Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy new year

That's all I'm going to post today. A whole new year is about to start (or has already started for some of us), so let's just forget everything and celebrate. It's well known that learning to leave some things behind and moving on has a lot of benefits and very few to no drawbacks, so... Enjoy 2007!

Saturday, December 30, 2006


So today I was going through my junk mail on Yahoo when I saw a very exciting ad. It featured a newspaper reproduction with the following headlines:

Homeless man beats the stock market
Michael Parness turns $33,000 into $7 million... going from a park bench to Multi-Million Dollar penthouse.

Now wait: if you are homeless how can you get $33K to turn into anything? What is a homeless person? Someone that can't buy their own house? That I can understand - you can't really buy a house in some parts of the country with less than 50K (well, you technically can, but maybe you shouldn't - but that's a whole other post).

Anyway, it was odd... Maybe it reflects well what this year was about: oddness.

Monday, December 25, 2006

So Christmas is over... What is the tally?

It was a major loss to everybody, I fear. Reality set in to some people and it wasn't nice. Of course I was one of these people. Let's explain:

1) Yesterday I was tired of staying home and decided to go driving around. Amy and I got into the car and drove down to Gig Harbor, a neat town in the South Puget Sound. We walked around a little, enjoyed the little shops and art galleries but... It was just raining all the time and we couldn't really enjoy the view (my camera got out of home, but I didn't take any pictures).

2) Today I was home in the afternoon and wrote a list of things I could do. The day was sunny and my camera was asking me to use it finally, but I didn't. I went downstairs, to the darkest place in the house and worked on my never-ending recipe reader project. As always, I've stopped working with a new list of things to buy in order to continue the work. As it was Christmas, the list was everything I was able to do.

3) Tonight there was a delayed Chanukah party to go. So I decided to open my Brazilian cookbook and see what I was going to do. I decided on empadas, wrote down the ingredients I needed from the grocery store and went there. I arrived at 3 pm and... they closed at 3 pm. I ended up going back home and making pasteis with what I had. Fried things is not my favorite thing.

But I did do some interesting ones:

- Poached pear and gorgonzola cheese
- Caramelized onions, pears and sheep cheese
- (and a two cheese one, just to make something simple)

Not too bad, but...

4) I've talked with a good friend of mine yesterday and found out that his wife is pregnant! He was very excited about it, and me too! I just feel sorry for the kid whenever it comes (August?). This friend is just a good spoiler. Where is the loss here? Oh... You should understand.

5) Yesterday I had a terrible headache. In the middle of all the medication I took I didn't realize that one of the ones I had was not non-drowsy. And I figured this out when I fell asleep watching Sherlock Holmes on the TV and when I tried to stand up after the movie was over I almost fell down. Good that I didn't take this one while I was driving!

6) And what about the world?

- Chaos in the air system in Brazil: there was a series of systems having problems - overbooking and then air control. Exciting times.
- I have to add too all the chaos in Denver. It's interesting that although it was only one single airport, I have heard of at least 3 people that I personally know that were directly affected by it. Odd... What is there about Colorado?
- I could be like Fox News and repeat that now more Americans died in Iraq than during 9/11. That's what a war is about anyway...
- Consumer spending this year in the US for holidays rose only about 6.6% comparing to last year's 8.7%, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal. Yes, I'm to blame for it. I didn't buy pretty much anything during the holiday season this year. I wanted to buy some things, but I just couldn't figure out what these things really were (apart from a Wii, but this I can continue to wait until it's easier to find around).

Enough bad news. Time to get ready to go to sleep. Tomorrow is a working day.

Friday, December 22, 2006


So if nobody shows up at least I have fun. It's what I've decided to do lately. It is certainly very common for me to just concentrate on the hundreds of things I have to do and think and just forget what is going around me. Actually, lately I've been observing that I haven't been even reading the news. But I finally realized it and decided to turn it around.

No, it's not that I'll start going to all parties I've been invited to, watching TV, subscribe to all newspapers, it's just that I'll at least try to look around more often. Try to read something and maybe post on my blog about it. Like J.K. Rowling announcing the name of the last of the Harry Potter books, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (yes, even Amazon already has the book and lots of discussions about what the title means)

I have to also mention that there are still people around here with no power! Yes, it's been officially a week since the great wind storm and there are thousands of people still without power. And now they are even trying to name the storm! Quite amazing!

And just to end the list of links, this is not that interesting, but it goes with my "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" calendar: How to write worse and improve your Spinnish.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Crazy Yahoo Mail

I went out for a couple of hours to watch "Constant Gardener" (great movie, by the way - and I know you've probably already seen it, it's been out for some time) and when I get back I have 11,110 (neat number) unread emails. Yahoo decided to resend all my emails since time immemorial (that's mid-2004, before that I deleted all the emails from my Yahoo web account). It's amazing now my process of deleting them all, especially because they are mostly copies of what I have and I can't really sort them by date or anything.

Anyway, things that happen to keep you busy.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


It is interesting how much you depend on electricity and internet. At least how much I depend on it. Then came the great storm of last Thursday, December 14. It was mostly just a lot of wind. What do I mean by a lot of wind? Well this table gives you a good idea. It was quite windy - not as much as some days in Oklahoma, but clearly much more dangerously so. It's different to have a lot of wind in a place with few trees and not too many people, and when it happens in the middle of a place that was just not ready for it.

The power at home went out in the middle of the night between Thursday and Friday. Fortunately I was prepared and recharged my cell phone on the day before and had set it to be my second alarm to wake up in the morning. Fortunately, after I got back home, power was already back.

But then came the second dependency: cable was out, and with it my internet! And it was like this until the afternoon today. But now everything seems to be back to normal here. In many parts of the city it still isn't, though. I still have many friends that don't have electricity. Medina, one of the most expensive towns in the greater Seattle (where Bill Gates lives), is all dark (except from some houses with generators).

One of these friends were my girlfriend's parents that asked for refuge in our house last night and are staying at a hotel tonight. They also own a music store and it's without electricity in the single most important weekend of the year. Somebody is not very happy about it.

But life goes on and the cold is back.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The awareness that truth brings

Sometimes it's easy for people to take things for granted and forget that there are things happening around you that you don't have full knowledge. But suddenly when you are confronted with the truth, you realize that life can be much different than you have expected. Words acquire a different meaning, actions behind the shell of half-phrases and manipulations.

But eventually people do wake up and are startled to see that the world has changed. They can decide to go back to their shell, or face it as captains face storms. You look at it and try to adapt to the changes and always looking for the places where the changes are not as great, not that deep. And then the storm will be eventually over and you will have enough time to count the dead and attend the wounded.

Time... It's all a matter of having enough time.

Friday, December 08, 2006

And I thought it was dead

The other day I was observing that I haven't heard anything from Ruby on Rails for some time and was wondering if all its momentum was gone. But today, when I received the list of developer things coming for the Mac OSX Leopard I saw that the server version will come with Ruby on Rails pre-installed. Interesting move... Maybe I really wasn't paying enough attention to what is going on out there.

This weekend one of my plans is to dig again things about scientific programming in Python and see if I can find tools to quickly and easily analyze data and present results in a graphical manner. There are two projects that I'm working right now that would benefit immensely from that. I remember in the past that it was very complicated to install and run, but I've learned a lot about manually making things work in the last couple of years.

Finally, I'm tired. Today has been an extra-tiring day for some reason I just can't completely explain. So I got home earlier than usual (it was about 8:30pm) and now I'm trying to relax a little. Listen to some music, maybe watch a movie...

The world goes around and what is left is you

It's very interesting how often you have to amaze yourself with how some things around you never change. You can't then convince yourself that actually what doesn't change is you. A person grows older, but it's still the same person with the same crazy ideas about the world.

Yes, that's sometimes good, because that means you get all your life to apply your crazy ideas (and not just short spans of craziness that most probably won't change a thing). But that's sometimes bad when it keeps reminding you that you are something else.

Anyway, I shouldn't try to make much sense in 2 minutes before leaving to work. At least I post.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Snowy and Cold

Those are things that usually don't go very well with Seattle, but that's what the weather has been like the past two days. Yesterday it snowed about 2 inches around where I live. The temperature didn't quite go below freezing, so the snow didn't accumulate for long on the roads, just on grass and the roof of houses.

But today the temperature dropped and it snowed a little more and now all roads and sidewalks are quite icy and dangerous. Theoretically tomorrow is the only other cold day and then we are back to the 40s (about 5°C). It's been an interesting month! The wettest month of recorded history and now the snowiest that I've seen (these last two days it probably snowed more than all my 2 years in Seattle combined).

Besides that life has been going normally. The house is getting close to finished (mezuzot and my desktop are pretty much the only things missing), work is driving me crazy, but it's part of the process, and the rest is... well, not much of a rest, actually.

So, yes, I'm still alive and moving on. Hopefully I'll be less tired one day eventually and will be able to write more interesting things. Like my adventure to add a book to my Amazon shopping cart yesterday and this morning... Or maybe how many interesting technologies are out there waiting to be tried. I've been looking into a couple in particular:

1) GPS-driven driving aids - prices are going down, features are going up... It's so nice not to have to worry about how to get to places! Surely like cellphones you end up not learning your way (well, in the cellphone case you end up never memorizing phone numbers any more), but it's all a matter of removing stress from your life by burning money.

