Saturday, December 28, 2002


Effective today I have decided to retire from programming altogether and become an expert on systemic thinking and soft methods of approaching organizational thinking.
I have given much tought to this decision, but I have seen the light, programming is not the way, we should all become marketers and focus on selling instead of producing things that actually do something. This way we all would notice that making money is about selling a bug as a feature, a delay as a reorganization and a failure as a learning quest, and that programmers are herds of monkeys that can be replaced by jibba jabba.

Along with this changes I have also decided to join the cult of the "Golden Window" that praises William H Gates III as a God, and mandates that at least once in a lifetime all the followers must make a peregrination to Redmond, Washington, to pay omage. The sacred book is the "Open letter to hobbyists" and the EULAs are converted into prayers that must be recited by heart every day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Matar el tigre y asustarse con el cuero

Finally, finally, finally I can say that I have finished my undergraduate studies. The only thing missing is printing out the thesis and doing paperwork, so for all it matters I am now a "Systems Engineer" from the Universidad de los Andes. I have decided, that, for the moment being, I'll have to look for a job. I don't want to continue studying right now. I'd rather wait six months or a year to enroll again. When I enroll I want to do it wanting to study. Right now I don't really want to study. I don't know if this lack of study is for long but I know it is not permament, It can go away in a month, or in a year. It will surely go away, but now I am happy with it.

With that out of my system I can say I am on vacation (altough the proper term would be unemployment, since there is no nothing to come back to). I have enjoyed it so far. Went to a few job interviews and the like, but mostly I have been going to the gym and playing around with the computer. It has been a long time since I did that, just playing for the fun of it. No deadline, no project, just the curiosity (that is one of the things that reminds me that my soul is not yet dead). I have been playing with flash, no to the level that Arturo has, just a little. The thing is cool, shame it only works on Windows; SWF is a well documented format, in the same way that assembler code can be well documented, everybody knows the instruction but there are too many and it is hard to make sense of them, but FLA (Macromedia's project file format) is not, it is even less documented that .doc.

Today I went to the last day of "Expoartesanías" at Corferias. I went with my aunt, and it was cool, lots of figures and useless stuff whose only virtue or purpose of existance is that of looking good. It was funny how this is one of the only things in which Bogotá is not the capital of the country. For instance, if you asked a guitar maker if he could be reached outside the fair he would refer you to an address in Chiquiquirá, Boyacá, and if you asked the guy that makes hats he would give you an address god-knows-where in Sucre or Cordoba.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Faire la fête

Yesterday we went to celebrate Alejo's birthday and recent alien encounter. Among the exclusive few that had the pleasure of attending where the infamous bloggers Hernando, Sebastián and Offray. As is almost always the case, Uniandes' curse of the engineer came to be and there were almost 2 guys for every girl. The plan was to go to Chia, to San Barichara, but, being a thursday the place was as open as a government office on a sunday. Finally we ended up at Luna Llena (or something).

Have you ever gone to a disco (or bar, or whatever) where you felt you knew half the people? This was the case in Luna Llena, as we were 13 and when we arrived there were only 13 other people in the place. All in all it was a nice evening, with a dose of dancing and a dose of talking.

Fear the man of only one book

One of the best speeches I've ever heard was given in a graduation day at school. There a student (who was receiving a Magna cum laude in literature) talked about the problemas of people who believed in only one book.
This happened in september 2001, after 9-11, so everybody tought it referred to muslim fundamentalism and the coran. I think it can be applied to any book, at that, depending on the book, a diferent ism is created:

  • The Bible (or any sacred book) and you get religious fundamentalism

  • The constitution and you get legalism, do everything by the law instead of serving justice, as it should be

  • Design Patterns Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software by the Fab Four, and you get a bloated design that accomplishes nothing through the use of a hundred classes and a perfectly uncoupled, reusable design, sort of like building a 10 lane highway that leads nowhere.

My point is: All of this books have some reason to them, but no one book, not one doctrine, not one way of thinking, answers all the questions, or is always right.

