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Cooking itchiness

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 05/04/2008 - 10:35

Every now and then, I want to understand a bit better English. Today, when Joeyh mentioned nettle soup, I had to ask Wikipedia what a nettle is. And Joey, no wonder it itches... It refers to around 45 species of genus Urtica in the family Urticaceae - In Spanish, of course, urtica is known as ortiga, or as blind person's herb, as even a blind person will quickly recognize it to touch - Touching it will cause the apt-named urticaria, which Joey seems to have discovered and learnt to fear. At least in Spanish, urticaria is generalized and used to call all kinds of skin diseases.
It happens to be a very common plant in the area I live and dwell in (the ecological reserve REPSA spans a good portion of the University, and limits my neighbourhood), a large extension of Southern Mexico City where the lava of the small Xitle volcano covered everything, rendering a good portion of the Mexico City valley unfertile, known as malpaís (badland, literally).
Anyway... I don't think I'll rush to cut some ortigas and make them into soup, as both Joeyh and Wikipedia (Spanish and English versions) suggest. But it is always an option, having so many fine specimens around.
This posting serves no other purpose than to show my appreciation to the Mexico City Area

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German and APT::Acquire::Translation

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/10/2008 - 13:25


The webinterface for it doesn't require any authentication at all, leading technically to anonymous translations all over the place. The so-called "review" process consists of the same not-existing authentication, leading to a situation where unknown people can put in whatever they like and have other (or potentially the same) unknown people acknowledge that.
The language team has actively chosen that way because it was said that bad translations simply won't happen and that the review (three people opening the page and clicking onto a button) will not let that happen. Well, it happened. And is happening all over the place.

Hmmm... That sounds quite like a definition of Wiki in my book. Just add a version-control layer underneath, and...
Oh, you didn't? Umh... Tough luck! :-(

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And you call them abusive?

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 03/05/2008 - 18:06

Madduck complains about the lack of attractive data plans for mobile phone providers in Switzerland. Madduck: As always, you will have to remember there are many people confronted with a much worse situation than yours.
Up to a month ago, I never envisioned using my phone for anything besides... Well, talking. But yes, since I got my new gadget, I keep playing with GPS or using it for simple things that require Web access and do not require much interactivity (the suckiness of a 12-key keyboard is überhuge!) - Provided, of course, that I am near a WiFi hotspot, of course. My mobile service provider, Telcel, just publicly launched its 3G network - this means, of course, prices are well over the roof:
The cheapest plan starts at MX$59 (around US$5.5) a month, and gives you a whooping 1MB of allowed transfer - Anything you do over 1MB will cost you MX$0.06 per kilobyte. Yes, Telcel offers a 1.5Mbps connection, so it'd theoretically take only 6 seconds to exceed the monthly plan. After the joyful first seconds of network access, each second of full-fledged data transfer will cost you 9 pesos - Around US$0.85. How nice!
Now, there are plans for 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, 100 and 1000MB. Their price increases at a slow pace up to MX$459, which is still somewhat expensive if you even thought on using your cell phone as a gateway (say, over Bluetooth) for your regular computer's connectivity. Of course, if I buy 1GB of data transfer, I'd expect a much lower price for each additional Kb. Well, no, it only goes down to MX$0.03. Per Kilobyte, yes, you read right. Those little things your Vic20 was full of.
There is even an unlimited plan. Well, yes, unlimited but limited - For MX$579 (~US$55) you get a nice deal, right? After all, I pay MX$350 for my 1024/128 DSL connection - it is on the right range. Well, no - If you get over 3GB in one month, your data rate will drop to 128Kbps for the rest of the month. Nice. No good as a gateway either.
So, I'm not hiring a 3G plan at all. But that's also a danger - If I open a net-using program at the wrong moment, I'll be billed at MX$0.14 per Kilobyte.
[update] There is another similar service in Mexico, IUSAcell's BAM. Pricing is equivalent, though.

