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Post-apocalyptic times

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 05/05/2010 - 07:50

Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death, the mythological Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Mexico's de facto president, Felipe Calderón, once again showed his involuntary aptitude for deep political analysis: On Monday, on a State visit to Germany, he declared Mexico has faced the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse (second source, in English). I agree: One year ago, we were facing a health emergency, the AH1N1 epidemic, hence pestilence. Since he took power in December 2006, the president's main action has been the war on drugs, hence war. The country was the worst performing Latin American country in 2009, with our economy falling 6.5%, more than any other country, and prices have been really on the rise, hence famine. Finally, death... official numbers state that there have been over 22000 deaths in the "war on drugs" — And merrily he stated that only 10% of that were civilians. Whatever that meant... But... What about the fifth? Who is he?

A plausible hypothesis is offered by cartoonist El Fisgón in today's cartoon in La Jornada:

«We don't know how he got here, but he is the most effective one»

Now... However good El Fisgón's analysis might be... Lets not get distracted with silly details. Hernández, another of La Jornada's great cartoonists, shows the hidden meaning:

— We are over the apocalypse!
— Does that mean we are facing the Final Judgement?

The coming of the five horsemen of apocalypse can only mean... It is time for the Final Judgement and the end of time!

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Caffeinated cats

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/08/2010 - 11:47

After being away from home for almost two weeks (and, due to unforseen circumstances, having the longest time away from my mailbox I can recall in almost 15 years), last Monday I met with Pooka and Caro, originally just for lunch, but it evolved into an evening-long work session on the SECO3 project (which I continued long into the night — But I'm drifting into offtopicness).

Caro is now living again in Costa Rica, and to prove it, she brought us two delicious-smelling bags of coffee. Now, I know my cats like the smell of coffee, I know specially Santa loves to completely put her head inside my coffee cup and lick what's left of my espresso's foam

But this was really surprising. It was not until today, three days later, I had the heart of bringing my coffee to the office where I'll enjoy it.

It is so aromatic that Chupchic and Santa seemed to be taking turns to keep me from claiming the bag — At all times, either (or both!) of them layed on top of my precious. It was not until today, when I gave them their breakfast, I was able to take the (still warm) bag of coffee and bring it to work.

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Baroque spam, repetition ad nauseam

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 03/21/2010 - 02:13

Sitting at my hotel room in Tijuana, about to hit the bed, quite tired because of a nice, long walk I will write more about tomorrow, I have been listening for at least five minutes to a long, stupid infomerciative spam in the History Channel: A fountain pen, a five-point pen, and three other pen-like implements (plus extra and extra and extra things... They are listing a case with 63 implements now!)

Now, what is the hook into getting somebody to call for a classy pen? Elegance, of course! Just for the sake of this exercise, the spam continues to be played. And yes, it's only been two short paragraphs. But believe me, I am very tired, and trying to get some coherent English out of my brain is not as easy as it could.

Elegance, I said, right? Good. How do you convey elegance to TV spam/infomercials? Well, what's more classy and refined than a 30 second sample of Haydn? Man, Haydn is *so* classy that the viewer will not even notice the snippets of blabber have incoherent redaction.

Anyway... Spam goes on. I cannot stand any more repetitions of this 30 Haydn seconds. They are stronger than me. And that old lady says that anybody is writing in their computer now… I will only write with my fountain pen from now on! — I will surely follow her wise advise!


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Computer education parallelisms

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/18/2010 - 20:09

I opened Slashdot's «Looking back from the 1980s at computers in education» article because I am quite convinced of the point some of the commenters argued before me, (and it's good to know others think as you do ;-) ) — When I got close to computers, learning computing for children basically meant learning programming in a fun way.

For years, my hobbies included Logo and BASIC. At age 7 (by 1983), typing TeX and using Emacs at the computer of the institute where my father worked, I started walking the path I took for my professional life. When I taught computing to high school students as my first paid job (which didn't last long, only a semester, as for an untrained 20 year old it is very hard to control a group of kids nearly his age), I tried to teach some basic BASIC programming (which was the best I knew then)... But no, both students and the school wanted me to focus on teaching MS Office applications. It seemed stupid for me 14 years ago, and it still seems stupid for me today.

