Stuff I have written/presented
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 06/14/2010 - 08:38
I have been recently approached by several friends, from different countries. Mexico and the violence seems to be a frequent news topic all over the world.
I live in Mexico City, as ~25% of the country's population does. This is not an easy city, of course, and I won't deny it has tons of problems of its own. However, Mexico City (and even more so the approximately ⅓ of it that is politically located in Distrito Federal, the formal country capital) is very lucky in this regard. Still, in most of the country, the violence is mostly in the news, mostly a worrying perception that is every day more insistent.
My parents live in Cuernavaca, Morelos, ~80Km south from us. Morelos has been known for decades for being the druglords' getaway and safe haven, so it remained a mostly peaceful state for most of this time. This has changed, and at some points during this year, militarization feels quite creepy... Fortunately, just for a couple of weeks, and then back to what seems like normal. The real problems in Morelos is the undeniable corruption of its successive governments, the lack of regard for the population, the inexistent urban planning...
However, I know from several friends living in the North of the country (and all along the very long border - The most drug-related violent states nowadays are Chihuahua, Durango, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, with only two states in the South — Michoacán and Guerrero) that violence is really felt by local population on the streets. Some friends say they have grown used to hearing shootings (Durango), others say that it is now usual that the cartels openly strangle the city's vial system with the express purpose of showing off their strength (Monterrey, Nuevo León, one of Mexico's most important cities and taken in the past as a token of industrialization and first-world-like life conditions... Just don't look towards the poor areas). About Chihuahua, I'd rather not even talk, as by all accounts (official even) it rivals Iraq in the lack of control the government has of its territory.
Still, with all that as background... I am afraid of what I read today in the news. I know a single declaration is not enough to worry about (as said in El Quijote, «una golondrina sola no hace verano», a single swallow does not mean it's summer), but those things always start small... Until they explode. La Jornada reports that The retired general Luis Garfias Magaña recommends suspending constitutional guarantees in the country to be able to properly fight violence.
The last century we had a sad and long history of cases where the military took over civilian power and suspended the constitutional rights in basically every nation in Latin America — Except for Mexico. Not one of those cases was overall successful. Not one of them went by without raging abuses, without terrible consequences. I don't see imminent we will go over to a military rule nor anything close to it, but the environment is getting each time closer to how it was like before said rights suspension. We should learn that it is just not the way, it leads nowhere.
I am convinced, and will keep insisting on it at every ocassion, that the only possible way to fight violence is by reducing the social distance, and that should be achieved most importantly by reducing poverty, but also by making it harder to become incredibly rich. Mexico's percentage of poor people has grown over the last decades, but at the same time, the amount of wealth concentrated in very few hands has grown much faster. A society with terribly rich and terribly poor people leads to hatred, leads to desperation, leads to violence. A flatter society, even if the overall standard was to be somewhat lower, tends to a better equilibrium. And yes, I know the original problem with drugs is that Mexico is a great transit area for drugs to reach the USA (and I could also rant about drug legalization — I won't, it's late and I must go to work), but the main fuel for young people to leave everything behind and take the risk of starting a life of open ilegality is the lack of future they face all life long. That leads many to risk their lives attempting to cross the border to the USA (Mexico "exports" 500,000 people every year), but also lures them to jobs where they will have easy money... In exchange for their lifes, ultimately.
Anyway... Just to repeat and round off: The answer to this problem is not repression, is not policial or military strength. Our only way out is through social justice.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/13/2010 - 23:24
I got my current phone (a Nokia N95) back in January 2008. It was the first phone I ever paid for, and I don't expect that to change - The feature set I need from a phone is extremely basic, but I wanted to have a GPS unit on me, without needing to plan for it beforehand. As I recently blogged, I just got over the 5000Km mark (5269 as of last Friday), with almost daily usage since I registered.
A couple of days ago (although please note I don't log in often to the web page, I just upload my , I was greeted by this gem:
In my case, instead of Thank you they could have just said Fuck off. They are directing me to a new application available in Nokia's Ovi store. Of course, this application is linked to a new 100% Flash-powered website. That would be a big turnoff for me, yes, although there are many ways around it (after all, I don't need the website functionality every day). However, I find the list of supported phones does not include the N95 (any version). This means, my two year old phone (which I bought as soon as the model arrived in Mexico) is obsolete now and they want me to (spend more money and) switch to a new one. Am I going to do that? Hell no!
