Thursday, March 27, 2008

Evening activities

In the past two days I have been trying to relax a little in the evening. Yesterday I actually arrived home sort of early (like 6:40 PM), read and wrote some emails, made a dinner plan then went to the grocery store for getting the missing ingredients. Cooked from 9 pm to something like 10:30 pm, and had dinner. It wasn't that great, but quite fresh. Then, not to end the evening like that, I decided to watch Transformers. Certainly something that wasn't worth staying up until almost 2 AM for. It was cute with lots of meaningless computer animations and very weak storyline.

Then today I didn't arrive this early any more. Made dinner, watched Top Chef (not really my idea, but it's a good way of wasting time) and then played some Geometry Wars: Galaxies on the Wii. I found the game quite bad. Didn't like the use of the Wii remote to point to where you want to shoot. But one thing was great: I've unlocked the galaxy on my DS! I thought it was going to allow me to play between the DS and the Wii, but apparently not. They just connect so that you can unlock the galaxy. Lame!

That's it. Now it's time to sleep as I haven't been sleeping much in the last days. It's not that I have a lot going on at work right now, but I can always find something to do better when I'm not tired.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


So, yes, I'm back from Vegas. It was quite a good trip. I met some very interesting people, had fun with them talking, playing games, and just hanging out. Vegas was mostly just a backdrop to the people, providing us with things to, ways of staying up until very late.

So, what I thought about Vegas? It's flat, with mountains on the backdrop. It's dry and sunny, quite a pleasant weather except that my lips are all chapped. I forgot about these oddities about dry weather. It's bright and full of drunk people walking around and being "happy". The only depressed-looking people are the ones playing on the slot machines. Made me not even want to give it a try.

Ah, and staying off the strip reminded me a lot with living in Oklahoma: large city blocks full of strip malls with large chain stores... Everywhere! We even ate at some, like Sonic and Marie Callender's. I can't say I'm very proud of that, but, as I said, it was all about the people.

Alright, I thought I was going to have more time than this to write, but I guess I have to go now. Not much more to say about the trip. Maybe more to talk about the people on the trip, but I'll leave this to some other time. I'm not sure I have enough data points yet for a full description. But I did find at least someone with a twitter account! With cryptic sports-related messages, which made me not try to follow him.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Twitter Day

It's funny how things sometimes happen all at the same time. This morning, for no particular reason, I went back to look at twitter and see if there was anybody I knew there... Nope... I had looked at twitter some time ago when I heard mentioned probably on TWiT (actually I remembered that it took me some time, for some reason, to figure out how to spell it correctly).

Then, on my way to work, I was listening to TWiT and they had a whole section on how twitter is huge among the Tech reviewer people. I didn't find it too strange, as they always mention twitter on their shows.

Later, when I was going for lunch, I heard somebody mention that somebody else said something on twitter. At this point I was already finding it very suspicious. Then, finally, on the bus coming home, a couple sits behind me and the guy turns to the girl and asks: "Do you know what twitter is?"

With all this, I had to post something on my blog and write my first twitter (saying that I'm writing this post).

So, what do I think of twitter? It's a very simple concept that, if executed correctly can be fun (thus, addicting), and if not it can be just a huge waste of time. Fun waste of time, but completely non-productive.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Choice of words

Choosing what you write and how you write it is extremely important. Sometimes you might have a very important thing to say, but nobody is listening because you are not saying it in a way that makes people pay attention to you. That's well-known, so why am I writing it? Well, it's just that this morning I woke up at 6:30 AM and couldn't sleep any more (after staying up until almost 2AM last night reading) and was reading some articles around. Suddenly two articles popped up and really exemplified this concept:

1) On Communications of the ACM, one of the cover articles named "Patterns, Symmetry, and Symmetry Breaking" by Liping Zhao, the author tries to explain how we can look at programming and using of design patterns as breaking and generating this symmetries in programming languages. It's an analogy that I found quite hard to follow but was trying to hang on to it hoping that it was actually useful when I read the following phrase:

"In biology and physics, the imperfections and irregularities in the arrangement of cells are more interesting because they pose deeper questions to scientists."

