Sunday, February 27, 2005

This blog is dead

Today I have been thinking and discussing with myself, in between work and cleaning, what I should do about this blog. I found out that I just don't have motivation to write here any more. I don't have anything to say and this makes me feel bad! Thus, in order to keep people still excited about what the Internet can offer, I'm retiring this source of waste of time. I'll probably go back to writing for my own, who knows even composing... I'll go back to writing emails to my friends (something I just haven't been doing...). Until something proves me wrong, I'm retiring from being a blogger. It was fun while it lasted. I did write some posts that I feel happy to look back to, especially in my old blog. But this blog has never gone anywhere, so maybe I shoudln't have even tried to move it somewhere.


A weekend of different paces

This weekend wasn't a bad one, it was just very different. Yesterday I spent the whole day with my girlfriend. We went out for breakfast, went shopping for furniture for my apartment (but didn't find anything interesting) then in the evening, we went for a concert with Collective Soul. The opening band was called Low Millions and was interesting. Big U2 influence, nothing really new, but not too bad. But when we got to Collective Soul... It's not that they are a bad band, it is just that the person that was setting the balance simply disappeared with the vocals. It was hard to follow songs that I didn't know and couldn't hear the vocals. We ended up even leaving the concert early! Good that we didn't pay for it (she has a friend that works in the place where the concert was and was able to let us in for free). Then we ate at a vegan restaurant. Very interesting food!

Anyway, today was a complete change of pace. I spent the day cleaning and working. I'm still waiting for my advisor's comments to arrive, so I couldn't work on my dissertation. But I had lots of things to do for my "bills-paying" work and a ton of cleaning and laundry to do.

Alright, time to go!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

News from my advisor

I finally got a call from my advisor (actually 2, I missed his call yesterday and only realized it today when he called me again). It seems like my dissertation is going the right way. He has a couple of things for me to correct and add, but is hopeful that I can schedule my defense for next month. That means that thare shouldn't be that many things to do! It is exciting! This weekend should still be ok, because I probably won't received his comments until early next week, but I'll have busy evenings next week.

Besides that, I can only say that I'm back to the "busy" stage. I've started dating again! Part of me was saying to let me wait until my defense, but it just happened. I shouldn't say much more about it right now, because it's just the beginning of everything, but we have been enjoying ourselves for now. She's been keeping me away from work as much as she can (she works too, and in the evenings sometimes) and we have been even cooking together, and watching some Food Network (that was yesterday - I think the first time we actually stayed in front of a TV with it on). Sure she made me watch "Wimbledon", but sometimes it is hard to run away from these things. It is actually difficult for me to rate chick flicks, because they all seem the same to me. Here is the basic plot:

They see each other, fall in love, there is something that happens that makes them have to stay away, usually related to family, they can't stand being away from each other and they break the rules, get together and everything works well!

How to rate it? Predictable? SURE. Bad? Well... Everything I say can be used against me, so I'll just stop here. Let's just say that I watched the whole movie, and she fell asleep in the middle of it.

Ok, back to work here. My day hasn't been too productive. After the call from my advisor, I just couldn't concentrate any more. But I'll get back to it. After my 11 am meeting.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Strange news about next shuttle flight

Can somebody actually explain this to me: NASA bumps return to flight. The strange thing is that this article claims that they changed the date because they had worries about "lighting conditions". Do they have some type of Egyptian Sun God device to which the light has to align perfectly or else they can't have a launch? It's only 3 days of difference, it's not that the sun will be on a very different position!

Oh, well... NASA people like to do strange calculations for everything! We just hope one team didn't use the English measurements while the other used metric.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

After another very interesting Friday evening

Yesterday evening was another very interesting one. I was invited to have dinner at a Rabbi's place. Arriving there I found out that he organizes these dinners almost every Friday (when he is around) and invites as many people as he can fit in his house. The conclusion is that I met many different and interesting people. I've even met a medical doctor that has been to Brazil multiple times. He was even invited to work there at the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein. He started mentioning all the family he has there and some names even rang the bell as people that I might have met. Small world!

