2013 oh what a year!

It's me Mar . . . ok not. Well I'm back on my yearly personal review, as you can see at the blog most of my personal side remained untouched, I guess that this situation was a side effect of a lack of social relationships due research responsibilities. As many of my friends know this year I started and almost finished my Msc. dissertation. Hopefully the day that this post will be published I'll have the first draft of my dissertation "ready and emailed" to my advisor, in general it has been one of the busiest years of my life and I felt a lack of motivation in many areas due this (I don't work well under pressure). I'm not a big fan of setting goals in yearly basis, because the years as we know it are a product of a  poorly chosen calendar  (your fault Gregory!) if compared to other systems with more accuracy. Anyway I always write posts like this on new year's eve since I finally have time to do it, so . . . lets review the things that I did at 2013. Academics: In addition to my dissertation, I started this year with other expectancy: to do good research and publish results. In this area I have mixed feelings because I had a list of conferences in Brazil that I wished to attend but I received “kick in the ass” responses from those events, however and surprisingly my publications came from “let’s try to publish” events. I know that rejections are common on academic life and my advisor never got angry due this (In fact he helped me a lot to fix the papers), however I got angry with myself many times discovering that I’m a perfectionist guy and I’m not accustomed to fail. In the end I didn’t receive the rejections very well, so I took the pieces of my heart (yes, they broke my heart 😀 ) and assuming a SCRUM approach I got publications anyways. As a Christmas gift my key paper (that paper that gives you comfort in the Msc. defense) was accepted, so lets say that I got a 50/50 for this area. With this try and error process, I also experienced other dilemma: to be or not to be a "salamist". As Peter Highs stated some weeks ago, the salami science is more than a reality in modern academia and the people at research programs is obsessed with the quantity of papers that they publish. In their defense I must say that is not their fault, is system's fault. Most if not all academic programs over the world consider the number of publications as productivity, and many institutions use this productivity as one of the strongest criteria for academic promotions, jobs, funds, etc.  I don't like this model because if forces you to decide between two options 1) To publish slices in small events and get more publications or 2) Took the risk and try to publish in strong events. Although every publication has its own impact factor and different weights, the real danger appears when you took the risk and decide to try the option two but you get as a result 0 publications due the waiting periods of peer reviewing (that means less curriculum, less opportunities and less job expectations . . . what a nightmare). (Yes I know that I just discovered sugar-flavored water but . . . I born in a country with no research at all in computer science so it's new for me :D). Languages: In this area I did it surprisingly well, in fact now I'm an official Portuguese speaker (Brazilian Portuguese specifically), and as a result of my academic nightmare life I also improved my English and I'm planning to do the proficiency test in the very first months of 2014, maybe I'll need it to go abroad again, so lets say that in this area I got a 70/100 considering that I didn't take Portuguese or English lessons this year. Music: In my writing journeys I also discovered that Power Metal maybe is not the best music to read and write papers. So I cultivated an old preference for two music styles:
  • MPB
  • Electronic
MPB was a huge improvement in my musical taste since there isn't a direct equivalence of Spanish trova in Portuguese, and in the electronic side I developed a great affinity to trance style, I cannot say anymore about this so these are the videos of the songs that I liked more in these music styles: Chico Buarque - Deus lhe pague (MPB) Andrew Rayel - Dark Warrior And now what? At the time that I wrote this post (between 25 and 31 dec of 2013) I started to face the reality and my life at Brazil is close to the end (unless I get a PhD opportunity). I'm in the middle of a limbo because there isn't a clear path from here and I need to fix some issues and to see my family at Guatemala, so It's very probably that I'll spend at least 2 months there. I really don't want to settle roots in Guatemala considering that academic production in computer science is lower than in Congo, the crime rate has increased since I left the country and the capital city got a shame trophy of being the ugliest touristic big city of the world (yahoo!). I know that the grass is always greener on the other side, but If the other side becomes your side and you still like it more ... well that's a huge problem. Maybe is the time to create a startup, become a hippie or take a one-way trip to live in Thailand, who knows? 😀 (Disclaimer: In my defense I must say that I have all the disposition to help my country, but Guatemala is a country that don't want to be helped . . . or at least the democratic decisions of the people say that). Trips: Finally some photos of my trips of this year to fill space :-).

