Thursday, December 31, 2009

Visiting the mountains in Rio Grande do Sul


From Canela with Ana



After Christmas with my family and the obligatory foray into the beach (of which I don't particularly like in southern Brazil), I managed to take Ana to more touristic parts of Rio Grande do Sul, namely the mountainous region in the north of the state. This particular area, which contains plenty of whitewater rivers among the valleys is, in my opinion, is the nicest sightseeing place in the state. We tried to visit the Caracol park by the end of our only full day in the city of Canela, but it seems that the park administration was oblivious to the fact that night only falls at eight thirty during summer in the southern tip of Brazil, and the park closed at six in the afternoon.

 Fortunately, we found out that following the dirt road that starts where the main paved road to the park ends it is possible to reach an eco-tourism park which has some of the most stunning vistas I have seen in my state, a sample of which you can check in the picture of this post.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Taking Ana to Porto Alegre



So it finally came to pass that my girlfriend Ana came to Porto Alegre to meet my family and spend Christmas with us. To her the great novelty was that in the southern hemisphere December, and thus Christmas, is summer, so instead of snow our Christmases were marked by sunshine and the occasional heavy rain. And instead of seeing people laden with heavy winter coats, people are wearing shorts and t-shirts and complaining about the suffocating heat that sometimes curses these days. In my case, I had almost forgotten how unpleasant temperatures above 30 Celsius can become and how ill adapted I am to these weather conditions.

Anyhow, I would like to believe that Ana did indeed like the country and spending time with my family. She did compare my city with the one in which she grew up, Cuernavaca in Mexico (not that there are many cities with this name anywhere else), which I take it to be a good sign. The only bad thing is that given the harsh winter conditions in Mexico this year, she arrived with quite a strong cold, and this sort of killed the fun of the first few days. Now that Christmas is gone, we should do a little more traveling to the countryside.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wing Commander Privateer and Open Source


Given that last weekend was part of an extended holiday in the US, I found myself with some free time out of meat space (given that the gym I go to closed for the entire weekend) and I managed to pursue my traditional leisure activities. I initially spent some money on the second episode of the Penny Arcade Game, and thought that that was it for part of my weekend. It turned out that a friend of mine managed to find a "modern" remake of the Wing Commander Privateer.


I use quotation marks for modern because the graphics within the game my friend sent are entirely ASCII-based. Technically though, many of the characters used are not part of the 95 printable ASCII characters, but that would be just anal on my part. Moreover, certain elements in the graphics are not entirely based on a terminal layout, for example, the shots from the ships weapons do deviate in a way that would not be possible in a terminal window. In any case, those I believe, were necessary changes for usability, and ASCII Sector is a very promising game. You can see the difference in look between the same ship in ASCII (the first image in the post), and the 3D version of the same ship (the second image in the post).


Now, when writing this post, I tried to look for pictures of the original game, and found out that the idea of resuscitating this particular game is not unique to that guy, with at least two other games in the open source: Privateer Gemini Gold, and Wing Commander Universe, both of which are Source Forge projects (though the second project seems to be undergoing a major overhaul). These two graphics games seem to be more true to the game dynamics of the original game, but what really makes ASCII Sector stand out is that it allows one to interact with elements outside the ship flight simulator, allowing one to wander around space stations and talking to people, including person to person combat, which allows for all sorts of interesting extensions, like boarding a ship and capturing (or killing) its crew. So as far as depth goes, ASCII seems to win, but who knows that the source forge projects might evolve into.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is twitter for twits?

Now I finally surrendered to this (not so) latest Internet fad, and created me a twitter account. I have always thought that twitter was the pinnacle of an ADHD internet behavior, since it only allows very short (140 characters long) messages. Effectively being like blogging for people who cannot put together a coherent sentence, much less a paragraph. I can see how some organizations might use it as a type of news feed, for example, a university department, however for regular people, it strikes me as odd that some people would use it on its own just to say that they have just pooped or something.

I can see why this kind of thing could be used in social networking sites, as it was used initially by Facebook and then Orkut. Indeed, it would make sense now to centralize (if one feels the need) the posting of this minor life updates, which Facebook allows, but Orkut does not seem to. In any case, we shall see if I become a twit by using twitter.

