Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

2013-10-26

Codility

Lately I came across Codility, a company which present themselves quite simply: “we test coders”. I had been thinking for some time about trying my hand at some coding competition, and was in the process of searching for a new job, so I became curious. But after a quick look at their website the curiosity became disdain. It all sounded like boasting to be a coarse-grained filter to separate the chaff from the wheat, quickly.

Only that the chaff are people too. Sounded pretty dystopian. Probably this is a First World problem, but hey, after interviewing in a couple of places things seemed sufficiently bleached and dead inside as to not need any more automatic filter to dehumanize the interviewing / testing even more. Typically in my interviews I missed feeling anything that would make me want to work with the interviewers; I wanted to find someone with passion, instead of someone boringly fulfilling the recruiter role for a hollow company.

And the Codility premise didn’t seem to help.

But after a couple of days I found myself going back to the thought of what they do. I started realizing how one of the causes that pushed me to look for a new job was that I missed having an environment where I could grow as a programmer - ideally with programmers I could look up to. My job at the moment was not in a software-centered company, so I guess that’s why I was lacking inspiration; everyone had a variety of hats there, and I was feeling little by little more sure that my hat should be more of a software-centered one, while most other people’s hats were mainly in the hardware side.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the software side of things were not looking right. Even my tries to spice up my own work and make it something I could be proud of were finding resistance - for example, use the preprocessor a bit too much (for example to implement a dab of generic functions without the full problem of getting into C++) and get told that “you’re working too high level, this is firmware”. Yeah, I wonder what people using these techniques in the 70’s would have thought about even our humblest 8-bit uC with 128 KB of RAM.

So then it hit me. What would have happened if Codility had been used in the recruiting process of my own company? Probably most problems would have disappeared. And reminded me of that FizzBuzz article, and how an astounding proportion of programmers plainly can’t program their way out of a wet paper bag.
What if Codility was in fact something to look for? What if a company using Codility could be a sign that they are serious about programmers?
Even, if they might be such a force for good, what about working for Codility themselves?

I decided to investigate them a bit more – even the application procedure was interesting – and tried one of their free tests. And turns out it was easy. I finished in half of the allotted time, and after some cursory checking I submitted my solution feeling smug. It worked. I knew because I did it in parallel in my own IDE and could see it was working. Yeah, I'm good.

…except that I made an error controlling the index of an array, which made my solution fucking useless in most cases apart from the small test case I had used. I got a score of 20%.

Well... that was sobering.

(in my defence I’ll say that Codility’s test required to use big, signed integers, and their solution checker had their own problems, since their compiler emitted warnings about long long type only being a C99 type, but didn’t allow to use compilation flags to for example specify C99 mode. So I concentrated on the sign problems… only to fail to realize that the more mundane problem was right there too). 

So I took to practice with some of their other free tests, of which they have a full page, for those wanting to improve. This helpfulness seemed strange at the moment, but turned to be an interesting detail later.

Why strange? Because until then I was rather impressed by their online testing/evaluation system and was half-sold to their possible goals, but could still see lots of warning signs that made me still wonder if they were a force for good or bad. Every rough corner had a big potential to change from being just an apparent nuisance to being a showstopper - for the candidate!, while the recruiting company would just receive a bad report about the candidate and Codility would come out looking like it did its job - even when that was arguable. And the opacity of Codility didn’t help me trust them. So, to avoid the risk of a let down in the case the ugly face was the real one, I decided to try my hand with Python, even if I am mostly a novice with it: if I was going to invest my time and get tested, why not at least take the chance to practice what I want and have some fun by the way.

Turns out, I think the testing style of the tasks does in fact favour doing just that: there is no time to stop to think about all the corner cases in C. Or rather, with Python you can do the same task using half the brain cycles.

Some tries later I was managing to reliably get good scores and tried interviewing with them. And turns out that the official test scores were good enough, so I finally got to talk to them. Into the Death Star!

Well, what a surprise. From the first moment they seemed even warm, in the best “mythological startup”-y way. Not only they were rather nice as plain people. Not only they were rather in the know of the shortcomings of the testing environment - they even seemed mortified about some of the problematic details I mentioned, and even asked for details to fix them, though I expected them to brush it aside with a “yep, we know, we have a bug report somewhere, we’ll fix it when we have time”.

