be less verbose

Posted Sun, 11 Apr 2010 09:57:41 +0100

Yesterday Isaac made an interesting argument for prefering digital books over paper ones. To put things in context, I was discussing with him how at the moment I’m actually buying more books than I can read, because I like to have a good set to choose from whenever I want to pick up something new. Also, and this is an important factor, I prefer to buy online and don’t visit book shops often, so books always take their time to arrive.

Thus, at the moment, whenever I come across something that I think I could enjoy in the future, it’s likely I’ll buy it even if I can’t read it immediately, just to have it around. But, and as has always happened to me with movies, it is often the case that stuff I’ve bought stagnates is the “to be read” pile, because I never find the appropriate mood to pick it up. Which is a waste of money and space.

The argument Isaac made is probably known to many, but was absolutely novel to me. The idea is that whenever I come across something that I could potentially be interested in reading in the future, instead of buying it I search for it in digital format, and then add it to, for example, the Wishlist book shelf on my LibraryThing, together with a link to the place offering it. This way, the Wishlist book shelf becomes a “virtual library” of sorts which I can peruse for pre-screened stuff to read, any of which I should be able to obtain at any time in less than five minutes.

I’ve started already to pay more attention whether stuff I buy or would like to buy is available in digital form or not.

Posted Wed, 17 Feb 2010 22:12:22 +0000

Este lunes, en el tren de Valencia a Alicante y cuando ya llevábamos al menos una hora de viaje, le oí a un niño decir lo siguiente a su madre: “Mami, yo por mí creo que ya hemos llegado ¿no?” A mí esta frase me pareció insight y ricura a partes iguales.

Posted Wed, 30 Dec 2009 12:15:03 +0000
  • I went to the Leonard Cohen concert in Madrid last weekend. It had to be in Madrid because when he played in Dublin, I was still in Spain. The performance was amazing, and let it be noted that it was a three and a half hour concert. That, per-se, is already remarkable. When it comes from a 75-year-old man... well, just another reason to take one’s hat off (perhaps that’s that’s why so many attendants wore one that night).

  • The days before going to the concert, I was sick in bed with some pharyngitis, tonsilitis, or the like. I went to the doctor on Wednesday, and I had to pay 55 € for the visit, plus 16 more in antibiotics. Of these, I’ll get a refund of 40 € by my private insurance. This saddens me a lot.

  • I think I’m definitely back on track on my reading again, after so many years. Since June, when I picked up The Time Traveler’s Wife, I’ve read 8 books in total, not that bad. As a side note, at the end it seems I’ve dropped Goodreads and gone for LibraryThing; my catalog there is publicly available. They don’t provide a feed of books as one starts reading them; there’s however a feed of additions to one’s library, which comes close.

  • Back in June, some of my posts had a PS giving status updates on how I was doing with my exams. I never got a chance to say that I passed the third of them, which was a big relief. This means that now I’m one course away from getting my degree, yay! Hopefully I’ll be done by next June.

  • I guess that as a gesture, it can’t hurt that the UK Government publicly apologizes to Alan Turing. However, we’d be all better served if everybody, governments and population alike, would just spend some spare cycles today on saving us from futher embarrassing apologies 50 years from now. For example, the day we may apologize to all those people who we’ve let die of hunger every day for decades, will you have done something within your reach to improve the situation? (Apparently back in the 50s it was difficult for people to believe that a Prime Minister would publicly apologize to a homosexual, let alone that there was something that needed apologizing for.)

Posted Sun, 20 Sep 2009 02:40:12 +0100
  • Death at a Funeral: I watched a comedy for a change: very good laughs. (Thanks, Chica con falda roja.)

  • Holiday: I have a weakness for Katharine Hepburn, but perhaps this film is superb on its own, too.

  • Milk: Sean Penn deserved the Oscar, if only, for biting his fist regarding the Proposition 6 outcome.

  • Los cronocrímenes: enticing Spanish film about time travelling which may or may not be similar to the film from 2004 Primer.

  • Into the Wild: watch it. (Ah, the time when I was intending to write so much about this film.)

Posted Fri, 14 Aug 2009 23:26:43 +0100 Tags: films

Con esto de la mudanza a Dublín, pero sobre todo porque en casa también se mudan a otro lugar con menos espacio, estoy haciendo inventario y limpieza de todas mis posesiones, y deshaciéndome de todo aquello que no es imprescindible. Me deshago, entre otras cosas, de mis apuntes, de la carrera y también de bachillerato. Me ha costado hacerme a la idea, pero lo cierto es que no iba a mirarlos nunca más, excepto de darse circunstancias en las que —aventuro— más me valdría no hacerlo.

