High, cold, tiring, beautiful, delightful, proud... Should I go on?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 19:44
[ Warning: Long post follows ] Just today, I read that H01ger is happy he can wear just a T-shirt somewhere in Northern Germany. Well, from my point of view, much the opposite has happened. And I'm not just happy - I'm fucking proud! About four years ago, Nadezhda went almost every weekend to hike to the mountains with the Grupo de los Cien people. I'll sidetrack a bit to speak about them: Grupo de los Cien is a group of mountain lovers (no relation with the enviromentalist group which later took the same name) that, since the 1950s, have built and maintained the high mountain shelters in Central Mexico. It is a group, by the way, with which Nadezhda fell completely in love - and now it's up to me to find out why ;-) But lets go back to the main topic. Almost every week, she came back delighted and loaded of energy from a mountain hike. Almost every week, I told her I wished to go with her, of course, if they went to a simpler route. Of course, lugging around over 130Kg of humanity is no easy deal. And, after over a year and because of many problems that came together at once, she stopped going to the mountain as well. She always kept an eye on their friends, but so far had not been able to return to the mountain. Ok, so last week she heard the group was organizing volunteers to go fix the Ayoloco 2 shelter. She signed up, and invited me. I was afraid, but accepted the challenge - Of course, full of fear. Being this a historical event (at least in my life), I cannot but offer you some of the photos I took. And, yes, I've just started playing with Flickr. Lets see if it works for me ;-) Saturday, 5 AM, we woke up. 5:50AM, we met part of the group near Daniel's house, in Condesa. 7 AM, we were having a nice breakfast (tamales and coffee, yum!) in Amecameca, still 28km from La Joya. From Amecameca, we went to Paso de Cortés, where we met the rest of the group, and from there we went by a little, bumpy and unpaved road until La Joya. Somewhat around 20 people started the hike at around 9 AM. According to Google Earth, La Joya (just South of the Iztaccíhuatl - white woman or sleeping woman in Náhuatl) is at 3995m - And, of course, to start at that altitude is not easy. The air is very thin, and walking a little bit too fast quickly makes you feel the blood pumping, trying to get some more oxygen. I often remembered how my Bolivian friends behave in Potosí, walking slowly even when in a hurry :) We first went down a little valley, then up. The first portion of the hike was on soft, wet sand, with some grass (what we call zacate - Strong, hard grass, not what you commonly see in a garden). I soon learnt that was a blessing, as it was by far the easiest part. Then we went up a steep and quite rocky area - It started getting tricky for somebody not used to trusting his own feet. And it was steep, yes. This was the first time (of many, of course) I started thinking whether I should head back. We reached what I foolishly thought was the summit, only to find a steeper, longer way to go. It started getting common to find little deposits of snow/ice (I don't know the exact term in English - it's called aguanieve in Spanish, literally snow-water. [[Update]: Thanks to the now-DD H01ger, I now know that aguanieve in English is called sleet]. I understand it's a bit harder than snow, but still much lighter than hail). We crossed a completely rocky section - No sand to hold the rocks to their place. That meant being extra careful (and thus, extra slow). But just afterwards, in case it was not enough, Mother Nature answered my pleads for some sand - we crossed a section made exclusively of loose sand. And, please, if you have ever walked upwards on sand, imagine doing so at over 4000 meters. I was taking so much care of how and where I stepped that I strayed not more than 5 meters down of the path the group was following - Being able to climb back to the right path was really not easy. This was the point that not only I was thinking about heading back, but I'm sure Nadezhda thought I would abort the mission. She cheered me up, took some pictures of me as soon as I got out of the sand trap, and we were able to move on. After the sand, some more rocks, and we started feeling the chilly wind. We entered a cloudy region - Humidity does get the coldness into your bones! We could not really see where was the rest of the group, so we proceeded the best way we could. Fortunately for Nadezhda and me, just behind us came the very experienced Mario Corsalini and led us. And, yes, we finally saw the Ayoloco 2 shelter. I was by then exhausted, after some four hours of ascent. I ate one of my apples - The sweetest apple I have tasted so far. After resting a bit, and realizing I was almost frozen (we were at 2 Celsius under, with constant chilly, humid wind)... Then I started working with