2) Video game platforms... So there are two new players in the area: the PS3 with amazing hardware but terrible SDK; and the Wii with incredible new interaction modes, very simple SDK (at least according to a friend of mine that works in a game company), but graphics that are a little outdated. Who will win? Well, I guess my only hope is that Nintendo will still survive. I don't really worry too much about the winner.

3) Digital cameras, accessories and image editing software. It's quite amazing how much you can do with the current technology. In many cases you get to a point where there isn't much more you can explain to people that you are improving, you just have to wait until people get tired of their cameras and then they will move on. And it does make a difference.

Alright, that's what I had to talk about today. Time to reply to a couple of emails and try to get some sleep.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Democracy with no power == chaos

Yesterday I was talking with someone that lived for a couple of years in Vladivostock, in the far East of Russia. She said that in there the Mafia is very strong (very far away from the central government, so there isn't much power given to the government). So strong that they easily decide who should win elections. Here is an example:

Elections for governor were going on, in the middle of winter. The privately owned water company said that they couldn't supply people with hot water this winter because there wasn't enough rain during the summer months. But cold water had unlimited stock. Did it make any sense to you? No... But it gets better.

So the current governor is trying to get reelected and loses the elections because people were quite distressed because of the lack of cold water. One day after the elections, suddenly hot water starts flowing again. For the general public they simply lost: they voted for someone that wouldn't really solve the water problem, just would be able to be nicer to the hot water owner and decrease the chance that in the future they will cut the hot water again.

And what about the government? They couldn't do anything... It's owned by private companies that offer a "service" to the region. If they claim that they can't supply hot water because they don't have enough water, what can the government do? Probably they even had some specialists analyzing the situation and having scientific claims that showed that couldn't afford providing hot water.

So what if there was no democracy? My claim is that the people would certainly suffer less. No figuring out what "they" want you to vote next. No retaliation for voting in the "wrong" candidate. Things wouldn't improve, but until you are able to ensure power to the government, why have one?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Project flashbacks

Lately I've been working on a quite big project trying to get things to move and allowing 5 people to be synchronized on what they are doing. And this has brought me memories of old times, old projects, where synchronization meant deprecation and substitution. Expanding meant more work.

This was my life during my graduation project (also known as senior design project in some universities, but for my university back in Brazil it was a 3 semester project - so we started not really being seniors). I had a very good team of friends - smart and hard working. However, things didn't work as planned. The team got divided because of some silly professional conflict (maybe it wasn't that silly for the people that were involved in it) and everything went downhill from there.

Anyway, the highlight of the project wasn't it, though. It was the day that one of my project mates was complaining that he had to simplify his voice recognition software so much that the errors were starting to be larger than the signal. The simplification was done because he couldn't fit all the coefficient precision that he wanted in our great 4K smartcard. When I decided to look a little more into it, I found out that he was trying to store the numbers as strings in the smart card and had to keep truncating the string to make it fit!

And this was my first proof why I despised XML and, in certain ways, Java. Now it's all around me... I even catch myself spending time reviewing design proposals and suggesting people to move away from some binary solutions into XML. Round and round the world goes and back we are to old projects.

At least one good thing: I finally was able to post something. I've had this blogger window open for more than a week now!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The end of technology, as we know it

Sorry for not really posting much lately. I have moved to a new house last weekend and I don't have internet until (hopefully) tomorrow.

But this morning, I'm not really sure why I should use computers any more:

- I got to my office computer and it was frozen.
- Then I tried to check my emails and Hotmail just wouldn't allow me to log it (I really don't like Hotmail - if you send me emails through my hotmail account, please switch)
- Tried to log onto my Yahoo account (with the new Beta Mail - amazing interface, if they could just remove some of those changing ads) and got an error message saying I couldn't log in
- Then I did a normal work-related search on Google and got the following results:

"Results 1 - 11 of about 17,400 for prettyprinting jaxb. (0.07 seconds)"

There were 17K results, but only 11 were "unique"??? (and didn't really have the answers for what I was searching)

And it's not even 9 AM yet...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Starting and putting out fires

Yes, finally I'm being literal on my post titles... I'm writing this as I observe my neighbor (but not my neighbor for much longer) try to put out fire on a cardboard box. He put the box outside his apartment on the walkway and was running in and out of his apartment with a cup of water and dumping it on the fire. Then running back in...

It's not wrong to use water to put out fire on paper. There are two things that are wrong with it. First: why is there a box on fire? Second: a cup of water? Can't you just use a pan, or, if you want to bed fancy, a bucket?

Sure, there right now there is no fire any more. He is still going in and out of his apartment to dump water on the walkway where the box was burning, trying to cover what happened.

What would I do? Usually the easiest way that I know to put out fire is not really using water (especially on small fires), but by starving the fire of air. Get another piece of cardboard and just use it to remove the air from the place on fire. It's easy, safe (again, only for small fires) and doesn't really require you to turn your back to the fire to get more water.

So, am I angry? Disappointed? Afraid that one day this neighbor might cause a fire in the whole apartment complex? Not at all... It was just funny! I felt like watching a badly produced comedy. It was missing the soundtrack in the background. :-)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

So much life out there

We are living in a world of change. We plan our lives around change. We challenge and fight sameness. Interestingly, this is something quite new in human civilization. Surely the world always changed, but some time ago, we thought it was good if we found a "career" and just followed it. People would be working in the same company for decades and not really consider themselves sad.

We could ask ourselves many questions: what has changed? How has it changed? Is it actually a good thing for the human society in general? But I prefer the simpler question: why has it changed?

Humans are one of the most adaptive races out there. Our very big and expensive brain allows us to plan and execute very complex tasks that protect us from very adverse and sudden conditions. We are not the fastest or strongest. We don't have the longest lifespan. But we are one of the best survivors.

I think that this change is more of a realignment to our basal sense of adaptation. We were built for it, and not really to be inside a house, with a family and an 8-10 job (all normal jobs are 8-10, right?). So suddenly technology advances allowed us to recover this missing drive for adaptation. It is amazing how powerful it can be to our whole body. Think of the experience of starting a new job, or moving to a new house, to buying a new car...

On the other hand, sometimes the stress of "unplanned" (but potentially forecastable) changes is a little too unhealthy. And that's when changes erode our self, that's when it's always just better to go back to your cocoon and hide there for some time.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New layout

So you might be thinking why I've changed my layout... Well, sometimes it's time to do some moving around. Hope you enjoy it a little.

Being political, but tired

Sometimes you just have to accept some things and try to swallow as much anger as possible. There is nothing to do when somebody is just frustrated at you, because of incompetence of the people around them. At times like this you have two options:

1) Just blame it on them and start a war

2) Swallow the blame and try to work things out

Number 1 generates a war that could have repercussions that is difficult to forecast. Especially when you don't quite know the strength of your enemies. However, number 2 keeps everything on your side of the court. You can't sleep, you just let people slap you around and convince themselves that you can be their scapegoat for all their ailments. Soon enough you will continue receiving angry emails with lots of capital letters and you life will just collapse in unfinished business.

Anyway, that's my disappointment of the day. I'm tired, I have to start thinking about moving (yes, I'm moving to Seattle - no, I don't quite live in Seattle right now, more like Bellevue), I have some very busy and important last couple of days at work, and things don't look like they will get any better anytime soon. Sometimes I wished I could just have a weekend.

At times like this, my usual solution is to just alienate myself from the world and listen to some Steve Reich. It's like listening to noise, but mathematically beautiful musical noise.

By the way, talking about music, I've finished a book that I had on my list of "to read" for some time: This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, by Dan Levitin

Interesting book, if you survive past the first chapter. Dan needs a better editor that will fix all the wrong and missing information on his introduction to music theory. He should have discussed well-tempered instruments. He should not have mentioned that multiplying the frequency of the pitch by 2, 3, 4, etc. causes us to think it's the same pitch (although an octave up). Instead he should have said that it's the factor of 2 that matter (2, 4, 8, etc).

After this painful chapter, the book gets quite intriguing. Nothing really shocking if you have read another very interesting book about brains: On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee.

These books make me hope that we are getting somewhere closer to understanding the brain. At least I can say I'm a little closer.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A whole lot of things

Lots of things to say and it's already almost 1:30 AM, so I'll try to just do a brain dump and maybe one day I might go into more details:

- Yom Kippur is over. It wasn't a very easy one, because my sinusitis decided to keep it more interesting. But I've survived the VERY LONG service (like last year, it started at 8:25am and ended at 7:40pm with no breaks and very little sitting time). I really like Yom Kippur, not only because of the concept of starting over, but because people take it seriously. You can see people getting into it. I even saw one thing I've heard about but don't remember having seen until last Monday: during the reader's confession, the cantor started crying... Sobbing... And still tried to go through the whole confession. Very interesting.

- I'm trying to decide if I should stay here or move on to a different place that has less carpet. Moving is a big pain, especially when you have a good amount of furniture; very heavy furniture! I'm trying to decide by this weekend, but I'll see if I'll be able to.