En cualquier caso, en la carpeta del curso 1999-2000, el último de bachillerato, ha aparecido entre los apuntes el siguiente texto. Por aquella época yo estaba obsesionado con escribir, y escribí mucho. Bueno, empecé muchos textos, y acabé pocos (y no son los mejores, I’d say). La mayoría los escribí con el ordenador (¡en el Word!), y no tengo ni idea de por dónde paran todos esos borradores. Éste ha aparecido en papel, y lo comparto aquí antes de mandarlo a reciclar. No lleva título.

Camina entre la gente con su cigarro liado en la mano. De cuando en cuando, una calada. Corta, fugaz, y tragando el menor humo posible: hay que cuidarse. Le gusta el tabaco liado. Especialmente ese día. Llevaba un cabreo muy grande en el cuerpo, y ahora se dedicaba a mirar a la gente poniendo los ojos vidriosos, como si estuviera drogado. Pensarán que llevo un porro, piensa.

En la parada del autobús, la chica que está a su lado se come una hamburguesa. Le viene a la cabeza un insulto contra el capitalismo del McDonald’s. Lo que pasa es que no tiene dinero para comprarse una. Si lo tuviera, a buena hora se metería con el sistema. Se calla el insulto y se dedica a mirar furtivamente a la chica, fumando. Todavía el mismo cigarro: los liados duran más. A su otro lado, un viejo fuma un Ducados. Mismo juego: miradas vidriosas.

Ya llega el autobús. Mierda, todavía no me he acabado el cigarro. Le pega una última calada, más profunda (nota el humo penetrando hasta lo más íntimo de sus pulmones, de su ser). Mientras sube al autobús, expira el humo. Le gusta el efecto que produce: “Macarra de ceñido pantalón...” Hoy le apetece ir de duro.

Update (19:45): Al final he decidido no reciclarlo y guardarlo en otra carpeta que ha aparecido con random papeles, entre ellos un diario de enero de 2000 relatando mis desamores de la época.

Posted Wed, 05 Aug 2009 16:58:21 +0100

I’d like to follow-up to a couple recent posts in this blog, triggered by comments I received via e-mail and other media.

In the first place, I’ll comment on the post that labelled bloodletting and electroshock as “barbaric methods”. I received two comments about this. The first one was from a heamatologist who pointed out that bloodletting per se is not an abandoned practice, and that is still the method of choice, for example, for some pathologies that consist, precisely, on elevated bloodvolume (eg., polycythemia vera). The second of these comments was regarding electroshock, and how it can or is still used to treat long-term depression (and pointed me to this TED talk by American surgeon Sherwin Nuland, who apparently had severe depression himself and was well served by electroshock therapy).

These comments were called for, so I’ll amend and say that only “indiscriminated bloodletting” should have been described as barbaric, like doctors in the distant past used to do as far as I know. For electroshock, however, the fact that it may cure depression doesn’t make it less barbaric in my eyes, at least if the amounts of pain involved in the treatment are what one has been led to believe. So I think it’d belong in the same category as treatments for cancer: we use them despite being horrible because we’re sadly not quite there yet in the “knowing better” ladder of History. (And this is just my opinion, of course.)


Regarding my recent post about Oposiciones, it was pointed out out that the original intent of for-life employment when working for the State is to free such workers from possible politic pressures, and to avoid firing en masse when a new party arrives to the Government, to hire people that will sympathize with their agenda.


And finally, about my somewhat older Meritocracy and entitlement, I was told that —even if the reader would know me relatively well— it was very easy to read the short entry in the opposite way it was intended by me. If that’s the case, let me clarify: my thoughts on the matter are that the more power or positions you get in a project (to which you arrive by meriting them, obviously), the less entitled you should feel.

Posted Mon, 13 Jul 2009 21:04:50 +0100
  • Pity is a messy business, I’d say, and I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off never pitying anybody whom we don’t know reasonably well, or who isn’t clearly asking for it. For all I know, the girl in a wheelchair sitting across from me in the library could be way happier than many of us, and the guy with all the looks nearby, unexpectedly miserable (or the guy with all the money, for that matter).

  • I come across regularly with Git repositories converted from Subversion with plain git-svn, in which the initial commits are in the typical form:

    commit 1bd799efe798308aed29c95eb08e4cb1c91693c9
    Author: guy <guy@5c8cc53c-5e98-4d25-b20a-d8db53a31250>
    Date:   Wed Nov 29 01:12:13 2006 +0000
    
    
      [...]
      git-svn-id: svn://repo.org/svn/project/trunk@43 5c8cc53c-5e98-4d25-b20a-d8db53a31250
    

    Every time I see one of these, it reminds me of how different people are, for I could not be able to stand such (ugly) commits in my history for eternity (and it’s not as if git-svn does not have the “authorsfile” and “noMetadata” options).

