2012-05-30 21:43

Sea Moderno, Escriba en Argentino, Jefe.

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El problema es que el español es una lengua viva, y como todo aquel que ha vivido tanto, se esta poniendo senil.

—Perrito

En Twitter me acaba de decir el amigo Perrito esa frase redonda, cerradita, impecable, cual culo de muñeca Yoli-Bell. Y tiene razón. Por eso yo no escribo en español, ni en su cuñado sectario el castellano, yo escribo en argentino.

Y eso no quiere decir escribir "que hacé cabeza, a cuanto la birra" ni "el alazán se retoba" sino simplemente escribir mas o menos como sueno en mi cabeza, lo que no es tan fácil como parece, pero si no lo pienso mucho me sale. Si lo pienso, sale otra cosa, que será mejor o será peor, pero es otra cosa.

Entonces, venía diciendo que yo escribo en argentino, porque el español está viejo. Porque el concepto mismo de "así se escribe el español", "así se habla en español" es viejo. Es la idea de que hay una mesa en España adonde se sienta una cantidad de gente (¡alguno que me cae bien, incluso!) que decide que de un día para otro decir cederrón está bien y antes estaba mal. Cederrón, oíme, por el codo derecho de Kali (el del medio), es una señal de que el concepto está mal.

Que haya una mesa adonde te dicen que ahora al que nace en Austria hay que decirle austriaco sin acento, es un insulto, es como si en tu oficina un día te ponen un cartel que dice que el edulcorante se abre del lado de la "E" de Equal Sweet, y que si lo abrís del lado de la "t" está mal y sos un burro.

Es legislar la nada, es decretar lo inútil. Es la confesión de parte que me releva de probar que son inútiles de toda inutilidad. Es decir "¡Tenemos mucho tiempo al pedo, hagamos que sólo no lleve nunca acento!".

Repudien eso. Repudien la autoridad autoasignada de vetustos catedráticos de la metrópolis en quiebra, y hablen en argentino. Y si les dicen que hablan mal, mándenlos a la concha del pato, que está bien dicho en perfecto argentino. Y si no sos argentino, bueno, no importa, no te cobramos los derechos.

2012-05-28 17:46

Speaking at Ubucon-LA on June 2!

I will be speaking at Ubucon LA this next saturday June 2nd. The title is "Developing apps for Ubuntu One" and I expect it will be interesting, awesome, entertaining and full of amazing special effects.

Either that, or a regular talk. Hope to see lots of Ubuntu Users there!

2012-05-26 20:41

Lenovo Mini Keyboard

The Lenovo mini wireless keyboard and trackball

Just got this today from DX and it's awesome.

  1. I got it in a termosealed bag with a note from the Argentinian mail company saying "sorry it's broken, we got it that way".
  2. The box looked like a rhino had seen it was on fire and tried to put it out.
  3. It's spotless and works perfectly.
So, what is it?
A RF (not bluetooth) mini-keyboard + trackball.
Does it work?
Brilliantly. You take the dongle, plug it into a USB port, and it works, no pairing, no config, no drivers, no nothing.
But does it work on Linux?
Yep, everything, from the volume keys, to the "player" keys, to the weird orange key that apparently launches nautilus. All the multimedia keys work, with OSD feedback, and they do the obvious thing on clementine.
Are the keys nice?
They are a lot like an expensive QWERTY slider phone's. No travel, but nice feedback, and the layout is reasonable. It's mostly a thumb-keyboard, and the shape works nicely for that.
And the trackball?
Works with the thumb. I woul like a "press-the-trackball" to click, and strangely it's a bit noisy! But not bad at all.
What else?
Light, has a compartment to store the dongle, seems rather robust. Comes with batteries.

So far, really happy with it, will use it for my living room computer/mediathing.

2012-05-26 11:39

Natalia Oreiro y la Máquina del Tiempo

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//ralsina.me/galleries/random/carmelo1.thumbnail.jpg

"¿Argentino?" me preguntó la camarera del Fay Fay. Pero claro, cenando solo, en Carmelo, no te conocen, calculo que un 80% de probabilidades de que seas argentino. En fin. Si no te gusta llamar la atención te conviene ir a Montevideo, o por lo menos a Colonia. Pero la cachola es más barata, y para lo que tenés que hacer Carmelo alcanza. Y son las once de la noche, y el hotel no tiene agua caliente, y el único lugar abierto es el Fay Fay, y el carrito de chacho, y está fresco para comer parado en la calle.