Not only they no longer sounded like douchebags - they in fact have such an emphasis on teaching and making the programming community get better that it left me positively dazed. Sounded much better than I the best case I had imagined. Remember the “strange page full of tests”? When I found it I thought it was strange because it seemed quite helpful for a site intended on fucking you up. Now I see it in other way; the “fucking you up” part is still there, but is trying hard to get better/not be worse than it has to be (after all they are still a filter!). And that part is needed to pay for the other side that really is the one with a greater-than-themselves potential, with a dream: to teach!

But the intriguing thing is that they have the possibility to teach in a unique way. After all they have a big and growing corpus of programming examples showing how programmers try to do a task and how/where/why they fail. Imagine all that can be learnt from there. Even in a purely "psychology of programming" way it must be terribly interesting.

For example, Peter Norvig said something to the effect that “Design patterns are bug reports against your programming language” - which is great, because now I don’t need to explain myself as much when I say that I dislike the premise of design patterns :P. But, what if the kind of “typical mistake” data that Codility can gather was in fact a source of antipatterns - meaning constructions which are typically done wrong by programmers? Maybe you could find even a blind spot or Achiles heel of human thinking; some articulation of thought which for a big percentage of people will cause wrong results. What if (some?) patterns made sense as a framework to automatically avoid those dangerous spots? Or inversely, what if you could standardize some antipatterns to let programmers realize when they are treading on specially dangerous ground?

Sounds maybe far-fetched, but don’t we already have examples of something similar in high-school level philosophy courses? P -> Q implies ~Q -> ~P, but everyone has had the impulse at some moment to think ~P -> ~Q - and lots of people still do it, of course. Didn’t the greeks already have people specializing in convincing people by exploiting just that kind of buggy thinking?

Going slightly further, what if that kind of “problematic construction detection” was built into a compiler or lint-type tool?

But the most interesting thing would be in a context where in fact it touches even more pressing and real problems. For example, in some safety systems (say, railway traffic control) a number N of equivalent-but-different versions of a program run in parallel as a way to get redundancy. The different versions can cross-check their results and orderly shut down the system when a discrepancy is detected, to avoid the system working in an unexpected state; or if more than 2 versions are running, the result can be decided from a majority vote, while the system/s in minority can be isolated and taken for corrective measures. The idea is that N independent implementations by N different programmers should have different bugs in different places, affording a measure of safety.

…or does it? Turns out that MIT published not long ago a very interesting paper in which they show that this approach to redundancy is NOT good because it assumes that bugs are equiprobable and uncorrelated. But they aren’t! They depend both on the programmer and, more importantly and interestingly, on the task at hand. The MIT group asked a number of programmers with different contexts and experience to solve some problems, and they do demonstrate how the bugs are much more probable in certain parts of the task, no matter if the programmer is a student or a experienced developer. Terribly interesting, even though the sampling space they have is too small to do much more than assert that the bug-statistical-independence is false - so N-version programming gets at the very least a pretty big warning.

But now imagine what could you do to attack the bug determinism in N-version programming if you had a database of how thousands of programmers tend to fail in different programming tasks?
How BEAUTIFUL could such research be, and how terribly useful could the result be? Things like that are the ones which make me think about getting into a PhD…

Also, I think it is interesting to compare that to machine translation. For a long time it was an intractable problem, which gave useless results. And then, “all of a sudden” we have Google Translate which gives usually pretty good results (if you have never used 90’s style translating software, do believe me, Google Translate is just incredible). What changed? Well, the approach changed. Instead of having a machine “understand” the original text and translate it into a target language, now Google has a huge corpus of translations of the same texts into different languages, and can statistically link parts of a text in language A to parts of the same text in language B. Rosetta stone, a billion times over, with feedback from users and an ever growing corpus.
Again: a big corpus, statistics, translation / finding correspondence.
What could Codility do here with its data? Still thinking on that, but the potential has to be huge…

So. Yep, finally I interviewed with them. And though it seemed so interesting finally the thing was not to be. But certainly I expect them to evolve into something great… if only because if they don’t, the potential of the nasty-looking part of it taking over the dreamy part sounds horrible.

So here’s one hoping that they will really be a force for good! And looking forward for companies either using Codility with a measure of taste and care - or improving their recruitment processes for programmers… because if not, I can see myself fully taking advantage of the test periods :P.


[UPDATE: 2 years later, things look less wonderful… ]

2011-12-03

Steve Jobs' Commencement Speech at Stanford (2005)

This was difficult to find, so I guess any links will help.
So here it is: a polish translation of Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford (2005). With even some comments on translation accuracy.