Follow drmeneguzzi on Twitter

Friday, November 06, 2009

Taxation without representation


After starting my work in the US, and waiting for two full months to get a real salary with a discrimination of all the discounts I get from health insurance, other optional services and taxes. Now, my greatest disappointment here is that, since the American government provides almost no service to the population, or at least nothing even close to what the European welfare states provide, I expected to pay a lot less taxes here. It turns out that this is a naive expectation, since I ended up giving away about a quarter of my salary to the government, in return for pretty much nothing from the US government. The ethical implications of this are a bit jarring to me, since I am indirectly fueling two wars, one of which I completely disagree with.

Monday, October 19, 2009

TED Talks


It has been a while since I have started watching the TED Talks, but only now it occurred to me to share this experience with whoever cares to read my blog. This particular talk, which I find particularly illuminating, talks about the many misconceptions many people have about so-called developing countries. The main one being that in rich countries people have small families and live longer, and in developing countries people live shorter lives in larger families. According to the data collected by this researcher (from very public sources), this conception is very wrong. It is amazing the insights that this guy puts based on hard data.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Today I wanted to cry


Before you take me for a pussy, let me say in my defense that I have played every single Mechwarrior computer game to this date (including some of the crap SNES and Mega Drive ones), and the prospect of a new one is very exciting to me, even if my gaming days are pretty much over. This teaser video is especially exciting, and (and this is no spoiler for those who would care about it) follows the tradition of Mechwarrior introductions (save for Mechwarrior 3) whereby the narrator usually meets his demise at the end of the video.

Although I have heard rumours of a law suit from the owners of some of the early designs used in this franchise, I am quite hopeful that I will be able to play this game.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Land of the free (to pay)


This week my anxiety generating problem has to do with the way utility companies do business in this part of the world. I always heard that American businesses are all customer centered, and that they treat the customer as king and whatnot, however this sounds like bullshit to me now that I am here. It seems that no company trusts their customers at all, especially the crappy utility companies, since they all demand very significant "security" deposits to start service with you. Moreover, since Americans still use very archaic banking practices (like paper cheques), by the time it is my turn to receive my deposit back, I will not even be in the country to cash the cheques they send me with the money I wasted on their deposits.

Any more blindly patriotic American reading this might get a fit for my rant, but I miss England so much, because for all people here like to criticize them, the British are, as Bertrand Russel once said, the only ones using common sense ever since it was invented by themselves. Actually John Locke is usually credited to have invented common sense in the 17th century, an Englishman, nonetheless.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Keep fucking that chicken


Today I was catching up with The Daily Show after having traveled to Niagara Falls, Ontario, in what was my first tourism trip of the US season of Felipe's research tour, I was just pissing myself with laughter at a local broadcast from Fox (no less), in which an apparently famous news anchor banters to the weatherman to "Keep fucking that chicken", in the video you see above. As I mentioned earlier in the post, this was picked up by Jon Stewart in his daily show. This seems like the kind of thing that would slip out in the entire lifetime of an anchor, but this seems like just another day at the office for news anchor Ernie Anastos, which seems to have a small, and illustrious history in blooping on air.

At the end of the day, I always thought that it was me that was always thinking profanity while I carry out regular conversation, and hoping (though not most of the time), that my thoughts would not spill out at an important moment in my conversations. Luckily for me, my verbal misadventures have not been the subject of The New York Times.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Intro - Ernie Anastos' Catch Phrase
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Open iTerm here

As you probably know from my previous entries, I have upgraded to Snow Leopard, which, despite initial hurdles, led me to read and demand more of the operating system. Among the custom things that I missed from my old windows installation was a context menu allowing me to open a terminal window through an Explorer context menu pointed to a folder of interest. Recently I found the solution in another software developer's blog, which allows one to open a window of Terminal.app. I however, prefer the alternative (and open source) iTerm, and so I tried to simply change the name of the invocation within the code of the workflow I downloaded for the previous site. It turns out that it was not that simple, so ended up having to dig into a Mac hints forum to find the code that finally did what I wanted. And the result of that is my very own version of that script, which I call, Open iTerm Here. I do not guarantee it will work, even though it has worked in my Snow Leopard installation. It includes installation instructions, which are basically the following: open the zip file, go into the open-here folder, and copy Open iTerm Here.workflow to ~/Library/Services.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Turing gets apology, now missing a knighthood


The father of the modern computer and all around scientific genius, Alan Turing, has finally received an apology from the British government over his treatment 55 years ago, which probably contributed to his untimely death, curtailing what could have been an even more brilliant scientific career.