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Keep the simplest things DRY and rolling

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/03/2008 - 14:32

What's the best way to join a community, any community? Little by little.
I have been working with Ruby on Rails for well over a year already, even given a talk (at Encuentro Nacional Linux y Software Libre ENLi) inviting other people to use this very nice and well thought out environment. But, so far, I've been only a end-user, not really giving anything back besides minor bug reports.
Well, it's not as much as to say that I'm now a contributor - this is just a first statement of intent. I have worked a bit on several bits of code I keep repeating and hand-copying over my different Rails projects. Of course, that's completely not DRY - And completely not nice. So I decided to stop advancing on several projects, and learn my way on stting those bits of code as Rails plugins.
So far, it's been quite simple - and a good excercise on proper separation. I started, of course, with the easiest bit of code I could think of as useful in a general sense, and packaged it up as acts_as_catalog (of course, proper SVN tree and very basic, introductory README. And, of course, as I keep progressing with this work, I'll keep adding some plugins to my currently quite empty RubyForge page.
Anyway... Little by little, time will come where we have to think more seriously on how to properly bring together the Ruby on Rails style to work more tightly with Debian. Currently, the two have such different points of view on how to manage and ship components that I am not sure we will be able to truly bridge them together... But it is definitively worth trying. Hmh, looks like a task for Debconf! ;-)

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Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 02/04/2008 - 10:54

Ok, the time has come. I have postponed this change too much - But finally, after three months of having hired my Dreamhost account (and stating so in this very blog), I finally made the switch from Jaws to Drupal.
Now I only hope I don't flood any planets with my RSS (I was careful to check the dates are consistent, but you never know), finish moving over my static content (I carried over about half of it already), play a bit with the theme, and... that's it! :D
Anyway, I promised my oh-so-not-generic-but-what-the-heck Jaws (0.7 at least) to Drupal (5.x) migration script. It worked like a charm - Ok, I only used it to move blog and photo albums/entries, but that's at least the most typical use AFAICT.
Now, I'll have to understand still some more terms and details in Drupal. For example, WTF? Why was renamed to (stated content-type, I guess) Why do my uploaded tar.gz files get renamed to tar_.gz even if I explicitly requested to allow .tar.gz suffix uploads? (same thing, I guess)

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Yay, new gadget!

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 01/21/2008 - 08:25
A week ago, I got my fourth cell phone so far. This is the first time, however, that I pay for it - even though the first one I had was a very nice smartphone for its time (basically, a not-really-well-integrated Palm Vx and a bulky phone very worthy back in its time. Anyway - Some months ago, I decided I wanted a Wifi-able phone, in order not to need to carry around my laptop for simple tasks such as checking my mail. Shortly after I started looking for phones which fit my needs, I found Nokia's N95. The map-maniac in me found it had a GPS, and... Well, it just became matter of waiting until my phone company brought it to the Mexican market (as I paid about half its street-price... Y'know, points for customer loyalty, blah blah).
Anyway... I've been extensively playing with my new toy, and although I am still often frustrated by Symbian's so very-very-propietary-minded OS and general culture (it's amazing the number of for-a-fee very simple applications!), I'm very happy. So far, my favorite application (and, of course, the one that made me jump for it) is Nokia's Sports Tracker. While it does have some issues (particularly the web application - at least its interaction with firefIceWeasel is somewhat buggy; it abuses AJAX interaction and some pieces of information are just not linkable, they lack a proper URL), I'm delighted at using it - tracking my theoretically daily excercise sessions, be they excercising per se or my bike rides to work, linking photos taken during those sessions, tagging them to the point and moment they were taken (although, I must admit, it is awkward to take photos while running - And next to impossible while biking, of course).
Yes, to many this is not so impressive... But it is really the toy I was looking for.
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Supertheory of supereverything

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 12/12/2007 - 19:58

First time I had read the Bible
It had stroke me as unwitty
I think it may started rumor
That the Lord ain't got no humor

Put me inside SSC
Let's test superstring theory
Oh yoi yoi accelerate the protons
stir it twice and then just add me, 'cause

I don't read the Bible
I don't trust disciple
Even if they're made of marble
Or Canal Street bling

From the maelstrom of the knowledge
Into the labyrinth of doubt
Frozed underground ocean
melting - nuking on my mind

Yes give me Everything Theory
Without Nazi uniformity
My brothers are protons
My sisters are neurons
Stir it twice, it's instant family!