  • There’s a bus here that used to do City 1 ↔ University ↔ City 2, so students would pick that line on side of the road A to go to City 1, and on side of the road B to go to City 2. Now they’ve changed the line, and it only does City 1 ↔ University, with side B going to City 1 as well. The sign in the bus no longer shows “City 2” as a destination, but the line number is the same as before. I do wonder if a SONAME bump would have helped here: plenty of people are still taking it to go to City 2, and get very upset when they see the bus do the U-turn!

  • If my weak math-fu didn’t fail on me, it should be possible for an ATM to deliver any amount of money multiple of 10 with only notes of 20 and 50, except of course 10 and 30.

  • I’ve been trying to eat more fruit lately, particularly more kinds of fruit (for years, I’ve confined myself to Granny Smith apples and watermelon). I now also like grapes, peaches, oranges, and some kiwis.

  • A while ago I read with great amusement Rusty is a homosexual.

P.S.: I’ve passed the second of the three courses as well, only one exam left now on the 16th (incidentally the hardest of them).

Posted Sun, 12 Jul 2009 11:05:09 +0100

Publico aquí parte de un correo electrónico que le escribí a alguien recientemente:

Me encanta cruzarme en mi caminar por la vida con personas que sufren algún tipo de problema de salud mental y que aun así luchan y viven y consiguen ser excelentes en lo que hacen —y tú lo pareces—, porque sé por experiencia lo que eso cuesta y la admiración que merece. Yo tengo trastorno bipolar, y las he pasado muy putas en el pasado. Cada día doy gracias de estar ahora mejor, y sobre todo de encontrar cada vez que me caigo las fuerzas para levantarme, sea más o menos grande la caída. (Afortunadamente, no ha habido grandes caídas en los últimos dos o tres años. Antes de eso... tres años sin poder hacer caso a la Universidad.)

En cualquier caso, y por mor de ir al grano, sólo me gustaría decirte las siguientes tres cosas, por si alguna de ellas te parece digna de consideración. Y lo hago, quizá, porque me gustaría vivir en un mundo en el que los problemas de salud mental no estuvieran estigmatizados —como no lo están, por decir algo, el cáncer o la invalidez o la gripe—. Sí es verdad que las cosas están cambiando, pero lamentablemente todavía hay gente convencida de que por ejemplo la gente que se deprime sin motivo en realidad lo que le pasa es que son unos vagos o unos cobardes.

La primera de estas tres cosas que quería decir es que, tenga uno lo que tenga, siempre hay personas en la misma situación, y que a su vez luchan por vivir y por vivir bien y por excelear. Sin embargo, el propósito de esta consideración no es, ni mucho menos, consolarse (no hay nada peor para cualquier enfermedad que tenerse lástima y permitir que otros la sientan), sino encontrar inspiración. Recuerdo que al poco de ser diagnosticado leí una lista de personas notables con las que compartía diagnóstico. Personas admirables por su trabajo (hell, Newton!, pero también p.ej. desarrolladores de Debian como yo) y que, incidentalmente, tenían ese algo en sus vidas también.

La segunda cosa es una frase que proviene (si no estoy equivocado) del cristianismo, y eso que yo no profeso esa religión. Antes de decir la frase, déjame explicar por qué creo yo que es tan potente como idea: porque cuando una persona hace un acto de fe, y la cree, inmediatamente esa persona tiene poderes y fuerzas que no tenía antes. La frase dice algo así como que Dios nunca da a nadie una cruz que no pueda soportar, que sea mayor que él o superior a sus fuerzas. Yo no creo que Dios reparta cruces, sino que simplemente te vienen como parte de la vida, pero estar convencido de que las que tengo conmigo de momento, puedo con ellas, eso es muy, muy empowering.

La última cosa también se podría resumir en otra frase, la máxima griega (?) “Conócete a ti mismo”, y ahora explicaré por qué. En mi mano a mano con esta enfermedad, he encontrado que una de las cosas que más me ha ayudado (quizá, no lo sé, sólo en conjunción con los compuestos químicos) es saber exactamente de qué pie cojeo, y cómo y cuándo y por qué cojeo: a día de hoy tengo el don de verme venir las cosas, de saber cuándo por ejemplo unos pensamientos negativos se están haciendo demasiados grandes y debo abortarlos por lo que pudiera pasar después. En otras palabras, es imposible poder prevenir o aliviar nada si no se ve venir a decenas de metros de distancia.

