People entering buses to try and sell some snacks, ice cream and drinks and first going to the driver and giving them a free sample so that they can enter and exit the bus for free.
- Very well dressed people leaving and entering the bus at the same time as very poorly dressed people.
- Women walking by and seeing almost all men just turning around to see her back.
- Outdoor ads displaying nearly nude women and men to sell pretty much anything, from alcoholic drinks to lingerie

This is just what I can remember. I know I was actually quite delighted with all I was seeing and hearing. I do miss Sao Paulo, and I know I'll always miss it. Especially because my sister said that being a man in Sao Paulo is great right now, because there is a very interesting scarcity of available men right now.

Anyway, time for me to go to bed so that I can help my mother to prepare things for my party in the evening.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Spammed by blog comments

This is really new! On my last post (that was actually repeated 3 times for some reason) I got one comment by a spammer talking about buying cars. I've heard of this before, but it was new to my blog. The worst thing is that the only way to prevent this from happening is to block all unknown users from commenting (enabling anonymous comments doesn't really help, because they are never anonymous). This is fundamentally a Blogger problem, because they allow people to create any number of random users that can, in turn, start spamming you. It shows once again that Google is great, but they don't invest that much usability analysis in their "side sites" like blogger and orkut.

Anyway, no more ranting. Time to get back to thinking what I'll do this afternoon. I have mainly four options: (1) sleep (I woke up pretty early to go to the consulate to get my visa stuff done), (2) read a book (I still have two books I brought), (3) bake a cake for an event my mother is participating tomorrow, and (4) work on my paper. I'll decide on something eventually. I'm trying to be lazy a little and not do much.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Isolated in Brazil

Here I am, in Brazil again! Life is great! Lots of nice conversations with my family and my sisters fiancee. Cool guy, but I still have to finish my interview with him! :-)

The only problem that I'm seeing here is that my old PDA broke just before I came here and all the phone numbers of my friends were in the PDA. This makes me a little isolated from them, but I'm trying to fix it tomorrow (a day I won't be only sleeping and eating).

I don't have much else to talk about. The shock at the airport waiting to get into the plane to Brazil and in the plane were less than I was used to, to tell you the truth. Usually you meet those loud Brazilians trying to find the best seats and just kick out the people that seem too shy to do anything against them. This time was different, people were much more controlled.

Sure there were a lot of people making gossip about everybody in the airport. My guess is that they feel that the language is keeping them from being heard, that's why you don't hear Americans saying the same types of things. But I still think of it as a little disturbing.

Finally, politics in Brazil right now are pretty chaotic. They are finding a lot of "irregularities" on the way the party that is currently in power did their campaign and are governing. Lots of money going in many different directions. I've even heard somebody discussing on TV today that many people are trying to stay away from hearing and reading the news just not to hear even more problems. And the president (that some people starting thinking was going to quit) just said that he is confused and feel betrayed by the people around him, but that he will work towards getting it all sorted out. Interesting thing is that not too long ago he was against some of the investigation. Very interesting times...

This makes some people turn to me and say that I shouldn't come back to Brazil because things are just too chaotic around here and will never get better. I'm an optimist, though. I believe that this doesn't make Brazil a less interesting place to live. But I'm not moving any time soon. There are just too many things that I have to accomplish before I go for my next move in life.

What some people are worried about is that the government is seen as a model to the population, especially this government that got into power because they tried to represent the "simple people". Now these people have terrible role models in front of them... Who knows what they are going to do with it...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I think I've never been this nervous in my whole life about a trip. If you could see my second bedroom/office right now you would know the reason of part of this nervousness. If you could see my to-do list at work you would get another part of this reason. I've abandoned my perfectionism some years ago, but it seems like it never actually went away.

But I was not going to talk about my trip here... I'll discuss about... The new Nike Free technology! I'm not a friend of walking barefoot, but it really seems like all shoe companies right now are aiming towards making you feel like you are walking wearing only socks or something. It is strange, but not at all unexpected. The shoe evolution started with just pieces of cloth (a sock), then moved to a sturdy platform tied to your feet (sandals), then technology evolved on the sturdy platform side, increasing and decreasing its flexibility and the tying part, also increasing an decreasing flexibility and how much it protected the top part of your feet and calves. Shoes in this whole evolution were synonymous to "protection."

Then we entered an era of "shoes are supposed to offer you more than just protection" and then we got to the Nike Air type things, where shoes offered support, and spring efect to decrease impact on the floor and use this impact energy that is mostly wasted on our bone structure to give you force back to move faster ahead. Thousands of variations were proposed, looking more or less like springs on your foot.

