Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My first official symposium

The remainder of last week and one day of the weekend, I went to DC once again. This time, however, I went there to chair the first event organized primarily by myself and my colleague Jean. Although the whole affair was quite stressful up until this point, I do not think that main burden was the volume of work, but rather, the fact that I must have been on top of all the deadlines, get people to submit papers, get the program committee to review them, and then find and secure enough attendants both in terms of invited speakers and paper authors.

In this particular event, I also had to be on top of my game, as it was the one in which I proposed to my beloved Ana.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Intrepid NYC

The final major destination that my brother and I decided to take was New York City. I have to confess that I am not as impressed by New York as I was with London. Naturally, my own preference for the British is probably going to place me in potential trouble in this country, but what the hell, NYC is a dirtier and less organized version of London. My digressive rants aside, the last time I went to New York did not allow me time to really plan and go to the places I thought would be cool, so this time, my brother and I managed to plan some really cool places to visit. One of the main ones was the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier turned museum (since this is all carriers are condemned to be)

From USS Intrepid

The other interesting place we went was atop the Empire State Building, and I have to say that NYC looks a lot better at night and from a high altitude. We stayed with a friend of my brother's and my experience with NYC this time was a lot more interesting, since I managed to hook up with my project mates from CUNY, as well as visit the city with a lot more time.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meeting Old Friends in DC

My incursion to DC meant not only visiting old places like the White House, but also meeting friends that I have not met in over ten years. It does make me feel a little older, but at least it is nice to see that there is people that also shared my past in this country.

From White House

So, although I am not religiously inclined, I managed to find Viviane, a girl with whom my brother and I went to first communion with. At least one may say that the Catholic church serves not only to create scandals, but to connect people.

From White House

Monday, October 18, 2010

Washington DC

After working hard for most of the year, my brother's visit to the United States provided me with an excuse to do some tourism within the country. After he was done visiting Pittsburgh, we headed to the nation's capital Washington DC. My personal goal in DC was to visit the main Smithsonian museums along the National Mall.

From Washington DC

On our first night in DC, however, we decided to take some night shots from the Capitol building. As this is the American counterpart of our own public whorehouse, I felt it deserved the night rather than the daylight like I did more than five years ago. To be honest, my own personal architectural appetite is more for the neoclassic than for the modernist, so I did not feel the need to mock the building as I have done back in Brazil, even though the level of shenanigans is about the same in both buildings (though thanks to Brazil's smaller profile and military, the tropical corruption has not killed millions of people, yet).

From National History Museum

The next day we dedicated entirely to museums, and though Ana did not want to follow us into the nerdvana of the Air and Space Museum, we thoroughly enjoyed seeing the best that the American technocracy of the 60s has brought about. It is indeed sad that the country that focused the technology to take a man to the moon is now subconsidering engineers so much. Of course, it was not the Americans who really invented the technology, since everything was based on research conducted by (and mostly implemented by) Germans plundered after the war (whose Nazi connections were providentially forgotten).

From Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

In a break from my recent intense work schedule I managed to visit the Renaissance Festival that has been organized in the Pittsburgh area. Organizing this outing was a gauntlet in itself, since it seems everybody wanted to go but nobody could agree on a date. In the end, only two people besides me and Ana ended up going (from a crowd of more than 10). In any event, I thought it would be interesting to see how an american version of this kind of event would look like, since I have attended a pretty elaborate one in my last days back in England.

From Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

My feeling was that the american version was interesting and fun, but the feeling of artificiality was very hard to miss. Although some of the events in the Pittsburgh renaissance festival were genuinely fun like the fire eater (video below), and the wenches were really hilarious (image above), the actual renaissance/medieval activity was quite obviously staged. That was in stark contrast to the Joust I saw in London last year. For starters we had Fabio as the "King's Champion", followed by people jumping out of horses when struck by a lance that did not even splinter.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

London, London

From Back to London

After more than a year away, London has called me back. In fact, what called me to London was a conference, which I was more than glad to attend given how much I miss the greatest city in the world. I have missed not only the people and the sights of London, but also the smaller things, like my favourite shops and supermarkets, good tea and my beloved museums.
How sad is it that I now watch from Waterloo Bridge, with foreboding longing to be back to this city, the gleaming statue atop St Pauls, the dull colours of the British Parliament and its clock tower. Today is a perfect day to look at the sights provided by this bridge, as the often elusive sun shines on the water of the Thames and I watch and follow the bustle of people walking down Waterloo bridge.