I don't read the Bible
I don't trust disciple
Even if they're made of marble
Or Canal Street bling

My brothers are protons
My sisters are neurons
Stir it twice dlja prekrastnih dam...

Do you have sex maniacs
Or schizophrenics
Or astrophysicists in your family
Was my grandma anti anti
Was my grandpa bounty bounty
They ask me in embassy!

'Cause I don't read the Bible
I don't trust disciple
Even if they're made of marble
Or Canal Street bling

And my grandma she was anti!
And my grandpa he was bounty!
And stir it twice
And then just add me!
now afterparty...

That's the Supertheory of Supereverything, by the gypsy-punk Gogol Bordello. I was really surprised to find their Super Taranta! at a local music shop. Of course, five minutes later, we were heading home with our shiny and oh-so-very-green purchase. Highly recommendable!

BTW, does anybody else think that Eugene Hutz is Larry Wall's evil twin? (No, and I don't only mean it because of their choices in background colors)

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Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 11/24/2007 - 20:10

Yesterday I went with Nadezhda to the always interesting teatro/bar el Vicio. as she found that Klezmerson were going to play there. We tried to get some more friends to join, but gave too short notice, and ended up having a great night out just by ourselves.

Just as a side rant: I just hate that places I want to refer to, and I want other people to get to know, have Flash-only sites! You can read some more things about Klezmerson at -ugh- their MySpace site, even get some of their music there.

Their name give away their basic lines: Klezmer and son. The common line to all of the songs they performed is a strong Klezmer feel. Benjamín Shwartz and María Emilia Jimenez (violin/keyboard and flute respectively) are responsible IMHO for most of that spirit, as their instruments are the most traditional ones, and they carry the melodies. But the rythms they play to are plain crazy and extremely well engineered - Cuban son, Colombian cumbia, jazz, rock, and... Well, I'm not a musician. But I really, really enjoyed them. Of course, bought their CD as well.

Congratulations to a very surprising and unexpected band!

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Runners of the world, unite!