The only thing missing now is his granting of a Knighthood by the very same monarch who could have done that when this man was still alive, and his contribution to the continued existence of the British royal family was even fresher.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Update on last post

As an update, I found out how to solve this problem from this thread at the Apple support forums. Well, thank you very much for nothing Apple, since I had to figure out this crap on my own.

It is one of the weirdest bugs I've ever seen, but apparently, if you have multiple keyboard layouts set for your Mac, as I did using the US International layout to be able to type in diacriticals for latin languages, the dialog asking for your admin password would never come up.

This affected everything from program installations to unlocking certain preference panes.

So the only way to solve this was to remove all keyboards but the US one (I don't know if it happens for other keyboard types, since I have a US layout keyboard), and then add the other layouts back again.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Snow Leopard Installer.app Issues




Even though I promised myself I would not be the type of overeager moron to adopt an operating system right after it was released, my faith in the reliability of Apple's software somehow led me to actually buy and install Snow Leopard in the hopes that it would be a smooth experience. At first, indeed, the upgrade process was relatively smooth, with only a couple of applications being removed due to their incompatibility with the new operating system. It was also cool to have about 5 Gigabytes freed up from printer drivers that were not really used.

Moreover, the claims about speed improvements for Snow Leopard are totally bogus, as far as I can tell, and counterclaims about the need for more hardware are equally worthless to me, especially since I have a 2.6 Gigahertz MacBook Pro and 4 Gigabytes of RAM (effectively a maxed out version of this laptop).

Now, what worried me more was the fact that pkg (and mpkg) installers from the Mac simply did not work anymore. The installation wizard would run up to when you had to click the install button, at which point the button simply did not work. When Mac OS X did not even ask for the Administrator password, I knew something was very wrong. To top it off, I managed to somehow delete my MacTex installation, and without it, I could do nothing paper related. Apple's own forums were as good as worthless to sort out my issue, which I doubt is unique to me.

After wasting practically the entire day trying to figure out what the hell happened to my beloved mac, I discovered that pkgs are installer by an application called Installer.app, which did not help a lot in sorting out my installation problem. Finally, I found out that the installer software also exists as a command line application in /usr/sbin/installer, which can be forced to run as an Administrator, and finally managed to install MacTex using this command sudo /usr/sbin/installer -pkg MacTeX-2008.mpkg -tgt / -verbose, which should work for installing other stuff under Snow Leopard.

This is far from a good solution, but at least is solves the problem until Apple decides to update this piece of beta software that they released. It seems that they have been learning with Bill's company on how to have unpaid beta testers.

Finally, thanks to Kristen for allowing me to use her picture of a sleeping Snow Leopard to poke fun at Apple.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

American Problems

As many of my friends are probably in the know, after having looked for a position in my home country for a while unsuccessfully, I was back again moving away from it. Thus, I have recently moved to Pittsburgh in the US to take up a Research position at Carnegie Mellon University.

Well, job details aside, it has been a bit of a hassle to get properly set up here. The first problem is that apartments are seldom rented furnished, so in order not to have my meals and my sleep on the floor (like real men!), I had to go and find me furniture. The solution was cheap furniture from the largest charity in the world: IKEA. Of course that was not a trivial pursuit, since IKEA is not close to the urban center of Pittsburgh and there was no way in hell that I would haul 50 kilos of furniture in public transportation. So I had to rent a UHaul van, and boy I did not remember how large these American trucks were. To top it off, UHaul, or at least the store I rented it from, had no option of a Satnav in the trucks, so I had to brave the highways and interstates of Pennsylvania with not much more than the instructions Google maps had for me, which, given my attempt at safe driving (and no paper reading in the middle of the interstate) invariably led to me doing many extra miles due to taking wrong exits and generally going in the wrong direction.

After the whole rigmarole of buying furniture and essential home items, I needed to do laundry after many days living out of a suitcase, which leads me to my other problem. The washing (and drying) machines are not only coin operated, but they accept only quarter dollar coins! Of course, I only realized I was short on quarters for drying my clothes, and did not have a drying rack at home. To improve things, the supermarket till attendant was also short on quarters, and a simple task such as doing laundry led me on a trek of spending little money just to collect these fucking coins!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How to deal with Zombies



I was reading the BBC this morning and, I kid you not, I found a bit of news saying that some mathematicians have used a zombie infection as a model for a rapidly spreading infection. Now this might be a good candidate for the Ig Nobel award, were it not for the fact that a lot of people actually took this research seriously. I admit that I might be being a little cynical here, taking into consideration the content of my own blog, but are we scientists not supposed to at least pretend that our research has a tangible real-world result, even if we are only dealing with pet projects and blue sky ideas?
The world is moving forward faster than I can deal with it, and to honor that, I place a zombified image of me in this post.