Y eso es todo. He leído también en tu blog algo de no poder imaginar que tu vida vaya a ser siempre así. No sé qué pensarás ahora de eso, pero yo miro al futuro siempre con esperanza, y con la certeza de que cada vez lo torearé mejor.

Posted Fri, 10 Jul 2009 15:44:30 +0100

In Spain, in order to work for the public administration, you have to go through this selection process called Oposiciones, which are basically an exam and other tests after which candidates are sorted by their combined grade, and available positions are handed out to them in that order. I assume every country has something to the same effect.

In Spain at least, the position thus obtained is to be held for life, meaning you cannot be fired unless you incur in extremely unacceptable behavior (and then, as far as I know, most of the time you just get barred from work for a number of months, after which you return normally). Because of this, many a mother advices their children to prepare for one of these exams, and many people decide to do so particularly in times like these. The people who occupy such positions are called funcionarios, and there’s this même in Spanish society that they all work very relaxedly, to use an euphemism, particularly those in offices. (It must be very upsetting to be a diligent funcionario, and be made the same snide remarks again and again when revealing yourself as one.)

I really don’t understand why this is done this way, and can’t possibly agree to it. Of course, the State above all should behave responsibly and provide with stable employment, but I can’t see why its employees shouldn’t be held up to the same standards of quality as the citizens employed by private companies. Isn’t just «for-life employment» a recipe for people lowering their standards? If there’s no risk of getting sacked, isn’t that an invitation —at least for many people— to performing a sub-par job? (A person I know who’s preparing Oposiciones to be a teacher in Primary school told me that, in fact, such fact would give her much freedom to implement more modern teaching methods without fear of consequences, for they are regarded as very unconventional by most, but my impression is that she’s the exception rather than the rule.)

Speaking of Education, here in Spain there’s a special degree you have to pursue if you want to be a teacher in Primary school. However, to be a teacher in Secondary school, any degree will do, as long as you attended upon completion to a laughable 4-month course on “how to teach”. Because of this, people with random degrees and no interest in teaching whatsoever decide every year that Secondary school is their best bet to a funcionario position, and go for it. Which, I muse, perhaps plays some kind of role in the state of Education around here — but that is going into muddy waters, and I rather wouldn’t. (I’m told that this laughable 4-month course is being morphed into some kind of 1-year Master with exams and grades and shit. Well, I guess that’s something.)

Oh, and by the way, greetings to all the diligent funcionarios out there, including the teachers that live for their teaching and their students: you rock!

Posted Tue, 30 Jun 2009 17:58:27 +0100
  • Last week I mentioned Randy Pausch was an Unitarian Universalist. This made me visit briefly the Wikipedia page for this movement, and out of pure curiosity I also peeked at the homepage of the Unitarian church in Dublin (which may just be part of the Unitarian movement, and not the UU one, beware!). Anyway, it has a a reverend, which left me realizing that, whilst I can’t really say whether I’ll ever set foot in a church weekly again, at the moment I can’t really conceive ever going back but to an unconventional one where the speaker would be, each week, a different member of the community, and not an appointed reverend.

  • Throughout the history of Medicine, barbaric methods have been used to cure some illnesses. Bloodletting and electroshock come to mind. In the current times, we’re thankfully past such practices, and the reasonable thing to do is to pity those who had to live back then, when science did not know any better. I’m hopeful one day the people of the future will look back at chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the same way we look at bloodletting and electroshock today.

  • During this VAC from Debian, my amule package was NMUed by the Security Team. I must ashamedly confess that my first reaction was not very positive, for I was annoyed that the procedures hadn’t been really followed (it was not an RC bug and no advance notice of the NMU had been given). Anyway, whether it was right or wrong is not the point: the story goes that I pulled myself together, slapped self a bit, and decided to send a “Thanks!” e-mail instead, which was very much in order. It’s so magical how a couple hours ater sending it, I really felt grateful and no longer annoyed. The thing I learnt is not to despair when desired traits don’t come naturally, for they can become true just by trying.

  • Recently I obtained a copy of the latest album by Corazón, Nuevo futuro. Not having the time to listen to it at home, I transferred it to my iPod, an (old-generation) iPod Shuffle, and hence without a screen. I had read this review of the album that, among other things, said a track named «Vestir santos» was probably the album’s finest. So, when listening to the album in the street, I was hoping I would manage to deduce which track «Vestir santos» was, out of its lyrics. Unfortunately I wasn’t smart enough to deduce it, but when I got home I had the opportunity to get surprised by the fact that track #4, which had become my favourite after a couple listens in the iPod, happened to be «Vestir santos».