Embracing the 25s with music

Well I'm 25 year old, cheers? . . . not really. At this time I can only confirm that the crisis of 25s is real, it feels like being stucked at a random point in the universe without knowing where to trip in your future but . . . with a new condition: Twenty-fives are considered the ideal age to start/continue the basis of your future (yes the unknown future . . .). Anyway the only "decent" celebration that I can share with Internet is my musical taste in these 25 years. You may identify an easy pattern, most of these songs weren't popular at my country (at least not mainstream) or I met many songs from other decades in the wrong years :D. My first idea was to create a playlist with 25 songs but I barely remember something bellow 1997. Short path, see my playlist on youtube: Long path, see some of my comments and celebrate with me :). 1988-1992 El pampanito This was the first song that I was able to sing, is a religious song that my mom thought me, most of my spiritual and religious support comes from that era and maybe I will never forget this song, is like a link between my mom and me. 1994-1995 Un soldado Damn this song, at this years Guatemala was near to end its civil war, as a consequence all kids were exposed to right-wing propaganda to support the army (some years later I was "recruited" for a junior military camp, shame on me). 1995-1996 Roberto Carlos - Yo quisiera ser civilizado This song comes from my dad's collection, he likes romantic music and many of the songs that I'm able to remember are from Roberto Carlos and Juan Gabriel . . . but Juan Gabriel is not allowed at this blog. 1997-1998 Blur - Song 2 This year marked the start of an era, at this year I met Internet, and my dad figured out that I was spending most time on the computer than playing with kids of my age so he took off my first computer and I was able to use it only under his supervision, ironically at this year my dream to be a "computer's man" started. I remember this song because it was the intro of FIFA 98, one of my first computer games. 1998-1999 Kid Rock - Bawitdaba This year was so average, I moved from a private school to a public school and I met different socio economic realities (thanks dad now I understand why you did it) I felt the shame of being relegated from the top students section to honorific students. I also continued the tendency for rock music that started with Blur, the funny thing is that I met Kid Rock because my dad bought a billboard album that included also Mambo #5, I never looked back in music. 1999-2000 Heroes del Silencio - Entre dos tierras I consider this year as my Nintento era, at this time my dad enforced my PC-usage restriction so I found another joys in life. I met some friends from my neighborhood that had a Super Nintendo so we used to hang-out all nights to play soccer, arcade or Nintendo :). Casually they also liked rock music and introduced me to classic spanish rock, specially to Heroes del Silencio, Enanitos Verdes, Soda Stereo and some local bands like Alux Nahual, we still are very good friends. 2000-2001 Papa Roach - Last Resort MTV was introduced at my town and following the typical "search for an identity" behavior I was influenced to, however at that time Nu Metal was in its best years so I met Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit and I'm confortable with that because the alternative of mainstream music was "El Chombo" a grandpa of the reggaeton of this era, how lucky I was. 2001-2002 P.O.D. - Alive Maybe this was my first favorite band, I met P.O.D. with The Fundamental Elements of Southtown but with this disc P.O.D. went worldwide mainstream, since that I've been following this band and is on my top 10. 2002-2003 Mago de Oz - Molinos de Viento At this year I had a conscience about being a "rocker" so I started my search for heavier sounds, at this time too Mago de Oz increased its popularity on Latin America so I met their music as the "non-mainstream" of the mainstream music (anyway since that years the mainstream music at Central America has been reggaeton and related, a 3rd. world shame). At this year I learned Turbo Pascal and returned to private education yey!. 2003-2004 Mortificacion - Martyrs My second favorite band and one of the phrases that I never forgot "Die for what you believe in", at this time I met white metal, I must say that despite the stigmas that religious and non-religious people had about this kind of music, Mortification simply rocks!. 2004-2005 Nirvana - The man who sold the world What can I say, at the end of my high school I also explored some alternative sounds and I went deeply into grunge and alt. rock, here I met Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Temple of Dog, Alice in Chains, Incubus, Filter, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and so on. 2005-2006 Baron Rojo - Los rockeros van al infierno This year was crucial in my life, I left my born city to search my degree in computer science. I specially remember this song because I accustomed to listen a now-defunct rock station: La Marca. They promoted a show of Quiet Riot, Baron Rojo and some local bands that I don't remember :D. 2006-2007 Cold Play - Spies I remember this song because I wasn't able to study for my final math courses with metal, but strangely I was able to do it with alt. rock so I accustomed to switch from Metal to Alt. Rock for my tests. 2007-2008 Crimson Moonlight-Thy Wilderness Parallel to normal music, I continued my exploration of white metal, at this years I met some white metal rockers and we shared many music this year, most of my collection is from this era and I really loved this song from Crimson Moonlight. 2008-2009 Helloween - If I could fly At this point I finally stopped my metal taste jumping, since this year I have a clear tendency for power, heavy, thrash and death metal, not more, not less. Coincidently this year I was able to see Helloween and Gamma Ray on stage (power metal x 1000), although Blind Guardian is my favorite Power Metal band, I truly enjoyed the extasis of "If I Could Fly" at the show. 2009-2010 Joaquin Sabina - Pongamos que hablo de Joaquin Never say never . . ., parallel to metal, I used to hang-out with some friends from my university's Linux User Group, contrary to me they used to enjoy Spanish Trova more than metal, so I cultivated my taste of this music here, I never regret it. 2010-2011 Gamma Ray - Heavy Metal universe This year was special for Guatemala's heavy metal scene because we had shows from Baron Rojo, Metallica, Megadeth, and others. However I remember this song from Gamma Ray because I won two tickets for their show (and I committed the sin of giving one of these to my now ex-girlfriend, what a waste). 2011-2012 Capital Inicial - Melhor At this year I was trying to learn Portuguese so I searched for some rock bands, here I met Leigão Urbana, Skank, Titãs, Paralamas do Sucesso and Capital Inicial. As many posers my favorite from these bands is Leigão Urbana but the first song that I was able to understand was from Capital Inicial, maybe because it remembers me a little lady that stole my heart :). 2012-2013 Chico Buarque - Construção As Portuguese is not famous for romatic trova I was incomplete, however and ironically a Mexican friend introduced me to Brazilian Popular Music (here at Brazil sertanejo is the popular music for people of my age), although I really enjoy bossa nova and there are many other musicians, when I met the lyrics of Chico Buarque -specially the political lyrics- I became a fan and he is my favorite Brazilian musician. I'm sure that there is to much music to come but since the average age to die in my country is 71 years, I've literally spent 1/3 of my life. Also and letting behind the frustration of becoming an average adult in this world, it has been a pleasure to share it with you.