Pero bueno, uno está donde está y hace lo que hace, y eso te preguntan siempre, qué estás haciendo. Y se te ocurre inventar que si tomás las banelco de todos tus amigos, venís acá, sacás pesos uruguayos del cajero, comprás dólares en la casa de cambio, los llevás a Argentina, los cambiás por euros, los traés acá, y los volvés a cambiar por dólares eso te deja un 7.8% de ganancia y es legal, pero sería complicado y no es cierto, y no querés explicar, entonces tenés que pensar algo, y tirás que venís porque sos un viajero en el tiempo.

Que somos todos, porque vamos para el futuro a un día por día, pero que tenés una teoría, que acá no es el mismo momento que allá. Que se llaman igual, en todos lados se llama 25 de mayo del 2012, pero que a pesar de eso, acá se siente como si fuera, ponele, 22 de junio de 1987, pero con wifi.

Si, Carmelo es la década del 80 pero con wifi, esa es la excusa, y no, si no hubiera wifi no vendría, por una cuestión de laburo, ¿viste? y empezás a mencionar las cosas obvias, como que esos sauces llorones en el río son iguales a los que había en la vuelta del pirata cuando eras chico, y que hay bosta en la calle, y que todas las veredas tienen esa capa de tierra que vos no ves desde 1991, y los carteles pintados a mano en las vidrieras.

//ralsina.me/galleries/random/carmelo2.thumbnail.jpg

Pero por supuesto, la evidencia más clara de que en Uruguay no es el siglo 21 es Natalia Oreiro. Porque la Oreiro no sólo está muy buena, si no que es, claramente, una mina nacida en 1950. Alcanza verle la cara, no es una cara de ahora, es una cara de hace 30, 40, 50 años, por eso llama la atención, porque minas lindas hay millones, pero ella es linda como sería tu vieja cuando era joven, si tu vieja era linda, como tu vieja debería haber sido de linda.

Es que las chicas jóvenes son siempre lindas. El chiste es ver cuarentonas lindas. En un lugar en que las adolescentes son hermosas pero las de cuarenta no, es que algo falla, es que algo les pasó en esos veinte años que les sacó lo lindas, ¿no?

Por eso, para saber cual país tiene las minas más lindas no mires adolescentes, no mires modelos, ni actrices, mirá maestras de primaria, ponele, de entre 35 y 50. Si son lindas, es que ese país vale la pena, porque agarró lindas adolescentes, las puso en un laburo jodido e ingrato, pero así y todo no las arruinó, quiere decir que el resto de las cosas que les pasaron no fueron tan malas. Si parecen de 20 sería una cagada, tienen que parecer de 35, de 40, de 50, pero con una sonrisa, con una actitud, de mina linda.

Entonces te decía que eso, que vengo por la máquina del tiempo, y sí, quiero volver a los 90 porque eran más largos, los 90. Fijate, el gobierno de Mendez duró tipo lo mismo que Nestor más Cristina, pero decíme que no pareció el doble, el triple... sería que yo era más rápido en los 90, entonces ahora que soy más lento el mundo se me puso rápido, y se me van los años así, de golpe, entonces si vengo acá, en el área de influencia de la hipotética máquina del tiempo de Natalia, entonces los días se me hacen más largos, y funciona, te juro, llevo 4 horas acá, pero se sienten como 4 días, 4 semanas, claro, 4 días de éstos, no 4 días de los 90.

Pero bueno, sí, de paseo. Un canadiense y una coca light.

//ralsina.me/galleries/random/maestras.thumbnail.jpg

2012-05-21 12:47

Levels of Existence

This sign (the one on the left) is on the Education Council of the place where I live.

https://p.twimg.com/AtHgnGhCMAAmsuf.jpg:small

Click to enlarge.

There is, really, no such thing as art. There are only artists.

—Gombrich

When I first read it I was shocked by the sheer stupidity of the thing, but hey, let's think it over a bit. I suppose that saying someone is an artist, meaning a person that creates art, and at the same time claim that art, as such, does not exist, sounded like a good idea at the time. It's the kind of counter-intuitive slogan that makes people say "oh, deep, dude" between bong hits.

It's deeply stupid literally, in that it would, of course, make artists people who create something that doesn't exist, which puts them at the level of aspiring unicorn wranglers and theologists in the futility of their chosen profession. But in a way, it is true. Because "art" is not a thing, it has no material existence, although it has many examples.

So, pieces of art exist, but art as a whole doesn't. Art would be the platonic idea from which sculptures, paintings and novels are but a reflection. Which is a metric ton of bullshit but is at least somewhat defensible. And of course whether something is art or not is completely subjective, so art is like a club where objects enter or not based on opinion, and that club exists only in each person's head.

But in any case, that doesn't make it not existing, just because something only exists in your head that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It means it exists in your head, no matter how silly that sounds. So, art does exist, in the same way that imagination exists, or memories exist, or thought exists. Which again goes to show Gombrich was just crafting a silly slogan.