Not only that, I met a Brazilian guy that works at Microsoft right now. He was a little tired (he is one of those people that work 12+ hours a day - and imagine that, he is from Rio de Janeiro!), but we still had a very good conversation.

All of the people there were older than I was (well, except the Rabbi's kids). It is interesting to see how many things in common I can find when I go to these events. Especially when there is a Brazilian Jew around! I guess now I have new possibilities for Friday events, and a whole new group of people to get to know.

The last thing I wanted to talk about is that sometimes human nature is sad. Creating excuses in order to hide evident facts just doesn't get you anywhere. But it is not a person's fault, it is the way we operate. If it is because of culture or if it is genetic we will never know. I'm betting on a little of both, because of the wide-spread nature of this problem. It is that our brain needs negative reinforcement to learn or un-learn. Synapses have to be made stronger and weaker. And that's what our memory is all about. We can be made to believe whatever we want, as long as we know how to lie to ourselves.

Friday, February 18, 2005

A busy week behind me

This week was interestingly busy. It started with me not feeling too good (I got a very quick cold that just made me feel not too great for a day or so) evolving into big changes at my area at Amazon (re-org) and culminating on me being invited for dinner tonight at a Rabbi's place. Of course he won't be very happy to know that I'll drive there and drive back home, but I think he will live.

Just a little bit more on the re-org, basically my direct manager changed (my current manager became my manager's manager - I guess I can say I was demoted) and lots of things moved around. My project didn't change at all, and I think it was a good change (with some small disagreements, though). Like all changes, for some time people get a little confused with what they have to do now, but it'll settle soon.

I don't know what else to talk about. My life is changing in some subtle (and some not-too-subtle) ways, but I'm still trying to understand the change before I can really discuss it. I think it is a good change!

As for a link, maybe people should have a quick look into The concept is interestin: combining product and local reviews with social networks for you to get to know people that buy like you and get some idea of who is behind reviews. However, the good things, in my opinion, end there. The main problem with it is who joins the network. Social networks are dead... Most of the people that join these things are young, teenagers. What can they review in depth? Sure there have to be some interesting reviews, but most of them are around "Oh, man, this is soooo coool!"

The user interface is a little too busy, but there are good things about it. Oh, well, take a look and get your own impressions of it.

Ah, I should also send another link: Israeli-Palestinian Cease-Fire. I surely have to put a disclaimer here that this is a link to The Onion, if you know what I mean...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's day yearly rant

Valentine's day is a very strange day in the American calendar. I'm getting to the conclusion that Americans are just too jealous of each other, so there can't be any holidays that people give gifts to one person only. They have to extend the gift giving to everybody else, like co-workers, children, teachers. It is actually a big day at elementary schools (and even after that)!

The whole concept behind this date is wrong. The amount of pressure that it puts on a relationship (Will he get the right flowers? Good chocolate? Reservations on that expensive restaurant?) is just unreal and unhealthy. The psychological benefits from a common day of "love-giving" is also not that important. It can only go wrong!

I'm an advocate of the "every day is a good day to be romantic". I think romance has to be spontaneous and should have a set date for it. Restaurants and chocolate companies wouldn't know how to focus their work anymore, though. But that's a minor detail.

Alright, I'm falling asleep while writing this. I didn't realize it was already almost 2 a.m. Let me go to bed.

Just as an update, I actually went on a date technically yesterday. It was alright, but I'm not sure I'll get a second one. My boring inner self was not very impressive. But who knows?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Old patterns die hard

I'm starting to see some old patterns creeping in my life. I thought I learned, but it seems like I didn't. The problem is that, in a way, although most people around me have similar patterns, it seems like I'm the only one bothered by them. I think I care too much about these kinds of things, so maybe I should just stop caring.

Yesterday I went to the happy hour with my office mates. We had a good time talking, eating and drinking at a brewery just west of where we work called Pyramid. The beer tasted like beer, in other words, terrible! :-) One of the things that I was taught yesterday about Seattle is that I have to treat it as a small town. You will find people you know almost everywhere you go when you start to know more people. Actually I'm starting to notice that little by little. It's not Stillwater-small, where after a couple of weeks you can't really go anywhere public and expect not to be recognized, but I recognized at least 3 people last time I went to watch a concert!