2011-12-02

Steve Jobs and the Monomyth

Just realized that Steve Jobs' trajectory could be somewhat compared to the Monomyth: the fall from grace when fired from Apple, the struggles in NeXT and Pixar which ended nicely but were quite a bet, the coming back to the beleaguered Apple (look, that infamous sentence!) and the multiple concurrent struggles (Mac vs Windows, iPod vs constellation of MP3 players, iPhone vs telephone industry, iPad vs computer industry), and the final fight against cancer itself.

(What a crescendo!)

Maybe that's why even people who only passingly knew about the story were hit by the news of his death? Maybe just because he was that "Hero" fighting all those impossible fights - and winning!

Mhm, now I am worried about what kind of film are they wanting to make about him... I can't really imagine it being interesting nor good, but if they think about the Monomyth angle, I can imagine it getting crappy.

2011-11-30

canalmac.es y #mac en irc-hispano

Escribo esto por si alguien intenta googlear sobre Antispasm (yo!) en el canal #mac en irc.irc-hispano.org, o en canalmac.es .

Después de unos cuantos años allí, y de incluso plantearme escribir en canalmac.es , la cosa se ha puesto inaguantable hasta el punto de tener que escribir esto. Si buscas consejo o ayuda para algún problema, primero que nada (y para mantenerme en mi línea): has googleado ya? ;P

Y si ya lo has hecho, lo siento pero en #mac dudo que encuentres nada de interés. Poco a poco hay menos gente, y hace tiempo que no veo a nadie con idea; el último creo que era yo, modestia aparte ;P, y cada vez estoy menos por allá. Hay dos o tres personas allí que trabajan en IT de una forma u otra, pero por lo que preguntan o dicen de vez en cuando yo no confiaría en ellos, por lo menos cuando se trata específicamente de Mac OS X.

Y concretamente, y ésto es lo peor: ojo con Tuti. Es operador allí, y es el... editor? de canalmac.es. Es usuario de Mac desde hace tiempo, pero creo que nunca le he leído diciendo algo "serio". Y desde hace unos meses algo le ha pasado y se ha convertido en algo peor que inútil para la gente interesada en OS X. Basta con que te pases por la web de canalmac y veas lo que escribe por allá: las pocas veces que dice algo técnico, suele estar mal o MUY mal, y en cualquier caso por alguna razón parece que es 99% trolleo.
Durante un tiempo estuve corrigiendo cosas en los comentarios de cada artículo, pero al final me bloqueó (aunque dice que no me ha bloqueado).
No sé cómo sigue, ya hace tiempo que no entro porque no quiero quemarme la sangre viendo lo que escribe si ni siquiera puedo arreglarlo.

No entiendo por qué están así las cosas, pero no importa. Supongo que la pregunta importante es a dónde dirigirse para encontrar información técnica en español.

Y por desgracia no puedo decir mucho, yo me manejo principalmente en inglés. Macuarium no estaba mal hace unos años, ahora no lo sé. Y he oído hablar de FAQ-Mac de vez en cuando, no sé si es bueno. Tuti lo odia, así que quizás esté bien.
Pero por supuesto, en general las páginas españolas sólo copian lo que dicen las inglesas.

Así que en general recomiendo usar Google Translate para traducir páginas en inglés (o por supuesto leer directamente en inglés!). Las páginas que yo suelo frecuentar:
  • MacRumors es sobre rumores conectados con Apple en general, con foros muy activos. Mucha discusión inútil, pero puedes hacerte una idea de las opiniones de la mayoría pro-Apple, pro-Android, incluso alguno pro-RIM, pro-WebOS...
  • DaringFireball es el blog de un antiguo programador de BareBones Software (los autores de BBEdit), que suele escribir / seleccionar cosas relacionadas con Apple (no exclusivamente) y parece respetado en la blogosfera.
  • RoughlyDrafted escribe artículos muy interesantes y generalmente profundos sobre Apple, la competición y las alternativas. A veces suena quizás demasiado pro-Apple, pero la verdad es que se justifica tan bien y está tan estudiado que es difícil llevarle la contraria.
Y bueno, si tienes una duda interesante, siempre estoy interesado en oír qué tipo de problemas tiene la gente y cómo solucionarlos. Pero si es el tipo de duda que se soluciona con escribirla en Google sin que siquiera haga falta pulsar Return... te mandaré como siempre a http://www.usaelputogoogle.com/marlo.php .

    2010-10-17

    Choosing a dance?

    A number of times now some friends have asked me for advice about starting "some salsa or dance course", and of course they are surprised when I ask back what kind of salsa. I too had no clue that there were different kinds when I started. So I'll write the answers down so next time I can just point people here.