But the world wasn't happy. The era of flip-flops was not disappearing, it was gaining strength. With the improvement in materials, it started to be possible to get back to the sock principle and just add a little bit more grip to it. And that's where we are right now. A sock that is more padded. Allows you to walk on glass, but still feel like you are actually touching the ground.

I'm an engineer, so I can say that I miss the "Nike Air" wave. It just makes more sense in an energy use standpoint. Not that it's gone, but it just became harder to find those shoes as they are currently deemed unfashionable.

Anyway, good that I was able to just talk about useless things for a while. I need to free my mind from other things.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Getting ready

The title says it all, so I don't have to say anything in the body of the post. That's why I'll change topics completely and write about frivolous things like:

Tim Berners-Lee interview for BBC: Sir Berners-Lee is a celebrity in the world, because I guess he created the World Wide Web. In this interesting article he mentions how blogging and wikis have transformed the web into something closer to what he thought it was supposed to be. Interesting that he doesn't talk at any point about the "Semantic Web," another of his inventions, one that is still to see the actual light of the day. I could right now go through a series of articles about why ontologies are gaining less and less interest in the actual knowledge representation community, but I'll spare you from that, except from maybe giving you the original spark to all this anti-ontology movement: Sirky's post.

I'll just go through a quick discussion why I think the whole movement is correct in some aspects, but falls short in many others.

First let's say that I like ontologies. I think they are useful if used carefully. They are able to present a consistent and clean universe of ideas and allow the manipulation of these ideas in a safe way. But what is the problem with them? Locality! Ontologies work well when they are global, or at least work globally. However, knowledge is local - a person is a specialist on a certain field and defines this field in relation to itself and not anything else.

I could go into a very elaborate example right now, but I'll skip that for the sake of not boring 99% of all my readers. Just try to think of something you are expert on. Let's say, music. Now try to compare classical music to popular music. Try to define common things and how they interrelate. Then after you are done, show this to a classical music expert and/or a popular music expert. Do you know what you are going to get? Well, most probably either people saying that your model is missing important parts, or that it is actually incorrect. For example (grr, I said I wasn't going to go through an example), some people would put "tonality" as a song concept. However, tonality in classical music is a much broader concept (because it changes a lot throughout the piece) than on popular music. Actually, tonality is not a very useful concept in popular music, as most songs are on very similar tones, to make them easier to sing comfortably. Then even inside popular music this changes.

Of course you can get into the discussion of what is classical and popular music... This is when I change topic!

Onto... the Blue Angels... They were here in Seattle last weekend for the great Sea Fair. They close the bridges and let them fly around in circles around the city, passing very close to some buildings. They play around and make some people very excited.

I can say I understand the excitement. I was an airplane-junkie in the past. I had many books about airplanes and knew a whole lot about the difference between many models (at least what my inability to memorize things allowed me to remember). I wanted to be an airplane pilot and even got into Aeronautics Engineering in Brazil. However, very soon I started realizing that that's not really that exciting. With the very powerful jet engines we have right now and very good control algorithms that are added to the modern airplanes, flying an airplane is not that hard any more. Making very complicated shapes in the air with your airplane is not at all that hard, considering that the control algorithms on board of the plane do most of the work for you. The only thing you have to deal with is the Gs of force that you have to go through on each maneuver. In other words, aircraft shows became boring to me. As boring as fireworks (ok, maybe a little less boring than fireworks). So I just decided not to watch it... However, I had to watch some of it on my way to the gym on Sunday.

Finally, I'm having a lot of fun with the toys that I have bought lately. They are all mine, you know, until somebody decides to buy them back from me. At least I ran away from spending $500 more on a camera for a friend today. Not that I really didn't want to buy it, it is just that I don't have that much time to go after it and make sure that I'll have space in my suitcase. So... Maybe next time!

Alright, time to have dinner and get back to packing here. I have to make sure I won't forget anything important.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The twilight zone is here

There are times in my life where things around me start to shift towards the odd. This usually happens when the stress levels are higher than normal, and my sleeping patterns get all confused. At times like this, only a poem can help:

Deep in the dark

The sun does not come in
Although it illuminates all
The stars don't shine
But they see it all
The hole in the ground reigns
The darkness overwhelms

Doubts and misunderstandings
Thoughts and words
The stars and the sun are there
They rise and fall and hide
As the hole in the ground reigns
The sorrow embraces

All around the world seems lost
Lost in the confusion of light
Impressed by the goal
The goal to move ahead
Down the hole that reigns in the ground
The silence leaves

And then
There is love
Feelings that takes us
Leaving us, embracing us, overwhelming us
The hole does not exist any more
The world stopped

Friday, July 29, 2005

Double or tripple argh

Today I'm starting to realize how many things I still have to do, even when I finish my big project tomorrow. One of them is a paper that I have to rewrite and has been looking at me for just too long. The problem is that I arrive home very late and I just don't have the patience to write papers. It is an important paper that I have to finish writing, but it's just that it's not that easy any more.