On other news

Congrats to Ugo(may he make it to the evil list) and Drayru they might have inherited Arquimedes, a 15K LOC OO J2EE JUnit Cactus EJB Struts little piece of software.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

On anti-chevereness

After being dubbed as anti-chévere by drayru I have to ask, again, What the fuck is so cool about intoxicating oneself with rotten barley?

Pas de boulot, pas de diplômes
Partout la même odeur de zone
Plus rien n'agite tes neurones
Pas même le shit que tu mets dans tes cônes
Va voir ailleur, rien ne te retient
Va vite faire quelque chose de tes mains


Until a few years ago Bogotá, the city I live in, was considered "no mans land", being home to millions, very few among those millions considered the city their home. I think that has been changing for the better in the last few years. Many sceptics said it would take a million years and a billion dollars to transform the city, in fact it only took about ten years and a few millions. For the first time, I must say, even if I don't approve the unorthodox methods through which some of the changes where achieved, that the politicians have done a good job. (I didn't know those words, politician and good could go in the same sentence.
It is not as if the city has become paradise over night, there are still many problems and things that need to be better, specially on what safety is concerned, but we've come a long way and set an example of how it really is possible

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Was I born old?

Yesterday I went to an asado or barbecue, which is just another term for a reunion in which large pieces of cow are eaten and large quantities of beer are filtered (this because beer seems to not be able to rest inside you for a long time, you just act as a filter that keeps the alcohol inside and expells the rest).

This time, the cause of this reunion was to "celebrate" (?) five years of graduation from school. It was an "interrosca" affair, which means that people from all groupies was invited. The "interrosca" part of it, tough, lasted just until the greetings where done. I figured, If we were not able to let go of roscas during twelve years in school, we are not about to do it now.

Which such large quantities of all types of sprites, notably the ill fated aguardiente, soon enough I was shouting out loud in french and everybody was telling each other how good friends they where.

bullshit, the truth is that, after five years the bond that seemed to kkep us together is weakening and if you go every once in a while and try to keep alive with alcohol, it won't last anyway.

What I noticed, tough, was that I am less and less enjoying these sorts of rendezvous, where the main idea of the evening is to get drunk. I mean, being kind of drunk, just happy, is nice, but it doesn't last, and besides, for me the price is too high: I have to pay with a whole evening of feeling all dizzy and like if a hammer was pounding on my head, an entire morning lost in the hands of Morpheus and a whole day, if not two in uncomfortable numbness.

Maybe I worry too much, but I don't think that an hour of fun is worth paying another 48 of feeling like shit. And besides, I think vallenatos suck (all of them, except Carlos Vives, which is not strictly vallenato) and had to endure through a marathon of vallenatos in CDs, vallenatos played by a group and vallenatos played a capella, just like a chamber of medieval torture, but with a tropical twist.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Yesterday I stayed of my mail account for 11 hours. It was great!! Of course, at the end of the day I had 15 non-spam messages waiting. I was at Alejo's, we were writing papers for our submissions to the IBM Linux Challenge. The documents have to be three pages long.

Before, the complicated thing was to make documents long, but now it becomes ever increasingly harder to make them SHORT. It is easier to write 20 pages on a subject that to write 3, that is, if the subject is rich enough, so we are struggling with clarity and completeness, and counting words to make it to a 1200 words deadline.

The afternoon, tough, was not all work. We saw Le pacte des loups. It was a very good movie. Not what one would expect on a french movie. It would as far as saying it made a good american movie, in the ways of action filled, violence rich, revenge hungry pieces of filmography.

Note to $self: Why is it that altough I'm sure a high percentage of the people who reads this (hell, no, all of them) are native spanish speakers(I am a native spanish speaker myself) is that blogs are written in english?

