Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

"surprisingly real"

"Nicole Kidman talks about her surprisingly real life." is what the magazine says on the cover. There are tons of magazines in the rack at the shop across the street from my apartment, and through this week my eyes keep drifting towards that sentence.

It seems to me that this simple sentence encapsulates so well the trappings of our celebrity-centered culture. Because the implication is, obviously, that Kidman's life should not be "real" (otherwise how could it be "surprisingly real"?). Therefore what must be real is our lives, that of those that don't appear in magazines. And yet the focus is on what is apparently not real. That's were we project ourselves, or where the media would have us project ourselves. Reality TV, after all, perfectly sums up the notion that we want to see "real" people but not quite--since immediately we assign them celebrity status, turning them into "not-real".

A welcome change would be for everyone to appreciate their own lives, and accept that actors, politicians, and so on are also people, like everyone else. Better known, with more money, sure. To get away from our focus on surface.

Which also reminds me of:

"Remember when they were interviewing the pilots, when they came back from the bombing raids in Iraq, in Baghdad? I remember, one guy, in the debriefing, they were asking him about his experience, you know, in a real war-zone. I mean, he'd only seen his targets through night-sights, and scanners, and on video screens. And they asked him, what did it feel like. And his only comment was: 'it's very realistic.'

Well... that's kinda where ZooTV is coming from."

Bono, on an interview in Zoo Radio during the 1992 ZooTV tour.

ps: btw, ZooTV? Best. Rock. Tour. Ever. :)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on May 28, 2005 at 5:05 PM

x86, watch out: PowerPC is coming!


In all the hoopla in the last couple of weeks about the new game consoles announced at E3 by Sony (PS3), Microsoft (XBOX 360) and Nintendo (Revolution), one item has received little attention: every one of them runs on PowerPC chips.

Am I the only one that finds this significant? Think about it: every console after 2006 will have a PowerPC chip in it, all of them multi-core. Cell, the processor in the PS3, will have nine processing cores. (Intel is just now getting to release Pentium Extreme Edition with two cores.)

Compared to the PC market, the console market is small (about 15 million units a year I think). But Apple is also running PowerPCs, and with consoles clearly positioning as favorites for the "home media center" title (and Apple expected to do something along those lines with the Mac Mini), this seems like the beginning of an important shift, and I suspect it will become pretty significant over time. Intel in particular has been struggling to extend beyond their core market of PCs, and this is clearly another blow to them, and is under pressure from AMD as well.

IBM! Think back to its position in 1995... the tech industry certainly has surprises in store for everyone. :)

PS: btw, the PS3's specs just blow the XBOX 360 out of the water (just in terms of processing power, it's 2 TFlops against 1, and it has amazing compatibility, integration with PSP, bluetooth, BluRay DVD, and more). Now the question is whether the early launch of XBOX will make up for that or not...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 25, 2005 at 9:23 PM

an unexpected upgrade

Something unexpected happened during the time I was away: Eircom has, astonishingly enough, upgraded my DSL connection. I'm now regularly getting download speeds of 1.5 Mbps and sometimes more. The upload speed appears to be stuck at 128Kbs though, which is still a problem for Video/Voice communications.

I still have to check that they are not charging me more too (not likely, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit), but good news anyway. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 24, 2005 at 10:06 AM


Samurize, similar to Konfabulator (but only for Windows). Probably well-known to many, but it was news to me when Martin showed it to me last week. Cool!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 24, 2005 at 9:40 AM

the friendly skies

"Due to our policy of overselling flights, this flight has been oversold"

An airplane PA announcement in The Simpsons.

The woman next to me has been getting a tiny little bit more hysterical every second that passes. The UA employee is trying to calm her, babbling the usual airline non-denial denial ("it's not our fault"). The woman is all dressed in gray, her hair knit into a ponytail so tight it looks as if it's painted on her head.

Then she starts sobbing. "But I was in line," she says, looks down to the floor.

I suddenly remember the scene in Airplane when a line forms in the aisle of the plane, with people waiting for their turn to calm one of the passengers. The nun! I chuckle.