More things that I'm argh'ing about: I still haven't had time to go to the gym this week, since Monday! Just working until so late that I just feel that going to the gym right now will be more harmful than healthy. So I stay home, have a better dinner (or no dinner, like today) and go to bed... Or sometimes come to my computer and continue working...

Anyway, new argh? Well, I still have a ton of things to buy before I go to Brazil. Not too many requests from my family and friends, just things that I think I should take. So that means more time spent on doing other things except finishing this ridiculous paper! Grrrr!

Alright, no more ranting. Time to go to sleep!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Scared by Amazon

Sometimes Amazon.com scares me! Nothing related to things that happen at work (although these can scare some people too), but related to their ability to read minds. I'll give you today's example...

About a week ago, I remembered a book that I kind of liked called "Doomsday Book", by Connie Willis. I though what this author would be up to, but never had the time and the memory to actually open Amazon, or any other bookstore webpage, to check it out.

Anyway, today there I was checking around part of the thousands of requests that I have received from my family to buy at Amazon when I suddenly decided to click on my Gold Box. It started kind of typical (as of right now): lots of books that are out of stock. What amazed me was that there were 3 (out of 10) of these suggested books by Connie Willis!!! I looked at that I was shocked! All kind of old books, though, but nevertheless "Holy mind reading, Batman!"

Alright, I know it's almost 2 am and I should go to sleep. I'm on my way. I just feel like I'm forgetting something important to do... First I thought it was a credit card that I had to pay, but then I discovered I had already paid it. I should go to sleep...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More technology

Why do I think this is wrong?

The Jewish Watch

It seems like a good and useful piece of technology, actually. Here are the features:

The Jewish Watch Alerts you with messages during the following times:

* The time for reciting the Shema
* Sunset
* Candle lighting time on Erev Shabbat (It also rings 15 minutes in advance as a reminder)
* The beginning of each Hebrew Calendar month.
* The Shabbat of blessing the new month.
* A reminder to add the additions to prayer on Hanukah and Purim
* A reminder to add the additions to prayer on Chol Hamoed
* The count for the Omer.
* The Torah Portion of the week (with a choice of setting for Israel or the Diaspora)

Seems reasonable for some people, right? Well, I think I'm just too conservative in this area and think technology just shouldn't invade some things. Imagine that in the past it was forbidden to write down anything: services, rules... Then they decided that people didn't have enough memory to remember it all and we were losing traditions, so they set out to write it all (this was about 1800 years ago). Natural evolution... Natural evolution...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thechnology amazement

I'm having fun today being home alone, cleaning, cooking and reading about some new technologies. As there isn't anything to blog about cleaning and cooking (although the tomato sauce I've made tasted just great), I'll give some highlights about my technology update:

Induction stoves: Neat technology that uses electric current induction through applied magnetic fields to heat the food, by heating the pan where the food is. There are two major problems about it: (1) like an electric stove top, it does not give you fire that you can use to flambée, for example; (2) it does not work with all pans, only the ones that can be magnetized (no cheap aluminum, I'm sorry). There are two main benefits, though: (1) there is no heating element, thus it does not leave a hot surface for too long (of course the surface in contact with the pan will heat, but not for long); (2) it only heats magnetic materials, so you can't get burnt after accidentally leaving it on (only if you leave a pan on top of it).

I only wonder how to deal with interference? Magnetic waves can interfere with everything and heat pans that are not on top of the stove! Oh, there is one extra problem with it: price! It is about 3 times the price of an electric stove! Sometimes even more! But it's a cool technology nevertheless!

Apple's Shake 4: You can look at Apple's website about it [source]. It is a software to do image composition, i.e., get a background image and add multiple other sources that were filmed against a blue or green background. What impressed me about it is the amount of features that you get. Complex slow motion, automatic 3D composition that calculates the perspective for you and allows you to move a "virtual camera" around, fixing shaking footage... Lots of very complex image processing steps, interestingly enough involving pretty much two procedures: tracking and interpolating. It is difficult to tell from their examples how well they actually do all this, but it does seem impressive. Hail to the technology!