- I've finished Book 10 of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, Crossroads of Twilight. Robert Jordan likes to write a lot... It's LONG, but there are some exciting things that happen throughout the book. However, the ending was... grrr... It just hooked you to read the next book (Knife of Dreams - a book I already have, but I'm trying to convince myself to move to something else before)

- Real estate in downtown Bellevue is just crazy. Somebody told me that they were playing "count the cranes" last time they visited this area and they've counted 10! Another source told me that they just don't have more simply because there are none left! And prices are also great! Some townhouses that they are building just across the street from where I live were first advertised as "Starting in the 500s". They took that sign out and now it says: "Starting in the 700s"! They have started this in less than 4 months ago and already added a 40% price hike. Wünderbar.

- Gotta love emails... And new management... And reorgs

- The elections in Brazil were quite interesting. Not that I think that there is a chance that Lula will lose, but at least there is some negative feeling about it all. I just hope that this doesn't cause the same clean division of society that happened during the last elections here in the US. Actually, I've even seen a diagram where they divided the states into who had the majority in one candidate or the other (weirdly the colors were also red and blue)! And this doesn't quite make that much sense for Brazil, because votes are aggregated federally, and not by state.

- If things happen the way I fear they might happen, I fear I can't fear enough.

Ok. I should give up on trying to dump thoughts and go to bed. Long day ahead!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Talk about frustrations

So here are my frustrations for the day (in no particular order):

1) Character encoding, especially in PHP. Let's say that I basically had for some reason I don't quite remember (and hopefully won't bite me in the near future), some piece that did an encode(x,"UTF-8") ... then another piece that did a decode(y,"UTF-8) ... so you would expect that everything will go back to the way it was, right? Of course not! Everything except some characters, like long dashes worked fine. Others simply became "?"!

And character encoding always is painful on text documents, for example. The problem is that you never know what the encoding is and will be. For example, I had a document in UTF-8 and then I pasted some text from word. Suddenly my document had characters in UTF-8 and other characters in ISO-8859-1. A huge mess to fix it (because I also don't know any easy programs that just change the encoding).

In the Javaserver Faces world, the same thing is happening. At work we've tried to start working on some Japanese things on an interface that was supposed to be all UTF-8 and suddenly all our Japanese characters became HTML-escaped (&#xxxx) and would appear all garbled on text boxes! Yes, it just gets worse if you tag XML escaping or HTML escaping to it. There is something really wrong about all this, but I won't really spend my time thinking on it. I have more frustrations for the day.

2) Private communications becoming public. So, first it started with choir things. I've sent a message to a selected set of people about why I was not going to join the choir this year. One of these people replied to the message with a "life advice" type of email and decided that other people might benefit from reading it. However, it also meant that other people suddenly received my "private" email.

Now today it happened again. I've sent a very short and semi-out-of-context email to some people about a product they wanted me to have a look and analyze and suddenly I receive back an email from the Customer Rep from the company that works with the product replying to what I've said about their product.

3) Seattle residents and this weather fear... Some weeks ago, just after I came back from Brazil, the weather wasn't very good. Raining and a little cold. So everybody was in this gloom state saying "oh... Summer is over... We will only see rain from now on". However, last weekend everything changed and we are having really dry sunny days, in the 70s and even it supposed to get to the 80s today and what are people saying? "Oh... This is not going to last... Next week it is going to start raining and the summer will be over... We will only see rain from then on."

I should send an email to somebody like Paul Allen to stop investing on his "Brain Atlas" and invest on a group therapy for everybody here to stop fearing and being so negative about the weather. Weather is Seattle is great! Not perfect, but FAR from anything to be negative about.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Getting deeper

Some things just don't want to die. Most of them are things that I knew that they wouldn't die when I first said "yes" to them.

One of them is the great email system for B'nai B'rith Brasil. So it looks like it still has some issues, but might go finally online for the first time tomorrow. Still using my server to send out emails. It looks like their server is not very happy about being used to send mass quantities of emails. Anyway, what it all meant is that I still have to do PHP programming in my near future.

The next thing that doesn't really die is my wish to sing in a choir. However, I did miss the opportunity this year (meaning until next September) because I didn't act quickly enough to participate on any auditions. Surely the fact that I was in Brazil when most of them were taking place was a part of the reason. The other reason is that my bad experience with my previous choir kind of turned me off a little.

It's not that I didn't like singing there. Not at all! They are a great group of people, with a very detail-oriented conductor (something that I have been known to always look for in a conductor). However, there were two main issues: (1) I felt a little too young in that choir. It was a little hard to relate to people that are in yet another walk of life. (2) The publicity work having to deal with people that had very little time to devote to it having little time myself was just killing my perfectionist side and making me depressed.

So now I have to find a new way to get my mind off work (as if this is possible right now). Maybe I'll finally finish my recipe reader. I just have to do some electronics work rereuting the touch screen to use the laptop battery. My issue right now is that I just don't have the equipment to do electronics work (yes, I'm an electrical engineer, I know...). And I was just postponing spending money.

Ok, it's getting late and I'm really getting tired. It's been a common theme lately. Not a good sign thinking that next Monday is Yom Kippur: the time that I get to the synagogue at 8:30 am and only leave at 7:30 pm to finally go and eat and drink something. This is tiring!

Friday, September 22, 2006

The last day of the year

Today is the last day of the year, and I'm still far behind on the things I had planned to do this year. It's kind of distressing how fast this year went by and how much changed, without really things changing much. Anyway, I'll at least still get around to sending all the "Shana Tovah" messages to people that are expecting to receive them this weekend. So, if you haven't received yours yet, just wait a little longer.

Shana Tovah to everybody! Let 5767 be a good year all of us. A year of change, but maybe this time with things actually changing.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A day of random thoughts

Today was one of those days that was difficult to concentrate on one thing. But instead of just getting confused I guess my brain decided to go wild and just spew crazy ideas everywhere. No, nothing really useful, but some interesting flashbacks. Here are some examples:

1) The food that brings me the most memories (not in quality, though) is fried eggs (sunny side up, if you want details). Why the memories? Well, I did eat it a lot my whole life, it was my father's "dish to cook", and it was a great way to gross out Stacy.

2) The food that brings me the best memories? That's tough, but today I will have to say "chocolate cake with catchup". No, I've never had it... And I'm funnier than Fernando's fingertip, or something like that.

3) This is not really a thought, just a link: Web 2.0 Winners and Losers. It is interesting to see that Friendster is there as a loser simply because they weren't able to scale exponentially like their client base and everybody escaped to MySpace (although that's another loser). However, Orkut had also very big problems with scalability and still survived. Surely it has mostly only those crazy Brazilians that have this tendency of being very accepting of errors, but it was ridiculous how many times I got the message "No donut for you"

I was actually impressed that I've heard of all the sites and accessed most of them before reading the article. Maybe I'm more mainstream than I have thought.

4) The Jewish High Holidays start soon. Soon I'll become that silly thoughtful person that keeps apologizing to people for simple things. Good that most of the High Holidays are during the weekend this year!

Alright. Time to get ready to go to sleep. I finally went to the gym today, do you believe in that? It's probably been about 2 months that I haven't set foot on that place, and before that another month or so! And things were still the same. The people seemed different, though.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Back to Seattle

I know I've been here since last Tuesday afternoon, but today is the first day that I can really say that I'm enjoying being back. I've imported an annoying cold from Brazil (probably the same one that first went through my sisters, then my mother) that even made me get out of work earlier on Thursday. But I feel much better now!

So, what is going on here? Well, not that much, I guess. This trip was actually longer than usual and I did spend some time confused about where I was (probably allied to my sickness). I still have dreams about being in Brazil going to weddings! But it was a great time!

This weekend has been focused on helping Amy move in and cleaning (besides making sure I don't do too much as I'm not yet 100%). I've found out that I've gained about 3 lbs (1.5 kg) on my trip to Brazil, so I have to plan on getting healthier again.

I guess that's it. Time to start thinking about dinner. Oh, today I finally remembered to have a look at GameTap and was shocked by their game selection. There were too many "weird" ones to write here, but I'll give you a short list from memory (yes, I'm talking about my memory, i.e., if I can get 5 I'll be amazed):

- Pitfall (yes the old Atari one)
- Planetfall (probably you've never heard of it, but I've spent MANY days trying to solve it on my 8086 days)
- Ultima I-V (if I'm not mistaken - a classic)
- Shinobi (another game I was addicted to some time ago)
- Golden Axe

Alright, enough about picking my memory. Dinner thinking time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Splogs, where the money spills

So, I've read the now-popular Wired article:

Spam + Blogs = Trouble

and was shocked by one single number: "Between August and October of 2005, they made at least $71,136.89." Every time people discuss revenue from ads on the web I am taken aback. Maybe it's just that I'm not an ad-clicker, but where does this money come from? Why would you go to a website that only has gibberish and click on the ads on that page? I wouldn't, but it looks like $23+K worth of people do that every month only for these splogs from these BYU guys. Maybe not only on clicks, but also on impressions, but you have to have A LOT of trafic to make money out of ad impressions.