The N95 phone is quite good. The only gripes I have is with the (slow, buggy and memory leak and phone crash prone) Symbian S60 operating system. I will probably keep using the SportsTracker application, although I won't be able to link my tracks as easily as I do today.
So... Dear lazyweb, do you know of any similar program? The feature set I use in Sports Tracker is:
There are probably more things I'd want. But I am a geek, and I basically enjoy tracking myself, and sharing my tracks with $world.
Thanks, dear lazyweb. I am confident you won't let me down.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/13/2010 - 15:15
For the second time (First time was in 2008; I didn't join in 2009 as I travelled to Nicaragua on that date), I took part of the World Naked Bike Ride. The WNBR is a global effort, where people in ~150 cities all over the world go cycling nude on the streets of our towns, with varied demands, including:
One of the things I most like about WNBR is its diversity. Not everybody goes for the same reasons. As people who read me often will know, I took part because I believe (and act accordingly!) that the bicycle is the best, most efficient vehicle in –by far– most of the situations we face day to day, but we need to raise awareness in everybody that the bicycle is just one more vehicle: On one side, we have the right to safely ride on the streets, like any other vehicle. On the other side, we must be responsible, safe drivers, just as we want car drivers to be.
Ok, and I will recognize it before anybody complains that I sound too idealistic: I took part of the WNBR because it is _tons_ of fun. This year, we were between 300 and 500 people (depending on whom you ask). Compared to 2008, I felt less tension, more integration, more respect within the group. Of course, it is only natural in the society I live in that most of the participants were men, but the proportion of women really tends to even out. Also, many more people joined fully or partially in the nude (as nudity is not required, it is just an invitation). There was a great display of creativity, people painted with all kinds of interesting phrases and designs, some really beautiful.
Oh, one more point, important to me: This is one of the best ways to show that we bikers are not athletes or anything like that. We were people ranging from very thin to quite fat, from very young to quite old. And that is even more striking when we show our whole equipment. If we can all bike around... So can you!
Some links, with obvious nudity warnings in case you are offended by looking at innocent butts and similar stuff:
As for the sad, stupid note: 19 cyclists were placed under arrest in Morelia, Michoacán because of faltas a la moral (trasgressions against morality), an ill-defined and often abused concept.
Also, by far, most of the comments I have read from people on the media, as well a most questions we had by reporters before or after the ride were either why are you going nude‽ (because that's the only way I'll get your attention!) or But many people were not nude! (nudity is not a requirement but only an option.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 06/06/2010 - 12:05
Left: British Petroleum's logo. British Petroleum gained international notoriety last April because of the catastrophic oil spill it is still unable to contain in the North of the Gulf of Mexico; so far, the oil has reached the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and keeps growing and spreading, as probably the worst-ever oil spill. So far, the sea surface covered by oil is larger than several countries in the world. Some sites have very interesting maps that might help understand the importance and size of the spill: BP Gulf Oil Spill Maps in The Daily Green, Deepwater Horizon Incident, Office of Response and Restoration, USA National Ocean Service, Article on Slashdot about quantifying and dealing with the deepwater spill.
Right: Mexico's de facto government's logo. One of the most pushed projects of Felipe Calderón's government (that was fortunately canceled) was to pursue the tesorito de las aguas profundas (little treasure that lies deep in the water); they strongly pushed for a reform in the oil legislation, which is 100% government-funded since 1938, to allow for private investment in orded to build platforms reaching oil deposits 3000m below the Gulf's surface. Yup, precisely like the one that produced this massive spill, although most would probably be bound to much less strict regulation and controls to what they have in the US.
Is the similarity between the two logos just a strange coincidence?
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 05/30/2010 - 22:48
And just to round off my last post (and of course, following a completely non-technical thematic), what is the logical consequence of feeling introspective and blogging just before preparing dinner? Of course — Dinner gets prepared with sharing it in mind. The dish ends up even looking as if meant to be served!