the guys, reinforcing the shelter, while Nadezhda and some other people painted the inside with. People started eating - of course, I joined them. And, after some time up there, we started going back down. Miguel Ángel, a volunteer in the Izta-Popo park, walked a good portion of the descent with me, giving me tons of help and tips. Thank you, thank you, really. The descent is, of course, much easier - We were chatting most of the time, and we made only around two hours back. The weather was quite nice on us - We had some aguanieve falling every now and then (yes! Yes! many of you guys have heard/read me bitch on how I had never seen snow falling before - Ok, this is not exactly snow, but I think it qualifies as my first experience ;-) ), but aguanieve does not make you wet, as it bounces off the clothes. When we approached La Joya we started having some light rain. We hopped in the cars, and then the rain really began. But even if this was not enough: Grupo de los Cien was celebrating the 83th birthday of one of its senior members, Poncho Rico. No, being 83 years old is not an excuse for skipping this memorable hike. We went to Anatolio's house, very close to Amecameca, and had a delicious dinner, cake and drinks. Nadezhda: Thank you. So, so, so very much. Thank you for being so patient with me, for dragging me up the Sleeping Woman. Thank you for getting me into this so very important and beautiful experience. I hope this will be the first of many. There is still a very long way for me to go before I'm really up to the challenge, but believe me: This will not be my last time on the mighty mountains.
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Reworking .deb - Does debian/rules really need to be a makefile?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 11:17
Eddy Petrisor wrote quite an interesting text about the shortcomings of the .deb packaging format, specially comparing it to Gentoo's ebuilds. And, basically, it all comes down to this phrase:
Why this is not possible for deb right now? Simple, we have it as a rule in the policy that the debian/rules file is a makefile. So even if one would implement a class-like model for deb packages, you'd still have the debian/rules file as a make file
Now... Is debian/rules really expected to be a makefile, or it is just customary for it to be so? Look at the very top of your rules files - you will see they (at least, almost) always start with #!/usr/bin/make -f - That means, of course, that you can omit the fact they are makefiles. While packaging/debugging, I often run -say- fakeroot debian/rules build && fakeroot debian/rules clean. That, my friend, is closer to the invocation you often use for a shell script than for a makefile. I don't know if we have tools that rely on having rules called via make (and that should be easy to correct if needed), but I really don't see it problematic at a first glance to create packages based on something different than a makefile. Recently, I've been tempted by CDBS. I still don't fully understand its flow, and it's still mostly a dark-magic beast for me, but at least I am comfortable using it for my everyday packaging work (hey, pkg-perl group, I'll be bugging you again with my weird ideas soon ;-) ), but it surely has the advantages you quote in your message: It takes part of the complexity away. Of course, it introduces some extra bits. By using CDBS, the packaging entry level is considerably lowered - but the real understanding of properly maintaining a package becomes somewhat more difficult. Or is it just me clinging to the comfort of having learned my way around writing debian/rules?
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Alive again

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/12/2007 - 13:14
Due to the extreme stupidity of the bank that holds my money whenever I have some, we were unable to pay my main domain name (gwolf.org) together with two others - I mean, the fscking bank mixed up the secret questions/answers, and we were unable to confirm our identity in order to pay to my favorite registrar (do you know they sponsor Debconf? I've been their customer for at least five years, and they rock). As of this Sunday, gwolf.org went off the net. Of course, being it a sunday, it was impossible to get a human in the right area of the bank. I must really thank Nadezhda: Despite being quite busy today, and after spending a couple of frustrating hours Sunday night trying to reach somebody, she managed to take the needed steps. Our domains are back to life. If you sent me a mail during this weekend, please send it again.
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What kind of programmer are you?

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/07/2007 - 09:38
Ok, Vicm3, I'll bite. Looks we can continue working together... Umm... Or should I say, paralelly and close to each other, since we are both better as independent rather than team workers?