So, where is this money coming from? How can they maintain such a leak of excess money to bogus people? Only Google knows...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Part 2: the dog down the tube

Just to tell one more story, so I've mentioned that on Sunday I went to the farm. On this trip, we took my sister's dog, a very small furry dog. She loves running around in the grass there and barking at the other dogs (much bigger than her, but well restrained). Also she runs away from you in an amazing speed evey time you try to catch her.

Well, my father, about 15 minutes before we had to leave, decided to try to catch her. She ran really fast, turned and banged her head on the side of a water drainage tube. Suddenly she disappeared! I don't know for what reason, but she suddenly decided to enter this tube!

Luckily it was the exit of the water drainage system, so the tube only went up. Also it was quite big, not enough to fit a person, but enough for her not to get stuck there. But I think she got scared and just froze in the middle of this tube, about 10 meters (~30 feet) from the entrance. She just wouldn't leave, even calling her name, offering food, anything. After about 20 minutes of calling her, we've decided to start dumping water on the other side of the tube hoping that the water going down would scare her enough to make her get out.

10 more minutes passed of us throwing water down the tube and she finally left, all dirty and wet! It took us another 20 minutes to clean and dry her enough so that she could enter the car. Result: my parents were very late to an event they were going to attend and had to call and tell people that they weren't going to make it. I was a little late to a dinner with some friends. But the dog is alright.

What a trip! But I took a lot of pictures. Not of the dog in the tube, because I didn't want to scare her even more, but of interesting fruit trees, birds, and other animals. It was fun. I'm labeling the pictures right now and will eventually post a link to them here.

Yes, I am alive - Part 1: the day of the weddings

So, I'm back after some time without writing much. I've been pretty busy here in Brazil. I'm not completely sure I won't be more tired when I get back than I was when I got here, but we'll see... For you to have an idea of how tiring it's been, I'll give you the example of Saturday, the day I had two weddings.

Well, but I can't start it, without mentioning that on Friday evening I got a message from one of my best friends, another best man of the Saturday evening wedding, saying that they were going out on a bachelor party. So there I went... We got to his place at 11pm, he wasn't ready yet... We left at about 11:30 pm and... well, I can't really tell you what we did. What happened that evening will stay between the people that were involved in the evening. The only thing I'll mention is that I arrived back home at about 4 am and then went to bed.

At 8:30 I woke up to get ready for my sister's civil wedding. It was an interesting wedding with about 25 people. I was one of the witnesses (out of 5), so I had to do something besides just staying there (I had to sign my name once). It was a quick event and then we went back to my grandmother's place for lunch. Very good food!

I arrived back home at about 4pm. 6:15 I'd have to leave to go to the other wedding, so there I went to change into the best men's clothes and wait (my younger sister's boyfriend was taking me there and I was first told that we were going to his place so that he would change before going to the wedding, but then my sister decided that she wasn't feeling very well and was not going - both my sisters have a cold right now). At about 6:15pm I went to the wedding.

It was a wonderful wedding, but I won't get into the details. Lots of fun, dancing, talking, enjoying seeing my friends and their families very happy. Also I was able to meet some old friends and to see people from their families that I've met last about 8 years ago. Some were VERY difficult to recognize, especially the younger ones (that are not that young any more).

But the result of it is that we've left at 5am and I got home at about 5:15am. Went to sleep, but at 10am I was up again to go with my parents to the farm. Not a lot of sleep again. I went to sleep at about 3 am and woke up again at 9 the next day (a lot of sleep comparatively). Went to sleep at about 2 am this morning and, for some reason I don't quite understand, I woke up at 6:30.

Oh, well... What else can happen? Wedding tomorrow and then traveling to Rio early afternoon on Thursday? Nah...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Weird NGO

Yes, I'm still here in Brazil, but I won't be talking about my experience here yet. Maybe one day I'll be able to summarize it all, although last post was a hint of what it is about.

Anyway, trying to focus here on what I'm going to talk about, an email that I've received of people asking for money. I receive this all the time because of some lists I subscribe to, but this time I felt that the idea behind the group was quite strange (and worked well for the whole set of events around here):

Simchat Tzion: Wedding for Orphans in Eretz Israel

They get money to sponsor poor orphans to get married! This shows how important people think the wedding ceremony itself is. For most people that I know, if you want to get married and you don't have money for a ceremony, you still get married, but without one. The fees to just get somebody to marry you are quite low. The expensive part it the party itself.

However, in this case, they are aiming for the joy of the ceremony itself, hoping that it alone might help those poor people to get enough energy to improve their lives. Interesting concept. And, no, I'm not donating money to this organization. After seeing the stress of organizing a wedding here, I can't see myself promoting such things to other people. It would be just mean.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Article watch from Brazil: "Brazil: Still the Country of the Future"

I read an interesting article at The Wall Street Journal today (although the article is dated about a week ago) entitled "Brazil: Still the Country of the Future".

It was a very negative article about Brazil, actually. Showing that the current government is clueless and it is going to win the elections again this year anyway. At least this government is not really harmful to the other countries in the world, only to Brazil's future.

There is a lot to talk about this article, but I just wanted to quote the last paragraph:

"Such a myopic attitude toward markets, prices and investment illustrates what Brazilian entrepreneurs have come to recognize more broadly: that socialist Lula together with the Brazilian constitution enshrining the nanny state, spells four more years of mediocrity at best. For young, talented minds eager to create, innovate and profit, such a forecast makes even an enchanting city like this one a good place to be from."

Scary, but maybe true.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

You can't execute me, I'm too sick to die

So here I am back, getting myself ready to go to Brazil on Friday. Life has been quite hectic and I have had too little time to devote to blogging. It's tough!

Anyway, I was reading today on The Wall Street Journal (I won't give the link to the article, because it's only open to subscribers) that there are some Brazilian government people trying to fine Google R$7.6 million a month until it gives information about groups of alleged Neo-nazis, pedophiles and other illegal pratices in Brazil.

There are two interesting issues pointed out by this article: the difference in laws in different countries and how can this work in an international environment like the internet; and the weirdness of social networking systems that leave it open about the groups you participate (a issue also raised in the keynote speech by Jon Kleinberg (wikipedia, homepage) at SIGIR'06).

About the first issue, what can you do, as a human rights activist? You are trying to crack down on a group in your coutry, but the data is in a computer in another country that protects the privacy of those people. Technically you really can't do anything except creating something like "the big firewall of China" and not letting people from your country access sites that will hide information that you might want to track and harvest. You are just trying to do the job that your country considered important enough to add to the laws!

This problem is classically equivalent to people storing their money in banks from countries that both don't charge you taxes and keep you privacy, like Switzerland. What have people done about this? Pretty much nothing! They were never able to break those laws, they had to wait and monitor the person until you could find proof by looking at either transactions from banks you can monitor or physical travels and behavior of the alleged criminal. The only problem is that the internet makes crime easier to do and harder to track and this worries lawmakers.

Now onto the second issue: what is the effect of you having your social network open for anybody to see? Be afraid! I know you know that person!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Starting somewhere: SIGIR 2006

I had to start somewhere or else this blog would be idle forever, so I've decided to start with my impressions of SIGIR 2006. The first one that I've been to. And I suddenly realized how much I should have worked with this group during my Ph.D. There is an interesting overlap with what I was working on, both in problems and solutions. I've actually seen a presentation that contained pretty much 50% of all the basis of my research, just varying the method used (and a little bit the expected results from its use). Of course nobody referenced any of my papers, but that's what happens when you are not in the same research area. There is just too much out there and so people tend to isolated themselves to a specific research group.

And this brings me to one of the most interesting things I've noticed when listening to the talks: SIGIR is a very small community. There were about 700 people in the conference. At least about 10% from Microsoft, about 5% from Google, 5% from Yahoo and some other companies. As of actual researchers, I'm guessing there were about 300.

Aside from that, my observation was on the tight relation between these researchers. There was a core of about 20 labs that basically define SIGIR. They seem to have been there for years, citing each other, collaborating, and defining the state-of-the-art datasets and baseline solutions. Compared to the other conferences I've gone to, this had the largest amount of people either pointing to the people they cite in the audience, or people standing up at the end of the talk and giving their personal experience with the dataset and making constructive suggestions about how they tried to tackle some of the issues observed by the presenters.

This is a very good sign in many cases. It creates a very productive environment; and a comparable environment, where you can draw better conclusions about what you have done (I know I've suffered with that a lot on my research). However, it also causes inbreeding. New ideas and types of solutions are harder to come by, mostly because labs are building large infrastructures for a certain type of system and it's hard to part with it (I've listened to a couple of talks that the presenter had a very hard time explaining what they did in 25 minutes, because it's a temporal slice of results from a system that has been in the works for 10+ years). But also because there is an incentive of creating things that are comparable to what other people created.

In summary, it was a very exciting conference. I still have to follow up with some people that I've met there, send them links to some of my papers so that I can feel that what I've done in the past is not going to the waste of the "paper cloud". We'll see what comes out of it.

I wished I had more time to maybe write reviews of specific papers, but I'll have to leave that for some other lifetime, or parallel dimension.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

So many things to say, so little time

Lots of things happened in the last few weeks. Two weeks ago I was in San Diego (and surrounding areas) for the weekend+Monday. Met my sister, a friend I haven't seen since high school and some of my girlfriend's friends (people that she talks about all the time). It was interesting, but I won't get into more details right now as I need to leave to go to work soon.