    For history and dry reading I could just point them to Wikipedia, but I know that it didn't help me to understand things better. Now it is more interesting, but when I was absolutely starting, it was pretty much useless. Even the videos don't say a lot; it's a bit like going to a restaurant for some cuisine type you don't know, and having to choose a dish by the ingredient list or by some photo: hardly ideal. So I'll write about what I feel can be more interesting / practical for someone wanting to start and choose.
    Will also be interesting to check how my opinions evolve in a future.

    My credentials: I am still mostly a beginner. I only started past May; I am in an intermediate level in salsa on 1, but in all the rest I am still a beginner with different levels of hope/lessness.

    With that out of the way, let's start. First: types. There are 3 big "types" of salsa dancing (that I know of, anyway); looks like there are some subtypes, but that's not important for now.
    • LA style, in line, on 1: this is the most typical type for beginners, at least here in Warsaw. In fact looks like if some course only says "salsa", then it is "on 1" by default. Named "in line" or "linear" because couples dance keeping a straight line with their displacements. It is the most "mechanical" to begin with, and possibly that is the reason why it is so typical for beginners: it´s easy to start. Given enough time, this type seems to tend towards somewhat acrobatic/spectacular figures. They dance to the phrasing of the melody, not to the percussion. The man always leads, and up to, say, a bit into the typical medium level, the woman only needs basic knowledge of the basic steps and paying attention to the man to survive (important if you want to dance at a party with some random girl, which might not know a lot about dancing salsa). After that point, the woman really needs to know how to understand the signals (and dance to them!); that is, it no longer depends only on the leading of the man.
    • Cuban style, casino, on 3: also found for beginners. The dance is free-er than on 1. Women seem to be able to dance with only basic knowledge of the basic steps; the rest is all up to the man, which is good for dancing with people you don't know. Also, maybe that's why lots of women say that this style is "funnier" and "more spontaneous". If the woman knows how to dance it, can be very energetic, very fun. An important subtype is Rueda de Casino, in which couples dance forming a big circle, and the figures are done by all the dancers simultaneously, switching partners continually; big fun and impressing to see.
    • NY style, mambo, on 2: similar to on 1, but with important differences. They count in another way (to the percussion of the music, not to the melody), make the pauses in another way; so in fact you could think they are always moving, instead of the noticeable pauses in the other styles. You can distinguish them in the dancefloor because they seem to have a lot of time for styling (those expressive/spectacular/theatrical/stupid gestures that are done with whatever part of the body that is not actually needed in some moment); that's because of the difference in counting. That also means that they take more seriously into account the technique! The feeling is more "afro", more to the ground. Almost all the teachers seem to dance and enjoy (and even prefer) this style. And looks like people who dance a long time on 1 tend towards on 2; maybe simply because they tend to try everything else (addiction!), but it's typical to hear that dancing on 2 is  more interesting. The man still leads, but the woman can do lots of styling. It isn't too easy to find partners to dance on 2, and in fact I haven't seen parties oriented towards on 2 (but there are for in line and cubana, even though of course given any music it's just a matter of will to dance whatever style you want).
    When I still hardly knew about on 2, I met some women who danced on 2 and didn't know about on 1. Interestingly, we managed to dance without too much of a problem; they complained that I was giving my signals too late, so I "just" had to prepare them much earlier.
    However, figures from on 1 and on 2 are not exactly the same. Figures from on 1 seem hurried when dancing on 2. Possibly when you know enough you can adjust them yourself, but... at that moment possibly you don't need those figures anyway.
    On 2 seems to be the hardest type to find for beginner courses; there seem to be more for changing from on 1 to on2.

    • Chachacha, chacha, cha cha cha, ... whatever: I'd swear I had always heard "chachacha" in Spain; however there I was never interested in dancing. Here in Poland seems to be typically named "chacha", which seemed wrong until you try to dance it; let's say that a chachacha is quite danceable like a mambo but adding a "chacha" in the middle of the basic step, so ... now I kind of like the short name (another way of saying that is : a chachacha without the "chacha" steps in the middle is just a very slow mambo). Anyway, I digress. I've read somewhere that chachacha is "the king of latin dances"; no idea why (maybe it was marketing?). It's slower, it can be quite elegant / parsimonious. The music is characteristic. Again, it is not easy to find partners; typically when there is a chachacha, people use the time to rest or get a drink. I've tried following a chachacha course while also following a mambo course; the combination was perfect.