The last one is not that great, but I just thought I had the "2" theme too much already, so I needed a third:

The new My Web from Yahoo: [source] (note: you will have to log on to a Yahoo! account for it to work) It is interesting to organize websites. It biases results on the websites that you go through and lets you add tags to these websites. It's Yahoo! continiously trying to get into Google's controlled territory. It's not that I don't like Google, but competition is always good. Monopolies are boring.

Amazon's 10th anniversary party

I know there isn't much I can talk about this interesting event I went to yesterday, because it was free for everybody to see through the web, but I can go through some of the things that I've learned:

- Amazon has lots of employees! Only employees were allowed to go to the event (and some invited VIP, but no families or friends) and the line to get in before the event started went almost completely around the block! There were about 2500 people in the concert hall.

- Benaroya is not made for big and loud concerts! First it was strange to see the hall with big speakers and microphones, but when it got to using them, concert halls have a lot of reverberation and when you put loud music with a lot of reverberation what you get is garbled music. If it was difficult to understand Bob Dylan (more on this later) on a clean CD, it was impossible to understand anything he was saying there.

- Bob Dylan is not supposed to sing any more! I should have been more prepared for it when one of my co-workers (or I should say former co-workers, because he left the company on Friday) said that he was not planning on going to the concert because he saw Bob Dylan in 1977 and didn't like him too much back then... 1977! Almost 30 years ago! But I have to say that his troupe was pretty good.

It was interesting, overall, as I mentioned before. Now back to the reality of cleaning my apartment (something that is a week overdue, because I was working the whole weekend last week).

Oh, and I watched "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" on Friday. There were some funny parts, I have to admit, but overall it is as bad as the original movie. The plot was too childish, while the content was sometimes a little deep for a child. I've heard lots of people saying that they enjoyed the movie, but I have to say that I don't enter this list of people.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Why again?

Please tell me why are we back to this:

Americans: U.S. Transit Attack Inevitable

New York police to warn public on suicide bombers

Don't we have enough terrorism in the world?

And on another laughable story (very sad, but it's better to laugh than to cry): the shuttle launch is delayed AGAIN. NASA, the great space agency of the world, just can't find good electronics any more! Oh, well... They have until the end of this month to figure something out! If hurricanes don't get in the way, I'm hopeful that they will make it.

But why go to space, people usually ask? Don't we have enough problems in our own world to deal with? We surely do! But this doesn't mean that we shouldn't develop this kind of technology. There are a lot of things that come with this development. In the computer and electronics world, we gain, for instance, much more robust components, because the electromagnetic radiation out in the space is very harsh.

A lot of numeric methods were developed to deal with the complicated gravitation and orbit calculations that are required to operate space systems. And without the space movement, we wouldn't have a very well developed satellite technology, and I can't imagine what would be worldwide communication without satellites.

Anyway, I should really be having dinner and heading to bed. I just got home from the gym (and then I stopped by the grocery store to buy breakfast for tomorrow). I need a shower too!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Still at work

Yes, I keep on doing it! And today I'm still going to go to the gym, something I haven't done since Saturday, since the day I think I overdid a little and got hurt. But today I'm feeling almost 100%, so I'll try to exercise a little, knowing that I should take it easy not to get hurt again. It was not fun to almost not be able to get out of bed on Tuesday. Interesting though that I felt alright on Sunday, but then Monday came and things started to get worse. Tuesday was the worst day! Then on Wednesday I was already almost 80%.

Not much else to report, though. I'm a little confused on when I will schedule my big Ph.D. party in Brazil. I have people with completely contradictory schedules that I just don't know how to accomodate. But I'll figure something out! Maybe I'll do it one day before I come back here, so that I won't sleep and will be able to sleep on the plane coming back.

Alright, back to work here, hoping that I'll be able to catch the bus soon.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Interesting article about blogging

Yes, I'm still at work here tonight. I said (to myself) that I wasn't going to do this any more, but I'm so close to the end of it... Anyway, that's not what I'm here about. I "semi-" read this article about blogging:

Bloggers Need Not Apply

It is about the actual dangers of blogging when you are looking for a job. Usually blogs show the extreme of people, it is sometimes used as an escape valve on your normal day. And this is not what a potential employer wants to know! How do you explode, what do you like to do with your "extreme" free time. One might say that this actually shows what the person is about, but I would claim that everybody has their weaknesses, and this only puts a huge magnifying glass on these weaknesses. Not very healthy at all!

Anyway, let me get back to work here, or else I will miss the last bus of the evening (I know, I still have about 2 1/2 hours for that...)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Ah... Working on Saturdays...