Friday, August 07, 2009

All Set

After having gone through the byzantine bureaucracy of the US and A, and finally having secured accommodation in my new foster country, I believe I am all set to start my new two-year research stint, away from my original shores. This ended up being the only concrete option I had after trying for six months in securing a firm position in Brazil, so it is with a bit of sadness that I need to be away from family and friends for more time. It is also sad that I ended up in yet another country, as I made excellent friends in the UK, and if it was up to me, I would have gone back to British shores.
At the end of the day, I am happy though, because I am going to one of the top universities in the United States. Now let us see if I am up to the standards of such a prestigious institution.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A tale of two winters

 


After having returned to Brazil and sort of settled temporarily it dawned to me that moving to the southern hemisphere right at the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere means that I will be going through two winters in sequence. And what is more, if I move back north after a few months this will mean that I will be going through three winters in sequence! And before people start to think that moving south is all nice, fun, beaches (and bitches), check out the weather report from my iPod this morning. This is not fun at all, and I got no bitches as well, damn it!
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back to the old new World


After nearly four years living in the UK, and having finished my PhD, I now return to the new world, my old home, and current base of operations. Celebrating this, I treat you to the official bird from the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the Southern Lapwing, photographed by me in the city of Gramado.
Given the uncertainties of a research career for a neophyte such as myself, I am not yet sure where I will be headed next, but hopefully something good.

As I arrive home, I will at least be able to catch up with some old friends, even from Europe, and hopefully that will offset the blues I get from going away from the place that has been such a welcoming home for me in the past years.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Last weeks in London

From Tower of London

Yesterday I have cancelled my utilities here in London, thus marking the transition from a resident of London to a mere visitor. It felt slightly worse than I had anticipated, since it just sank into me that I am leaving this place, possibly never to come back again. The story between London and I is rather odd, or typical, who knows, but when I arrived here, I felt almost overwhelmed by the number of things that went on around me, given my ADHD. Then, when all of that became background noise, and I started learning about all the cool things that go on in this place, and fell in love with this place. Even the excuse that the things that I like from other countries and places does not hold here. Everything worth buying that exists somewhere can be bought in London. I finish my post with a quotation from Samuel Jonhson, and a picture of my transportation nemesis for these years in London.

"When a man is tired of London he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford."


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Viva

Today I finally reached the formal end of the road in my PhD, and sat the Viva Voce exam here at King's College. I have been told time and again that I should enjoy this process because it will probably the first and only time that people will actually read all my research in depth and are obliged to be concerned with it. And indeed it seems that my examiners Mark d'Inverno and Alexandra Coddington were concerned with my thesis and actually read it in its entirety, so the whole process was a tad harder than I initially anticipated. Ultimately though, the whole defense was uneventful, since I knew my stuff, and I was approved with minor corrections to the final volume of my thesis.

Oddly enough, I do not feel exhilarated about this whole thing, which brings me a sense of guilt about not feeling good about having accomplished this. I guess this whole last year has drained my expectations about everything, since it seems my degree is not getting me anywhere in the current economic climate. Well, that is me, an incurable optimist.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

IMAX yesterday, Shit today and Mock Viva tomorrow

On a slight follow-up of the last post, today my supervisor told me that I will have a "mock viva", which unlike the name may suggest, is not a PhD defense where people mock me, or where I practice my mocking skills, but rather, a preparation for the real deal viva voce next week. Oddly enough, I do not feel a thing about it, neither fear, nor excitement, nor apprehension, not even happiness that this whole PhD process is coming to an end. My supervisor thinks I may get cocky for the process and screw it up, but the truth of the matter is that I am completely apathetic to the viva itself. This is no bragging or anything, but I think that at this point, I need to put on a real effort to screw the pooch in my viva, since the combination of my supervisor's and my perfectionism meant that the thesis I submitted is unlikely to be rejected outright (otherwise I would not have submitted it, and my supervisor would not allow me to do so), and my obsessive behavior means that I will definitely read my thesis and flag it abundantly, regardless of how boring it is at this time.