So, we have established that existence is not exactly a black and white thing, because there is at least material existence, and things that don't exist materially? Wrong, because your brain processes are material too. Thought, imagination, and art, all exist materially, in your brain. We just don't have the instruments to measure them, or report on them, except via that unreliable thing called people who just will not shut up about all those things they perceive in their brains. So, art exists, materially.

I know that may sound slightly strange, but what doesn't exist? Do the dragons of Pern exist? Yes, they exist, you can buy "The Dragons of Pern" in Amazon. And yes, specific dragons exist as well, because if they did not, how could we know they are carnivorous, oviparous and warm-blooded? Sure, they don't exist materially in the form of dragons, but I know that because I remember them. How could I remember something that doesn't exist? I remember them because I read about them. I have a memory of their description. There is a description o Pernese dragons as written by Anne McCaffrey, and that's not as good as actual, touchable, warm dragons, but it's the next best thing.

If I mention pink elephants, I am bringing them into existence, not as elephants, but as a description of an elephant, pink. It's an attenuated existence, but is the same one Japan has for me, who have never been there and must make do with notoriously unreliable testimony about their exotic temples, bizarre habits and enormous fire-breathing atomic lizards.

Obviously this is not what people mean, in daily usage, when they say existence, since it would include things people are happy to say do not exist, like Pernese dragons, pink elephants and Gojira. So, in a twisted way, maybe Gombrich is right. Except of course that existence is not a democratic decision. So maybe just people are wrong to say Gojira doesn't exist.

Or maybe existence is not a useful property for things. Maybe what we should use is reality. Because while Gojira exists, he is not real, in the sense that his material form is not that of a huge Tokio-stomping man in a rubber suit. Even though there used to be a guy, dressed on a rubber suit, stomping on a "Tokio", but I digress.

So, art is not real, maybe? Well, no, because noone is claiming art has a physical nature distinct from that representation it has in our heads. Noone claims art is yellow, smaller than a teapot, and covered in purple hair. Art is an abstract concept. And abstract concepts exist.

So Gombrich was full of shit.

2012-05-17 22:17

Giving Up is a Good Idea Sometimes

Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen every day.

—Someone

Of course, no, they don't happen every day. They hardly ever happen or never happen, depending on how you define miracle. Things that happen every day are not miracles, they are common. It's cheapening the word.

I did reply, though:

https://p.twimg.com/AtHpxAVCAAIfFDs.png:small

If god is almighty, pray for the convergence of the -1^n series, and see how it works. There is no god but math.

—Me

Which is quite a troll, even for my standards, but hard to argue with, I expect. This post is a more serious response to that original quote. And my response is, sometimes, you need to give up. Further, sometimes, not giving up is stupid, painful, dangerous and selfish.

Stupid

People don't really change all that much. They do it very slowly, when they do. And you are not (usually) the other person's guardian. There comes a point in people's lifes where helping them hurts them. Or worse, hurts the one helping.

Consider an abusive partner. Why should you not give up? Why allow him/her to hurt you further, in hope for a future change? That is just stupid and...

Painful
Because you are being hurt, either in body or in mind. And being hurt is, of course, bad. So why enable it? Why allow someone to cause you pain, just for his own sake? What are you telling that person? That you feel good about helping those who hurt you? That is...
Dangerous
Because he may believe you. You are teaching that person that you feel good helping those who hurt you, and that makes you a better person, so he may just try to help you be much better by hurting you further. And really, if that's how you feel, you are being ...
Selfish
Because helping someone just to feel self-righteous and pious and good is a scam. Help because you make the other feel good, not because it feels good for you. I see people trapped in abusive relationships, almost screaming "See how good I am! See the pain I take for love!" which is both selfish and insane.

So, give up. Because the path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. But enough is enough. And stupid is bad.

2012-05-17 17:48

That Box

Everyone has that box, full of mistery USB cables, broken headphones, a mechanical mouse, printer cable and more USB cables. EVERYONE.

Fede

I answered "I threw it away last friday". But that was a lie. I actually put everything in a bag, and had not thrown it away yet.

So here it is:

https://p.twimg.com/AtHl5A-CQAAYNLi.jpg:small

An now it's really gone. Including:

  • Mini CDs with copies of the USB mass storage driver for windows (5)
  • Parallel printer cable (2)
  • Business cards of people I don't remember (12)
  • Keys to a house that's not mine (1)
  • Cigarette holder (1)
  • Paper to do cigarettes (1 pack, "El Ombú" brand) (No, I don't smoke)
  • Hard drives (3, total a bit below 4GB)
  • CD reader (not writer) (1)
  • RS-232 Serial cables (2)
  • Mechanical keyboards (1, sticky)
  • Artificial sweetener (4 packages)
  • Mechanical mice (2)
  • Leather case for Palm Pilot (1)
  • Battery for a notebook I don't have anymore (1)
  • AA batteries (3)
  • IDE/PATA cables (2)
  • Unrecognizable rubberstamp (1)
  • Blockbuster credential (1)

And there was one thing I did not throw away. That's for some other day.