That's what I was doing until about 20 minutes ago. I just got home from my office! Yes, I know it's past 2 am, but that's what I have to do. There is always more work than you expect, always things you took for granted that they worked that suddenly stop working. Lots of fun, but we are moving forward. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm not sure it's only a day away. But let's see!

What else can I tell? Well, I am alive and ready to receive my furniture tomorrow. One more piece, leaving only one left to go. Now the only thing that is left is one more bookshelf. I'm not sure where to put it yet, but I really need more space for books. I won't worry about this right now, but soon I'll have to.

Alright, let me try to turn my brain off and sleep a little.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Join the military - replacements needed

That's what I read this morning in front of my bus stop. When I looked more closely, I realized it was all over town! A flyer with the above mentioned phrase, a war-like picture and the number of dead people in each side of the war. It had also a website for you to check:


Ah... Living on a political world! So political that on 4th of July, when the US National Anthem started playing, maybe only 1/5 of the people actually stood up for it. Very scary! And think that I was in Woodinville that is not a very liberal area of Seattle Metro.

Anyway, today I found out that more Brazilians are dominating my area of town. I met a Brazilian couple at the gym tonight! Haven't talked to them too much, thought. I was a little tired and they were too! Maybe some other time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Finally a scheduled trip to Brazil

Oh... Brazil... Friends, parties, relaxing without having to think about cleaning my apartment or going to work. That's what is coming up soon! Today I finally set the dates: I'll be arriving on a Friday, August 12, having my sister's engagement party on the 13th, family father's day on the 14th, visa interview on the 15th and then starts the plans for my big Ph.D. bash! If you live in Brazil, be ready to be invited for this big event! It should happen probably on the 20th (if I get a 100% confirmation with my sister that she is not postponing her party to the 20th) and if my friends still remember me, it should have as many people as I can invite. It is going to be hard to come back (something that will happen on the 27th), but that's life. We keep on living and when you least notice things turned around again.

Now I just have to start planning on the gifts I'm taking to Brazil and bag size...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Good literature...

I have realized that it's been some time that I don't read good literature and this is pretty sad. I've been reading very interesting stories, exciting ideas, but no deep writing... This changed when I decided to go back to a book I have been trying to finish for a long time: "The best 100 Brazilian Short Stories of the Century" (in Portuguese, of course). It is refreshing to read psychological master pieces written by amazing writers, such as Lygia Fagundes Telles.

It is actually interesting to see that Brazilian literature is fundamentally very different from American literature when it comes to complex short stories. I have researched in this area of the American literature and their goal is completely different. While Brazilian good literature is dense and contains very complex structure of ideas, the American literature is much more towards evoking thought through much more direct discourse.

Now that I've finally finished reading this very heavy tome of amazing stories, I have decided that I should go and continue my research into the realm of short stories and see if I can find any parallels in other cultures.

Well, besides that, I'm back from San Francisco, worked yesterday until 10 pm, had my personal training session today where I almost fainted (don't ask me why - I think I'm a little bit less in shape than I thought) and now I'm trying to clean my apartment a little to prepare for work. There are a lot of things I have to do and a lot of work that has to get done.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


I've been having fun in JavaOne. I have gone around, talked to a lot of interesting people, listened to some good talks (although most were, in the end, quite useless), and got to remember a little of San Francisco (well, last time I was here was about 14 years ago!). The only bad thing so far is that I just couldn't find any good candidates (that was one of my primary objectives here). It's not that there are no good people around, but every potentially good person I talked to, either lives and works in another country or likes their jobs and didn't really find interesting what I had to offer (they were impressed, but not really their area of interest).

Anyway, I still have an evening and two days ahead of me to keep meeting people. I think I already gave out about 20 business cards (but no flashlights - didn't quite fit any of the conversations). As strange as it might seem, they gave us a whole 2h30min of break between the last afternoon session and the evening session. Bad thing is that I'm not hungry at all! Oh, and the evening sessions go all the way to 11:30 pm.

The conference model is very interesting. They have a keynote speaker in the morning and then 1 hours sessions throughout the day (about 6-10 happening at the same time). In the evening they have what they call the Birds-of-Feather sessions that are more informal and focus on specific experiences. Yesterday I went to two of them and they weren't that great.

My general experience so far is that POJO is the keyword (Plain Old Java Objects). And XML sadly is becoming the middleware of choice for everything. Web services is what everybody is betting on. 1 second delay parsing and processing XML is just considered "negligible time" (I heard people saying this today but on the context of Spring object initialization). It is scary where the thecnology is getting, but exciting at the same time.