Closing 2012

I'm not a so social dude and this blog is always obsolete, meanwhile I'll try to catch up my activities. Yey! it's time for another boring new year post :D. Overview: Following my ancient tradition (started some years ago in my Spanish blog) I must say that 2012 was most than an average year. As many people know I left Guatemala searching some adventure and a change of environment. I must confess that I'm not a patriot and by the contrary I've been cataloged as a malinche, but I must reaffirm that this change of country was good to avoid the fear of being assaulted. I like Guatemala, the problem is that is filled of Guatemalans if you know what I mean ;). Letting my Guatemalan frustrations behind is funny to remember that I started this trip just with one backpack. Damn you worldwide backpackers, I believed in your cliches about the coolness in letting all behind and thanks to that I'm feeling the lack of many possessions, especially more clothes. At this time you can think of me as a new age hippie with one backpack, long hair, and a gaming laptop. Based on that situation I have a small list of wishes for 2013: 1. A lighter laptop (an ultrabook is fine too) 2. Some new t-shirts 3. More trips Since my last post I met one big city: Curitiba. I must confess that I liked it more than Porto Alegre because in the gauchos social conscience, Curitiba is the next step on HDI so they made many expectations in my head and I must agree with them. Curitiba is a very tidy city for latinamerican standards and I had the opportunity to know almost all interesting places of the city (including the best pub, remembering my undergraduate years). If you are planing a trip to Brazil, Curitiba should be in your agenda. Expectations: The science part is walking more slowly than I'd expected, I'm still working in some papers but they need to be approved by my advisor before they go to peer reviewing and I'm starting to believe that the peer reviewing will be the easy part :D. The good part is that those -probably never published- papers are the basis for my Msc. research (look at me mom I'm doing real research work :D). Research work is more is more methodical than I thought, and here at Brazil exists some paranoia for publications to get jobs at universities, federal institutions and high schools. Sounds good but that's a problem for me because I have to increase my publications. Now I'm starting to think about the after-Msc. time, maybe is too early but my actual options are:
  1. A doctoral degree outside Guatemala
  2. Try to build my own tech-startup inside or outside Guatemala
  3. Go back to industry in Guatemala
My ideal path would be start 1 and work in 2, BUT it has many variables related to the physical place, by example If I stay in Brazil I cannot work, but if I go back to Guatemala I cannot study a doctoral degree between my interests. As far as I know at Guatemala doctoral degrees are only conceded in human/social/medical areas, also there are some strange doctoral degrees in research (it sounds too ambiguous for me if you think in the formal definition of a PhD). Differently from the master, the PhD. will not give me more than social recognition (and confusion with medics) in a country where less than 2% of the population goes to university and universities are more concerned in cash flow than science. You can work in academia just with a Bsc. receiving payment for two or three hours per week (no, I'm not joking, It's how Guatemalan academia works). So it isn't an attractive option considering that I really wanna go back to Guatemala for some personal reasons. There is a popular phrase in Spanish that says "don't spit to the sky, because it will fall in your face", so if you see me at option 3 in some near future, remember this post :D, is one of my options too. I'm not attracted to that idea but is another way to assure your food and gadgets. Personal insights: Some of my closer friends are always asking about my sentimental status and the answer is always the same, I'm free of relationships many months ago, the details are under a heavy NDA but I can say that I've been managing that area better than I expected. At the end you cannot be in a place where you are not required/invited/expected and I have the best wishes for my ex -almost- wife, as one of my favorites movies says "whatever works". Not all is bad as it sounds, if all goes as expected I'll win a bet of the last standing man -single man- in my personal circle of friends (and I'll win almost $150) :). Personal projects: Some of them are also under a NDA, but I started two open source selfish projects: The first one is just a variation of a conky theme with Gentoo flavor and the other one is my approximation to JavaFX, as you can see at source code these are "nanoprojects", the idea is to enjoy the development and the tools. I'm updating the projects in my spare time so these are slow but functional ;). What I expect from 2013: I don't believe in mystics behind Gregorian calendar , but day by day events are very tight to time when you live in society so my main goals are to finish my Msc. dissertation, get at least one major publication, improve more my Portuguese and also choose the next step in my life. Also I'm looking for time to get into an open source project just for fun, the activist days are far behind. Random photos to fill space:

First Semester at Brazil

I was searching for a "How to talk about big switches in life for dummies" however I didn't found the right book :D. Six months after my first post of my life at Brazil, many things have changed. Now I'm feeling very comfortable with this episode of my life and I'm becoming a non-official (or made in china) gaucho that drinks mate (or chimarrão, choice is yours) but at the same time I'm having those  "missing my born place" episodes (yeah, sounds like a joke if you think that I'm always talking negatively about the crime at Guatemala), especially when somebody makes a relation between, Guatemala and mayan 2012 prophecies. Academia: Talking about academia, my start was a little bit difficult because my university at Guatemala does not have great tradition or experience in computer science research and the graduation is market-oriented (sounds like a Community College and not an University but that's how things work at Guatemala). At graduation I was the kind of guy that likes more science than market job but is very different when you are in front of a great source of resources and you don't know how to use them properly. The dynamic of read papers, read books, read more papers, make seminars, make a proposal, construct a test case, analyze data, write your paper, try to publish wasn't in my DNA. Sure is sad but I'm aware that is not USAC's fault (because I'm more like an exception and not the objective market of the Computer Science/Information Systems programs at Guatemala). However as a product of the past semester I got good scores, one publication and two more papers are in production. My Msc. research finally is getting shape and I'm more in line with my research group objectives, so in general I'm established at the country and at the university. Although my weak research background, I must admit that my general computer science/information systems background was good enough and most importantly the all time criticized self-taught system used at USAC was crucial to fill my research gap in less than six moths, if some things are bad at ECYS, the self-taught culture is not  part of those things. The brazilian research system is very interesting because the public sector is huge in Brazilians life and the research is not an exception (yep libertarians Brazil is not your place), leftist politics are so common but at the same time you can see collaboration between private sector/military sector and public universities. I experimented a professors strike (is Latin America at the end) but it was the strangest strike in my life because I wasn't forced to stop my activities, the university was always open and the classes finished as expected (in fact the only suspended service was the university restaurant, I really missed it). Life: Again I must affirm that the gauchos are really good people, now I know more places of the state (including the capital) and is a very different Brazil from the Brazil presented at TV to the rest of the world. I like the gaucho lifestyle, most of them (if not all) are proud of his culture, this song is a good "musical description": BTW if you don't like traditional music, this city has some options, including a place that I like too much because they play heavy metal/rock all night and you can meet nice people and . . . well meet many gauchas I must confess that being a student again is difficult if you achieved some status and a middle/average class employment (you get some comforts that you will notice only if you lose them), but hell! I'm at Brazil and the experience worth it :D. Finally I became some kind of supporter (torcedor/hincha/fanatico) of Gremio, a soccer team of the state that actually is playing very well at Brazilian soccer championship. Now I'm starting to think about the end of this era but at this time I'm only sure that my research era will finish when I flew to Guatemala, the conditions are not comparable and I'm not attracted with the idea of being paid for 4 hours/week at my alma mater. Maybe I can help there but I'm 100% aware that it cannot be my main activity. Random photos to fill space:

[Book Review] Learning Web Design, 4th Edition, O’Reilly

  • Paperback: 624
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media
  • Edition:  Fourth Edition (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449319270
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449319274
Objective: I received this book as a part of O'Reilly User Groups program, although I'm interesed in many other topics, I was searching for a book that could help to eliminate the "ugly GUI" culture that I’ve noticed in my own developments and development for others, specially when the technology is Java. In my developer phase I've noticed that the average developer becomes astonished by the Java GUI framework of the season and jumps from University to the work field with a little knowledge about HTML, CSS and JavaScript repeating always the sentence "let the designers design, I'm here for the hard work". In real world soon or later is necessary to match both roles or act as powerfull developer-designer, however most of times the lack of good HTML/CSS/JS knowledge is avoided using WYSIWIG editors or dragging JSF components from the IDE designer. At the end is functional but most of times, the lost of control over HTML generation also means ugly or non standard compliant GUI. About the book: As many experienced web developers already know, the real issue with HTML learning is not find the material. By the contrary the real problem is choose between the available free learning tutorials without being overwhelmed because of the repeated material. W3Schools is a good and reference start point, but I've seen every HTML tutorial claiming itself as the best, that I just avoid them because of they cause the contrary effect in me. However at this book I found many topics that I was looking for, Jennifer Niedrst presents a nice book without using pretentious words exploring from zero the HTML/CSS/JS world in a general way without ignoring imporant details, but avoiding more advanced topics like jQuery, blueprints, or whatever tool that could represent more problems if you don't have enough knowledge. The book is divided in five big sections:
  • Foundation
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • Recommended file formats for web
Personal view: In mi opinion the book is great to get a general and updated web view, including elements from HTML 4 and HTML 5 in a logic and sorted way, highlighting many characteristics available at the moment and describing which of them are compatible (or not) with modern web browsers (HTML 5 is an on-going work). The book also explains some history and how the transition to HTML 5 started, covering many of the new semantic tags at HTML 5 that I must confess is the first time that I hear about them, is good to update your knowledge :D. For many intermediate developers,  some sections could be boring, specially the first half of the first section because it talks about very basic things like "What is a web browser?" or "What is a FTP server?", and also the last part because talks about many formats that are recommended for web distribution (again because I know most of them) but this are more conditional issues and is fundamental information for people interested in learning web pages creation. By the way in general the book is well written and I found the best DOM definition that I've seen (simple and concise). The exercises are simple but perfect to learn how to write web pages in a semantically fashion in order to get easy indexation and good content rendering. Also I noticed that the books talks about the bad support of standards in Internet Explorer 8, but in a professional way and without praising other web browsers. Highlights:
  • A perfect book for HTML/CSS/JS introduction and learning.
  • Also is a good reference book because it's well structured, is easy to search by topic and jump to related topics.
  • The exercises are easy and you only need a good text editor.
  • The book contains many warnings about new things in HTML and the book clarifies which web browser support or not support new characteristics, and most importantly what will happen with older browsers when they receive unsupported HTML 5 tags.
Things that may upset:
  •  If the reader is looking a guide to update his knowledge, the first impression could be very bad, but as the book progresses it becomes interesting.
  • The book is designed for PC screens, paper or tablets. The graphics are not well displayed on e-readers (I've tested it on a nook touch) and many references are based on the color of the text with sentences like "see the text highlighted in red" . . . but the e-reader displays only B&W.
  • It has many suggestions in order to create good user experience , BUT is not a good book to learn how to design  user experience if you are looking for that.


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