So this was it: One of my simplest and still favorite dishes: Tostadas. But, yes, these are heterodox tostadas, as they share the basic tostadiness (a hard, roasted and cracky toasted corn tortilla with a soft leguminous layer to give it some consistency, and with... stuff on top. Yes, stuff is sometimes too generic, but that's the beauty of it). What did I come up with? In the strict order with which they were approached at feeding time, and described bottom to top:
[update] On a completely unrelated notice, but not worth opening a third post in a row... Some minutes after I published the earlier post, I got a visit to http://gwolf.org/blog/pleasant-perception-changes?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter. Now, it beats me: I don't use twitter. I don't even care about twitter. And were my message so deep somebody just twitted (twat it?) right away, I still find the time lapse too short. Who's auto-twitting me? Maybe a planet or other such aggregator?
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 05/30/2010 - 21:36
My day started late, although I didn't scratch the plan: Enjoy 40Km cycling, as –as every last Sunday of the month– we have the delicious Ciclotón — 32Km, plus ~10km from and to my house. Approximately 12:00-14:20, including stopping at a service station to patch my rear tire. Yes, I was pressing my way up the last bridge (Circuito Interior over Coyoacán and Universidad) when the road was opened to motorized traffic. Two hours of cycling are enough to make me a happy person.
However, I have been downish lately, and during the afternoon (which I spent doing some home maintenance, as I usually do on weekends), I felt this downness grow somewhat. Nothing terrible, just I guess the processes that I have to live through.
Then, after ~1hr reading a somewhat tough book, I closed it thinking, "this was a good day". And surprised myself with the reflection.
So, while I don't think this can put me back into the activity/productivity status I have held and would love to regain... Is certainly a very nice push forward.
Time to get something for dinner, as my body also reminded me it is not exempt of such needs (as it faithfully reminds me, often more frequently than it should)
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/25/2010 - 00:34
I was about to close down a good day of hard work, a heavy but useful day... I had even decided to take some time off to listen to some good music, and was heading off to bed on a good mood...
Until I decided to read my contacts' latest rants. And I found very sad news - again.
I happen to know quite well that precise area - I lived very close to that street for some months in 2008. I eat in a small restaurant (what we call either a cocina económica, comida corrida or fondita) on that street. One of my usual bycicle workshops is also on that street - In fact, I wanted to go today, as both of my bikes' rear tires are flat, but had no time to make it.
Anyway... Colonia Ajusco and Colonia Santo Domingo ("colonia" is basically... a neighbourhood in es_MX) are two very popular, economically depressed areas, just North-East of the University. Probably hundreds or thousands of students live in rented rooms in the area, as UNAM with its 300,000 students does not have any dorms (due to political reasons leading all the way back to the 1960s).
Santo Domingo and Ajusco are also the part where Mexico City's main valley finishes. The hills begin, not too abruptly (we have a ~150m difference in the ~2Km spanned by both colonias). And... When I lived there, I was amazed at the amount of people moving by bike. The streets are too slow for motorized transit to properly flow, and it's often annoying to have to cross the region. It is mostly safe for cyclists.
Anyway, this kid was having a good time on the street, and was killed by a microbus driver fighting his fellow over more clients. The driver, yes, was caught (by his passengers and other bystanders, according to the note), and did not run away as they often do in cases such as this one. Still, the kid died almost instantly, so catching the driver serves very little consolation.
This Friday we will have BiciUNAMonos second monthly meeting. It is too soon, and I don't think we will end up going there. But I do feel this accident falls squarely inside UNAM user's territory. We cannot ignore it just because it happened outside our University's gates.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/11/2010 - 14:00
If anybody is interested or can attend: Tomorrow and the day after (Wednesday and Thursday 12-13/05/2010) FLACSO (a leading Social Sciences faculty spanning countries all over Latin America) and IFE (Mexico's federal electoral authority) are presenting a seminar on e-voting: Electronic vote experiences in Mexico and around the world.
Sadly, I will be unable to attend, as I will be on the road once again (Ecuador!). However, I hope those among my readers who are interested in the topic can attend — or at least follow the audio and video transmission from the IFE website.
The seminar will be held at IFE's auditorium — Viaducto Tlalpan No. 100, Col. Arenal Tepepan, Delegación Tlalpan, c.p. 14610, México, DF.
[update] If you don't know what is my stand on this topic (and can read Spanish), please read this short article. In short: I am against e-voting, and hope we are still in time (and can push at the right places) to avoid it becoming the rule in our country.
Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 05/09/2010 - 14:21
I woke up with a loud BZZZT — It happens every couple of years. The electric transformer for the circuit where my house is located, at the Northern edge of Ciudad Universitaria, decided to die (or at least, to take a break… literally).