WHAT? What kind of observation is that? Odd things make us more intrigued? This phrase was so strikingly meaningless to me that it completely made me lose interest on the article and I stopped reading. Just one phrase...

2) On the other hand, I was going through some articles on ComputerWorld and found Just-patched Excel makes calculation mistakes. Just the title of the article made me have to have a look through it (and I have to claim that the title of Zhao's article also drew me to it). Fortunately it was a short article and talked about a bug introduced to Real Time Data on Excel 2003. If they had actually said something like "New Excel 2003 Patch Adds Bug to Real Time Data" I wouldn't have even looked at the article. Sure, articles about bugs on products that you have or had access to are interesting (especially when the whole Excel 2007 Bug was doing its rounds), but Real Time Data on Excel 2003?

Ok, time to move onto something else for the day... Maybe organizing my Brazil pictures? Or perhaps cleaning up my office... I just know that I've read enough for the morning. Including struggling through articles in German (quite depressing, actually).

Back from Brazil

I'm back from Brazil and I still haven't had the time to write my impressions. I'll just write a summary here and then leave the impressions for maybe the weekend when I hope to start going through the pictures and remembering the things I've done and seen.

The trip was great. With moments of happiness, learning, surprise, stress, sadness... Quite a complete trip! São Paulo continues crazy with traffic and violence nervousness. Salvador was sometimes annoyingly touristic, with everything built to foster tourism even when it is to the cost of losing uniqueness. It was great, nevertheless. Morro de São Paulo was relaxing.

There were only two very negative memories from the trip. One of them I'm not really going to discuss here. It was related to discussions I had with my family. The other was the joke about my visa. I almost had to postpone my trip back because the American Consulate doesn't really seem to care about people's needs to have a visa. The summary is that they say that it takes 6-10 days for you to receive your visa back. The consulate is very close to my parent's place, so I asked if I could expedite the process and pick it up myself instead of shipping it using Sedex. The answer was "no". So there I was waiting... I went to the consulate on a Friday. The next week nothing happened. The other week I was in Bahia, so I kept somebody verifying if the visa arrived... Nothing.

I was starting to get worried, so my father asked his secretary to call the consulate and check what was going on. She called on Thursday and they told her that the visawas issued but it hadn't been shipped yet. Shipping, because it was local, was supposed to take only 1-2 days, so I wasn't worried. Came Friday - nothing. On Sunday we arrived back to São Paulo. Our flight left on Tuesday back to the States, so on Monday morning I called the consulate just to confirm that it had been shipped and what they told me is that it hadn't been released yet! And that's all they could tell me!

I went back and forth on discussing with people with more experience on getting a visa and they told me to send an email and fax to a certain place. I did and received a prompt response that my visa was still on "processing" and that's all they could tell me!

More back and forth of discussions concluded that I had to show up personally with confirmation of my flight to beg them to give me my visa. Note that this pretty much was killing my last full day in Brazil. So, that's what I did... I got to the information booth (after getting there at 2:15 PM and finding out that it's only open from 3-4 PM) and the woman told me that the problem was a software glitch with their image recognition system that was unable to recognize my face! I asked her what to do and she went inside to ask some people and after 5 minutes she came back saying: "Oh, it was just released! Just go to the back and pick it up!"

This "just go to the back and pick it up" took another 30 minutes, but I did get it. This was on the 10th. Reading the visa what does it say? That it was issued on the 7th! Why do they do that to people?

Anyway, that was the really exciting part of the trip for me. Amy might be able to tell her excitement trying to be vegetarian in Brazil... Recipe to starve or to only eat very healthy things like french fries or fried yucca balls (especially in the northeast). And what a waste, as the fish and seafood in general was so good...

Well, now that I'm back, what do I have to talk about? Well, I'm trying to get back to being productive. I'm still ramping up back at work, feeling a little by the sidelines of what is going on. So I should be getting productive at home. Reading technical magazines, planning on projects that I'll be hopefully able to start now that my wrist feels fully recovered. Lots of things to do... So little time...