Oh, talking about concerts, now I'm an official supporter of the Seattle Symphony. Not a huge supporter that my name will appear in all programs, but I will be invited for the founder's lounge, to a special concert, and a type of dinner sometime. It is exciting! I just hope I didn't choose a date that will conflict with my defense.

Well, time to go back to work here. It is time for major cleaning in my apartment! My allergies are starting to bother me, so I have to do what I can to control them. I'm not sure it's my apartment, but it's the only thing I can really control.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Here are two apparently unrelated articles that I found interesting during my morning sweep through the news:

Free Expression Can Be Costly When Bloggers Bad-Mouth Jobs. It talks about people being fired because they mentioned something that was against the company's image. It is sad how important this concept of image is for a company. Sure they try to prevent people from lying saying bad things about the company that could make investors run away for no reason. But, at the same time, isn't firing a person going to do more harm than not? It is as if you admit that this person was leaking information about the dark side of the company. At least they didn't kill her!

My point of view is that people have to be careful with what they post about work. Especially when it could be secret information of a product that will come out soon and knowing it early could warn the competitors; or the investors. But just discussing problems you have with some internal company policy should actually trigger discussion inside the company. Saying: "I read you don't like our way of doing things, so you are fired!" does not solve any problems. Oh, well...

Now for the next piece of news: Crime-Friendly Neighborhoods. This article talks about some modifications in some neighborhoods that remove the isolation that it had through the need of cars and ended up bringing criminals in. A friend of mine mentioned that this is one of the reasons why public transportation is terrible in many parts of California. People are afraid that if they put buses going to the rich areas, this would attract criminals to these rich areas.

It is the same idea of adding levels of security to your house or car, or even to a web site. They are not unbreakable, but they make the criminals decide that it is easier to go elsewhere. As human beings are naturally lazy, it works. But does this solve anything? It just creates a larger rift between the two groups that acts as a capacitor, letting charges accumulate. Think of a small capacitor exploding: just a small popping sound and the smell of something burning, not too bad. Now think of those huge mC capacitors, 40 cm of diameter or more... You don't want to be around when they do explode.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

No... Not working 12+ hours a day any more... yea, right

After I finished my dissertation I saw that easily I was going to lock myself in the office for longer periods of time, because I don't have a reason to go back home any more. So I made a promise to myself: I'm not going to stay in the office for more than 10 hours!

Well, I guess that today I broke my promise. I had to work on some stuff and when I finished I looked at the watch and saw: oh, it's 8:45 pm... I arrived in the office today at what? 7:45... 13 hours? And thinking that my bus just left, so I'll have to wait until 9:20 to get the next one. Grrr... Hateful Michel!

But at least I got some work done. And I did it faster than I though I was going to. I thought that what I had to do was going to take 4 hours and it took me 3. Neat! The only thing is that now I have to go back to the hard work.

By the way, I realize that I can't form good phrases any more. I think I'm a little tired (and hungry). Just 20 more minutes and I can leave to get the bus... 20 more minutes.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Still learning things from other sources

Today I was going through my usual sweep through online news when I find this: Amazon invests in blogging site. Strange move... I'll try to investigate more about it. But of course I won't be able to post or tell anybody outside work what it is about, but this post is just to let people think.

Besides that, it was a pretty hard day at work today. In the afternoon I was interrupted to talk about an idea that I just thought it was reasonably stupid. But the person that had this idea insisted so much in it, even took me out to eat (dessert) to discuss it! I don't know why, one of my weaknesses is that things that I find are stupid bother me. It makes my mind go crazy trying to understand why that person gave this idea, and what this person isn't seeing that I'm seeing that is making me think it is stupid. The result of it: I just couldn't do any work any more. So I came home. At 7:15 pm I was home, imagine that!!! And what am I doing? Reading the news and... working. At least it is quiet here.