Anyway, on Slashdot, I came across this beautiful way to explain what computer education should mean:

"computing is no longer taught in schools (parents look quizzical), they are simply 'trained' (parents look like they vaguely get it). if this was sex instead of computing that was taught in schools, would you prefer that your kids have sex _education_ or sex _training_? (parents finally get it)".

By the way, if you are interested in reading a bit of paleofuturism, to feel the joy and excitement with which computer-aided education was seen 30 years ago, be sure to get the Classroom Computer News issue for September-October 1980, linked from the Slashdot article (and copied over here for your convenience, of course!)

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Captchas are for humans...

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/28/2010 - 08:35

Nobody cares about me, I thought. Whatever I say is just like throwing a bottle to the infinite ocean.

No comments, no hopes of getting any, for several days. Weeks maybe? Not even the spammers cared about me.

Until I read this mail, by Thijs Kinkhorst commenting to my yesterday post:

(BTW, I was unable to comment on your blog - couldn't even read one letter of the CAPTCHA...)

And, yes, Drupal module «captcha» introduced in its 2.1 release (January 2) feature #571344: Mix multiple fonts.

Only... no fonts were selected. Grah.

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Winter in the tropics

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 01/10/2010 - 01:21

Five out of six experts agree:

Five out of six cats cannot be mistaken
It. Is. Cold.

No, we are far from this very impressive picture of a fully-snowed UK seen from the sky that everybody and their dog must have seen by now. Still, in Mexico City we are experiencing the traditional one-or-two-weeks-a-year where it is genuinely cold. And, very strange being this Winter (the rainy season is Summer around here, January should be dry!) we have rain all day long.

The Ajusco mountain is around 15Km south from my home, and it is the closest of the giants that surround our valley. Yesterday I managed to get some peeks at it behind the very thick layer of clouds we have. Ajusco looks really gorgeous all snowed, maybe down to the 3400m line (while the city's main area is at 2300m). This picture was not taken this year, we have snow in Ajusco almost every year (although very seldom as much as this time):

(last photo is not current, we have not yet had a clear day to take a picture of our Ajusco yet this year)

How does it feel? Well, I live in Coyoacán, in the flat area of the valley. Remember that houses here are not built to endure extreme temperatures (and this week is what we call extreme, of course ;-) ). According to Yahoo! Weather:

And while the difference appears to be small, what about Magdalena Contreras, ~200m higher, where many people dear to me live (and have even a window pending to be installed)?

People say this cold wave is the strongest in 120 years, since records are being taken. Every year people get excited, expecting that this time we will get snow. This has only happened once in at least a century, in 1966 AFAIR. I do not think this year to be atypical.

Still, I have a reputation for being insensible to cold weather. Everybody wears heavy jackets while I still go to work with my usual long-sleeved shirt and that's it. But the last two days, I have been using jacket and scarf...

But, of course, I don't look as gratious or cute as my cats :-}

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Google having gender issues related to old-agers?

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 09/07/2009 - 13:24

I am updating an old package's packaging style to take advantage of the new DebHelper 7 goodities. So far, I have been quite successful, but I hit a problem… And before bugging on IRC, I decided to check with Joey Hess' presentation at DebConf9, Not your grandpa's debhelper.

Of course, not remembering the URL, it was the most natural thing to ask Google:

Did you mean... Not your grandma's Debhelper‽ WTF!

Of course, putting this thingy aside, the right answer was the first hit. However, what is the first hit for the Grandma version? Quite dangerous: A post in Ubuntuforums for which the Google excrept reads: this tool can obviously eat your cat, poison your grandma, create an earthquake or do any other unexpected harm, so I don't provide any warranty whatsoever.

I sincerely prefer joeyh's version.

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Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/03/2009 - 20:55

During DebConf, Noodles discretely approached me and asked whether I'd be interested and willing to join him as Debian's keyring maintainer. Of course, I felt greatly honored and happy about this. Over the past weeks, we have exchanged some mails where he details how it is handled, and I feel I get the general logic — and this last week (which was quite hectic for me — apologies in advance for all the work and mails I have due for different people!) he finally took the big steps: Requested DSA to give me login rights to the needed machine and RT queue and to be listed in the relevant area of the Debian Organization page.