    An interesting point might be the opinion that dancers have about their non-chosen types. (Interesting because, in Aikido, people tend to have a poor opinion of the barbaric and useless karate and taekwondo and whatnot; of course, people in karate and taekwondo think the same of aikido and of each other and whatever else. Heck, aikido people even tend to dismiss other aikido styles for whatever reason, from "not refined" to "too aggressive", the fuckers. So, imagine my surprise when I found that this kind of animosities exist in dancing too! ). Officially, all the types are just that, types. But when you pay attention to the things that are left unsaid, to the implications, or even sometimes to the openly snide remarks by some teachers, the picture changes. Looks like cubana dancers typically think that in line dancers are an arrogant, strict, mechanic, counting bunch, while in line dancers seem to think that cubana is for those that can't dance in line. (Interestingly, for now cubana is being quite harder for me than in line, maybe because of the kind of courses I have been trying). Meanwhile, mambo dancers joke that in line dancers are always hurried up and miss the point of the music, breaking / ignoring the real flow of the rythm with artificial pauses...


    And what about non-salsa dances?

    • Bachata: Characteristic music. Very close dancing, but you can choose how close and/or explicit to be; from sinful to childish. Can be beautiful, but lots of people seem to dance it in a too machanical / spectacular / tasteless way (really, do you need to shake the girl's head 3 times in the same song? does that even feel like, you know, dancing? maybe you are recording some videclip?). I've heard an interesting explanation, by a girl no less: some people want that close proximity but then don't really know what to do with it, so they start just throwing out all the figures they can think of (and she hated it!). And sounds possibly right to me.
    After salsa, looks like it'is the easiest style to find in parties.

    • Kizomba: "angolan tango". Even more characteristic music; I was surprised to find that a reggaeton-like rythm could make such beautiful music and dance. Quite close dance (and you can't choose, like in bachata!), but generally more elegant/less explicit than bachata, I would say. After some debate I'd say that bachata is to "sexy" what kizomba is to "sensual". The rythm/counting is not as fixed as in salsa or bachata, and looks like ideally the woman has to be VERY receptive to let the man lead well. But when it works, it feels great, and quite different. (I'm finding a surprising number of people relating kizomba to internal martial arts; or rather, they relate it to dancing in general, but for some reason the relationship appears more explicitly in kizomba)
    (hm, I wonder what kind of smirks would that last sentence draw from the people in bullshido.com...)

    Other types about which I don't know anything: I've heard good things about Tango, I am curious about Jazz, and I don't feel attracted to Flamenco (yes, I am spanish, so what? for the record, I also don't feel like bullfighting ;P).


    "And what about trying one type of dance and then another, or even mixing? Don't you get confused if you pick up more than a dance at the time?"
    Personally I don't, and see lots of other people doing the same. However there is always the possibility of trying more than you can digest; after all looks like it's more important to practice than to go to the classes, so if you are not going to have the time or chance to practice, the class is... well, maybe not useless, but... not as good as could be. (that's the reason why I am leaving mambo, chachacha and possibly bachata, at least for now)

    Also, a couple of teachers gave me their opinion on trying different styles. One said he only wanted to dance one type, and do it great, "not like those people who dance lots of things and don't dance well any one type" (He had won some important competition, so possibly he had a point, and I think he didn't know I was at that moment attending, like, 6 different types. I simply tried not to blush ;P).

    On the other hand, the other teacher said that if I didn't feel strange by doing so many things, it could be good for me, because I would end up with my own dancing style and more figures and more ways to combine them. Which is true; it's funny being able to throw a little cubana in the middle of a linear dance, or the other way round. I think it's good even from the pure bodymovement angle; cubana and mambo and kizomba feel more afro than linear, for example, so it's refreshing to apply a bit of that afro to linear.

    Authority vs omniscience

    I went to the sky slopes, and arranged for a normal one hour session with an instructor. It had been about 15 years since I last skied and even then I had little experience; so even though I could manage myself, I could definitely use a little teaching.

    So the instructor came and asked what I wanted to learn. "Good question", I thought*. Feeling stupid, I asked what were the options. She offered skiing or snowboarding; from 0 or something specific, like turning or jumping or ... . I settled for rechecking the basics and building up from there.

    But that night I kept thinking about the question: what did I want to learn? I had never thought about snowboard; I started skiing when I was 15 without ever questioning or being questioned. I guess I was happy enough to just see snow. So I began googling and reading and watching videos. I already had the equipment for skiing, but in life you pay for things with money or with time, or with both if you're unlucky; I still could avoid throwing good time after bad.