Then there was a rest-of-the-week of crazy work and weekend of shopping looking for presents to take to Brazil.

Then this week I was SIGIR here in Seattle. Lots of things to talk about the conference! And now I'm back to work and on-call until Wednesday next week. Besides the lack of time, I also don't know how I should structure the things I want to talk about. I've always had some issues about writing technical things in the middle of personal things, so in the end nobody ends up reading anything. I might - I said MIGHT - break this blog into 2 different blogs so that I can keep the personal and technical stuff separate. Let's see how much time I'll have.

Anyway, it's time to move on.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What a president

I know this is something that everybody already knows about, but I have to post this here. It was just hilarious and extremely depressing to read it:

Bush curses Hezbollah on live microphone

I think what makes me depressed is certainly related to my deep dislike for curse words. I rarely use them and when I do I actually feed ashamed of it. I think that people have to develop a richer vocabulary that will easily "prevent" you from employing words that are potentially offensive.

Anyway, I'm not sure what I'm doing still awake. I have been planning on going to sleep it's been almost two hours now. And my bed isn't even made yet (weekend bed sheets washing event). Oh, well, let me go and stop reading the news and replying to emails I haven't replied in more than 6 months. Ashamed I am indeed.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Small things that make my day

Sometimes it's strange how small details in a day can give you that extra energy to keep you moving. After a weekend of not-too-much-fun that actually ended well in a strict sense, I get this message from my best friend in Brazil (sorry, I have to quote him in Portuguese):

"Um grande abraço do seu eterno amigo e agora quase casado e muito feliz,"

What made me happy was not the "eterno amigo" part, but the end of it. They have been going through a very chaotic wedding process. Just for you to get an idea of the chaos, the bride was in the US for training for a whole month less than a month ago. Then she is going again to the US at the end of August and back on the 1st of September. On the 2nd they are getting married!

But he is happy, very happy. His email was a dual sign of being really busy, tired, but very excited and happy. The bad thing about being this far away from friends and family is that you lose track of how they are really doing. Even talking with my parents every week for at least an hour, I can't say I know how they are doing. Lots of things could be going on that I just don't know.

I'll be there at the end on August, so I'll have a better clue (hopefully)!

PS: Alright... Alright... The translation of the message: "A big hug of your eternal friend and now almost married and very happy,"

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tell me what you wish for and I'll tell you who you are

The other day I was trying to find a present for a friend and decided to check if he had an Amazon Wish List. Well, I wasn't able to find his wishlist, but I ended up looking through some very strange ones (like people looking for books on meditation, Kabbalah, Tarot, Puzzles, and classic literature). This made me get diverted into looking at random wishlists and trying to puzzle out who the person is. It was quite entertaining!

I could go on forever, so I'll give you only a few examples (I have to go to work soon). Note, they are not complete wish lists, just a sample of what is there (a little biased). I have put in parentesis my crude classification of the subject:

Subject 1 (tv-watching, card-playing, nerd):
- McAfee AntiSpyware 2006 Version 2.0
- Star Wars The New Essential Chronology (Star Wars Library)
- Hands Free Card Holder (Set/2)
- Wolverine MVP-9060 60 GB Portable Storage and Multimedia Viewer
- Elongated Deluxe Soft Toilet Seat
- Idol Chatter: Best of American Idols, Season 3 (karaoke)

Subject 2 (educated, politically engaged):
- Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature
- Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus
- The Ethics of Identity
- Grey's Anatomy - Season One
- Coupling - The Complete Seasons 1-4

Subject 3 (a person of history):
- Slaughterhouse: The Handbook of the Eastern Front
- Corvette Restoration Guide, 1968-1982 (Motorbooks Workshop)
- Seven (New Line Platinum Series)
- Rescued from the Reich: How One of Hitler's Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe
- Auto Mechanics for the Complete Dummy
- Battle of Britain

I'll give one more strange detail about these 3 subjects: all 3 have the same first and last names!

Anyway, time to go.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Grueling Sunday

I've been trying to post for some time now and I just can't finish it. So today I've decided to keep it simple and just talk about my great hike yesterday to Surprise Lake.

It's a great hike, with wonderful mountain views, waterfalls (not big ones, but a lot of small ones), creeks, and a cristal clear lake at the end of it. But it was HARD. We were in a group of 16 people and we took 2h 35min to go up (and when I say "up" I mean UP - we went up almost non-stop for all this time), stayed on the top having lunch and enjoying the view of the lake for a little over an hour and then took 2h 10min to go down. Total time for the trip: 6h 11min.

I was driving one of the cars, and this was another tiring experience. Especially because we were stuck in trafic on highway 2 for 40 minutes. And the trafic was there just because this highway goes through some small towns (with some strange names like Gold Bar and Startup) and everybody has to stop on lights.

When I got home I couldn't almost walk from my car to my apartment. It was exciting! But today I feel better.

Soon I'll have the pictures up and will post a link to them.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A potential great loss for Seattle

Rumors are going around right now that there is a chance that Seattle Symphony's music directory, Gerard Schwartz, might be leaving at the end of his contract (i.e. end of 2007-2008 season):

Discord at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from the PI.

This is certainly sad. I'm not saying that the quality of the Seattle Symphony will certainly decrease if this turns out to be true, but any transition is always painful for any orchestra. You lose the ability to predict what the conductor will do until you get used to the new one and this always increases the level of stress, decreasing the quality of the music you can produce.

Anyway, I'll try to keep an eye on the development of this story.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The future of Microsoft

Just because there has been a lot of talk lately about how Microsoft will come out of this quicksand that some people say it has fallen, I've decided to write something about it myself. Yes, I know I'm far from being an expert analyst on Microsoft, or on anything at all. But I do read and have opinions of my own.

Will Microsoft buy eBay? It would be an interesting move by Microsoft, with a lot of money involved, but I don't think that MS management really thinks this way. They always have this idea that MS can do something much better with MS technology.

There are few counter-examples that actually prove the point, but I'll cite only one: Hotmail - one of the WORST free email systems out there because it seems that nobody even maintains it any more. You can't search your email, its spam detector is absolutely terrible, it tends to be slow and has some strange restrictions like if you don't pay for it and don't access it for some time, they clean all your messages! What is Microsoft's answer to it? Create their own Windows Live Mail from scratch.

Then you have Windows Live Shopping, still in Beta. The most AJAX-intensive shopping site out there (out of the real ones, and not small stores or front ends to other stores, as far as I know), and one of the ugliest in my opinion. Also, it doesn't accept a lot of browsers. Anyway, not a great site at all, but built with MS technology by MS people.

So, my conclusion: I don't think so... The proud Microsoft will continue working on their own projects and never get anywhere. What do I think they should do? I never liked eBay and I'm not that big of a fan of Microsoft, so go ahead!

Will Microsoft buy Yahoo!? That's actually a new idea that I've read yesterday... Yahoo? That's way a lot of money and a lot of people! Surely it will be great to get almost 40% of the search market in one move, but the management headache that it will be to merge the monster that Yahoo is with Microsoft will be something that I don't think the "great" MS management can do correctly. I would be very scared if they decide to go with this idea. Scared for the quality of the internet.

So what is the future of Microsoft? In my opinion is a much smaller and leaner company. Break it apart (not necessarily in completely independent companies on the outside, but certainly on the inside), restructure all its management for this new reality and focus on core technologies like its operating system, database, email system, office suite; and open it so that people can use your system in the backend and not try to create a competing system. It might dilute the Microsoft brand recognition, but it will keep it in the market and not as this hated example of who you should beat.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A concert report

In a day a fighting fires (quite literally, but without anybody or anything getting charred), I at least had a very pleasant experience that I wanted to convey here: a Seattle Symphony concert.

In the program there were two pieces: Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, "Unfinished"; and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 7 in E minor.

Schubert: a wonderful "short" symphony (short because it has only 2 movements), full of very great things, and this whole feeling that you are missing something. Brilliantly executed by the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz. A very energetic, precise and yet emotional interpretation.

But nothing compared to Mahler's 7th... Sure right now I'm being biased because I do prefer late Romantic period to Schubert's early Romanticism, but it was such a fenomenal (for my poor ears) interpretation that I'm still a little stunned. If you haven't heard Mahler's 7th, and I wouldn't blame you, as it seems to be something that is not that popular, you are in for an interesting surprise.

A very odd sounding 5-movement symphony, with strange instruments (for a symphony), like a guitar, a mandolin, a tenor horn and lots of different percussion varieties. A huge orchestration with 2 harps, 4 horns, 5 clarinets (1 bass and one Eb clarinet), 4 flutes, typical for Mahler. Quick variations between slow moving meditations and sudden quick and loud interludes. Or would it be quick and loud parts with sudden slow moving meditations?

If you ever come to Seattle, make sure to enjoy a Seattle Symphony concert. It will be worth it!

One interesting thing that happened in the concert is that when coming back from the intermission, there were a couple of people that were late arriving to their seats and Mr. Schwarz waited patiently on stage until all of them arrived to their seats to start the concert.