Meanwhile, the UA employee commiserates, but only the right amount.

The woman looks up, and says, "I really wanted that upgrade."

That's right. The woman is crying because she's not gonna get "her" upgrade to Business. She'll have to fly "Economy Plus". Eventually she gathers herself and valiantly makes across the room, to the gate, into the plane.

Me? I'm not flying at all.

I've been "rejected."

The three phases of rejection

I experienced this in United, but by no means it is restricted to them. When a Crappy Airline (TM) rejects passengers because to an oversold flight, they go through the three steps of passenger rejection, as outlined by Freud in his short treatise Commercial Flight, the Super Ego, and the influence of tiny complimentary Shampoo bottles:

  1. Denial with Observation. This is apparent in the typical pre-departure announcement "We are looking at an oversold flight tonight."
  2. Acceptance. A corageous employees, hidden behind the counter, announces "We have an oversold flight tonight."
  3. Juggling. "We will need to find new flights for these fifteen people."

At one point I almost went up to the counter to ask them whether this mess was ever their fault. All of their statements implied they looked at these things as act-of-God kind of situations more than the result of the company's own stupidity, or crappy software, or whatever reason there may be for them to oversell more than 20 seats in a 300-seat airplane.

But I digress. The plane is now majestically backing from the gate. I'm most definitely not in it.

It's 7:30 PM.

I had been packing and arranging stuff since Friday night, and Saturday both Martin and Russ helped a lot (Thanks guys!) with packing/moving stuff. I had miscalculated a bit the amount of stuff I had to pack/clean up and without them it would have been much more difficult.

Back to the airport, and the plane backing up. At this point I've been at SFO for three hours, arriving two and a half hours before the scheduled departure of 7 pm (and three hours before the actual departure) but that doesn't seem to matter. That I bought the ticket over three months ago doesn't seem to matter, either. They had already been looking for "volunteers" to fly the next day, in Business class. But, like in the movies, once they fell short of volunteers they just drafted a bunch of us.

So we get some vouchers for a Crown Plaza SFO and for dinner and breakfast. The value of the meal voucher? $15. For a hotel restaurant! Clearly these people haven't eaten at any hotels recently. $15 may be enough to pay for the mini packet of ketchup.

Problem is, the paperwork takes time. Suddenly it's 8 pm. Then it's 9pm. We have to go from one counter to another. I seem have packed a black hole in my bag, since it appears to be getting heavier by the minute. I look around but spacetime does not appear to be collapsing into it. Hm.

They also give me a UA coupon/cheque which I promptly cash. I eventually get to the hotel at around 10:30 pm.

At this point, my anger at being treated like space-age cattle has subsided a bit. Business class, some cash... it's not that bad! I follow this line of thought for a few moments until I remember that when I was asked to "volunteer" for exactly the same thing, I didn't. Hm. What was I thinking!? Maybe that losing a day was not a good option given my schedule next week. Maybe that I shouldn't have been left with no information whatsoever waiting at the gate for hours, with all the UA people stonewalling. Maybe I was thinking that, Business class or not, the new flight next day required a change of planes in JFK, which exponentially increased the probability for something else to go wrong, which brought me to the most important point: my visa was a little more than a day from expiring. Any extra delay and it could be a problem. Not good.

On the way to the hotel I keep humming Show me the way to go home/I'm tired and I want to go to bed/I had a little drink about an hour ago/and it's gone right to my head. But this being just the beginning of the trip, and having had nothing to drink, is clearly out of place. I stop humming. :)

the next day

I wake up at five, having finally been able to go to sleep about four hours earlier. My new flight leaves at 9. By now I'm a bit paranoid about this stuff, but I have time. I eventually get to the airport around 7. I have some breakfast. I go to the gate. Around 8 am, they change gates.

Then they start announcing that the flight has been oversold, and they are looking for volunteers.

Oh-oh. I walk up to the counter, and double check that I'm in. Yes. Good. So me and my fellow stranded travellers have used up a number of tickets on this flight, resulting in other people getting "rejected". I begin to wonder if the problem with my flight yesterday actually started, say, in the late 1990s and they've just been pushing people forward since then. Why get more planes when you can just keep delaying passengers ad infinitum?