My apathy in reading this stuff leads me to what I did yesterday, which was to finally watch Star Trek, on the IMAX. And my apathy is not really towards the movie, I thought it was a very good movie, and the IMAX screen made the viewing experience much more enjoyable. The only problem is that, since J.J. Abrams was trying to emulate the space shots from the Battlestar Galactica series, that is shaking the "camera" a lot during combat sequences, it was very disorienting to watch it in a cinema with a screen that covers all your field of view. I suppose that if my mind was not so screwed by all the shit that is going on (or not going on as I expected) in my life, I would have had more of a blast in the movie theater yesterday. But then again, who knows...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Back from AAMAS in Budapest

From Budapest


So now I am back from my trip to Budapest where I attended the AAMAS conference to present a couple of my papers, as this year I was lucky to have gotten two papers in the main conference, and one in the Industry Track. Now I should be focusing on reading my thesis for my Viva next Tuesday, but somehow, given my current lack of destination, this thesis defense thing is not as exciting as I have been expecting to be for the last three years. I surely hope to feel something at the defense time, but this seems rather unlikely now, and my motivation to re-read my thesis gets smaller by the minute.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Too incompetent to see incompetence


I have recently read a book called Bad Science, which talks about the current trend for many people to look for quack alternative medicine, like homeopathy, acupuncture and other less "mainstream" modalities of mumbo jumbo, and how this is partly to blame on journalists doing a terrible job in reporting science. Besides one interesting insight regarding people who took degrees in the humanities inability to understand science leading them to try to undermine science in their reporting, the author refers to and comments a very interesting paper about incompetence.

This paper is called Unskilled and Unaware of It: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments, by two psychologists from Cornell, and I even went to the trouble of downloading it and reading it all. It is indeed a treasure trove of interesting quotations and, I believe, spot on in its analysis of incompetent people. In a nutshell, the article investigates the hypothesis that incompetent people's lack of understanding of any given field not only causes them to do poorly in the area of their incompetence, but also robs them of the ability to notice that they are incompetent, leading them to inflate their assessment of how well they do in the area of their incompetence. This conclusion is also interesting to relate to the fact that most people believe in a logical fallacy, that they are above average in a given domain. If you have not realized what the fallacy is, I will be kind to point out that it is statistically impossible for most people to be above average in any given field. Although it does seem to be the case that most men truly believe that they are better drivers than the average man.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Uruguayan Food

 
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In my first days in Brazil, my brother and I went for some Uruguayan food, which, as one might expect, is meat heavy. And that is not only fine by me, it is indeed, great, as you can see from my joyful face.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ig Nobel in the UK


Last Thursday I went to a talk from the people who organize the Ig Nobel awards for Improbable Research, but here in the UK. One of the highlights for me in the event was from a Dutchman who first described Homosexual Necrophiliac Rape among Mallard Ducks, reported in the Rotterdam Museum of Natural History. There were, of course, other very interesting research results, including a comparison of the jumping performance of fleas from dogs and cats, and the mental reward for biting crisps.
After this interesting Thursday evening, I decided to close shop for the week to prepare to go to Brazil tomorrow morning. Let us hope everything goes well there and I do not forget to bring anything important in my luggage.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Submitted

From Bleargh


Today I submitted my thesis, so it is all done and dusted, but the feeling is bittersweet, since I do not have a certain direction for the future. This situation makes this transition in my life a bit moot.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

More Mexico: Zacatecas

From Zacatecas


After our return from Mexico City to Aguascalientes, we chilled out for a while and then went back on the road, this time to a touristic town called Zacatecas, one of the major centers of silver mining in the new world by the Spanish conquistadors. It was a nice colonial town (the cathedral of which you can see in the picture at the top of the post), with deactivated silver mines open for visitation, and apparently some mines still producing. We headed into one such mine, where I got this nice picture below that may resemble something else.

From Zacatecas

Monday, March 02, 2009

XP-Dev

With an abundance of free services of pretty much everything, I always wondered when would there be a free versioning service. Now I know that many people will tell me that this already existed for a long time first with Sourceforge, then with Google Code, but there is a catch, all projects there must be open source. This means that during all the development cycle, whatever you commit to the repository must be available at all times to anyone on the internet. I do not want to a target for a public lynching, so I need to clarify my position on this, I am all for open source, and I agree that one of the best ways to develop good software is through open collaboration.

