You know your financial situation is critical when you need to borrow money from your son, who is only two-and-half years old–and he only consents if you agree to pay him a 150% of interest for a single day.
March 23rd, 2006 § Comments Off § permalink
Okay. After almost one year using the Internet with a minimum download speed of 600kbps and a maximum speed of 4mbps, going back to 56kbps is, to say the least, torture. Hotels without broadband should be outlawed. See you Friday.
For the past fews days, I’ve been watching Star Trek: The Original Series in DVD. I bought the boxes as soon as they became available here in Brazil, but had not seen many of the episodes until now. I guess I was a bit afraid I would be disappointed if I saw all episodes — after all, the series is very dated now.
I remember staying awake, when I was a teenager, until much past midnight waiting for some random episode to air in a local TV station. I had to wash my face constantly to keep myself from falling asleep, always anxious because of the station’s tendency to scrap Star Trek everytime another program run late. Most of the times, I would sleep frustrated, because that had happened again. But when I managed to see an episode, oh, the glory of it.
I still marvel at how much sense of wonder the series evoked in me. Today, seeing those old episodes, it’s funny and fascinating to see how much the producers accomplished with so few resources. I can’t help but laugh at the poor techniques used in some episodes. Science on the series is mostly technobabble, a heavy mixture of reality and pseudo-theories, but it works, because it’s not the most important thing.
What really mattered, and what really made me crave for another episode, was the way the series managed to break conventions and perceptions — sometimes contradicting itself, but breaking them anyway. Robert J. Saywer, in the introdution of his recent book, Boarding the Enterprise, writes:
“As William Marshall, who played cyberneticist Dr. Richard Daystrom in the episode ‘The Ultimate Computer’ (Season 2, Episode 24), said in an interview shortly before he passed away, it’s impossible to overstate the impact it had in the 1960s when white Captain Kirk referred to the black Daystrom as ‘Sir.’ Was it any surprise, two decades later, that NASA hired Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura, to help recruit the first minority astronauts? Star Trek gave us an appealing vision of a tolerant future that included everyone.”Without doubt, this is the great merit of the series. That’s what make it interesting enough to be seen forty years after its creation, despite the poor makeup, the bad scenarios, and the comically exaggerated acting: the fact that it spoke, and still does, of the human condition, something that will never be dated and will always be needed.
March 15th, 2006 § Comments Off § permalink
Murphy decided to camp in my office this week. Considering he was an engineer, I’m not surprised he always prefers to wreak havoc on areas were machines and humans collide.
To begin with, I managed to delete root’s home directory on my server. You know how. Not surprisingly, it was the only home directory not in the daily backup — ironic, considering the daily multi-level backup of the home partiation where all other users are. To make things worse, the directory contained three very important scripts which I had to recode promptly. At least, I took some time to optmize them. At three o’clock in the morning. Next, I upgraded MySQL from release 4.0 to release 4.1. Everything fine, except that I forgot to restart the most important service using MySQL: the e-mail server. It took me three days to realize no e-mail was being sent or received by the system. Fortunately, it was a weekend, and only one customer called to (kind of) complain. Restarting the e-mail server fixed the problem.
At last, today, after working on a project for almost six hours, I overwrite everything I had done with a single command. On the only of my projects which is not under version control. It figures.
Murphy is decidedly hanging around.
Once it was a square; then it became simply a multiple. Now, it’s a cube; soon it will be perfect.
A few days ago, I was waiting for the bus near a store that was being renovated, when a old man stopped at my side. He seemed to be almost fifty, dressed simply but neatly, and carrying a paper tube like those architects or engineers use. Turning to me, he said:
“Nice sidewalk, huh?” The part of the sidewalk in front of the store had been renovated too, and constrated with the rest of sidewalk along the older stores, more clean and newer.
I only smiled. After ten hours in front of a computer, I wasn’t in the mood to talk to passing strangers, especially about such mudane subjects like sidewalks. The old man, of course, didn’t mind my mood.
“If you were an engineer,” he continued, “what would say it’s wrong about this sidewalk?”
“I’m not an engineer,” I replied, trying to stop the conversation right there.
“I know. Pretend you are one. What’s wrong with the sidewalk?”
I shrugged. I really wasn’t interested in the conversation, and even less in trying to find out what whoever had renovated the sidewalk had done wrong. The silence between us stretched for a few moments, and the old man finally seemed to realize I wouldn’t answer him. Even so, he saw fit to illuminate my ignorance about sidewalks.
“The sidewalk is too straight,” he explained. “Soon it will rain, and the water will pool in the midst of the sidewalk, which will then crack. I was in the building industry for more than twenty five years. We used to pay attention to this kind of things.”