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/18/2007 - 09:16
Yay, the club seems to be getting bigger and bigger. While I've been mostly away from this blog, Bubulle has joined the group. Also, the long-disappeared Evan promises to be back, and running as well. I didn't get to see him, but Gaby told me she saw Mauricio (making a IMHO very nice 0:51:33 time for 10Km) on last week's Nike race. Of course, I was also at the race, with a 1:07:36 total time. Not bad for such a strange period!
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Click-through GPL sucks!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 09/14/2007 - 10:16
I completely agree with Adrian's comment. I've recently installed a lab full of OpenOffice for Windows. Of course, the installation is easy (but you have to explicitly accept the GPL to get on with it - why?), but what's really annoying is that the first time each and every user starts the program for the first time, they are also prompted for license agreement. Even worse, they are expected to fill out a quite lengthy survey (which I filled once, of course, but still is too much to ask for the vast majority of our users!). Free Software should be exempt from the stupid click-through nonsense!
Anyway... also echoing Adrian and Otavio: Robert Millan's work on win32-loader just kicks ass. If you are not reading me through Planet Debian, please take a look at this ogg video file (Windows users: you can use VLC) showing what happens if you insert the (Sid) Debian installer CD into a Windows system. No more fiddling around trying to get the stupid machine to boot off your favorite media! Good job!
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Have a very, <em>very</em> nice day!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 10:55
And no, I don't mean Mao.
How was Thursday 23 for me?
6:30 Wake up, knowing it will be a long day. No, don't get those delicious extra 15 minutes of sleep.
8:00 Arrive to work, ~90min earlier than usual, to finish the Rails app you have to demo at 10:00
10:00 Meeting with the Institute's Director, Academic Secretary and Technic Secretary to show them the system for following the internal inter-tematic colloquium information workflow. Thankfully, they were happy with it.
11:20 (20 minutes after scheduled): As several academics have said they are interested in getting to know Linux, I'm giving a series of introductory sessions on Debian to them. So, I went with some of them through the Etch installation. Of course, mostly everything was fine. What was not? Resizing a Windows partition is still a step that requires several jumps through hoops (i.e. booting Debian LiveCDs, some console-based interactivity which I wanted to avoid...), and... Well, d-i does not time out if the selected mirror is not responding. Will file a bug, yes. Anyway...
14:30 Managed to leave the lab working, with no damages. Went to the bank to check some data and to have a quick lunch.
16:00 Get back to the institute. José Luis, from Difusión y extensión was already waiting for me to show a set of components for the Comas-based system we use for tracking attendance to the Institute's activities
16:45 The people from AMECIDER arrived so I could show them my proposal for their new website. Can you believe most of the websites I host are still completely static HTML, and, what's even worse, generated by the ${despiseful_adjective} Dreamweaver? Yes, I am proposing them to move over to Drupal
17:30 I finally received another person, one of the people that's attending my Thursday lessons, wanting me to help with some Linux questions. What's Linux's killer app for my Institute's researchers? Believe it or not, a not-brain-dead PDF reader. They are amazed that, using Gnome's Evince, they can just copy-paste bits of PDFs into their documents (and the fact that pasting tabular data into OpenOffice's Calc allows for an easy import feature - Yesterday I spent ~1hr with this researcher importing data generated by the International Monetary Fund into his work), and they are even more amazed with the gnome-screenshot they can directly include graphics from such documents without redrawing them.
19:45 (45 minutes behind schedule): Went to the Astronomy Research Institute, to meet with Sergio, Héctor and Eric, to decide on bits of the implementation of the new gear we will be putting in nisamox, our dear and faithful mirror. Thanks to everybody! We will soon tell you what we got and what we did with it, it's mostly settled by now.
20:30 Had the first of some... Four calls regarding yet another system I have been working with for the ICME conference, to be held in Mexico in 2008. Several pushing details that need my attention and work, bah :-/ Have to work on them...
21:00 Got home. Did a couple housekeeping activities (i.e. take out the trash, buy some food...). I was too burnt out to start making my bags for going to Vienna (I'm leaving tonight!), work on the pending systems I have to work on, or even stay awake.
Leaving work for a week to go a conference is always fun and great... But man, it's stressing!
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Goran Bregovic sends me northwards

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 08/11/2007 - 19:17
What does this topic mean? Hmh... Maybe you don't know Goran Bregovic, a magical Bosnian musician, one of my all-time favorite artists. I have long loved Eastern European music (but I was mostly familiar with the Klezmer style, linked to Ashkenazi Jews but not necessarily performed by them anymore (i.e. Kroke), but it is thanks to Goran that I got familiar with the Balkan style... What can I say about it? It has an addictive rythm, and it has the folk sound of (even very similar instruments to) the Mexican tambora. It is a must-hear genre, in short. There are many magical Balkan music groups, I cannot just recommend one - But if I could, it would be Goran's :)
Now, why is he sending me northwards? Because Goran Bregovic is coming to Mexico - To the Northern city of Monterrey, some 1000Km north from Mexico City - He will be performing at the Forum Universal de las Culturas Monterrey 2007, on September 22, at the Explanada Plaza 400 años.
I know already of a couple of friends who are definitively going, who are searching for the best airfare... This will be something to remember!
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Choose your pain: Legs or back