Your programmer personality type is: DHSB You're a Doer. You are very quick at getting tasks done. You believe the outcome is the most important part of a task and the faster you can reach that outcome the better. After all, time is money. You like coding at a High level. The world is made up of objects and components, you should create your programs in the same way. You work best in a Solo situation. The best way to program is by yourself. There's no communication problems, you know every part of the code allowing you to write the best programs possible. You are a liBeral programmer. Programming is a complex task and you should use white space and comments as freely as possible to help simplify the task. We're not writing on paper anymore so we can take up as much room as we need.
And you? Programmer personality test I mostly (but of course, not completely) agree. Specially, I know I'm not at all quick getting tasks done :)
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Suspend to RAM and video cards not noticing

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/06/2007 - 09:51
My dear comment-hating Bubulle, you forced me into writing yet another weblog entry :) I have not yet worked it out completely, but it might be that your problems with suspend to RAM your Dell machine are related to having the Composite or AIGLX extensions loaded. This is just an hypothesis, and might be just wrong, but:
  • My Dell XPS M1210 worked beautifully right out of the box. It suspends to RAM without a problem, and comes back to life fresh as lettuce. I have even used the suspend to disk, although I don't really like it if I have an alternative.
  • Sometimes, however, I noticed that -only if it has been suspended for around one day or more- resuming does not work - It tries restoring the video state, but seems to continuously fail. I see a X11 cursor (arrow), another X11 cursor (hourglass IIRC), and a block of what appears to be a random memory dump, around 100x100 pixels
  • I have not reported this as a bug, as it is damn unpredictable
  • I installed AIGLX/Composite/Compiz on my laptop just to show it off to some friends upon first installation. I recently installed them (well, Beryl instead, but that should not prove relevant) on my desktop machine as well, as I was writing an article about it and wanted to provide screenshots
  • My desktop machine has an Intel 82865G video card. My laptop has a 945M. I expect them to be quite similar.
  • Once, I came back from a weekend, and found the weird video breakage pattern on my desktop as well! Of course, I have not yet removed the AIGLX/Composite configuration from it, expecting the problem to show up again... But no luck. I have had this machine for several months already, and had never seen such a problem
So... Christian, have you tried the plainest X configuration? Have you tried maybe switching to one of the virtual consoles before suspending? Or maybe even shutting down your X session? I hope this helps you chase down your problem. Do not worry, though - I don't want to be hugged/kissed to death by a cheese-eating translation-loving Frenchman.
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Say no to petroleum-powered vehicles - Make Mexico a better place!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 03/02/2007 - 12:36
[ Yes, entry written for my Mexican fellows. My blog is in English. Don't rant about that, your pleads won't be listened ] Damog just ranted (in Spanish) about too many people coming to Mexico City. I completely agree with him, but not with his conclusions. We are a ~25,000,000 people city, in a ~100,000,000 people country. The inequity we face every day is huge (Cd. Nezahualcóyotl, among the poorest in the city, is the most densely populated region in the whole world, but you can easily spot over 2000 sq mt houses in Bosques de las Lomas or similar regions - And the whole Santa Fé region just scares me, it is an unknown planet I don't even want to think of). But what's really terrible is how living in this city changes our collective moods. Sometimes it strikes me to understand how people in other countries can live in one town and work in another, over 40 minutes away. Well, for many years I worked at places over one hour away from home - and I didn't even cross the city. Mexico City is, or was last time I checked, 40x70km, and without enough adequate main ways. Of course, people get grumpy and aggressive while driving. What's my answer? Don't drive. Seriously. Yesterday, for example, I chaired three talks at Linuxworld Mexico. In friggin' Hipódromo de las Américas, a convention center located in one of the worst-connected pieces of land in Mexico. Usually, it would take me 40-90 minutes to get there by car, depending on the time of day and phase of Deimos against Fobos. Of course, it took me 70 minutes to go by metro+bus. I took two nice books (La región más transparente, a beautiful book by Carlos Fuentes no Mexico City inhabitant should skip, and Laurence Rosen's Open Source Licensing). And I didn't get bored, and I didn't hate the people I was riding with. Even though I crossed the most crowded metro stations. Not only I saved a fair amount of money (MX$6.50 each way against probably something close to MX$120 between the gas and the