    There was too much to read and see and learn for a holidays night, and few holidays days left; so finally I decided to continue with the skis. But I found some shocking things in that hurried investigation.

    There was some article about a seemingly famous snowboardist who seemed to do some incredible and innovative things and was being asked to help design some new generation of boards or whatever. He had recently invented some new maneuvre and people were asking him how did he do it exactly, because it was too hard to just imitate; and he explained, but still people could not get the hang of it. So after studying videos by themselves, they finally made up some theory of what he was actually doing and tested it, and told the original creator about it, and then he started using that as an input to change what he explained and what he did.

    First: it's interesting that he was good at doing something but simply was not good at explaining it. In fact he was even being misleading. But it's even logical: people wasn't interested on him because he was a good teacher but because he was a good snowboarder. And knowing how to snowboard doesn't imply knowing how to teach... nor even being conscious of what you do that is so good.

    But, the shocking part was that those people had the nerve to correct him about what he said he was doing. Imagine that! In most of the Aikido world I have known up to now, with its rigid snobbish japanese background, that kind of offence surely would only be washable off with blood.

    But... no, in fact the shocking-est part was ... that he was accepting the corrections, and was paying attention, and was changing accordingly the way in which he tried and explained other things. (Heck, he was even rethinking how he did the thing itself!)

    Wow.

    How incredibly healthy and fresh.

    I think it was at that moment that I managed to put the finger on one of the things that were making Aikido uncomfortable for me. The arrogance, the hierarchy, the dogma. And with that the partisanism, the elitism, the blindness.
    Which are normal everyday human things, but which are specially awkward in someone who supposedly follows something named "way of the harmony with the spirit".

    Next day I again arranged with the same instructor, and explained my situation: I was able to survive skiing down a good range of slopes; but that was it: I could survive. Now I wanted to / wondered if I could make it actually enjoyable. I even started asking her about what did she like in skiing, what was in it for her. And she seemed curious and interested in how the conversation was going; looked like it was getting atypical. She told me how some people liked the speed and adrenaline, and some other simply enjoyed the movement; when I asked about her, she definitely chose moving; actually she said "like dancing".
    Which was specially meaningful, given that she was an ex-competition ski racer or some such. She told me about how she started as a child, helping her father who worked in the slopes, and skiing very soon and very late when she was alone...

    Heh, actually I started writing about this only because of the relationship with my disenchantment with Aikido (or maybe with most of the Aikido people I have met); but that last part suddenly means also a lot about dancing and feeling. Interesting; but of course when all of this happened, about 2 years ago, I still had no interest in dancing.
    Well, looks like going back sometimes helps find new angles.

    * With a hat tip to Douglas Adams.

    2010-09-22

    Aikizomba

    (sounds better than Aikikizomba... ;P)

    The Bachaturo festival was not exactly very well organized. In fact if I had came from far away I guess I would be pretty pissed off. I've heard that last year it was much better, and that this edition was problematic because it had to be rescheduled after the Smolensk plane accident...

    Anyway, the high point for me has been Kwenda. He was funny and interesting just as a Kizomba teacher. But then it got stranger / more interesting: there was a class called "Kainzen Dance". Looks like that was a typo and the real name is "Kaizen" (shitty organization!).

    Sounded like something japanese, and I half assumed some Noh-style dance or similar (read: not interesting ;P ). So when I finally went in because some other class was overcrowded, ... surprise. Incense, and some mix of afro bodymovement and... exercises that reminded me the strangest Tai Chi class I had, so long ago.

    I wouldn't say I liked it (it felt a bit rushed, maybe because of how unexpected it was; and possibly because I keep feeling somewhat reluctant to go back into, say, "Aikido-like" subjects), but I guess it made sense, moreso when combined with other things Kwenda explained in other classes. Again, lots of emphasis in what you would probably call energy work in Aikido and Tai Chi. Suffice to say that the keywords were "intention", "feeling" and "breathing".

    Which was refreshing, since I had been trying to find and apply/shoehorn those things into my dancing. Not only in Kizomba, but now looks like it is maybe the most appropiate dance for that; maybe after having been so forcefully introduced into it.

    In any case, Kaizen is a japanese word (seems to mean "improvement"), and Kwenda himself in an interview says that "he doesn't want to say it is dance therapy because it is more than that". I'd love to know what is the story behind.