However, in my position as a researcher, I do not use a versioning system just for code, I also use it as the means to collaborate in producing research documents as well, which for most academics in computer science is done using the TeX typesetting system, the files of which are, from a storage point of view, indistinguishable from programming code. In this task, the programming source code is a secondary product, and one which I honestly believe should be available at all times, since all help is appreciated in the underfunded and understaffed research projects that are the norm in academia. But the documents I write, that is, the research papers which are the main artifact of my productive process, although certainly produced for public (and free) dissemination, must not be distributed before publication, otherwise I risk being scooped by other, less morally upright, researchers. Of course it is not like my research is so cool that there are people queuing up to steal from me, but since a paper is the culmination of many months, maybe even years, of work, I like to not having to worry about this possibility.

So I was glad to have discovered yesterday this, relatively new, service called XP-Dev (linked below), which provides not only free subversion (SVN) hosting, but also a (yet to be tested by me) project management interface. The site developer says he will make money somehow without stealing code hosted in his service, and without ever charging for it (which is admirable), and I honestly hope he manages to do it. Right now I am test driving this to work collaboratively with a colleague from Aberdeen, let us see how it goes.
XP-Dev.com: Free Subversion Hosting” style=“border:none;

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mexico City - Part 4 (Adiós)

From Mexico City

My final day in Mexico City was mainly one of strolling about the are near the hotel where we stayed. The area nearby, called Zona Rosa, or pink zone seems to be quite well maintained and occupied in the daytime with a nice street market and nice restaurants and shops. At night, the area name becomes more of a pun (probably not intended when the area was named), since the Zona Rosa is home to a multitude of gay bars and strip joints (tittie bars). The funniest thing being that my Ana would have me believe that Mexico is a very conservative country, but I would find it hard to believe it after looking at this area.

This area is also right beside Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma, with its monument to the independence of Mexico a few blocks away from where we were staying (and pictured above). Since it was close to Christmas Time, there were plenty of locally crafted nativity scenes along the avenue, as well as some interesting benches/works of modern art. One of which is the hands in the butt one shown below with Ana and myself seated on it.

From Mexico City

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mexico City - Part 3

From Teotihuacán


On our third day of visitation to Mexico city, it seems our focus turned to religious monuments. We started the day visiting the ancient city of Teotihuacán, which seemed to be the religious center for a civilization that is still largely obscure, since everything I read lists a number of potential peoples who might have built the site. Contrary to what many people believe, Teotihuacán was already abandoned when the Spanish arrived, so at least they are not to blame for this genocide. After getting briefed about the site by our tour guide, Ana and I set out to climb the Pyramid of the Moon, which is the smallest one, behind me in the picture above. That climb was relatively easy, especially since, unlike the larger Pyramid of the Sun, this pyramid cannot be climbed to its top, due to its very poor state of repair after years of bungled archeological explorations. Atop this pyramid we found the expected complement of tourists, and some new age wackos with a fixation with crystals and pyramids.

From Teotihuacán


Next, we moved on to the larger, Sun Pyramid (shown in the picture above), a climb in which I went unaccompanied. This pyramid seems much steeper at points than the smaller Moon Pyramid, but the view from its top is really stunning, as one can check out from the picture below. The summit of this one was even more packed with people than the previous one, but given the crowd, I saw fewer pseudo-religious nuts there, for what I assume to be less than ideal meditation conditions. As stunning as the view is, this pyramid was supposed to be even higher, were it not for some greedy (and stupid) explorers who blew up the top part of this place, mistaking some golden shiny plaster for gold.

From Teotihuacán


Our final stop for the day was the basilica of Guadalupe, a conquest-era saint made by the Spanish to attract the worship of the native Mexicans thus supplanting their original cult of a certain local goddess. One interesting aspect of the original church, shown in the picture below, is that it is sinking along with the city, necessitating constant repair and concrete reinforcement in order to prevent the whole structure from collapsing. Within the small chapel built beside this church, one gets the notion the amount of money the conquistadors and the church have milked out of the Americas, as the chapel is decorated entirely with Silver.

From Basilica de Guadalupe

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mexico City - Part 2

From Mexico City Zócalo

After a foray far outside Mexico city, we spent the next day mostly within the limits of the Mexican Federal District. We started the day with a visit to the National Palace, the seat of the Mexican government, the main attraction of which is a set of murals painted by a weird guy called Diego Rivera. The picture above is the inner courtyard within the national palace, which looked very nice under the light conditions we had in the morning. Now, one of the strangest requirements in visiting this place, is that they ban the entry of camera tripods (!?), duly searched for by a metal detector on you and by an airport style luggage scanner. I guess they thought I would be as deadly as Jason Bourne with it, but I bet that they did not realize that Bourne is specialized in fighting with literature and stationery.