From Back to London

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Best Shill Review for a Book Ever

While reading a book review that turned out to be total astroturfing I quickly followed other reviews of this book and found this masterpiece of irony:

Super Principia Mathematica was better than my wedding, better than watching my first son born, better than the time I had sexual intercourse with an entire college cheerleading squad while high on peyote.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Three Dee Wee

With the relatively recent invasion of 3D video, gimmicky additions to silly videos have abounded. Even Youtube seems to have surrendered to it, giving one all sorts of options as to how you can watch a 3D video. And so I have tried, since I have recently got a pair of those glasses for free after visiting the Coca Cola Museum in Atlanta. As an aside about that museum, what a lame sample of Brazilian soft drinks in their museum. I mean, Iced Tea?! That is most definitely not the most Brazilian of drinks. Guaraná would have been a lot more Brazilian, but they chose to put is as a Paraguayan soft drink (which tastes exactly like the differently-named Coca-Cola branded guaraná they sell in Brazil, i.e. like crap).

From Atlanta

Of course, anything that is given for free must have some kind of limitation. And it turns out that the glasses they give at the Coke museum are of the cinema type, fancy, yet useless to watch the 3D from Youtube. And watching David Mitchell's podcast (or Youtube video) required me to have the less fancy ones. I might have to make my own glasses, crappy as they may turn out to be.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

ACM Membership prices

The time has approached for me to renew my ACM Membership, and you can imagine my surprise to see my fees double from one year to the next. So I decided to send them an email to let them know of my discontent
Dear Sir/Madam,

       I was checking out the amount due to be paid for the renewal of my ACM membership and could not fail to notice that the price has *doubled* from what I paid last year. Although I do not question the value of an ACM membership, I think that ACM needs to provide some honest explanation as to why this extreme price hike, as I seriously doubt that ACM operational costs have doubled. Ever since I joined ACM for the first time 8 years ago I never considered not renewing my membership but I am now sadly inclined not to renew my membership. I understand that the final cost of my membership last year might have been slightly reduced due to my time as a member, but this discount (and absence thereof) is no justification for the prices applied this year, moreover if you have applied discount to old members, then you have created this expectation for me and I would like this to continue.
       The issue of cost is now more relevant than ever, with universities cutting budgets, salaries and funding, and top conferences charging ever more exorbitant registration prices (and ACM membership no longer providing discounts to registration as it did when I joined in 2003). In particular, I find it outrageous that the online library is an optional item that costs the same as membership itself when this is one of the main reasons I am a member of the ACM, while the print version of CACM is obligatory (I would like to have the option of not having printed versions of the magazine for a discount).
       I'm not sure what this pricing strategy intends to accomplish, but by doubling your prices ACM might get half the membership renewals and break even.


Felipe Meneguzzi
Now, I did not expect a useful reply (they probably do not give a damn about their members with these prices). However what I got defies belief, the ACM person rudely sent me my previous invoices and said I was getting discounts for living in a developing country (apparently they consider Britain that?) with a big implied "screw you". She also politely offered me not to send the Communications of the ACM printed magazine, but without affecting price. Now I have always doubted ACM's true utility, since I pay for it and get nothing in return (it is primarily an American lobby group, I'm told), this just confirms my feeling.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Living with someone

After having lived three years apart, my girlfriend is finally coming to live with me. It has not been easy to make this distance relationship work, but now it is the time to see if we can live together and not kill each other. I know I am quite a quirky fellow, so having to share my place (and bedroom) with somebody again might be quite a challenge.

From Pittsburgh and the Cathedral of Learning

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


From Times Square

Last weekend I went to Manhattan with my friends from CMU, and although it was insanely hot in New York (even more so than in Pittsburgh), we got to see a lot of the Big Apple at the street level. I have to confess the the accommodation during my trip was something I have not experienced in a while, namely sleeping in couches/futons in friends places (who kindly ceded their space for us to go), interestingly enough, I slept in a couch that I only found out was convertible to a bed a few days later. It was indeed a very busy series of weekends, since the previous one I have been to a AAAI workshop in Atlanta to give an invited talk and stayed in a friend's place. I guess I am getting too old for this kind of travelling, but it was a lot of fun on both counts.
By the way, you might have noticed that the layout of my blog has changed. I decided to quit using the old tired layout from the original blogger, and switch to the new design features that have been advertized for a while in the main blogger pages. I still strive for a simple layout, but mine now has additional swanky sharing features (not that anybody would share a lot of the stuff I write here).