Ok, done with my technical rant. Time to decide what else I can do without having internet access on my work laptop and not being hungry at all.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

To San Francisco I go...

In 5 minutes I should be starting the process of leaving my apartment on my way for a 6-day trip to San Francisco! Staying away for some days feels great, but it is also a little scary (I can't ignore the fact that I have a lot of work to do and I won't be able to do this work while I'm there).

Not much time to write much else... And it's not that I have much to write, anyway. I just heard yesterday another proof that Israel, especially Jerusalem, has this powerful, almost magical influence on people. I'll be monitoring how much time its effect lasts.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I wished I had a better one

One more weekend is gone and I wished it was a more productive one. I did some work, but I don't feel like I've accomplished anything. I have received some of my furniture (and that's an interesting story that I'll tell later), and did visit some fitness centers. I have talked with my "health advisor" last week and he said that I should force myself to do some exercise by joining a club. Initially, all the clubs that I've looked around here were very "nice" and expensive. They offered towels, shampoo, soap... The one I visited today required you to bring your own towels and everything else, but it was about 1/3 of the price. I think I can buy many towels with the price difference!

Anyway, now for the more interesting story: the furniture. Well, I bought some furniture some weeks ago and they were going to deliver it today. So far so good, right? Well, so they tried to call me since wednesday to confirm the delivery and I was only able to have some time and call them back on Friday. When I got to the automated service they mentioned that I had two deliveries outstanding: one for the June 19th and the other for July 27th!!! I tried to talk with the service representative on Friday, but they left me waiting for 10 minutes and I gave up.

So, yesterday I called the salesperson that sold me all the furniture to understand what was going on. She was shocked and asked me to call her again on Friday, because she was taking the early week off and would only be able to get an answer from her manager on Thursday. Very sad. But there is one good thing: Now with my new headboard and rails, I don't have to use those hideous bedskirts any more. I don't know who invented those, but they are just terrible. Makes making the bed much harder and changing the sheets even harder (because if you want to change the bedskirt to match the new sheets, you have to remove the whole mattress and then put it back up). Sometimes there are reasons to be happy.

Another sad point of the day: I had a concert to go today. I left about 10 minutes later than I planned... But the problem is that I got even more trafic than I thought and I arrived by the concert hall already 15 minutes late. I still had to park and walk in... So, as it was a free concert I decided that I should just go back home and get back to work on my 3-computer-ed office - I feel like a geek!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Happiness brings pain...

The worst type of sadness is the one caused by a happy moment. One that you see everybody around you jumping up in excitement while all you want to do is to go a dark corner and stay there alone for some time. The interesting thing is that this happened to me quite often lately. I could go through all the cases, but I'll only mention the latest: yesterday my elder syster got engaged!

Isn't this great? A sister that many times said that she would never get married seems to have found her love and now, after about 2 years together, is engaged! What makes all this sad? That should be very evident: I never met the guy. I talked to him on the phone once for 10 seconds when I wanted to talk with my sister (he kept trying to be nice to me and I bluntly interrupted him asking to talk with my syster). It is scarry that I'm becoming this other person, distant from what is happening with my family. Yesterday I wished I could drop everything I have here and move back to Brazil...

I wished I had a lighter note to end this... Maybe "MY SISTER IS ENGAGED!"

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Sometimes Seattle is able to impress me still. Today I went for my first movie in the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). It was a movie called "Man About Dog", an Irish comedy about three friends that decide that they want to win money on Grayhound racing. It was interesting, sometimes funny, but what impressed me is that the director was there at the movie theater for a Q&A afterwards.

If you are a member of the SIFF, they have movie previews all year round when they invite the directors of these movies to later talk about the movie. It involves a lot of money! And very interested audience...

I wouldn't say I'm too sad that I have only gone to this single movie in the almost 4 weeks of the festival (the largest of its kind in the US), though. It's not that I'm that into the whole international movie scene (or any movie scene - I haven't even watched Episode III yet), but I'm just interested in the culture that this brings, the awareness that a country is not alone in anything that they do.

Oh, just as an aside, before the movie they showed a short film called "The Carpenter & his Clumsy Wife"... A movie that was a little gross, lots of dark comedy, blood... Ultimately disturbing, I was glad it was just a 10-minute short movie!

Friday, June 10, 2005


Sometimes I just don't understand what is going on around me. Yes, I do tend to disappear and not send email, but this doesn't mean I don't care about my friends. I might complain about things that is a little difficult for other people to understand, I might be living in a different reality, but this doesn't make me less of a person, less of a friend.