    Also interesting was that other teachers in other Kizomba classes also dedicated the whole hour to leading exercises that were again basically "energy work". And some of the people complained that they were expecting to learn figures; ironic that one of the girls who complained (and left the class) danced exactly like she could use some of those exercises. Ironic too that Kwenda himself had previously warned in a previous class that it is too common to want to learn figures without knowing what to really do with them; without knowing how to dance. I wonder if she had been there and purposefully ignored it, or ...?

    And I wonder how other people reacted to that kind of atypical exercises. I still couldn't put in practice so explicitly those things; I certainly will. Will be interesting to see if there are partners willing to experiment. :P
    (Not that I need to make it explicit to them, but... would be nicer)

    Apart from all of that: Kwenda also stroke another chord. He told us to randomly walk around the classroom and hug the other people. Imagine the awkwardness. Then, he asked us why we wanted to dance Kizomba, which consist on closely hugging someone for a whole song, since we don't like to hug people.

    My answer would have been that I don't want to dance Kizomba with random people, in the same way that I don't feel like hugging random people. In fact, I need to have something previously to try to dance Kizomba.

    And again I wonder about what would have the other people answered. I see other people, mostly those who dance well, dancing without a problem with lots of other people. So of course, lots of practice, so they dance well. Which is the reason I am already almost accepting that I won't be able to dance well Kizomba nor Bachata. I simply can't practice a lot.

    But Kizomba is less "aggressive"; smoother, I guess. More elegant. And I generally prefer it. Maybe there is more future there.

    2010-01-22

    The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect

    "It's easy to see our problems and the solution to the problems that we have now. But it is very hard to see how that solution is going to turn on us, and the new problem that it's going to be."
    From the interview to Roger Williams ("localroger") in the Gday World podcast. He is the author of "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect", a "short" (more than 100 pages long) story available online. Very interesting, at least for me, who still had not read any Singularity fiction.
    Seedy title and a letdownish ending. But pretty good, and some deep stuff, if hard to stomach at times... although it makes sense. Also, very interesting to compare that kind of world to Matrix… and, even more, to Baudrillard's complaints about Matrix.

    His other short stories, the Passage series, are also pretty good. Donation-worth good.

    I arrived at this from Yegge's 3rd entry on the "a programmer´s view of the universe" series, which is a story. Which at the moment seemed respectably good, but after MOPI and Passage, is just a cute toy. Supposedly Yegge wanted to explain something, but he seems to have abandoned the thing, and what he has done up to now is interesting, but I can't see why he expected it to be kind of explosive. Maybe something related to his environment?…

    Anyway, it's a pity he left blogging. His rants have been a powerful guide for a lot of doubts I had, and some which I didn't even know I had. He convinced me to go the SICP/python route instead of the C++ one, and to revisit the Java world, although maybe not for Java itself. About which I'll have to explain a bit, because I know some people which would like that same enlightenment…

    (...and some other which won't like it but should get it anyway)

    2009-06-12

    Quotes

    I remembered something like "the eyes still looked like asking if, whatever it was the universe was doing to him, would it please stop doing it". Douglas Adams, but ... where, what exactly? Some googling shows that the correct fragment was from "So long, and thanks for all the fish": "Only the eyes still said that whatever it was the Universe thought it was doing to him, he would still like it please to stop."

     I can't remember why I thought the best book was "Hitch Hiker´s Guide to the Galaxy"; simply thumbing through SLATFATF has made me want to read it again. Perhaps it was the most... humane of the lot. The love story was so touching. The descriptions of the fish bowl, of how Arthur sensed the strangeness of the new Earth. And Fenchurch's disappearance was so… suddenly cruel.

     I love so much Adams' style. Just recenty finished (finally!) "Thief of time" by Pratchett, and tried to stop comparing him to Adams and let him stand by his own rights. He can, he's good, he's funny, even interesting sometimes. But he is also artificial, he feels like he actively wants to be funny and works hard to be, and while usually he manages to… Adams just overwhelms you into awe and submission, as if it just had to happen.

    Just remembered I started collecting his quotes years ago. I started with post-its in one of the books; had to switch to pieces of post-its because there were too many of them, usually various in the same page; and finally had to stop before I finished the book, since it made no sense. The whole book needed to be re-read. It was "The Restaurant at the End of The Universe", I think.

