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?