parking fee of that unholy convention center), but I used my time much better. Some years ago, when I regularly travelled one hour back and forth to work, I learnt most of what I know today of Computer Science during the long time I spent sitting on small microbús seats. Not the most luxurious way of travelling, but still a very good way of moving around our messy city. Of course, today I have learnt even more, and I want to advocate it: don't work far from your house, or at least, don't work far from a place reachable by Metro. Sometimes it sounds impossible, but really... How much do you value your time? Do you think that it's better to get MX$20,000 a month in a Santa Fé office than to get MX$15,000 in an office in Insurgentes? Do you think nobody will pay you decently if the offices are in Ermita Iztapalapa? Good work done brings a good salary. And seriously, the extra MX$5,000 in my first example is not worth the daily anger you will get by crossing the city to get to Nowhere Land and work for the corporate overlords. I might be extremely lucky, but I work 3Km away from home. I come by bike every day. And yes, I was scared at first - Even in Ciudad Universitaria people drive aggressively. You have to take care where you drive. Taxi drivers are among the worst, as they are always in a hurry. And, yes, my elbow has an ugly scratch, as I prefered to stop and fall off my bike than to land over a car whose driver was in a hurry. I've just had my bike for ~6 weeks (after over 10 years of not riding one, and back then, just for a bit), but I'm confident enough to get off the safety of a protected University with no cafres driving their microbús as they damn well please. Last weekend I had a ~6km drive (Copilco-Miguel Ángel de Quevedo-Loreto-Alta Vista-Copilco) using several high transit vialities (Universidad, Revolución, Insurgentes). I crossed three times the San Ángel bus hub, which scared my ass as I approached - But it's perfectly doable, far easier than what I expected. It was fun. It is a decent excercise. And we need more people to take the streets with their bikes. This morning I heard on the radio that Marcelo Ebrard (Mexico City mayor) is pushing a plan to boost bycicle usage in the city. Something similar to what has been done inside Ciudad Univeritaria, but -of course- in a larger scale: Useful ciclovías along the main roads, city-owned bike rental places (where you can rent your bike at one and drop it at another spot), all this well connected to the main Metro stations. In this interview (in this morning's 98.5 FM news program - sorry, I don't know who heads it... Martín something IIRC) they said that today, ~0.7% of the trips outside home in Distrito Federal (where only 8 out of our 25 million people live) are carried out on bycicle, and they expect to raise it to 5% over the next six years. We will see about that, I can only wish this program best luck. Damog complains that we drive like shit because dealing with too many people for too long pisses us off - Ok, Damog, here is the recipe: Don't get pissed off. Each of us will make a minor but tangible contribution. Don't drive so much. Quit your job so far away, get a decent (even worse paid) job closer to your house, closer to the university. You will be happier. Get a bike. Use it, you live close to UNAM as well. You will be happier. And we will be one step closer to total world domination. (yes, we the bikers, not we the Debianers ;-) )
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Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 02/26/2007 - 20:39
It is no news that Richard Stallman spent some days recently in Cuba, and not precisely on vacation - He was quite active. But no, not only on politics: Also artistically. Yes, I do think he has to work a bit on his voice, but... Guantanamero surely deserves being listened to. Good Cuban musicians and all. Oh, and of course: The credits. Thanks to Maykel Moya for the links.
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Talk submitted for YAPC::EU

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/22/2007 - 18:03
I just submitted my talk proposal for YAPC::EU, which will be held in Vienna in late August. The topic? Integrating Perl in a wider distribution: The Debian pkg-perl group. I took part in YAPC::NA (Yet Another Perl Conference - North America) in 2001, in Montreal, and YAPC::EU (you guessed right: Europe) in 2002, in Munich. While in Munich, I met Debian's Erich, Weasel and the late Jens. It is a very nice conference with all kinds of Perl-heads, apt for different experience levels. the talk I am proposing will be about what do we work for in Debian, how can we get a better synergy from our upstream group and (oh, this point is quite itchy - specially in strongly opinioned communities such as Ruby's! Perl people are quite nice to play with, however, but still...) what do we (as Debian maintainers) request from them in order for life to be smoother. Of course, I only submitted the talk. The CFP has just been launched, and so far, mine is the fourth talk offered - It can still be rejected (as it is not really related to Perl development, the heart of YAPC), but I guess it will be deemed interesting by the Perl monks reviewing them. In any case, hope to see you in Vienna as well!