For me at least it is a manifestation of what Brecht called "verfremdungseffekt" or the "alienation effect". It is easier to talk about yourself if you are doing it "far away" from yourself, and changing the language is a nice way of achieving this.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Talking with Alexander Cárdenas in one of those Gaim sessions that seem to be only five minutes long but wind up taking two hours time I told him about blogging. I said to him that it was a nice therapy, after all, it helps exorcise the deamons, and it's cheaper than the shrink. He opposed to it, based on the public nature of whatever was published in the blog, yet I find this very fact the most appealing part of blogging.

Hooray for the evil robot and The Evil List, may perlish hacks never be taunted by the complexity of a servlet.

Finally the end of my undergraduate thesis appears somewhere in the universe. Finallky all that has to be said is said, it is only a matter of organizing it. (I accept rants and flames at ju-moral at uniandes dot edu dot co). Yee- hay

PD:On the process of posting this entry I missed a quotation mark on a URL, I'm telling you, it was not easy to fix that one; the whole page appeared on the link, I had to manually erase it by looking at the link. Thanks good for GET requests

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Este año se les acabaron los juegos, los 12 juegos

A man had three sons. When the older one bacame an adult he said to his father:

- Father I must go find my destiny, what is your advice?

And the father said:

My son you must always look far ahead, to the future, to the horizon.

Then the son left, when he went through the forest he was always looking at the future, at the horizon, but he wasn't seeing the obstacles at his feet, and so he tripped with an hole in the path and couldn't make it to his destination.

A few years later the second son said to his dather:
- Father I must go find my destiny, what is your advice?

And the father said:

Son, you must be at all times aware of the obstacles in your path, so that you won't trip on them.
Then the son left. When he went through the forest he was always aware of the obstacles ahead, so he didn't slip. But hea reached a point where he no longer knew where he was, and he got lost, and he couldn't get to his destination.

I am like the second son, and right now am at the point where I am los and I don't know what to do. The point where you find out that the product was not as the advised it in the brochure. At this point everybody asks me "So... what are you going to do with your life" the thing is I really don't know. So, where do you see yourself in ten years time?

Hell I don't know, I can't even see myself in three months time. I know I like studying, but I know I don't like it here anymore. I know I want to go abroad, I know I can't pay for it just yet.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Peters' Law

Peters' Law says:
All actions, in order to be completed will consume whatever time is available for performing them. This means that if you have a whole afternoon to do one simple task that one simple task will become so complicated as to take all the available time.

That explains why a retired old lady spends three hours sending a postcard and an occupied businessman uses only three minutes in accomplishing the same task. What is that that happens to us, that makes us less efficient in face of more time to perform a task?

I think is our own subconscious, deceiving us. Since we know we have more time we might, for example, do a little web browsing, instead of going straight to work. As Seneca put it It is not that we don't have enough time, is that we waste too much (that is a rough translation of a sign written on a street wall in 73rd and Caracas)

Sunday, November 24, 2002

What to love about coding?

A few years ago, when I started studying Systems Engeneering I knew I was doing it because I liked coding. I tought I loved making programs, but the thing is, I loved coding, just for the pleasure of it. Now, five years later, and about to graduate I can say I still do, I still like to code.

Due to this attitude towards coding I chose software development as an area to develop my undergraduate's thesis on. The thing is that now, when the thesis is on it's final stage I don't really think that the area where you can enjoy coding the most is software development.

The software industry has been trying to turn the software development into a repeatable process. In order to do so it has been filled with guidelines, diagrams and documentation. Even as this happens, I have not seen the first piece of software that can be thorougly understood in it's current state without looking at the code or, at least, at traces from the code. (Javadoc documentation is a good example of what I refer to as "traces" from the code, in opposition to, let's say, a Class diagram).

I don't know if it is a problem on the tool or on the engineer, but I still think that the process of producing detailed diagrams and documentation for a piece of software takes a lot more time and effort than it is worth. It is true that a great understanding of the problem at hand, but if the same time that was spent on the diagrams is spent on looking at the code the understanding can be much deeper.