From Museo Nacional de Antropología


Our next stop was the national museum of anthropology, which sports an outstanding collection of items from pretty much all pre-colombian civilizations dwelling in the Mexico region. Unfortunately, our tour only included the Aztec section of the museum, and for a relatively short period of time. I have to admit that it was a fine museum, well beyond my expectations, and I regret not being able to spend the same amount of time I would normally like to. The picture above is of Ana and I in front of the original Aztec calendar stone that was dug up from the city center, and subsequently shot at by the Americans invading Mexico (hence its pockmarks).

Next, we moved on to Xochimilco, a borough of Mexico City which contains a network of canals where little boats called Trajineras make food-fueled tours. Besides staying in the boat itself, we had plenty of other "modular" attractions, with all sorts of tradesmen floating about in their own boats offering from more food to on-the-spot music by Mariachis on boats. All boats seemed to have names, and ours was called Lupita, as you can see from the picture below.

From Xochimilco

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cuernavaca and Taxco

From Cuernavaca


Our second day on tour in Mexico took us to the cities of Cuernavaca and afterwards to Taxco. The day started with a relatively long journey to the capital of Morelos state, the place which Hernán Cortés decided to build a castle and tentatively place the seat of power in recently conquered Mexico. Unfortunately, we spent very little time in this historic colonial city, with a snap of the picturesque architecture shown in the photograph above.

From Taxco


Our second, and longer stop was Taxco, a silver mining town in the state of Guerrero (which is Spanish for "warrior", but I digress). The picture above shows the main church in the city, which was apparently built with the money from a french miner. Despite the locals trying to impress you with all sort of lore about silver and trying to sell you large quantities of the stuff, there is a lot more to the city than that, including very picturesque views of the hills and the plaza in front of the church which is particularly lively. We had the opportunity to see a wedding taking place on the day we visited, and this was, at least to me, a grander attraction than all the silver sales.

From Taxco

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mexico City - Part 1


After delaying these blog entries for more than a month, I finally got around to writing about my trip to Mexico. So after my Chicago/Dallas ordeal, I finally arrived in Aguascalientes, one day later I headed to Mexico City, to start my tour of Mexico. Ana and I decided for the budget travel option and went by bus (a very long journey indeed), and on the first day after arriving in Mexico, we just walked about to discover the local food (in the picture below), and views around the hotel. Our hotel was in the Zona Rosa, and close to the monument of the Angel of Independence (in reality a Winged Victory), shown at night in the picture above).

Monday, February 02, 2009

Craploads of Snow in London

From Blizzard in London


After a night of heavy snowing, apparently the heaviest in 18 years for London, the entire neighborhood is covered in white. It has been quite a while since I last saw this much snow, and I never expected to see this kind of scene in London. My street, as the picture below shows, has been completely covered in the white thing.

From Blizzard in London


Another interesting sight was Camberwell, all snowy, as shown in the picture below.

From Blizzard in London

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Final read before submission

 

After re-reading my thesis the entire weekend, I only have these revisions to make to submit it. Of course, no major text edits, just typos and consistency checks for the many cross-references. Still it will be a pain in the ass this monday, when I will have to fix all of that. I wonder how many typos I left out, damn it!
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Friday, January 09, 2009

Frigging Cold

 

After returning from Mexico, which was relatively cold as the day started at 2 degrees some days, I had the unpleasant suprise of getting home to almost double digit negative temperatures in frigging London. One of the things that is puzzling me now, since checking the weather before leaving home is imperative in order not to get your nuts frozen, is that the temperature forecasts that my MacBook widget gives me are very (by more than 5 degrees) different than the ones given by my iPod (pictured), the iPod is clearly more pessimistic. Which one should I heed?
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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Picasa for the Mac!


I knew this would happen! After languishing over the fact that all the photo library programs on the Mac suck and lamenting the absence of Picasa for the Mac, I ended up deciding on using iPhoto for my Pictures for no other reason than it is free and available for the Mac. Nevertheless, I always hated it because of its inflexibility. Now, of course after I invested a lot of time in organizing an iPhoto library, Google decides to release Picasa for the Mac! I guess better late than never. In any case, I am thrilled about this new piece of software.