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 08/10/2007 - 11:55
So I have an extra chair today at my office. Is that good?
Some weeks ago, I started noticing some stinging and numbness in my legs, specially the left one. I went to the social security, and got a simple prescription: Two weeks having a certain medicine whose name I don't remember by now. But the timing was not the best, as this happened exactly during my vacations - After finishing with this medication, I still had a full week before coming back to work. And when I came back, things seemed to be fine. But still, this does not tell me if my body is at fault, or if it is my chair instead...
At the Institute, we have basically two models of chair: The one I usually have, a bit taller and better suited for my kind of table (as its arms fit nicely just under the table (as they were designed to go together). The other, a bit shorter and rounder, but with higher arms.
The stinging in the left leg is back there - No, it does not (yet) bother me, but I trust it will. So, of course, I tried the other chair. The seat is much more ergonomical, yes, and it feels overall better - But I have to reach over to use my keyboard...
So this means I can either get a different chair by my own means, or choose between back and leg pain.
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Hot water and long pipes

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 07/30/2007 - 18:07
Every now and then, I see somebody who -just as Russell did today- talks about the advantages of water heating systems not being tank-based, but tankless! Sounds kewl, hah? Shiny, new?
Well... I live at a house that is slowly but steadily started to show its age. Built in 1955 and owned for almost two decades by the very renowned phycisist (of course, my father's mentor and teacher) Marcos Moshinsky, my parents bought it in 1974, and it has been my home since 1976. And, at least since 1980 (I cannot be sure about earlier events for reasons that might be obvious to the casual reader), we have always had an Calentador Ascot de paso. Ascot (and further companies that have bought their name) have manufacutred this kind of water heaters for at least 60 years in Mexico. Yes, they are gas-based and not electricals like the ones Rusell links to, but that might just be because in Mexico gas has always been incredibly cheaper than electricity. And yes, the heater is godsent for ecolocigally conscious people - No more storing 20 to 40 lt (the sizes of the usual storage-based tanks around here) of hot water all day around just because you might want to take a shower, no more waiting for 20 minutes after you turn it on until you start having your morning shower (and more important, no more taking your morning shower ice-cold just because you overslept!)
Yes, it seems like life is perfect with our tankless (de paso) system... Almost.
As I said, our house was built over 50 years ago. It was built on what intended by then to be a middle-upper class suburb, on a very modern house with fancy stuff and all. And of course, the heater was not planned for the most visible or hearable areas of the house - specifically, nowhere close the living room - or the bedrooms. Silly details, the bathrooms are close to those areas. So, what's the answer? Want to take a shower? Ok, open the water...
And wait.
For around 3-5 minutes, until the hot water finishes the looong ride from the opposite corner of the house.
Of course, it takes a path that's not easy to intercept in order to move the heater to a saner place: The hot water pipe goes right under the middle of the living room, yay.
So we use our fancy de paso system whenever we are too lazy. Nadezhda and I prefer to fill one hot water bucket (~20lt) for each in the washing room, just by the kitchen (and the heater, of course!) and throw hot water over us to get a nice bath. Or, in case we are too lazy for that, collect as much as possible from the otherwise-wasted hot water in another bucket (we usually get ~10lt - but I fear another such amount just falls around it) and use it later for our various household duties.
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On social networks

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 07/24/2007 - 22:50
There have been many (too many) social networks coming and going out of fashion in the last years. I got quite excited when I first learnt about them. Advogato was as cool as it could be, and having somebody label me master (even though most had me as a journeyer, IIRC, and that was my level as far as I tracked it) was really inspiring.
Then came friendster, and then orkut. I spent far too many hours in them, and was really happy (and surprised!) to find the many ways to my friends, some of them have been out of my radar for too long.
And then, everybody started creating their social networks for remembering birthday dates, and for finding who likes the same music (and books and whatnot) as you do. And this silly thing called Twitter.
I'm sorry. I don't play anymore. I'm fed up with it.
Maybe it's that I've grown old and cranky, but I don't even answer to invitations to social networks nowadays. And I'm sorry - It's not that I don't care about you, it's not that I don't like you - I don't like losing my time creating yet-another-mapping of still-the-same group of friends.
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