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very simple SDK (at least according to a friend of mine that works in a game company), but graphics that are a little outdated.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!