Posted Sun, 28 Jun 2009 11:28:34 +0100

I’ve sometimes told myself that I’ll feel the future has arrived when it’ll be possible to enter an IMDB number on my TV, and have a HD version of the movie play instantly, with languages and subtitles available. Current bandwidth is driving us towards that direction, and some invaluable communities are in fact making it almost possible today. (Nevertheless, I’d be happy to pay a monthly quote in exchange for the bell and whistles mentioned above, and for really having practically all movies at my disposal.)

The future likes to arrive in small doses, of course. Today I wanted to write “food time, bbl” on IRC, but I typoed it as “good time, bbl”. This typo made me remember a song from my teen years that I used to listen to all the time, since the video clip was included in the Windows 95 installation that accompanied me through high school (yes...). I found it really futuristic how, after typing exactly three words, I found myself enjoying the video again, and then peeking at the rest of the album. (After that I proceeded to this other video. Wow, I really spent hours playing that game back then.)

I think the appreciation of things like the above is a very good excercise: the world becomes such a much better place when one stops taking everything for granted. I, of course, also have wilder wishes for the future: I dream with the day when singing to self a particular fragment of a song will be enough to trigger it playing in the nearest loudspeakers or headphones. For now, getting one of those players where my whole collection will fit will have to do.

Posted Thu, 25 Jun 2009 16:27:49 +0100

Ésta es la pregunta número 4 del examen de Arquitectura e Ingeniería de Computadores de la Universidad de Alicante en su convocatoria de junio de 2009, al que lamentablemente al final no me presenté:

El año pasado se celebró el primer centenario del levantamiento popular de Madrid del 2 de Mayo de 1808. Suponga (es una aproximación) que los hechos acontecieron del siguiente modo:

De 7 a 9h de la mañana del 2 de Mayo de 1808, una multitud de 300 madrileños se concentra frente al Palacio Real de Madrid (custodiado por unos 200 soldados) para impedir que los franceses sacasen del palacio a los últimos miembros de la familia real. En este momento comienza una rebelión popular que se extiende a lo largo de Madrid y que dura hasta las 0h. El pueblo, unos 3000 madrileños armados con cacerolas, navajas, macetas, agujas de coser, etc., se enfrenta a todo un ejército de 35000 soldados. Aún así, comienza una dura batalla que supone en sendos bandos un número importante de bajas entre muertos y heridos. Aproximadamente unos 900 del lado francés y 700 del lado español. A pesar de que el pueblo de Madrid tiene muchos menos medios para la batalla, su distribución a lo largo de todo Madrid (que podemos abstraer como su disposición para trabajar de forma paralela pero cooperativa), provoca que se cause un daño significativo en el ejército francés.

Nota: El ejército francés emplea 1 hora a partir de las 9h de la mañana para desplazarse y reorganizar sus tropas (tiempo en el que no luchan, pero pueden ser atacados). El pueblo de Madrid, desafiante en toda su extensión, no tiene que emplear tiempo en este cometido.

Se pide:

a) ¿Cuál de los 2 bandos (soldados franceses o pueblo de Madrid) ha sido más eficiente en la batalla? (0.4 puntos)

b) ¿Qué bando ha sido el más productivo? (0.25 puntos)

A mí me parece estupendo.

Posted Wed, 24 Jun 2009 12:37:12 +0100

Yesterday I borrowed The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger from the library. I’m hardly on page 100 by now, and I’m already making plans about whom I am going to give it to for their birthday.

During this first half of 2009, reading has been a painful experience. I already mentioned last week that I’ve been suffering some kind of reader’s block for a long time. It seemed to have gone away late in 2008, when I managed to read several books in a row (my favourite being The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), but in 2009 I’ve already started and given up three others: my “Oh no, I’ve smoked again” moments.

Big part of the problem is my limited ability to choose what to read. There isn’t really much of a library at home, and for now buying books comes below the cutoff line in the budget, so I’m left to sticking to public libraries: it’s really sad to get all excited about a certain book in Goodreads or LibraryThing, and then check that it’s not available in any of the libraries around here. (It doesn’t really help that I insist on reading in English now, in a country where that’s even more uninteresting than undubbed movies. Then there’s the pain that I’m not a fast reader anymore, and the clock ticks.)

Anyway, let’s get back to this non-review of The Time Traveler’s Wife, since the above should sort itself out soon. Imagine, coming from where I come from on this, how empowering it feels to say, a couple tens of pages into a book, this book, to say: “I’m so going to finish it.” (Well, any book can turn out bad, but I’m quite confident this one won’t.) It was a really great feeling.