Another unexpected event was when the first violin simply lost one of his strings in the first movement of Mahler. We had a minute or so break to the second movement while he added a new string and set it all up.

Anyway, it was very exciting. When I came back home I was tired but I still had a lot of not-so-exciting things to do, but we have to pay the bills somehow. Pay for all the "yes"s that I've said in my life. But I did buy my tickets to go to San Diego and meet my sister. I just now need to book the hotel and a car rental.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A wedding later

Sunday's wedding was quite pleasant. A small event with about 45 people where two friends got married (oh, yes, people do get married in weddings). Now they are on their way to Hawaii for their 8 days of relaxing.

Sunday was also father's day here in the US. Not in Brazil, though, so I'm not worried about it. The strange thing that I've seen about father's day was on Seattle Times last Wednesday was this article. A Brazilian talking about doing food for father's day in memory of her father. So strange that it was done by a person from one of the few countries in the world that doesn't celebrate father's day on that weekend.

But this is not what I wanted to discuss here today. I wanted to talk about so many things that I ended up not really finishing this post. I've started it on Sunday and suddenly it's Thursday already! Where did the week go?

What is new? I bought a new computer (at least the parts to build a new computer) and it should arrive early next week. Now I should be able to play games on the computer again, an exciting thought!

Also I finished one more step on a project for my father. I'm actually getting a little bit more excited about this project, a little bit more accepting of PHP as a web development language. Maybe it was because I had less errors with no error message at all and that I had to remove line by line to figure out what was killing the PHP process. A lot of fun as you can see!

Finally, I've been tired. Trying not to snap on people as I tend to do when I'm tired, and also trying not to think that everybody is wrong. Most of the cases, I'm the one who is wrong! :)

Alright, time to get to work. I just wanted to finally finish this post.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Another long winter

And I'm back to write something and prove that I'm still alive... Somehow, at least.

I've been busy and tired lately. So tired that sometimes I even start fights with people without really realizing it. But everything has calmed down a little this weekend.

The problem of taking this long to post anything is that I have some intereting things to talk about, but those are going to take a lot of time, so I'll have to keep the post to the secondary subjects.

1) The gay parade in Sao Paulo just broke a record of the largest parade in the world with about 2.2 million people. But what makes this news interesting is not that, it is that they are sad because it didn't break the record set by another parade last thrusday: the March for Jesus that also happened in Sao Paulo in the same area. [source - in Portuguese]

2) I've been reading "The Wheel of Time" series, by Robert Jordan. It's a very famous series that I have always kind of ignored. I have never been a big fan of fantasy stories, to tell you the truth. But actually I'm happy with this series. Quite interesting setup of events and complications within complications. I'm just starting book 7 right now, A Crown of Swords. Some people claim that this is the beginning of the REALLY SLOW part of the series. I'll see...

One weird thing about it is that I have talked with my former roommate today and he is actually reading the same series! And is approximately at the same place I am right now! Quite a coincidence.

3) It's weird to read in the bottle of a mouthwash: "Do not use if cap seal is broken". How are you supposed to use it if you don't break the seal?

I guess that's the time I had. I'll maybe try to write some more in the next few days. Tomorrow I have a wedding to go. A wedding that will make me miss half of the Brazil World Cup game. I'm not a big fan of world cup as some of you might know, but it was the only weekend game until potentially the final and I wanted to organize a soccer watching party. Too bad...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Still no news

I know, I'm still not writing anything useful here. But I just don't have much to say. Life has been quite hectic and stressful. A lot of things not happening the way I wanted them to happen. Surely a couple of the things are better because of that, but it hurts my unselfish self.

Unfortunately I'm not here to talk about this, but to post yet another interesting article that I've read today:

Visual Tour: 20 Things You Won't Like About Windows Vista

Quite a good article trying to put in perspective what still isn't there on the Windows front. It's interesting how misguided Microsoft has been in the past years, lost in its goal of trying to build something that is just good for everybody. It's a little of the pattern that we in software engineering call "the curse of the do-it-all frameworks" - they might be more advanced than most overall, but what matters is what you want it to do. And on this area, they just can't win.

Make two classic comparisons: Mac OS X and Linux. The first one is aimed at user interface and stability and excels at that. It is painful, though, if you want to customize your system. A lot of the configurations are quite hidden, or simply not there at all! For example, I wanted to set my mouse scroller button to fan out the windows for selection (F9 in the keyboard), but because I don't have a certain brand of the mouse, I just don't get the option to do so.

Then comes Linux, the complete opposite. Linux (pretty much any of the hundreds of distributions) allows you to do whatever you want. You can set up initialization scripts, change colors, create new skins, even recompile the kernel if you want it to work with your new FireUSB port (no, there is no such thing)! But on the realm of ease of use, it's decades behind. User interface is clunky, options are non-intuitive and spread around the system, installing software can be a multi-day procedure if the software was not packaged specificly for your distribution, and so on.

So why Windows? The simple answer is: market share. Windows dominates the market share and with it it dominates the software and hardware development. Find me a product that does not work on Windows (alright, take away the ones made by Apple or open source things) and I'll show you things that won't really get anywhere.

What should you choose then? If your goal is to just use a computer for web and occasional document writing, I'd go for a Mac without any question (except money). If your goal is software development for yourself, Linux is your best bet. You have no idea the improved efficiency you get from not being tied to Visual Studio. Oh, but I did mention that it's good for "development for yourself", meaning that if you have to write things for .NET, well, you are out of luck there.

Finally, if your goal is to play games, buy new gadgets to connect to your computer, or use software from medium to small size companies, you can't escape Windows.

What about me? Well, I have two "working" computers at home: a PowerBook and a Linux box. Sometimes I do feel like I need a Windows box to invest on some "entertainment" but I just never found the time for it so why bother.

Alright, wrote too much already. Back to work here! Too many things to do, very short night ahead.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

There are some ridiculous things out there

And one of them is this:

Apple's new store in New York City

It certainly looks cool! And it's 24 hours! But why?

Brazil with no Orkut

I don't know what would happen if this actually ends up doing anything with the Brazilian presence on Orkut:

Google in Brazil May Face Criminal Probe Over Orkut

It is quite scary. However, it's not that they can really shut down Orkut, they can only shut down Google's Orkut office in Brazil. And this won't really affect anything, only that maybe Google might decide that it's not worth the investment any more.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

iPods and audiophiles

I found this very interesting article in Wired today:

Audiophiles Become IPodiophiles

Quite interesting what they are doing with the poor iPod...

Yes, I'll write something more interesting sometime soon.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Was bleibt? Es bleibt nur die Muttersprache

This is one of the most interesting classic articles that I've read in the last few years. It was actually an interview with the great Hannah Arendt (Wikipedia The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Günter Gaus. If you want to read it in German you can at Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg. For the faint of heart, you can find the tranlation to Engish in many books, such as the one I'm reading Essays in Understanding. Just for you to have an idea what you might be missing, the title in English is "What remains? The language remains". Not quite the same thing...

Anyway, it's a great discussion. It starts a little cold with many misses from the interviewer trying to pry about the interviewee's past and the Jewish persecution before WWII, when she left Germany. This part, although it is a little weak on details, gives an interesting perpective on what it was to be a thinker in the time on the assention of the Nazi party in Germany. And the shock of finding out much later about Auschwitz.

What triggered my interest in this article is the core captured in the title (something that I don't think is even the main subject of the whole talk, if there is one): what always will stay with you wherever you go is your mother tongue. Your brain was tought to think the way your mother tongue works, so you will never quite express yourself very well in any other language.

This is just too true. Not that my expressivity right now in Portuguese is very good. It's interesting how quickly you lose the fluency of a language if you don't speak it more than about once a week, but I still end up resorting to Portuguese expressions when I want to say a more complex idea.

This lead me to a more interesting line of thought (I had reading thought-provoking things): the concept of multiple overlapping sub-ontologies of the world. There is no unique way to represent things, only a unique local way. By getting away from the restriction of global logic rules, you will potentially be a little closer to what reality really is.

Not a new concept, I know... I am fully aware that the implementation of my overlapping sub-ontology world would be both very hard to scale to a reasonable size to see anything interesting and non-elegant. People are looking for things they can relate to. But if you are only one person, you are seeing the world from your sub-ontology. A lot of things can be represented, but an even larger amount just can't. And this doesn't make them less or more important.

Anyway, that's pretty much as far as I went with my thoughts. Actually I did go a little farther in writing down a schema for implementing this, but while I don't have real, exept when I riding the bus, to work on it, I'll stop this explanation here.

It's time for me to go to bed now. My eyes are closing (or have been closing for the last 45 minutes).

When posting does not happen

It's something like the 4th time that I'm trying to post since last time I actually finished it. It's either that I forget about it and close the browser, or the browser decides to crash and I can't finish it. Quite astounding!

Anyway, I'm back after a long time to say that I'm alive. Time is flying, I'm close to getting older, and I wished I could say that a lot has changed. Unfortunately life has been quite the same, only more hectic in the last weeks.

Last weekend I had a choir concert and before that I was fighting with some people in choir to get things done. I didn't have much time to devote to getting all the things for the concert done, and the people that were helping me didn't really make matters any easier. Let's say that until the last day I didn't know what was going to happen with the program for the concert.