     I wonder how much of my own style comes from Adams. After all, he was the most important cause for me to finally learn English. But I wonder how much I absorbed, and how much was already there. Like Faemino y Cansado in spanish, like the Monty Python. The problem is, that style wants to come out even when speaking, or when writing not necessarily humorous prose…

    Anyway, there was already a quote from Terry Pratchett that imprinted me hugely:

    In the second scroll of Wen the Eternally Surprised a story is written concerning
    one day when the apprentice Clodpool, in a rebellious mood, approached Wen and spake thusly: 
    "Master, what is the difference between a humanistic, monastic system of belief in which wisdom is sought by means of an apparently nonsensical system of questions and answers, and a lot of mystic gibberish made up on the spur of the moment?" 
    Wen considered this for some time, and at last said: "A fish!" 
    And Clodpool went away, satisfied.
    Interestingly, that quote has already put me on odds (directly or indirectly) with a couple of Aikido teachers. Which validates Pratchett, of course. And makes me want to pay more attention to bullshido.com ...

    2009-06-09

    stream of consciousness

    Finally one day I force myself to get almost 8 solid hours of sleep. Too many things to do, big and small; to many cracks for them to slip through. Enough times of wanting to stop and... think... and... feel. In the morning I find Mail.app crashing. WTF? I remember about haxies, inputmanagers, the works. Should be clean, but recently found and deleted an unwelcome Smart Crash Reporter. Check. There it is again. Trash it. Google for it; how to avoid them in the future? Nothing definite (will try folder actions for alerts + file named "smart crash reporter" so it can't be created; if that trick worked for a trojan, should work for something less evil). But meanwhile I found that in the list of programs using Smart Crash Reporter is Quicksilver, which I am perennialy running. (too easy / out-of-the-blue to be reliable, but Mail is not crashing any more...) Quicksilver. So much time w/o updating, and it never seems to do automatically. (still didn't finish watching their techtalk @ google). Look for it. No updates anyway. Stumble upon Quicksilver's charismatic "about box". Act without doing. Maybe read again Tao Te Ching. Prepare jedzenia for the day. Add egg to the curry recipe which was missing it, try to shortcut by using microwave oven, try to avoid getting food poisoned by raw egg. Try new coffe machine. Microwave tupperware to see how it stands boiling water. A lingering idea which finally surfaces in a disconcertingly, almost uncomfortably clear form: "what would you outsource in your life?" A very good formulation to start thinking on. Google it, double quotes and all. See who else got into that. "The four hour workweek". Funny, stumbled upon that months ago, even thought on buying it. A cursory read of the index and opinions proved enough at the moment. And didn't want to finance the guy's four hour workweek, anyway :P. (will that mention bait him?) But certainly was food for thought. Or better, a bit of flesh for the skeleton I had already began to shape. Intuition that this leads to the big questions. What does it mean to be alive? What is life? What would I like to outsource? What would I like to be outsourced to? Is it really about money, work? (no, of course not. That was easy. Glad.) I am a problem solver. But I don't want to be Sisyphus. (there goes another undercurrent idea of lately. Interesting.) I want to be a enabler. I want to lend my shoulders so others can stand on them. (funny... do I want to be a giant? ...no, not really... but I should, if I want my shoulders to be useful...) Don't I prefer to be the one who sees further instead? ... Well, yes, but... in fact I don't see the options are disjunct... "why aren't you advancing the limits of your field?" - who was that? A nobel... will have to look for that again. http://www.paulgraham.com/hamming.html Quickly going thru it again. Another bingo: "Luck favors the prepared mind". Pasteur, Seagal (chuckle). And Aikido. Again I will have to forsake it today. Well, if I can finish the taxes thingie, it will be acceptable. But Chiba sensei's course is damn close. And Aikido itself is another thing to be examined. Wondering if I have outgrown it already. Does that even make sense? Enough food for thought. Time to ruminate. And to go to work. Sinchronicity: little after writing this, I learn that Google is publishing GoogleSearchBox... which looks like QS... whose creator had been hired by Google time ago. I guess that's the reason he had a techtalk? So glad for him... ... and envious. Ruminate, ruminate. "I have made this one longer only because I have not had the leisure of making it shorter."

    2008-08-22

    Barajas

    Half-assed regurgitation of whatever anyone said before. "Hey, but I heard someone said…".

    People turning into instant experts and talking out of their asses and wild-guessing and pontificating, even when (or because?) no one knows yet what really happened. It's SO easy to want to change things a posteriori.

    "Periodists" that know no better than asking familiars of the dead about their feelings - while they are in their way to the corpse recognition rounds.

    News casters in the fucking national TV asking pilots and aeronautical engineers things like "why don't they make the airplanes harder?". Maybe the real newscaster was on holidays and this was some kind of retarded placeholder?

     Imbeciles coming out of the woodwork to explain why they prefer travelling by car.

     Overwhelming.