So, even if I still feel afraid of botching Debian and sending the universe swirling away into chaos, I am most happy, and could no longer hide it. Yay! :-D

[BTW] No, it was not on purpose. I did not grow my beard in order to look like St. Peter. But it must have been part of the decision process!

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Method for locating yourself in space and in time

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 08/31/2009 - 19:05

Today I had a nice and productive day, code-wise. Maybe that's a side effect from being unable to lose my time following E-mail?
Anyway, checking my code with git citool previous to today's git commit, I came accross this method. I didn't even pay attention to it while writing. But it did make me laugh in semi-awe thinking about the great implications it might have. The method signature:

def days_for(who, what, how)

The code itself? Naah, too pedestrian, to simplistic. It will ruin the sight. It just looks so beautifully universal!

Ok, I am compelled to share, even if it spoils it and renders it into a completely regular, even stupid method.

  1. def days_for(who, what, how)
  2. return ' —No dates set— ' unless who.has_validity_period?
  3. days_to = who.send(how)
  4. return 'Past' if days_to <= 0
  5. '%d days (%s)' % [days_to, who.send(what)]
  6. end

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Smelling dead

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 07/26/2009 - 08:57

DebConf9. Assassins. Nomeata has been killed. So have I. Now, the rules say the sock that kills you should be clean, and by that, I understand it should be not smelly — I guess I could have complained that I was killed in the presence of very smelly cheese. Does that still count?

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Existential questions for a takeaway restaurant

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 07/08/2009 - 13:12

Today, I will eat at my office — It's the easiest, and as I arrived at ~11:30 and am leaving at ~18:30, I don't want to invest ~1hr in getting a proper meal, which is at ~3Km from here (joys of working in a very large university, joys of coming to work during the vacational period).

Anyway, I don't do this often, so I started looking for names of takeaway/delivery restaurants in the area, thinking about a chapata (ciabatta? How would you write it in anything but es_MX?) or something saladish. I have a menu in my fridge door of La Artesa, a bakery that recently opened for business near to my house (~3.5Km from here). So, lets look at their page.

First thing I look for, menu and prices. Bah, Under construction (and in the best 1996 style, even with the animated GIF and all). They don't want to attract customers, that's for sure.

However, they do have something very unique, something that sets them apart from any other site I have ever visited: They have the most existentialist Frequently Asked Questions section I have ever seen.

I wonder... Will they have a hidden link to the Frequently Given Answers as well?

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Monetizing the value of a directory hierarchy

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/08/2009 - 18:25

Having recently become an Unicode (ab)user, in great part due to Kragen's .XCompose, I took again the mission to convince people that resistance is futile, you will be assimilated into the multilingual world of UTF8...

...And given the recent thread in debian-devel regarding how a globbing or similar functionality should be implemented (specifically, given Giacomo's message pointing out that our beloved «/» directory separator is subject to the locale rules)...

I cannot help but to send you to this old piece of MSDN beauty: When is a backslash not a backslash?

In short: If you are surprised because in East Asia they use the local currency to separate directories... Don't be. Blame the 8 bits of extended, non-standard ASCII codepages.

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Leo Masliah, here!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/06/2009 - 21:45

I have been waiting for next-Thursday for many years, and I just found out - by mere chance.

In 2001, Leo Masliah came to Mexico City and performed a couple of shows. I don't remember the reason... But I missed it.

Who is Leo? An Uruguayan artist, living AFAIK in Argentina. Maybe he could be described as a humorous musician and writer... After all, I first met his music, and by far, it is what I know best. However, many (sad and simple) people would fail to see him as humorous, and would think he is just a sad, sick person with sick taste. About his writing? Well, I guess music is the first step, something like to get sickos like myself hooked. His writing is even sicker.

Anyway - Leo Masliah is one of my favorite artists. And he is coming to Mexico! This Thursday, April 9, in the Teatro Bar el Vicio, Coyoacán, 21:30, MX$250.

VERY MUCH worth it.

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With two, even with three!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 02/09/2009 - 21:07
With two, even with three!

(Untranslatable, sorry)
Thanks to Lumen (probably Mexico's biggest office and art supplies shops) for the loud laugh.

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Little Gunnar

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 01/29/2009 - 13:12
Little Gunnar

Little Gunnar - Gift by Nadezhda's friend Lulú. Thanks!

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