2012-05-16 17:23

Hack English Instead

Lots of noise recently about Jeff Atwood's post about why you should not learn to code. I am here now telling you you should learn to code. But only after you learn a few other things.

You should learn to speak. You should learn to write. You should learn to listen. You should learn to read. You should learn to express yourself.

Richard Feynman once described his problem solving algorithm as follows:

  1. Write down the problem
  2. Think real hard
  3. Write down the solution

Most of us cannot do that because we are not Richard Feynman and thus, sadly, cannot keep all the solution in our head in step 2, so we need to iterate a few times, thinking (not as hard as he could) and writing down a bit of the solution on each loop.

And while we who code are unusually proud of our ability to write down solutions in such a clear and unforgiving way that even a computer can follow them, it's ten, maybe a hundred times more useful to know how to write it down, or say it, in such a way that a human being can understand it.

Explanations fit for computers are bad for humans and viceversa. Humans accept much more compact, ambiguous, and expressive code. You can transfer high level concepts or design to humans much easier than to computers, but algorithms to computers much easier than to humans.

I have a distrust of people who are able to communicate to computers easier than with fellow humans, a suspicion that they simply have a hole in their skillset, which they could easily fix if they saw it as essential.

And it is an essential skill. Programmers not only run on coffee and sugar and sushi and doritos, they run on happiness. They have a finite endowment of happiness and they spend it continuously, like drunken sailors. They perform an activity where jokingly they measure productivity on curses per hour, a lonely endeavour that isolates them (us) from other humans, from family and friends.

If a developer cannot communicate he isolates. When he isolates he can't cooperate, he cannot delegate. He can't give ideas to others, he can't receive them, he can't share.

And since lots of our communication is via email, and chat, and bug reports, and blogs, it's better if he can write. A developer who cannot write is at a serious disadvantage. A developer who cannot write to express an idea cannot explain, he doesn't make his fellows better. He's a knowledge black hole, where information goes to die behind the event horizon of his skull.

So, learn to write. Learn to speak. Learn to read and listen. Then learn to code.

2012-05-15 22:05

Nikola Plans

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I have not stopped working on Nikola, my static site generator. Here are the plans:

  1. Finish the theme installer (so you can get a theme from the site easily)
  2. Implement a theme gallery on the site (same purpose)
  3. Fix a couple of bugs
  4. Update manual
  5. Polish a few theme bits
  6. Release version 3.x (new major number because it requires manual migration)

After that, I will push on projects Shoreham (hosted sites) and Smiljan (planet generator) and make them more public. Shoreham will become a real web app for those who don't want to have their own server. For free, hopefully!

Once I have that, I have no further feature ideas, really. So I need more people to start using it, and that means I have to start announcing it more.

So, stay tuned for version 3.x sometime next week.

Post-Nikola, I will do a rst2pdf release, and then will get back to work on a book.

2012-05-15 12:44

One Meter

If I learned one important thing in college (and I like to think I do because otherwise I wasted a lot of time there) that important thing is how to measure things.

You may think that you don't need to go to college to learn that, and you are right, but the interesting bit, if I may sound like a social studies major for a few seconds, is how arbitrary measurements are. They are the one bit where all that "reality is a social construct" insanity is kinda true.

Consider the distance between two places. ¿How far is my house from my mother's?


View Larger Map

Well, google says it's 447km away. But you already know that's not true! If I were to go by, say, helicopter, or unstoppable tank, I may be able to take a somewhat shorter path. Were I to use the Underminer's tunneling machine, I could take an even shorter path.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ea/Chord_in_mathematics.svg/200px-Chord_in_mathematics.svg.png

The Underminer follows the shorter, red line.

But all that is mostly changing paths, so you may still feel some confidence that you know how far my mom's house really is, except that we just may not be able to take a specific path, but the distance is a "real" thing.

But geographical, geometrical distance is only one way to measure. There are other metrics, and they may be more or less valid. For example, my mother's house is 6 hours away by bus.

It's also U$S 60 away by bus, U$S 30 by car. Unless I take my son with me, in which case it' U$S 120 by bus, but still U$S 30 by car.

And if I really really want to go there, it's an impulsive decision away, and i I don't really want to, there is a whole lot of convincing between here and there.

And if I were as poor as I once was, then maybe it's infinitely far away because there is no way to get there from here.

When someone says "the world is smaller now" that's not metaphor, that's maths.

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