From Atlanta Aquarium

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peoples Natural Gas, seriously?

I must be getting old, since I have not noticed the easily mocked name of my gas company. Yet, my office mate burst into laughter when she saw me writing the check to pay for this month's gas bill. When inquired she asked me "People's Natural Gas? Seriously?", which gave me the needed spark to wonder whether they actually collect people's natural gas to supply to western Pennsylvania. That would definitely be a very green move, and I support this idea in this country. So the message seems clear, Yinzers, you should start ramping up the beans and the chillies in order to secure future energy supplies.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

(In)Appropriate Motel Façade

Today I went to check out my brother's new apartment in Porto Alegre, where I have been for the last week or so to do exams and see if I get a permanent position after I finish my post-doc. And lo-and-behold whilst driving to his new place, the façade in the picture above. On my way back I had to take this picture. And about the exam, well, the picture is also representative of my status in it. I got the shaft big time, no use going to them again, I reckon.

Friday, June 04, 2010

On public jobs in Brazil

This week I went to Brazil to do exams for the chance of getting what is almost the equivalent of a tenure in the near future. These exams comprise a written exam, a teaching exam, a CV check and a presentation of a research project. The written exam, for a "basic computer science" post seems awfully slanted to computer organization, which I nevertheless had to study on short notice. After a very tiresome week, I shall see if my having to fly to Brazil on such short notice without proper time to study will lead me to get this post, though I am not terribly confident in this, as successful candidates seem to need local provenance.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Dual Boxing" Google's Pacman

On a completely useless turn of events today, as Google marks the 30th anniversary of Pac Man, I somehow ended up trying to play Pac Man with Mrs. Pac Man dual handed in my keyboard. I understand that technically this is not dual boxing, but I like to think I did something analogous to that.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Invited paper

Today was one of the best days of my academic career so far, aside the stress mode that has undertaken my side of the lab thanks to a demo which is due to the middle of the month. I have been invited to give a talk in the Workshop on Goal-Directed Autonomy at the next AAAI conference. At the moment, though, this is a mixed blessing, as I am almost completely occupied by said demo, papers for the next ACITA conference, and getting ready for the meetings with my research collaborators at AAMAS in the upcoming week.
This is being a hell of a month, but in a sense, it is good to feel that I am being incredibly productive in these last weeks, I just hope to be able to cope with the pressure that will be put on me as the month progresses.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Steel Panther

In this past week I have finally decided to check out a band I have heard about from a friend of mine when I was in the UK called Steel Panther. Although I do enjoy metal every once on a while, it is not my main interest and so listening to this had to wait, but I was pleasantly surprised with how hilarious these guys are, taking a piss at every hair metal act from the eighties onwards. I post a video below with the proviso that it is definitely not safe for work both visually and aurally. Moreover, most of the songs are probably not safe to be listened to with your missus, since she might get the idea that you agree with practicing their lyrics.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Night at the opera

Last night I was invited to attend a social function in my boss's house whereby performers from the Pittsburgh Opera did bits of various operas from the standard repertoire, to the often comical commentary of the pianist, in what was a sort of sampler platter of classical opera. It is quite impressive that my boss has the connections to arrange for the musicians and the musical director of the city's opera to play a private function in her home, but I am glad I have had the opportunity to watch that. Of course, I believe I was one of the lowest ranked people in the room, but it is alright, once day I will get to the top.

Now, the best opera I have found online is the classical masterpiece of italian tragedy, Le Wrath di Khan, which was rendered into a movie in the 80s, starring talented actor, William Shatner.

Friday, April 02, 2010

On Death and Taxes

It is not the first time that I have ranted about american bureaucracy, and by looks of things, it probably won't be the last. Now this week I have spent quite a great deal of time trying to figure out what exactly need I fill in the US tax forms. I always thought that the bureaucracy in Brazil was bad, but it seems that in that respect, my home country is a mere follower of the United States, since taxes here are, by a long shot, much more complicated and byzantine than in Brazil. Not only does one have to deal with the complications of federal taxes, one also has to deal with state income tax, as well as local taxes, in my case, because I'm based in Pittsburgh. The interesting aspect of this system also includes the fact that, unless one wants to do your taxes by hand like the ancients, one must pay for the privilege to calculate one's own tax dues. This all adds up to a lot of stress when it comes to filling one's taxes since the IRS is famed for being ruthless in pursuing people with any suspicion of having made mistakes in the tax forms. At least in Brazil, for all the complications, the government does provide a software to help you do this, and for me, it has never been a completely daunting task, even when I had some (puny) property in the country.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Again in Mexico