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Dell laptops without Windows? No, not yet

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/20/2007 - 20:06
Steinar: You can get some (few) Dell desktop models with no preinstalled Windows, IIRC they are called the «L series». I tried, however, to get a OS-free laptop. I had to buy my XPS M1210 (sweet machine, BTW) with Windows XP. Tried on the phone, yes.
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Back from [VAC]?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/20/2007 - 18:47
On January 13, I sent a mail to debian-private saying I'd be on a semi-vacation until around February 10 - And yes, for over a month I've basically not touched my packaging, and for around three months my general profile in Debian has been really low. I sent this message because the Institute I work at moved, and I got the task of taking care of everything related with electrons flows carrying information (namely, voice and data networks). It's not that I'm really-really-back now - Work is still too absorbing, users still come too often to me expecting me to solve their problems. I can often try to do so on the data network, but I'm far from even having access to the voice equipment (I've done my hardest effort not to get such access, because that'd instantly turn me into the phone operator for life). However, for the first time in many weeks, today I had some quiet time, I catched up with some mailing lists, and... Well, I expect to work on my QA page. Boy, team-maintainership rules! pkg-perl friends, thanks for saving me from the creepy bugs sometimes too often. I expect to pick up work I haven't even looked at since I committed to doing so with the pkg-ruby-extras team as well, specifically, getting mongrel in shape and into Debian, despite our deep differences with its author. This will make Rails roll smoother and faster in Debian. And of course, there is Debconf. After last year's burnout, I think I recovered - I'm not a core organizator anymore, but I'm back to work my way to Edimburgh ;-) As for my local activities (Mexican Free Software conferences, meetings and people): Partly because so I decided and partly because so it happened, I've been off the hook with the local community since before Debconf 6. Before, because I was too busy to think about anything besides it, and after, because I was burnt out and somewhat bitter at several facts. I've been to few regional or local conferences, also because I knew that between last October and today I'd be too tied up at work. But last week we had both CONSOL and BarCamp Mexico. Somehow I managed to be at both (well, at CONSOL I was only enough time to do my two talks, for which I miraculously managed to get prepared, and BarCamp was during the weekend). Both were very positive for me, and I'm willing again to find some time to devote to promoting and developing Free Software in our country. Oh! One more note: Thanks to Sergio Mendoza for pushing me and for co-discussing on the subject, we are getting small but tangible results pointing to a Debian-UNAM project. Not much to see yet, besides having received the domain authority, which for now just means a nicer name for Nisamox, Mexico's main (and only long-running) full Debian mirror.


Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/08/2007 - 20:59
This morning, we woke up to find out that Vicuña, our most senior cat, had passed away. She was 13 years old, and appears to have went away peacefully, shortly before our wakeup time. She chose our home - In March 1994, the first night my mother, brother and me spent at our current home, we woke up with scared, little meow sounds. We found her over our fence - it took us years to finally understand how a baby cat could have got there. I don't want to start describing all the ways in which Vicuña brought love and light to our life. She gave us such great gifts over her life. We will surely miss her.