The flight to JFK is pretty good, actually. They give me a portable DVD player to watch movies, and both the movies and the DVD player explain in large, friendly letters, that they only work with each other. Meaning: if you steal me, I won't be useful.

We get to JFK barely 15 minutes before the connecting flight to Heathrow starts boarding. That goes well, and as I settle down in my seat, the pilot waxes lyrically about getting to London an hour early. We proceed to sit on the tarmac for the next hour and a half, and eventually take off, at which point the pilot tells us that, well, we will actually be getting to Heathrow half an hour late. The Business class seats on this 777 are still lavish compared to economy but are relatively small. I notice there's another type of seat, another class, between where I'm sitting and First. What the...? I suppose there's always a way of getting more money out of your customers.

The movies on this flight are all terrible, and the outlet that my seat has (which I was counting on) requires a special plug, which I don't have, and which the flight attendant doesn't have either. I can't sleep. I start doing some stuff, predictably with the power options to the wrong setting, and my battery's gone in a little more than an hour. And no Internet either.

the last leg

London's Heathrow Airport was designed by a group of super-smart chipmunks with the purpose of driving passengers mad, or so I've heard. I mean, an airport where the Terminals not only have some hallways that hundreds of meters long, but are themselves separated by a few kilometers... (and no, I'm not exaggerating).

Particularly for international flights that connect to another UK/Ireland destination, every time you land at Heathrow you should be ready to spend the next hour or so walking (or running) from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1, with (if you're lucky) a bus ride in between (no luck? got lost? more walking!), plus another security check because all the back and forth forces you to leave the secure part of the terminal. I finally get to the gate, completely exhausted, a few minutes before they start to board.

From there, it's another short delay: another full plane. so everyone's forced to check in their carry-ons. By now I'm oblivious. An hour later I'm in Dublin. My bags get there with me (phew!). I was supposed to arrive here almost 24 hours ago. I Take a taxi, I get a bit overcharged but I don't worry too much.

Then, eventually, home. Happy at that, even if I know that the next few hours will be spent with chores: dusting, getting food,, and getting some work done. I have no idea if I'll synchronize properly with GMT, but the crazy schedule of the last two days certainly bodes well for that.

In retrospect it wasn't as bad a situation as it could be. I ended up getting home with all my stuff and my schedule is now a wreck (plus I'm more tired). But the real problem is that the airline, in this case United, sucks so badly at giving information to its customers. Had they said at checkin that this was an issue (right after I got to the airport on Saturday) I may have changed plans then. Instead they stonewall and make up excuses and keep you waiting, leaving you in the dark. They still don't get it. Information is good. Telling your customers what's going on is good. A bad situation is made worse by lack of information; people get more stressed and confrontational when they don't know what's going on. When will they learn? Yeah, I'm not holding my breath.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

ps: loong post! Wow. I kinda cheated by "writing it" in my head while I was traveling yesterday. And there's more. But it'll have to wait. :-)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on May 24, 2005 at 6:23 AM

back to dublin

In a few hours I leave California, back to Dublin after my three month stay here. What a rocking three months. A lot of work, but a lot of fun too.

I have a few posts that I started in the last couple of weeks but didn't get to finish (if there's something I learn from that it's 'post right away' because if you wait you never get back to them). I don't have much hope to get them finished on the plane since the tiny seats don't allow for much space for the monitor to be open, but we'll see. I definitely want to get them posted when I'm back in Dublin.

Also, I've been working bit by bit (almost literally :)) on a small project that Erik proposed back in mid-April. I completely underestimated how busy I'd be and so I haven't had time to release it yet. But it's pretty much done, so I want to get that out there as well (and be able to avoid telling Erik that I'm 'almost done'! Luckily he's patient. :)) Hopefully that will change next week!

This week we did make some time for a couple of outings: H2G2 and Star Wars Episode 3. I hadn't been to the movies in months, so it was pretty good in and of itself. More on the movies themselves later.

Whew. Ok. Back to packing. Catch you on the flip side!