But in the end I did find some people that were willing to help, including Amy, and everything worked out fine. It was a nice concert, sad that I was in the beginning on my cold, that still hasn't gone (most probably a side effect of all the stress to get the things for the concert done).

This cold has been quite interesting if you ask me. It started with a terrible stiff neck. This started on Saturday afternoon and is still around, but much better. On Tuesday the dry and sore throat started. On Wednesday it was the runny nose and last night the cough.

Anyway, that's not part of the interesting things I want to talk about. I'll finish this post here so that I would have at least posted something and leave the more complex posts for later. There is a good change I won't finish them tonight.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Celebrating Brazil's self sufficiency in oil

In this day I celebrate a great feat that has deeper meanings than what the title mentioned. Yes, right now with the barrel of oil skyrocketing, it is important to say that you have reached a point where you don't really care about international prices. But what else does it mean?

I am no economist or even living in Brazil to present an in-depth analysis of this. But I can certainly make some observations: Brazil is about number 12 in oil consumption [source] and number 9 in GDP [source]. Quite close, but as it happens with all this distributions, the power law tends to hide the importance of it. Take Russia as an extreme exemple: the GDP is pretty much the same ($1.5 trillion with purchasing power parity), while the oil consumption is 50% higher!

The important thing to take away from this is where your energy comes from. The whole ethanol push that Brazil has undergone might not have been as important as some people have claimed, but it was surely a good part of it.

Anyway, I'll stop here as most probably I've already gone far away from my domain of knowledge and will end up just embarrassing myself. With oil prices still going up and strong, it is an important thing to know... Or maybe you should just ignore it all and start walking.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

And streams of time flow

Sometimes it is hard not to look back and realize the time that has gone by and wonder if you've used it well. This happens in all dimensions: personally, professionally, globally. You look at the things you have done, the things that define what you are right now and just wonder: have I traveled the right way? Have I traveled at all?

It has been tough to get a closure on this. Sometimes it feels like I'm not really doing anything; that I'm fooling myself and letting time just flow by. On other cases, I feel like it is just taking me downstream to a large clearing, I just have to pass through a few turns and everything will be easily visible.

It's interesting how it is easy to lose readers with only a couple of paragraphs. So for the people that are still reading, people that think that can extract some of the hidden meaning behind what is written here, I'll stop. There is no benefit in dwelling on things that are and just dreaming of what might one day be. Today I'm a little depressed, but the reason is not really something I can write down here. It's certainly temporary, but not isolated. It seeps into the future as well as illumine the past.

Alright. Writing too much, time to change topic. Time to go techie.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

And the experiment began

Remember some time ago I mentioned Kevin Kelly's interview where he mentioned that in the future scientific articles will be done "wiki style"? Well, it seems like it had already started:

QEDen - a collaborative site to solve the Millenium Problems that are worth 1 million dollars each. It would be quite a feat if it works and I'll bow my head to Mr. KK for his vision.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Even if I haven't been blogging much lately, I have to blog this:

The Time Is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Ingenious observation! I think I'll stay up just to enjoy the moment! Of course that my headache might change the plans, but we'll see.

Besides this strange fact, not much to talk about. Daylight savings time is here and everything is so bright until so late... It's weird! And it will only get worse. At the height of summer here, the sunset is at about 10 pm.

I've been busy, trying to reorganize my life here and put some things behind me, but I haven't been able to complete the whole operation yet. There are some things that I just can't find energy to finish, like my father's project. I start working on it and when I see, I'm reading about JDM (Java Data Mining), Barnes & Noble's rejection of Sony's eBook reader (something that it looks like Amazon and Borders are hoping that will get some more traction on the books business), reading how people can waste time and not really realize it (not really reading it, just realizing it).

Anyway, I've been tired and a little stressed. This last weekend was just something to increase in my level of stress instead of relaxing. On Saturday I spent a lot of time digging out ivy at Golden Gardens Park. Then the rest of the day I did laundry and tried to relax a little. It was quite tiring! Then on Sunday I had two choir "pre-concerts". We went to a library and then a bookstore to advertise about the choir and our upcoming concert. I thought it was quite a waste of time. Surely there were people there, but I don't think there were enought people to really make a difference.

The choir I used to sing with in Brazil had a lot of those events. Singing in short events just to see if people would care enough about the choir. And it never really worked. In many times it seemed like we were not really welcome there. The conductor's theory that it also helped for us to get used to presenting had some merit. But after some time it made no difference at all. The current choir I'm singing, people have years of singing experience. I don't think they need to worry about "how to present". But, hey, who am I to say anything, anyway?

Alright. Time to move onto something else. Maybe I'll get some work done finally...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Busy. Busy as always

That's what I've been hiding behind lately. The fact that I've been quite and weirdly busy. What is weird about it, you might ask, and I say that it's not that I've been working until late at night and weekends... But it's also that I have been working late at night and weekends.

Contradictory, huh? Surely!

But I'll leave it as a contradiction and move on to more details on what is going around in the world.

CNet has an interesting article saying that one of the reasons why Linux hasn't been adopted as much as it could is the dress code that tends to follow it. It is quite scary that I do know a quite a few people that look just like that at Amazon.

So, why does dress code still influences things that much? Well, I don't know why it wouldn't. Dress code means two things: importance and tradition. You wouldn't wear something that is less confortable if you don't think it's important. And it all ties back to what it used to be done in the past and should be rememebered.

Anyway, I'm not being able to make much sense this morning, so I'll move on to the next piece of news:

This is indirectly from a silly book I've found around (but don't own) called Blogosphere: Best of Blogs that, as the title explains, contains a list of "best blogs" in different categories. Of course it suffers with the same effect (if not greater) than lists of best websites: it goes stale quickly. So some blogs don't exist any more, some haven't seen a post for some months, and a coupld even changed subject a little.

Oh, yes, the article:

Kansas is keeping their nuclear power plants safe. These terrorism-inspired reactions always amaze me every time I see them. People pile rules in order to make people feel safer, but it only ends up causing confusion and, later, legal disputes (no, he wasn't heading to the plant when he was shot... the pack that he had on his hand was a shoe box...).

Alright, I know I'll never make it to the list of the best blogs out there. Maybe when my new blog is ready (hahaha - think something like one year from now! I can't even have enough time and energy to finish a reasonably simple project for my father!) I might start to get a little bit more activity around here. I have big plans for it. But, again, I always have big plans for everything. Even the laptop that is taken apart and sitting on my desk (and partly lying on the floor) right now.

And I have to note here that certainly the highlight of this last weekend (wow, it's Wednesday already???) was being able to talk with my best friend and his fiancee using Skype. Made my otherwise quite crappy weekend.

I've also received messages from my sister that works at American Express in Brazil. AE Brazil was sold to the largest bank there, Bradesco, and people are trying to flee, my sister included. One of the ideas that she has in mind is to continue at AE, but move to the US, New York City to be more precise. I don't think my mother will be very happy with that! But It's just in the wishing and planning phases right now.

Oh, and on a sad note: no solar eclipse around here.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

An interesting article

Just because Kevin Kelly has been everywhere I've been looking lately (more on this some other time), here is his latest slashdotted article:


I think he has some interesting points. However, I think most of the things are a little too hopeful and naive. For example:

The creation of "wiki-type scientific articles" is a little silly. Very few scientific articles actually would benefit from a wiki style mechanism. Most are just self-contained. I think what has to change is the delay for you to add small comments to an article. It's easier to keep up with authorship (and blame) and allows you to organize information in an easier way than a huge 100 people article.

There are lots of other things I think are a little too far-fetched. Unfortunately, I won't give me that much time to comment on it right now. Maybe some other day when I don't feel too guilty that I haven't finished working on everything I need to work today.

blah.. blah... blah... bad blogger... blah.. blah...

I know that I haven't been blogging much lately. The worst thing is that I don't know if I have a good reason for this lately. Yes, I have been busy and I haven't been spending time in front of my computer much lately, but I'm not sure this is actually the reason for my disappearance.

However, instead of trying to analyze why I haven't been writing (something that I've actually tried to do and post about maybe 3 times between the last time I've posted and now), I'll just move one and post something!

Well, I'm back! It's been a very good week, I guess. Last weekend I was in Colorado Springs visiting my former roommate and a very good friend. It was a lot of fun, but very cold too! Amy and I arrived there on Friday evening, were persuaded to have dinner at my old roommate's place and went to sleep at about 1:30 am. Woke up Saturday early morning and went skiing. It was quite a nice day to go skiing!

We went to Loveland, quite a nice ski resort with something like 11 lifts. We kept ourselves to the only one corner of the resort that had only 2 lifts. The first one for beginners (from which I went up maybe 4 times) and one that had some easy and intermediate slopes. At the end of the day, I've decided to go crazy (and I would found out quite soon that I was REALLY crazy) and went to this second lift.

There I went, sitting down at the lift and seeing it going up, and up... The base of the resort was at about 10K feet high (about 3 km). Let's say that the ski lift took us to almost 13K feet high (almost 4km). I was petrified when I got out of the lift. There was an easy way down, but easy was based on the slope of the way down and not the length. Let's say that I had to stop maybe 4 or 5 times on the way down just to wait for my legs to start responding again. I was exhausted, but alive! I only fell twice getting out of the easy lift and once on the way down the long path (just because I felt I was too fast and my left leg didn't want to help me turn right - so I just forced myself to stop by sitting down).