This book is obviously science-fiction, since it involves time travelling, but I think that’s a wrong label for it since it’s just a love story. One that, precisely because it involves a component one doesn’t normally find in regular love stories (time travelling), becomes such a powerful one: the characters experience situations in a relationship your brain had never conceived, like for example the whole Jason incident, and that’s been for me incredibly moving. (I guess if you’re well into time-travelling stories, you might have thought of such situations. And there are probably some science-fictions books out there that have presented some of them already.)

If you’re thinking of reading this book, and particularly if you’re a regular science-fiction reader, I’m tempted to suggest —with only 100 pages into it, beware!— that you don’t see it as a science-fiction book. Try not to derail into analyzing if the travelling is consistent (which I’ve found it to be), or if the presented philosophy makes sense. For me it’s a book about emotions, and the time travelling is the device that allows us to achieve some very high peaks.

By the way, as far as I can tell, this is going to be the first time ever I’m going to watch a movie after having read the novel, and not the other way around. Let’s see how disappointed I will be!

P.S.: I’ve recently passed one of the three courses I had set out to pass when I went VAC, yay! Only two to go.

Posted Tue, 23 Jun 2009 21:21:19 +0100

I have this recurring experience in my life whereas I’ll regularly be late in my discovery of something. It happens with any kind of stuff, but particularly with with music: how can it be that I discovered this artist so ashamingly late? For example, I only came to hear about Anthony and the Johnsons a couple months ago, in 2009 already... (Clearly some processes in my life could be streamlined.)

Anyway, this is not about music, but some of the other kind of stuff. Through the magic of the intarwebs and by virtue of people who care to compile a list of worthwhile links in their homepages (I should definitely do that some time), I came to know about the PostSecret project (blog, page, wikipedia). The premise is simple: anonymous people send in a self-made postcard with a short message, which must be a truthful secret never revealed to anyone before. Every Sunday, the creator of the project (Frank Warren) will post to the site a selection of the received postcards.

If you visit during this week, you’ll see a themed edition of sorts, dubbed Father’s Day Secrets. I urge you to take a look, now or after finishing this post. I can’t even begin to describe how powerful the experience was for me. Upon introspection, I think it’s because each one of these secrets is a concentrated drop of empathy waiting to hit your brain. If you’re not too keen on empathizing with others, maybe you won’t enjoy the site after all. (And, of course, not all of these drops result equally powerful to one’s sensibility.)

There have been several books published with many of such postcards, which is great since unfortunately each weekly set disappears from the blog upon the arrival of the next one (or shortly thereafter). If you use Google Reader, that’s great because it keeps a history of all posts since 2007 (though the images don’t seem to load for the oldest of them). Alternatively, you may visit the Spanish translation, which displays the original images in addition to their translation, and allows to visit older entries.

Finally, I can’t but help to show a couple here. First, the really sad ones:

Then, a very light one:

And then, this one:

Posted Mon, 22 Jun 2009 13:07:40 +0100
  • Spanish having accented letters, it is very easy to get misspelt artist names in Last.fm, and since Last.fm doesn’t do auto-correction for them (only for track titles), you end up with two different pages for a given artist. If you’re an elitist, refrain from enjoying music from artists whose misspelt name has more listeners than the correct one (and good luck).

  • The “automatic formatting” feature in Vim is rather useful, since you can edit text mid-paragraph and have it automatically “flow” to the desired line length, like word processors do. I wish, however, it was context sensitive (but I guess only Emacs must be able to do that): using it for e-mail or LaTeX sucks because then you must deactivate it when editing the headers or the preamble. But, alas, a shortcut for easy activation/deactivation is a mess, because there’s no toggling for multi-valued, comma-separated options in Vim AFAICS. (The shortcut can be done, though.)

  • I’ve watched recently the two late talks by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who passed away in 2008 due to pancreatic cancer. These are Time Management and, of course, The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. I was profoundly impressed, for I found him to be really, really inspiring. Once I recover from that, I’ll watch them again and take notes. (Interestingly enough, he was an Unitarian Universalist.)

  • The stupid riddle in last week’s items was simply a list of middle names for some well-known people (Knuth, Raymond, Stallman, Torvalds and Dijkstra). The addendum was Icaza’s second surname.

  • I’m rather fond of top-posting in private correspondence, since I see little value in replying inline and only in few occasions quoting really makes a difference. I prefer my private correspondence, particularly if not technical, to be snail mail-like, with each reply standing on its own. (In that case, it is of course one’s responsibility to ensure you don’t overlook in your reply any of the topics or questions in the original text.)