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on May 20, 2005 at 8:44 AM

the 25th hour (the hour, not the movie)

And we return to that age-old ritual of computer geekdom in which a day turns into night turns into day... and we keep working.

I'd been getting into the groove gradually in recent weeks and months, but only tonight I broke the 'trip to Australia' mark. Now that I think of it May seems like a common month for me for this kind of thing.

Yeah, yeah, I know. After last year's burnout, in theory this isn't something that I should be relishing. In theory. But as Homer says, "In theory, communism works." Plus, you know, after a burnout or writing block or something of the sort you kinda wonder if you have actually burned out some circuit somewhere...

But what of the sense of enjoyment at getting stuff done at warp speed, being so much into something cool, and getting it done, that you don't really care for sleep. (The phrase "I'll sleep next month" is a favorite).

All the while the Scorsese fan in the back of my mind keeps bringing up Paul Newman's Fast Eddie in the last scene of The Color of Money, grinning as he breaks, and says: "I'm BACK."


Categories: personal
Posted by diego on May 10, 2005 at 5:46 AM

so that's why I'm not getting notifications...

I was just looking at the release post on movable type 3.16 when I notice this item:

Fixed email notifications for entries and moderated comments which were broken for some users in the last release
D'Oh! And I had happily concocted the theory that SpamAssassin or some other unknown gremlin was to blame. Funny. It never occurred to me that movabletype was to blame. It never even crossed my mind! I wonder why. Not likely that I'll overlook that again though.

Anyway, I just upgraded and it all works again. Cool.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 3, 2005 at 1:38 PM

subclassing enums in Java 5

[via Erik]: Beyond the basics of enumerated types: how to use more than simple enums with subclassing and method overrides. Very interesting. While my favorite Java 5 change is the enhanced for loop, generics (i.e. templates) and enums are a close second.

Posted by diego on May 3, 2005 at 12:04 PM

search and stuff

As I'm "walking my way back" into the blogsphere, I've been reading some of the stuff I missed the last few weeks. An interesting one was this post by Mike on the "Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information" Panel. Very detailed notes, and lots of cool info there.

Ah, search, search, search, search. It's the hot thing again. And I keep wondering what kind of context information we can get automagically, beyond what cool tools like Yahoo's My Web or Google's different take of personalized search provide. And I'm not talking about the semantic web either, rather, the extraction of semantics from what's already out there, no fancy new tags required.

Yep, that's nothing new. I'd bet everybody in search is chasing that eluvise goal. Makes for interesting thinking sessions though. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 2, 2005 at 11:25 AM

'24' or how I learned to stop worrying and ignore the plot

"I heard your Dad went into a restaurant. Then everyone was a bad guy in the restaurant. So your Dad killed everybody in the restaurant. Then he ate the furniture in the restaurant. Then they had to close the restaurant"

A hypothetical comment from Ralph Wiggum to Kim Bauer.

24 hasn't jumped the shark, it's ran over the shark, taken it home, fried it, and had it for breakfast.

I mean, really. Just how many bad guys are there in the world? With capabilities that at this point almost defy the laws of physics, never mind mere human legalities. Not only these hypothetical bad guys show up everywhere, they do it faster, and better equipped, than everyone else. The plot get crazier and crazier, even without getting Kim chased by cougars, which is saying a lot.

And even so, I find myself unable to stop watching it, with guilty fascination, as if looking at a train wreck in slow-motion, rolling my eyes, literally, every 20 minutes or so, and hoping that we may get to see another one of those great Jack-Bauer-action sequences.

And maybe wait for another cougar to show up... :)

On the plus side, the West Wing had a great season finale.

PS: nothing like a rant to get those blogging juices flowing. :)

Posted by diego on May 1, 2005 at 10:17 PM

three weeks?!?

Unbelievable. I blink and three weeks go by. You get emails and IMs wondering what's going on, and say (and think) you'll get back to blogging in no time. Then there's never enough time somehow... all's well though--time flies when you're having fun!

PS: Thanks to Don for the final wake-up email. :)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on May 1, 2005 at 10:04 PM

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