A depressing morning

I think I shouldn't ever chat with my parents in the morning. Lately they have been sending me through endless guilt trips because I'm not home. For instance, this morning my mother said that my sister asked her to say hi to me, because she can't chat with me any more or else she starts crying. She can't listen to classical music or R.E.M. (my favorite band) without crying. It is just hard sometimes...

Sometimes news arrive the wrong way

I was reading the news before going to sleep (I have to wake up early in the morning, because I have a chat with my parents very early) when I suddenly saw this article: Amazon searches for big office digs. I don't work at the PacMed building, but it's a very nice building! Wonderful view of Seattle! Pretty slow and strange elevators... But it is fun to always arrive in Seattle and see it looking back at me.

Anyway, time to go to sleep here. Not much else to talk about. I finally cooked today, actually! I'm impressed! But, of course, my evening was gone with all the cooking and cleaning up afterwards. At the same time, it's not that I have a lot to do in the evenings now!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Google maps

I have to blog this, although I'm sure the web is being infested by this news in all blogs: check out the new Google Maps. Google again showing that they know how to use JavaScript! If I was MapQuest or Yahoo Maps, I would be worried, really worried!

And now the next thing is to wait for them to combine this information with satellite pictures (they bought a company that does this not too long ago).

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Starting to feel like I'll have a life in Seattle

After sending my dissertation out to my advisor, I went out to watch the end of the Super Bowl party and then went to a meeting with the Jewish young adults group. And I don't know... It felt strangely different. I wasn't talking to people thinking that I should be at home working on my dissertation and it was awesome! The only bad thing is that we were at a brewery that closed pretty early and nobody had the energy to do anything else. But, hey, maybe I'll have good days ahead! The only thing that worries me a little is that right now I'll have the tendency of staying until very late at work. I don't have a research waiting for me at home any more (at least until my advisor sends me correction requests). It's a scary thought, but I do need to get some work done!

It's out

Finally, after working for a good while on this, my dissertation is finally out to my advisor. Yes, it's not 100% complete. I need to work on the table of contents, table of figures, etc. (it's word, shouldn't take that long, right? Wrong! But I'll work on this). I also have to write the aknowledgements, and vita. But, besides this bureaucratic things, it's out! Now I don't know what to do! maybe I should go and join the Super Bowl party that is going on at my apartment complex's office.
This is an interesting article: Hide Your IPod, Here Comes Bill about how many people at Microsoft have IPods, although MS has their own options for MP3 players. The cool part of it is that they mention "Bellevue Square Apple Store" and Bellevue Square is the mall that is about 3 blocks from my place! And I'm not one of the people that buy the 400 IPods a day! Amazing!

Saturday, February 05, 2005


I'm almost there. I actually was there, but then I decided to remove a whole section to start all over again. It's not supposed to be a long section, but an important one. The only reason why I haven't finished everything yet and I'm ready to start partying is that I'm exhausted! My brain stopped functioning!

And it's not entirely because of my dissertation, but also (and specially) because I got a phone call from one of the managers from work and he started asking me lots of work-related questions, to try to understand what I was doing, what other people in my team were doing, and why. Almost 1 1/2 hours later I was done and he was happy enough with my answers (I hope). But my brain decided that working on my dissertation since 7 am plus a 1 1/2 hour work-related phone discussion (have I mentioned that I HATE phones?), and 30 minutes of clarinet playing (do you believe in that? It was actually interrupted by the phone call - I thought it was my upstairs neighbors pleading me to stop playing)... Oh, I also had an hour chat with my parents and my grandmother (that's why I started getting the "conspiracy" that I mentioned before - although my mother mentioned more than once that I will probably never go back home, and that made me really sad). How come I was able to almost finish my dissertation then?

Now I'm trying to figure out what I want to have for dinner. I still don't have food at home and don't quite feel like grocery shopping and cooking. The first thing that comes to my mind on a Saturday when this happens is "pizza!", but this went through my mind last Thursday already and I can't eat the same thing only after two days... Or can I?

And the conspiracy starts to unfold...

Today I found some new details about the conspiracy that my parents are planning... Although they claim there is no real conspiracy: my younger sister (and my mother too) are looking for a boyfriend for one of my sisters best friend. You do the rest of the math!