About one hour later, I decided it was time to wake up and start being a useful person. I gave breakfast to my cats and had breakfast myself, and called the electrical company to report this mishap. They told me the report was registered, and I hope to have electricity soon (meanwhile, I'm sitting at a nearby restaurant, as there is some job to do — Yes, besides writing blog entries). And they told me, as is often told in Mexico, a general anticorruption phrase – With a twist: «recuerde que usted no debe renumerar ningún servicio que realice el personal de la Comisión Federal de Electricidad». (You should not renumber any service done by the Federal Electrical Commission personnel). Yes, remunerado (not renumerado).
This shows once again the power of asking people to read things they don't understand.
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 05/06/2010 - 07:34
In an amazing but meaningless feat of synchronicity, Toxicore's post led me to check how much distance have I done while excercising – I have mainly done this cycling, although some running also comes into play. Turns out I was just about to break the same mark he did. From my Nokia Sportstracker records:
Before breaking the 5000 Km mark, yesterday at noon:
After breaking the 5000 Km mark, yesterday at night:
So, following Bubulle's style... If I have done 5000 Km since January 2008, when do you think I should reach 5500? 6000? 7000? Infinity and beyond?
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:
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:
The coming of the five horsemen of apocalypse can only mean... It is time for the Final Judgement and the end of time!
Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/26/2010 - 22:38
I bought my current cell phone in mid January 2008, which means I have had it for ~830 days.
I tend not to lose sight of the few things I keep on me at all times - Keys, wallet and cell phone. In this 830 day period, I doubt I have forgotten my phone for more than three days. Ok, lets just add some extra five days, for times I have travelled without the phone charger, resulting in me not having a phone available. So, eight days out of 830 gives us that the probability for me accidentally not having access to my phone for a whole day is close to 0.01, or 1% ⇒ P(stupid) ≅ 0.01.
I am not a heavy phone user. Far from it, I tend not to like using the phone. My calls are always kept to the minimum necessary, and I would not be surprised if I used my phone typically less than twice per week. However, there is a recurring event that makes my phone ring more often during certain very well defined periods of the year, with 1/365 probability. So, lets call this P(birthday) ≅ 0.00273.
Yesterday I spent the day with some good, very long time friends. We did the April Ciclotón - I biked for 42 very nice kilometers, they did 36 (as we met 8Km away from my home ;-) )... but yes, after a while, I left my phone at my friends' table.
So I guess today the phone will ring way more insistently than usual. At a table far away from home. With a probability of P(stupid ∩ birthday) ≅ 2.73 × 10⁻⁵.
So I'm facing the enjoyment of a very improbable day!
Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/22/2010 - 08:28
Once again, I was invited by several different groups to be present at FLISOL, a quite interesting phenomenon: FLISOL (Latin-american Free Software Installation Festival) is s very large-scale, very loosely coordinated thing put together for five years already in over 200 cities in basically every Latin American country. Go to the FLISOL page, it is quite interesting to try to understand it!
Now, I don't like FLISOL. I managed to avoid it in 2005 and 2006; in 2007, I was present at a FLISOL, although I didn't know beforehand it was the reason for the conference I was invited to. In 2008 and 2009 I took part for reasons I should not go into right now. This year, again, I will not be part of any of its activities (regardless of rumors to the contrary – I was invited to be present at a panel on ACTA, but I have not followed the topic enough to be aware of anything besides the very basic aspects, I have no authority to speak about it; I told the organizers I would like to be there as part of the audience, but not present the topic. And I am quite work-stressed, so I doubt I'll make it). Why am I against FLISOL?
FLISOL itself, as I said, is a positive and interesting phenomenon, and I have enjoyed the conference cycles which often happen together with it. What I am against is installfests – In my opinion, in the stage we are at today, instead of promoting Free Software, an install-fest just works against it.
Free Software –Linux-based distributions at least– is widely known already, as a concept, even though most people dare not come anywhere close to it. Few people outside our already consolidated groups recognize programs such as the Mozilla and OpenOffice suites as being also Free Software, and valuable, quality alternatives for their everyday needs in the environments they currently use.