I looked at him without making any reply. Adjusting the paper tube under his arm, the old man said:
“A good evening to you, young man.”
He quickly disappeared in the crowd moving around the place, a crowd that carelessly stopped over the (very) straight sidewalk, not worrying about rains or pooling water or anything like that, paying attention only to the store being renovated, asking themselves what merchandise it would sell.
In the end, I felt guilty about the whole thing. The old man only wanted to talk, to share something with someone before going home. No lessons or morals. Maybe just some recognition about something he had noticed, and that no one else thought important. And I, even though it would have been so easy to answer him properly, denied him even the simple courtesy of attention.
March 14th, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink
To those readers wondering what’s become of this blog, I’m not dead yet — thanks God.
The last two months were a bit hard to me, especially where my health was concerned, and I went though a lot of medical exams to find out what was happening, which, naturally, left me little time to blog.
To complicate matters, a little more than two weeks ago, I underwent an emergency appendectomy. Recover is usually fast, but mine was complicated by an infection that I’m still battling, although it’s mostly gone now.
As a result, this is the first time in almost three weeks I’m able to sit for more than a couple minutes in front a computer, to tackle at the monstrous backlog of e-mails and to do lists that accumulated in the previous weeks.
To those who sent e-mails asking about what was happening, my sincere thanks. I’m well, and I’m coming back. Thanks.
January 11th, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink
The lack of posts here has more to do with the mighty flu I’m fighting now than with the end of year slow-down. For those of you who subscribed in the past few days, normal programming will resume in a couple days. Thank you.
January 1st, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink
First day of the new year. When I was younger, I used to spend the last night of the old year awake. Staying awake for more than twenty-four hours straight at least once each three-hundred and sixty-five days was a way to mark the beginning of a new stage in my life. When I got married, however, my habits changed, and I stopped doing it. Getting older, sometimes working until the last minute of the year, going home tired to the bone; things like that take away that juvenile spirit that makes us want to challenge ourselves with a long sleepless stretch.
This year, however, I ended up staying awake the whole night. I didn’t plan it. It just happened. I watched a movie with my brother earlier in the night, then he went to bed. My sister awoke, and we watched another movie. Later, she went to sleep again, and I remained awake, alone. The rest of the house, friends and family, slept in peace. I went to the computer, to check the news while I thought about life.
Dawn is coming out there. The light of a pale sun spreads slowly across the windows, lighting the houses around, coloring the sky with a fading pink that, so short-lived, is already losing its place to the smooth blue of the morning. And I think about those whose dawn wasn’t or won’t be so quiet and peaceful.
The end of a year is always a time for reflection, even if we try to avoid it. The fleeting aura of another year that breathes its last, leaving behind only echoes and shadows that are slowly dissolving, invites the mind to brood about its own mortality. The end of an old year and the beginning of a new year are the edge of reality, the place where past and future face each other for a brief moment in a silent struggle.
The year of 2004 was, in retrospect, an incredible year to me. My life changed completely when my son was born, an event that provided me with a entirely different perspective about so many things that I wouldn’t know where to start were I to enumerate them. Even lesser events were colored by this big change.
I’m currently reading Tomorrow Now, by Bruce Sterling, and he uses fatherhood many times as an analogy in some of his predictions about the future. Among those analogies, a specific sentence called my attention. He wrote, “We are the past of our children.” Being a father made that very clear to me. I am the past of my son. In years to come, I will be one of the things by which he will measure his life, understanding it in its context.
While this particular sentence may seem disheartening, I think it is full of optimism. When the past is clear, the rest of our lives in put in the right perspective. Time flies, as it’s proverbially said, but it also flows with a painful softness, a sweetness that can be savored at each of the indivisible instants that make up our existences.
I remember waiting anxiously for the turn of the millennium. What time to live in! To see the moment in which three nines became three zeros, moving the hand of the clock so slightly and so titanically at the same time… Now, five years have gone by since that happened — more than eight since those days of eager waiting. I grew and I diminished. I learned and I forgot. I was ashamed and I was proud. I cried and I laughed. Each of those seconds of memory is a red brick in that thing I call identity. Echoes and blurs, but trails as well. Breadcrumbs in the way.
The future? I don’t know of it. Using the words of an old sage, the only thing I must do is to decide what I will do with the time that is given to me. Maybe that’s the only new year resolution I can make: consider the potential of every minute. Some, inevitably I will spend unwisely. But I will try to make every one count. After all, there’s a house to build, and I need bricks.
January 1st, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink
A happy new year to all of you. I hope you can see at least one of yours dreams came true, whatever it is, and whatever work takes to make it happen.