Sunday we went to the Mountain Zoo in the morning. Quite a nice zoo, actually. Just was a little cold sometimes. And in the afternoon we went to the Garden of the Gods. It was also quite nice, but the weather wasn't very nice. Very windy and cold... And then it started snowing, the time we decided to head back to a warm place; my old roommate's place.

There we ordered a pizza and played some group games, like Apples to Apples and Wise or Otherwise. It was fun!

On Monday we woke up at 4 am and started our way to the airport to arrive at work at about 10:30am (keep in mind that I've won an extra hour with the time zone difference).

What happened is that I've spent the whole week trying to recover from the weekend, but I would do it again!

As for the rest, I've finished two books this week: Olympos, by Dan Simmons; and A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. Both very interesting and entertaining! Olympos is the continuation of Ilium. While Ilium was quite interesting because it tried to put a huge twist to the Greek-Trojan war, Olympos pretty much decides to divert completely from this line of thought and goes to a much more "action-packed" and quite inventive hard sci-fi.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a must read! There isn't much else I can say about it! It's a very readable and sane description of what science knows (or maybe knew, as it was published in 2003) about the creation of the universe, physics, biology, astronomy, geophysics, and many other sciences that relate to who we are and where we are.

The rest, there is nothing much else to talk about. I have tried to work on my taxes today and got scared with the fact that I might have to pay federal taxes this year. This puzzled me greatly, as I don't quite understand how this could happen. So, instead of spending my whole day trying to figure this out, I've moved on to posting on my blog.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Learning to sleep

I think I forgot what it means to go to sleep. It's not that I don't sleep, it's just that I don't really want to sleep any more. It's not that this is something new, it's just that it has been bothering me lately. I get home tired of spending a whole day refactoring other people's code to enable unit tests (more on this some other time). I get to my computer to check my emails and then just rathole into reading papers, studying new technologies, checking the news... When I look again to the watch it's past 2am. In the morning I just jump out of the bed and get moving. My body is tired, but I just don't want to waste time (even though I have been getting late to work, as I've been just doing random things at home in the morning, like doing the dishes and cleaning)

In general, lately I've been busy. Lots of things to do and think. And what worries me the most is that things are starting to pile up and I just can't get to finish any of the things I have to do!

Tomorrow I'm going to Colorado Springs, Colorado to meet some friends. My former roommate moved there and another very good friend was going to visit his, so I decided to tag along. But I think I mentioned this already in the past. The plan there? Talk, entertain girlfriends/wifes, visit and just take my mind ouf the the things I have to think about lately. Try to restore my sanity a little.

Oh, last weekend I bought one more missing part for my recipe reader project: a new wireless router. My old one (my cable modem) is only 802.11g compatible, but my cheap laptop has an 802.11b wireless card. Also my PDA didn't like to connect to the network that much either. It would work sometimes, but most of the time it simply wouldn't be able to get an IP address. Now it works perfectly!

Anyway, step by step I'm getting there!

Now it's time to have breakfast and head to work!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Web as a source of information

I've just read a very interesting article on the Wall Street Journal about fake web "original content", written by Lee Gomes. He claims that he was once hired to produce "original content" for $2 an article where he just had to get articles from other websites and change the wording just enough so that it will look like something different. He ends the article saying:

"In fact, search engines are more like a TV camera crew let loose in the middle of a crowd of rowdy fans after a game. Seeing the camera, everyone acts boorishly and jostles to get in front. The act of observing something changes it.

"Which is what search engines are causing to happen to much of the world's "information." Legitimate information, like articles from the WHO, risks being crowded out by junky, spammy imitations. Nothing very useful about that."

Very well put and quite scary what search engines are doing to the web.

But then there is a second side to it: people are actually finding information (if they know how to search, or are looking for the same thing that most people are already looking, something that is cannot be old information)! And with this, people are making money! I've talked a week ago with a web designer friend of mine and he said that buying an ad at Google was the best investment he has ever made. It is very inexpensive ($1 per click) and he said that it makes him about 150x profit. I guess I've just been the only one that never clicked on an adsense ad.

Finally, soon you will see some changes to this site. I'm planning a major change in direction of this blog, both making it nicer to look and easier to see what you are looking for. One detail: I won't promise any more and better content. It's just that I'll be a little bit more proud about it. One of the major things that will happen is that I'll be moving off of Blogger!

Scary thought, huh? It's been a long time that I just haven't seen anything new coming out of the Blogger team. Pretty much since blogger was bought by Google, it stalled; much like any "already established" system at Google. Look at Google news! Orkut (although it looks like there is a more complicated story behind that)! Google itself! Just projects left aside to give way to more "AJAXy" things, like Google maps and Gmail. By the way, talking about Gmail, I HATE that you can't click "back" to go back to the page you were.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A weekend of deep work

That's what I'm doing this weekend. But I'm actually having fun, because things are actually working, except something very silly like the connection between my laptop and my linux desktop (my server). It works after I disabled all the firewalls on the server, but it is SLOW, very slow... Not completely sure what is going on...

But now for the more interesting things: it is confirmed that I will be going to Colorado to get together with some friends in two weekends! It's going to be fun! But nothing comes without weird coincidences, right? Well, we are all going with our "significant others". Two of the "significant others" are called "Maya" and one is "Amy". Note that all the names have only three letters: A, M and Y. Just weird.

On another completely unrelated note, today I've received my touch screen glass. Very neat, although being a little bit bigger than I was expecting. I tried to plug into my $200 laptop, installed all the software, but it didn't work for some reason. I'll leave it for some other time to figure out why. But it's exciting that I have almost all components for me to start working on my recipe reader project.

The rest of life has been quite the same.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The error series

Just to continue my error series... Here is an error I got today:

Error 500--Internal Server Error
From RFC 2068 Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1:
10.5.1 500 Internal Server Error

The server encountered an unexpected condition which prevented it from fulfilling the request.

It had to be in IEEE with all this explanation of what is the standard that is providing explanation about the error. Ah... Engineers...

Oh, and finally Imagestation worked! Now I just have to weed through about 200 pictures (from my last two weekends) remove the ones that are not that interesting and put captions on the ones that deserve explanation. Quite some work still left.

What happened to me yesterday? Not much... Didn't sleep that much last evening trying to figure out why I was getting a strange behavior on a system yesterday (and I still don't know what it is) and going around and getting a bunch of papers on a wide variety of topics that seemed interesting. Some very interesting concepts! I might start writing here some comments on the papers I read, mostly for my own future reference, but trying not to be too selfish.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Just a random status... I just tried to access Imagestation again and got the same error! And because I'm feeling like sharing the happiness, I'll quote the error message for the few of you readers that might appreciate it:

Oops ...

Unable to write to cat list file:can't create /raid/mason/www/comp/sony/htdocs/category/.catlist.dat: No such file or directory at /raid/mason/www/sitelib/Zing/DB/Category/ line 154 Stack: [/usr/local/lib/perl5/5.8.2/] [blib/lib/ (autosplit into blib/lib/auto/Storable/] [blib/lib/ (autosplit into blib/lib/auto/Storable/] [blib/lib/ (autosplit into blib/lib/auto/Storable/] [/raid/mason/www/sitelib/Zing/DB/Category/] [/raid/mason/www/sitelib/Zing/DB/Category/] [/raid/mason/www/comp/zing/htdocs/album/edit/info.html:264]

Try Again

I'm a little scared today. Lots of things are accumulating on my to-do list and not that many are getting done. And when I try to get some things done, something happens and I just can cross it out of my list. Today it was Imagestation. I use it to store and distribute my pictures. I was adding the pictures from yesterday's hike (more about it below) when suddenly I get a Mason error! Something like not being able to cat a file. Very ugly error - made me a little scared about using the service. However, there was one thing I liked about it: I went to the help page, clicked on "live chat" and suddenly I was talking to someone that just told me that they were going through some maintenance right now and that I should try it again in the morning.

Alright, now about the hike on Sunday... I went with some friends from Jconnect to Oyster Dome. It was a little tough - 8 miles both ways, ~12 km - elevation gain of 2,200 ft, ~700m - in other words: 4 miles going up and then 4 miles going down. My legs are a little sore, but the view was worth it! Drop me an email that I'll send you an invite to see the album and you can see for yourself (although the pictures don't really make justice to the great experience that was seeing it all).

There were two interesting things that I've learned in the hike:

1) People like to take their dogs on long hikes. Lots of dogs going around!
2) They are trying to protect that area from logging! Logging is actually a very interesting money source for the government, so they reserve some areas to be logged from time to time. Walking around we saw traces of the last time they logged the area and left it pretty much bare - about 70-100 years ago! Now they won't be cleaning it all, but will leave some empty spots all over.

I guess that's all I have to report. Maybe this and a link to an interesting but sad article that a friend sent to me today:

The Social Life of Paper, published in the New Yorker in 2002. This was written by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point, two very famous books that are not too bad.