Posted Sun, 21 Jun 2009 12:40:01 +0100

I’m a fearful person. I haven’t really stopped to think why, but the truth is that I’m always fearing that things will go wrong, eg. that something good that’s supposed to happen in the near future will not happen in the end.

Last year I mentioned being in Dublin for the summer in an internship at Google. Well, that went well, and during this year I’ve been interviewing for a full-time position. See, I kept rather secretive about this, because I was utterly convinced I wouldn’t make it (some kind of pessimism as a defense mechanism, I’ve been told).

Even now, two months after having been told that I made it, and even with the contract signed, I still have fears that something bad will happen that’ll prevent me from starting there in August. But, well, now that I’ve bought my tickets, I think it’s about time to say: I’ll be moving to Dublin in a couple months to start as a reliability engineer at Google. It feels strange buying a one-way ticket, and at the same time so natural.

For me, the part that excites me most about this whole business is —drawing an analogy from the world of video games— finally jumping to the next level in life. I’ve been a student for too long already, and life forced me to move back to my parents’ even when I had supposedly moved out permanently. It’s time for me to move on, and it’s very helpful to have solved «the job issue» already, since I have a lot of (other) work ahead of me.

Posted Thu, 18 Jun 2009 13:02:17 +0100

On the whole debate about abortion, you could say I’ve always been (and still am) in the so-called «pro-choice» side of things. There’s however a recurring thought I’ve been hitting myself with lately, and which I’d like to share now.

For me, the whole «pro-choice» business is based on, well, choice, and the right to choose regarding oneself. I’ve always argued that a country having legislation that allows for abortion doesn’t mean that everybody should be following that path, and pregnant women for whom abortion is morally unacceptable are free not to pursue it.

In a quest for trying to illustrate to myself why «pro-life» people don’t find that argument compelling at all, I came with the following toy dilemma: imagine your country would start to allow for capital punishment if —and only if—, provided that the law says the crime warrants it, the victim or the family of the victim say they’d like for that.

Would I not be campaigning in the streets against this? Why would that be okay, but on the other hand I’ve regarded «pro-life» campaigning as intolerance in the past? Why does self-righteousness come so naturally to everyone of us?

World. Not a simple place.

PS, I’m pretty much convinced that the two posed examples are fully comparable for the purpose of this discussion, yet I find it very acceptable to be «pro-choice». The point is not on the rightness of wrongness of either belief, but on how we regard those who won’t think like us.

Posted Wed, 17 Jun 2009 19:18:04 +0100

Last week I borrowed from the library El peso de la paja, Terenci Moix’s memoirs. I find it intriguing how having his memoirs in my hands only managed to trigger the sad memory of the day he died after some days, and not immediately.

Terenci Moix died in April, 2003. For some time by then, I used to listen to La Ventana, a radio show conducted by (the oh-so-marvelous) Gemma Nierga, where Terenci would share a space with Boris Izaguirre a couple times a week, I think. I remember myself most avid for that half an hour: I found their talk fascinating. (I must investigate some time, or have somebody find out, whether it’d be possible to access to those recordings now. It is something I’d love to have, for those inevitable days of melancholia.) In the preceding months, too, I had started reading some of Terenci’s books: El día que murió Marilyn, Garras de astracán, and also Preguntar no és ofendre.

I clearly remember myself crying in the rest rooms on campus while listening to La Ventana that day. He was probably one, if not the first public character who died while being a dear part of my life, and I was also young and easily affected.


For a long, long time I’ve had some kind of «reader’s block». I used to read an awful lot in my teen years and very early twenties, but somehow all that stopped when I started doing computery stuff and despite my repeated attempts to get back on track. I’ve also elaborated an assorted set of explanations for this. The latest of them, derived from the pleasure with which I’m reading Terenci’s memoirs, that it may be the time for me to look more into non-fiction, which I’ve always neglected.


Cinema was a very strong force in Terenci’s life. Not only he wrote important texts on Hollywood movies from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s (and a History of cinema together with Pere Gimferrer that got stolen and lost forever before publication), it also influenced his views of the world. Early in his memoirs, the following text is found, which I found moving:

[...] solía ensimismarme en juegos siempre solitarios o en la contemplación de unas imágenes que constituyen mi primer recuerdo, el primer signo reconocible de mi vida.

Era la vidriera de la entrada el punto fijo de aquella mi observación diaria, de aquel ensimismamiento. Y no porque a través de los cristales se vislumbrase la calle como punto posible de escapatoria —tan estrecha era que no me permitía imaginar horizontes—, sino a causa de los carteles que solían dejar semanalmente varios cines de la barriada.