Changing subject, my dissertation is coming, but I'm a little worried now. I have implemented something and when I was writing it down I suddenly had a great idea of how to make it more efficient! Now I don't know if I should go back and try it, or just add it to the "future improvements"... Actually even part of me is saying to write it down as if I did it! This last part is confusing me a little! Why am I thinking of cheating on my dissertation? It's something I should be proud of in the future and not ashamed that I actually didn't implement everything I claimed I did (although I can't say that my last and most efficient version of the software works with all the nice procedures that I've built before, but that's a minor detail! All of them used to work!).

Oh, well, time to get back to it. I can even start to imagine finishing it today! I'm so close!
I found an article about GMail's increase in the number of people you can invite: Google's GMail Goes Global. Nothing groundbreaking in it, either. I'm still looking for analysis of what this might mean. Doing that on my 5 minute breaks of working on my dissertation. It is getting there. I'm in chapter 6 out of 8! (yes, well, most of the changes happened in chapters 6 and 7 anyway... but that's a minor detail!)

Gmail's explosion of invites

I don't know exactly when this happened, but today I was checking my gmail and suddenly I have 50 invites left! And I do have two gmail accounts, meaning that I can invite up to 100 people! That pretty much means that there is only one thing that gmail does not allow: people have to have an email address to get a gmail address! This is the way you send invites, you give the email address of your friend and then this person receives in invitation. What is the reason behind Google forcing people to have another email address? Do they want to always keep track of who their competitors are based on where people send invites to? Or who they are smashing? With so many invites available, why don't they just open the floodgates? Afraid that people will have hundreds of gmail accounts to use as their backup system? Oh, well... Just thought I had to drop this note before going back to work on my dissertation here. It's getting there, but isn't quite there yet.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Some people might be thinking: "You work at Amazon, so why don't you comment on the huge drop in the stock price that happened today?" I don't think there is much to comment about that, though. Amazon is going through dangerous ways. It is positioned in a market that requires lots of investment, and lots of risk. The point that bothers investors is that Amazon likes to take risks and invest all the money it gets on strange projects that may or may not give returns in the medium and long term. An example? The A9 Yellow Pages. Lots of money was invested in going around 10 cities in the US to take pictures of pretty much all streets and then make them available online. What is the profit from that? Brand placement as a source of innovation! You go to A9, find the business you are looking for, then it throws you to Amazon to see the pictures. Now you are at Amazon and you may decide to look around and buy something! This may happen and probably does. But is it enough to justify the investment? Who knows? The only thing that people know is that Wall Street is not happy, and nobody likes to see an unhappy Wall Street.

It is an interesting environment to be in a company that just received "bad news." People lose a little excitement, start to get a little worried about their future. But, for me, I wasn't shaken by the news. I knew it was coming, because I can add 2+2 and see how much investment is happening at Amazon. Even the project I'm involved right now is a risky investment. We haven't delivered anything so far! Lots of really bright people (yes, I know I'm an outlier there... But they always have to have an anchor to drag them back, right? This thought make me feel good in the morning, so I'll stick to it) working on a really hard problem, both technically and politically. It's fun to be there!

Recognition to the ones that might not deserve it

In the same frame of mind of the now famous Ig Nobel, I cam across another interesting contest: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. In this contest, they recognize the worst phrases in literature. I'll give an example: The winner for the 2004 prize on Children's Literature was:

Jack planted the magic beans and in one night a giant beanstalk grew all the way from the earth up to the clouds--which sounds like a lie, but it can be done with genetic engineering, and although a few people are against eating gene-engineered foods like those beans it's a high-paying career to think about for when you grow up.

Frances Grimble
San Francisco, CA


Neat, huh? Don't you just feel like looking for a child to whom you can read this story?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Follow-up from yesterday's post

So, after getting depressed with yesterday's article that I've posted here, I get this one: Britain Pushes U.S. on Warming. I'm waiting for action, but I'll probably just hear how great the elections were in Iraq. We are still doomed!