From Guadalajara

So it turns out that I went to Mexico again to visit my girl, this time, our rendezvous point was Guadalajara, moving my exploration further north than my previous explorations of Aztec territory. Still, I have not managed to get deep down into Maya territory, maybe next time I will manage to pull an Indiana Jones.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vulva - Original

I have always admired the resourcefulness of the Germans in creating breakthrough technology in engineering and television entertainment, but I have never expected what I saw today to have come from Germany (Japan, sure). And what am I talking about? I kid you not, vagina essence in a vial, not just any vagina smell, mind you, the "erotic intimate scent of a beautiful woman for your erotic pleasure". How do they make these claims, or how do they guarantee that the "slightly yellow, desirable substance" is indeed harvested from a hot blonde beauty is a mystery to me (as pointed out by my friend Jessica). That might as well be the same guarantee as they make for phone sex women (rumoured to be old ladies).
I am still unsure as to whether this is an elaborate spoof site or an actual product, albeit I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a product for which a demand (quite possibly huge) exists. If lonely, socially awkward, single men are willing to dish out five thousand greenbacks for an anatomically correct doll, surely complementing this expensive perversion for a mere 25 euros is peanuts. Now, on a more opinionated digression, one thing I noticed from the (presumably German) models is that they all sport "Hitler's moustache" pubic waxing, something I have imagined would be sort of a taboo in that country, but in this front, I can forgive them, it is indeed a fine waxing style.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Favourites in Pittsburgh, or shedding the winter lard

While browsing my recommendations in Netflix, I am always amused to see what people around me in Pittsburgh are watching now, and in the last couple of weeks, the favorites (aside from Groundhog day three weeks ago) always include a bunch of workout videos. So I guess that the prediction of Punxsutawney Phil about the length of winter is not as reliable as the urge from local women to shed the extra fat layer accumulated for winter.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Beans

This sunday the Brazilians I met at CMU and I have organized a Brazilian day in a friend's house, which consisted of a Brazilian meal, with dessert included, and a movie afterwards. My reservations over the movie choice aside, I believe the whole thing was a success, since people did seem to have liked the food. The main meal consisted of my own rendition of a Feijoada, including something I definitely did not expect to find in the United States: couve, or as I discovered through the wikipedia, collard greens. The irony in here is that Feijoada, albeit the national dish, is not truly typical of the south where I come from, and we did have people from Rio and São Paulo in the house. I also baked the entrée, Pão de Queijo, which seemed to have gone remarkably fast, washed with Caipirinha. The only thing I was not the main cook was the Negrinho, or Brigadeiro for the northeners in the party. The only downside of the occasion is that I spent Valentine's day alone and uncertain about my own shit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Days

From 30cm of snow

This week has had one of the worst weather in eastern United States for a very long time (apparently), and after Friday, many areas of Pittsburgh have become impassable, my street included and shown in the pic above. CMU has notified staff that it is not advisable to come to campus, and without public transportation for a good portion of Saturday, I have been effectively stranded at home for the past couple of days. Staying at home for the likes of me does not mean fun and games though, since I have been at work most of the time, besides trying to cope with the stress of other personal crap.

Also of note was the fact that I went out with my work colleagues on Friday night, only to find that after we were leaving the place, the bus system had stopped and the streets were covered in snow. Thankfully, the Russians came to the rescue, and we managed to pile up eight people in an SUV to take everybody home.

Right now, I remain in the blues as a combination of crappy developments and of being stranded at home.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Daki Makura

I write this post to comment on another Nipponese novelty I discovered in the last days. Unsatisfied with used knickers sold in burusera shops by kagaseya, and with such jolly pranks such as kancho (immortalized below), and not content in engaging in omorashi (I will let you do the search on your own, not safe for work, by the way), our friends in the land of the rising sun have come up with another marvel for the lonely otaku: body pillows.

Not your average large-sized pillows, mind you, but Daki Makura: manga-themed ones at it, with large depictions of cartoonish sexiness, most of them much less well behaved than the one shown in the picture above. These guys never cease to surprise me.