Eran pasquines amarillentos, impresos a toda prisa en cualquier imprenta barata de las cercanías. Tipografías tristonas que anunciaban, en letras rudimentarias y carentes de imaginación, los títulos de las dos películas de la semana, amén de las frases de publicidad destinadas a pontenciar sus atractivos. En medio de aquella composición desangelada, aparecían dos recuadros que contenían a su vez dos folletos de colores. Eran los inolvidables «programas», que los demás mortales obtenían de los cines, previo pago de su localidad, y que a mí me llegaban en sobreabundancia y sin moverme de casa.

Permanecía sentado horas enteras ante una de las mesas de mármol, y desde allí fijaba los ojos en los carteles de la vidriera, y muy especialmente en los reducidos programas cuyos rostros, preferentemente yanquis, llegaron a ser tan habituales como las clientas, las vecinas y los familiares. Y aquí me corresponde agradecer con ternura aquella costumbre, hoy perdida, el hábito entrañable de una época que todavía no había descubierto el derroche de las grandes campañas publicitarias. Pues incluso los anuncios más sofisticados eran grises como el ambiente y olían a rancio como nuestras casas.

Los cines humildes de mi ciudad anunciaban su mercancía por las tiendas de los barrios y éstas recibían a cambio un par de localidades válidas para días no festivos. Y a fe que la Granja de Gavá estaría considerada un foco de atracción de vital importancia para que tantos cines distantes entre sí fueran a dejar en mi vidriera sus reclamos y en mi bolsillo sus localidades. Esta concesión me convirtió en un Pequeño Lord de los cinéfilos en gestación.

Cada semana, esperaba ansiosamente al encargado de cambiar los carteles. A primeras horas del lunes, tomaba un minúsculo taburete, que nunca me ha abandonado, y me sentaba junto a la vidriera, atisbando hacia el fondo de la calle, por donde solía llegar el cartelero. Y a veces constituía una espera larga porque, en su reparto, tenía que detenerse antes en otras tiendas o simplemente se entretenía dando localidades por lo bajo a alguna vecina de buen ver. Cuando el hombre llegaba, corría hacia él y me aferraba a sus piernas, suplicando que me entregara los carteles sin esperar a los demás. Y en ocasiones me reñía, porque en la impaciencia por aumentar mi colección arrancaba los pequeños folletos de colores días antes de cumplirse el plazo de exhibición.

Mientras el resto del mundo tenía que conformarse con una sesión de cine por semana, yo pasé mis primeros años consumiendo una sesión diaria. Porque a fin de aprovechar las localidades gratuitas, mis tías casi me obligaron a faltar al colegio todas las tardes de mi niñez. De manera que, gracias a la bendita incongruencia de mi familia, mis días están más llenos de cine que de estudios. Y, así, en lugar de deformarme la Iglesia lo hizo la Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Posted Mon, 15 Jun 2009 19:20:54 +0100
  • There’s stuff that I feel doesn’t warrant a full blog post, but won’t fit in 140 characters either (and I prefer the blog anyway). Because of this, I’ve decided to start bundling such bits together in a single post that’ll get flushed each Sunday if there are any items in the queue (this period could be adjusted later). The guideline is, roughly, “the item fits comfortably within a paragraph”. I think flushing weekly, independently of the numer of items, could be a good idea, because some stuff may perish. I wonder if it’d be worth trying that out for DeveloperNews.

  • This comes reposted from Twitter: if you’re mathematically inclined, particularly if only very slightly like myself, I invite you to spend ten minutes reading EWD975 (pdf), «On the theorem of Pythagoras» by Dijkstra. Who would’ve said that Pythagoras’ theorem could be abstracted into something that applies to all triangles and not only right-angled ones? (I hope to blog again about Dijkstra within the next weeks.)

  • Here’s a small and stupid riddle: “Ervin, Steven, Matthew, Benedict, Wybe.” I’ll tell you how long it’s been sitting in my computer: 6 years (it shows, too). Here’s an addendum: “Amozurrutia”. (Solution in the next issue.)

  • I’ve started wearing a white knot, a badge that’s been campaigned as the symbol of marriage equality (i.e., supporting marriage of same-sex couples). I’ve never worn badges before, and I’d like to salute all the not queer people that support this cause and have even started wearing a white knot themselves from time to time.

  • Again from Twitterland, this time Bryan O’Sullivan’s, an article in The Atlantic about a 70-year study of a couple hundreds Harvard students, pursuing some insights about what are the key factors for a happy life. Interesting enough read, at least for this uneducated mind in such matters. A quote:

    [The study director] was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

Posted Sun, 14 Jun 2009 13:37:46 +0100