If we need to show how to install and understand the GNU/Linux ecosystem to people who have not got close, it is not IMHO to end users. Installing a GNU/Linux system is easy enough for anybody interested in doing it, or at least, for him to request a one-on-one help session, handholding and understanding the basic ideas. We need, in any case, for the computer corner shop technicians to be somewhat acquinted, at least with the basics, at least with one popular distribution (and with the fact that there are many, and that they are different).
People who have not had the curiosity and courage to try to install Linux by themselves do not need to be evangelized (a verb that should be out of our vocabularies by now, as that phase in our movement should be over by now) – End users have simple needs: Things should work, and be as surprise-free as possible. They don't want to depend on a specific time-starved person (or even on a small group of people, all of which have a sanctity delirium/aura). When they go to technical support, they expect the problem to be solved – Not even understanding what was wrong. End users are willing to pay a small fee to anybody to help them solve their problems.
The key word is anybody. If we (myself, or me and my 10 friends who were there at the gathering, or any sufficiently defined small group) are the only support point for the OS, it is no good. Online support forums are not good either, in my experience, as the end user will prefer just lugging the computer to the nearest technician and get it fixed. Even if fixed means just installing one more readily-available package (not to mention, of course, when an update breaks something).
I have witnessed, after an install fest, people walk very happy with their new system as a new toy. After a week or two, they cannot install the latest
On the other hand, some people prefer installing a dual-boot system – That guarantees the user will feel he is carrying some kind of moral superiority on his computer, and will often remember he has something Not Evil. This will often happen, of course, at boot time – When they see GRUB at boot time, and rush to select Windows before That Strange Thing starts up.
Anyway... Go ahead, install Free Software, enjoy the day. The conference cycles are usually interesting, and are the best part of it all — I'm not saying you should stop doing it. But I'd urge you to take the focus away from the mass-installs, which become often just lost work (even detrimental to furthering Free Software). Try to see things as a non-technically-interested user would. Try to design ways to get corner shop technicians interested. Maybe that can be useful in the long run.
Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 04/16/2010 - 08:36
Thanks to Steve McIntyre for two long years of good work
And, of course, congratulations to Stefano Zacchirioli! I, for one, welcome our new Italian overlord.
Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 17:41
My blog is written in English, even though I sometimes post content relevant locally. Anyway, I want this to be as widely known as possible. We are about to launch a website/community for my University's cyclists, BiciUNAMonos. Please note the site I'm linking is still very preliminary in several ways. But that's the least relevant for now.
I am translating here a message written by fellow cyclist (and researcher in the Institute of Astronomy of my University) Sergio Mendoza.
Coincidentally, today I also had a freightening experience. Taking one of my usual routes to work, going up from the sporting area in the Western half of the campus (just before where the map lists the highest point in my ride), just by Investigaciones Biomédicas, I heard a car hitting the breaks behind me and passing me (on my right side) quite narrowly. I was, as always, driving towards the center of the lane, to be able to respond to unforseen events (as this one, precisely). The Universitary authorities had the great(?) idea of placing round, small bumps before the Pumabus stations to avoid drivers parking in front of them. I have seen a strong accident caused by them, and was close to suffering one myself some months ago. I know that just after Biomédicas there are some such bumps, so I never ride too much to the right – I don't know what was on this driver's head. Ciudad Universitaria has a 40 Km/h speed limit. Yes, it might seem too low - Circuits are wide and well planned. But there is a lot of cyclist and pedestrian transit, at all times, and I must recognize such a limit is well in place.
I often take a longer route to my Institute, bordering the University along Av. Delfín Madrigal. People tell me I'm crazy, as this is an avenue that's often taken at high speed - Usually, cars pass me by between 60 and 80 Km/h. However, I even feel safer going that way than going inside the University. Contrary to the popular belief, Universitary people do not have better driving habits than the bulk of the population. And it's often much easier to drive along a way where the traffic –even if it goes at three times my speed– runs only in one direction, unlike the swarming of people going in every possible direction inside the main campus.
Anyway, last Sunday we lost a University professor, we lost a cyclist. Some people lost a friend, a family member. We have to make this case well known, we have to speak with the authorities so they see the Bicipuma system is good, but not enough. Cycling is the only way to go for a city as complex as ours. A much needed first step is to allow proper vial connections linking the University and the many avenues that surround it. Another one is to make a campaign so the cyclists are not seen –as Sergio regards– as intruders in the streets — The street belongs to us all. Cyclists should never drive on walkways or among pedestrians. Drivers need to learn to share the streets with us.
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