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. W√ľnderbar.

- 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!