I am not saying that we have to stop documenting, much on the contrary, documentation is an absolute must of a software development process, but the documentation must be produced in a way that it is not a burden to maintain, because if it is, then it will eventually not be maintained due to time constraints. Because you can always say "the code is working, so don't worry, docs will be there next week". This is the problem that arises when documents are conceived in a development cycle different from that of code.

In a word, I'd rather spend an hour looking at a well built piece of code, that can almost document itself than look through a myriad of diagrams that cannot be assured to be consistent with the working version of the software.

I don't mean to abolish diagrams or artifacts like that completely, I'm just saying they are tools used to approach a problem. You draw a diagram on a napkin, it helps you understand a key part of a problem, you throw it away. It might be important to maintain component diagrams or physical diagrams, but not much more, if the code is well written, that is.

Take the example from Linux's kernel. It has no diagrams and it hardly contains any comments, but a lot of people have worked on it and it fullfills it's job perfectly

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Live to fight another day
Sunday I made it. I ran like 14km, all in one stroll. That is, on Avenida Boyacá from Pepe Sierra to 170th street, forth and back. This time, however the distance was much smaller and I had already gone through the same route several times. Anyway, it is really nice to arrive after several hours, totally tired, but proud of oneself.

Friday, November 15, 2002

On technologic dependency
Yesterday Alejandro and I gave a talk on basic Unix. More than a talk it was a trivia-like contest. We had prepared the questions in about 55 slides (by the way, congrats to for sucha a great tool) in a floppy disk. However there was no computer in the classroom to show the slides on. If the exposition had been a few years back we would have had the questions on billboards or cards, but since it is 2002, we didn't have them. The best we could do was to go, find a computer, download the text file we had the questions on, download it to yet another diskette and print it. It is amazing how we have become dependent of technology, connectivity and networks. Just two three months ago, I connected to the internet through dial up, now that I have "upgraded" to a permanent connection I am dependent of it and need to be online every minute I'm working on the computer. The funny thing is, that was not such a pressing need when I didn't have the connection.

Despite all that the talk went great, we divided the class in two groups and started giving away points for each correct answer, all in all, it was fun.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Sporty sunday
Today I went jogging. I was just going to do like 5km but some guys talked me into attemping to run 20. The idea was to go from Avenida Boyacá up to Colegio Nueva Granada, all in all about 10km uphill, and back. I managed to make it the way up, but about 25% into the way down I just collapsed: I wasn't able to run anymore and had to take a taxi on the way down. (As Shan-tzu puts it, you have lo live to fight another day)

That leaves a challenge open for next week: I have to be able to make it forth and back on my own feet.
Party, party, party
Another of Alejo's inspired parties took place yesterday, along with some friends, seven of us. We went to Chia. We stayed like four hours at the place and danced about three and a half of those. It was one of those "dance till you drop" kinda things. It is cool to do those every once in a while, to just let everything go and dance.

The place was really crowded, the ceiling was covered with egg cases and every once in a while tiny - and not so tiny- drops of *something* fell on your face. It is curious with places like these: It it is not completely filled up with people the party is not good. It is as if we liked to be crowded.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

High bandwidth network

Today I had to install the software we've been working on with Mauricio and Jorge for the thesis. The only thing I had to do was copy a few jar files in the correct places, deploy an ear file and leave. However, if it seems simple it won't be. There was no Internet access on the machine and no access to any machine that was plugged to the net. To make a long story short, it took me about an hour and a half to get the files and about 10 minutes to do what I was supposed to do with them. It is funny how, even with all the network connectivity we have nowadays the answer to moving file from one place to another in this particular case wasl snicker net, where a guy tossing 3.5" diskettes around increases the speed of the connection by walking faster and the bandwidth by carrying more disks .
Just came back from giving a class, and my computer was busy. Seems like gaming has replaced coding, at least for tonight. We have a brand new demo, it is hard to admit it but there is still a reason to keep a Windows partition around.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

After several weeks of cooking up the idea I have finally decided to start blogging as a way of exorcising whatever gets inside.