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La Jornada vs. Debian

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/06/2007 - 10:51
One of the leading newspapers in Mexico, often associated with its left-wing ideology (and, I don't think it's a coincidence, my personal favorite newspaper) published today this cartoon: So, dear Rocha... Are you implying that many past and present Debian releases are identifiable with the corrupt Mexican government? Our de facto president is like our first official release, Buzz (1.1)? Does Rex (1.2) properly represent the worst of the PRInosauric regime? Is Hamm (2.0) a good symbol for our whole political class? Woody (3.0), the first release I had the opportunity to work on while still being in NM, is like our sadly unforgettable ex-president Fox? Does our current stable release Sarge (3.1) equal to the repression that Chiapas, Atenco, Oaxaca, Michoacán and others have suffered? This cartoon made me sad, really sad. </jokingly>
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Free KQemu - Yay!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/06/2007 - 10:34
I've been feeling dirty lately - For my netadmin tasks, I've been heavily relying on running virtualized instances of the various MS Windows flavors, to check for compatibility with my work. Of course, being a zealot, I would not run VMWare (as it is grossly non-free from every possible angle) - I used Qemu. I'm also, however, impatient as hell - If I'm going to suffer from the sluggishness of the typical Microsoft desktop OS, I just don't want to suffer from emulation slugishness as well! Of course, the KQemu kernel accelerator module came to my rescue. I felt tainted, as it was just free as in beer. Well, today the sun rose, and the world looks shinier. Yes, it's chilly in Mexico City (around 5 Celsius), but great news always make the sun shine brighter: First thing I read in the morning, http://lwn.net/Articles/220807/">KQEMU 1.3.0pre10 released - under the GPL! Of course, it's echoed at Barrapunto. Even better, it took little time for Mike Hommey to post it into Planet Debian. Better still, Daniel Baumann has already packaged and uploaded it to NEW (and has an APT repository already set up with unofficial packages). Ftp-masters, please, issue the dear green light soon! :-D /me does the dance of joy
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But it does!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/30/2007 - 17:54
Bastian: I'm unable to provide the about:config key to prove it, but clicking on a link on my Iceweasel does open a Mutt mailto dialog. Maybe network.protocol-handler.external.mailto or network.protocol-handler.expose.mailto will do? They are booleans, so I cannot get much insight out of their respective true and false values... Keep peeking around ;-)
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Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/30/2007 - 10:12
I had this planned for over a year, but for whatever reasons, I didn't get around to doing it until last week - Knowing that my Institute was moving to almost the opposite edge of Ciudad Universitaria, and would now be located at over 3Km from home (from around 300m that it was before), I decided to get a bike. And, after having it in my to-buy list, I bought it last Sunday (January 21), and Nadezhda got one for herself as well. I had had a bike before, over 15 years ago, and we rode a bit when we were in Amsterdam, but that was back in 1996. Since then, I cannot recall using a bike - So, of course, I was quite shaky and afraid to begin with. I must admit, I envied Nadezhda, as she seems to be natural - While I was still trying to get the bike moving without crashing into something, she was literally making circles around me. On Sunday, we went for a short ride in the main circuit of UNAM. On Monday night, we went most of the way to the gym/running lanes where we go to make our excercises - Yes, mostly uphill, and I managed! (she had already done that road earlier the same Monday). Thursday and Friday, I rolled early to do my excercise, and we basically crossed each other on the way. On Saturday, finally, we came all the way to the new Institute. Sunday was amazing: We went with her family (two sisters, one brother and five pedalling nephews, plus one nephew in a basket in his mother's bike) along the Ciclopista. The Ciclopista goes on the path that used to be the Mexico-Cuernavaca railroad, and starting at Contreras, it goes uphill to cross the Ajusco/Chichinahutzin ridge. I cannot find a decent map, and I don't have a clue on what distance we rode, but it was just great - We crossed basically all of the Magdalena Contreras part of the Ciclopista and part of Tlalpan, until maybe 500m past the market at Calle 8. Of course, after the ride, we feasted with quesadillas at the market, plus some tacos of a delicious chicharrón prepared by Nadezhda's mother. It was a long ride anyway - I got quite tired, and the way back (fortunately, downhill) was still long. We had promised the four year old nephews to take them to the zoo that same day, although we counted on them being tired by that time - Well, a child's will is stronger than being tired, so we still went to Chapultepec to dive in a sea of people and look at some nice animals ;-) ...Finally, yesterday and today I have come by bike to the Institute. There are a couple of hard parts, and I still have not mastered the techniques for being an effective rider, but the way back is just delicious. Besides, yesterday I made 15 minutes on my way back, today it was 20 minutes coming here - almost the same time that going by car! Oh, and on the way back, I get to enjoy a beautiful view of my beloved volcanos, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. And, as Mauricio already pointed out, thanks to the light rains we had in the previous days... They just look amazing, covered in snow from their very bases. Not much to add to it... But I'm delighted :)
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