There is no easy way to explain who I am and what is important to me (they are mostly interrelated). I have this strange tendency of never knowing what to say to people. I like to listen, I like to read, I like to know how people are doing; but I can't say I am a big fan of actually being there for everybody. I'm changing that, though. I think I have to give up on being myself a little and try to be a nicer person for a change.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Surreal morning

I'm always a little worried when I have those mornings where things are just a little off of the normal that they seem wrong. Today I timed myself perfectly to get to the bus stop at the same time as the bus, but it was about 4 minutes early! Because right now they cut the number of buses that stop at my bus stop by half, I would have to wait for about 25 minutes for the next bus, so I decided to walk to another bus stop (about 10 minutes away) where I had more options.

Getting there I looked at the times of the buses: 8:01, 8:10, 8:20... I looked at my watch: 8:08 so I felt alright, I just had to wait for 2 minutes. That's what I thought! The bus arrived at 8:15! And it was half full and at that stop it is usually only about 1/4 full. I got a bad seat and waited.

Next stop I recognize somebody entering the bus as one of the usual riders. The interesting thing is that he was getting the bus about 3 stops after what he usually gets. Next stop the same thing happened with another person.

Then it arrived at my stop and usually only a few people leave but this time there were masses of people leaving the bus at that stop.

As I said, it's not that something huge happened this morning, but when you are used to certain things and they are a little off, it just seems very strange! Little sleep does help to make things even stranger too... Anyway, long day ahead!

A proud workaholic I am

I know this is not news for most people, but yesterday I again felt that I'm proud of being a workaholic. I was at work at 8:15 in the morning and I left work at 10:40 in the evening. When I arrived, nobody of my group was there. When I left, I was also alone... But I felt like I was doing something important. I was actually trying to decrease the amount of work other people have to do and this makes me proud of myself.

Very interesting this fact... I spent some minutes thinking about it while in the bus going home last evening: I like to work in order to make other people work less. I should receive a prize for it! :-)

Anyway, not much else to say, unfortunately. I could go in length about Apple switching to Intel chips or that more Laptops were sold than Desktops (I helped that I guess) or even the continuing skyrocket rise of Google, but I guess I'll just retire and try to start my day around here.

I hope everybody is feeling great there and excited about their lives.

Monday, June 06, 2005


I know I have been silent for some time now. It's just that it's better to be silent than to say something useless sometimes.

A few things to report today, though. First and foremost, on Sunday I started the day having a tough issue with my computer. I have Linux installed and Windows 98 as my chatting machine. However, I wanted to make some updates, but Windows 98 is not really supported by Microsoft any more. So, after a long discussion and many blue screens on my Windows 98, I decided to sell my soul and install Windows XP instead.

So far so good, right? Not really! I've installed it but forgot to turn on my firewall before starting the installation. Result: my computer was compromised even before I actually started it. Lots of fun! I turned on the firewall and installed everything again. This time it worked! I installed all the service packs and it seemed to work fine... Right?

Not really... Suddenly I get a message saying that I'm running out of disk space! Mind you that I only installed Windows XP, the service packs, and browse the internet for a little while. The partition that I had for windows was pretty small, 4GB, but it was 4GB anyway! It should fit more than just windows and its service packs!!! That's just ridiculous!

So, after all these fights (and of course losing my dual boot in the process, so I couldn't even log on to my Linux) I decided to do the unthinkable: I bought a PowerBook G4! Crazy, huh? Well, I'm having fun! It's just very cool and neat looking. I'm on my couch right now typing this with it on my lap.

But I spent even more money on Sunday. I bought the furniture that was left: a coffee table, two end tables and a bedroom set.

Now that I'm poor, I think I should eat something. It was a tough day at work.. And I'm going to have some tough weeks ahead!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My trip

Checkout my trip below:

Total: about 1100 miles (1770 km)

Pictures coming soon! I didn't take that many good pictures because the weather wasn't that great and also we drove too much to really stop and take pictures. But it was great anyway. There are some very great things to see in Oregon if you like nature. Very interesting beaches, wonderful mountains with an assortment of lakes and waterfalls.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Ready for a roadtrip

I'm getting ready for my second actual roadtrip since I have arrived in the US. The first one took me to St. Louis and it was fun. Now I'm heading to Oregon, starting by the coast, passing by where they filmed "The Goonies" and then moving inland to the wineries and the mountains. The only problem is that it is a pretty big holiday right now and lots of things are going on. This means: probably it won't be that easy to find a hotel for a reasonable price. But it also means that there will be a lot of things to do! I should be passing by Eugene, where the Oregon Bach Festival is taking place, maybe Crater Lake...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The reason for the rain

Today I found out why the weather is so rainy here in Seattle (although I don't think it's that bad - Sao Paulo isn't much better in this sense): when the sky is blue it is just breathtaking - if it was this way all year long nobody would work! Today out of my office window I could see the Olympic Mountains with their snowy peaks behind a wonderful blue sky and the Puget Sound. When driving back home (yes, I had my car today, because I took it this morning for an oil change), just facing me was Mt. Rainier, a big cone of ice in the middle of nothing else. I was happy there were no trafic accidents because of people admiring the view.

Besides all this, not much is going on. I'm getting ready for a long weekend, when I'll do a road trip to Oregon, probably starting at the coast, passing through the wineries, then the mountains and coming back... Pretty cool!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Overhelping the internet

The internet as being a cheap medium to present your ideas, became also a cheap place to get people's ideas. Everywhere you go you are asked many questions about if you like the content, what would you make to change it, are you an expert to fix it? It is interesting, but after some time I started to think it is a little too confusing. Reading the news is not only like reading the news, but you are encouraged to rate the article you've read. On the Amazon side, buying something is not only like just buying it, but you feel like you should rate it to help other people decide.

It all comes back to cost. Some people think it's a win-win situation, just like reality TV, where you get some random people and put them through something odd. You don't have to pay actors, you don't have to write scripts, you don't have to do anything; and even with all this cheapness, people still like to watch the programs.

However, I'm personally tired of it. I was tired of reality TV since its inception, but now I'm tired of internet feedback. I am tired of people delegating to others the pain of doing things and then making the money out of it. I think there is a limit to how you should waste people's time online, and I think that we have passed this limit.

Thus, I'm starting a campaign right now of: do not waste your time posting feedbacks on commercial websites. If they want quality, let them pay for it!

PS: A blog is not a commercial website. You can still post comments here and I won't make money out of them.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


No, it's raining here... The title does not reflect the weather in Seattle right now, but it is a lead-in to an interesting article I glanced through today: Scientists Say Sunshine May Prevent Cancer. Basically what they found out is that Vitamin D, the one that is supposed to make your bones stronger, also may help on preventing and fighting cancer. But what is the interesting part in all this? Is that if you use sunscreen you block most of the production of Vitamin D. Their theory then is that it might be better to have skin cancer that kills way less people than the other cancers that Vitamin D can help cure, like colon cancer.

Who knows what might actually happen with all this, but it will be an interesting study. I feel for the sunscreen companies that right now are preparing to publish long studies on how dangerous skin cancer is...

Oh, no! I saw lightning!

Only going and living in many places in the world that you will start to understand things that seem very normal to you might be not that normal. This week I learned one more thing: thunderstorms! There was one here on Thursday. A tiny one, actually, but there was lightning. And I saw people deeply concerned and genuinely scared of it! It was very strange!

I lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil, most of my life, as most of you know. And we have thunderstorms all the time there. Then I moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA for almost 4 years and thunderstorms are pretty common there too (some really big ones too!). Then I moved here to Seattle and, although they say it rains a lot (yes, it does rain around here, but it's far from what I would consider "a lot"), it seems like it's very rare to have a thunderstorm. And when they get one it seems like the world is going to end.

And this same effect is seen on my Californian friends, so it seem like California is another place that doesn't see thunderstorms that often.

This reminded me of a number that I heard a while ago: Brazil is the country with the most lightning activity in the world, and the place where most people die because of lightning. When living in Oklahoma I saw evidence that these numbers might be wrong, but now I see that this is something that only happens in the midwest and the numbers start to make sense again.

Anyway, besides fighting with lightning, I haven't done much... Just worked a lot. This week I was so tired that on Friday I got home and at 8 pm I was sleeping on my bed! Hopefully next week it will be better!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Yes, I know I'm a bad blogger

Here I am again to talk about nothing at all. Lately I just have been working and solving many fire drills around here. Besides that life pretty much does not exist. The only thing I think I have to talk about is how I hate Murphy's Law. Yesterday I decided that I was too tired and I should leave at around 9:10 pm. So I started wrapping things up and left a little later than I should have left, something like 2 minutes after the time that I would need to get the bus. But I wasn't too worried, because the bus is usually 5 minutes late anyway.

However, as Murphy would have predicted, the bus was 1 minute early yesterday and I missed it! I then went back to my office and this time I planned to get to the stop at least 5 minutes early. What happened? The bus was 10 minutes late and I waited 15 minutes in the bus stop for it.

But, hey, I got some exercise and some work done! :-)

Tonight I don't think I'll last much longer here. But I will go home and study for my training tomorrow.