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personal

Big dance event

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The Dance department of the UNAM for the second year in a row invited dancers from all over the country to celebrate an event called “UNAM En Movimiento”. It was a week long event with special classes, one of them by the Cuban ballet maitre Ramona De Saá (detailed info about her here if you read Spanish).

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Followed by a an event where many dance schools showcase their best dancers.

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The nice and interesting thing about this event is that it is not exclusively of one or two types of dance, like typical “cultural” event where only classic ballet and contemporary dance are showcased. This event had every kind of dance that a school proposed. From classical ballet to salsa, flamenco and even break dance.

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After the show, there was a closing celebration party, where dancers still showed off their talents in an improvised breakdance battle and ending up in a nice big party.

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You can checkout a the full gallery of photos of the event at my Flickr album page. Also follow me on Instagram for more photos I publish of dance events I’m at and other random things.

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personal

Minimize interrupting notifications to stay focused

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I work remotely, so I have to be communicated through chats, emails and service notifications. On my desk at all times are a laptop, a tablet, a phone and a smart watch (on my wrist). When a notification comes along, all four beep almost at the same time. Technology connects us more every year with more devices, wearables and social apps. But sometimes being too connected gets in the way of truly connecting, and specially, being productive.

As a software engineer, my work is more in the creative process than in the task oriented type of work. Many times when planning or designing software, I need absolute silence and long moments of full concentration to build the mind model of the software I’m working on. Notifications get in the way of full concentration. Even when you can dismiss them right away, it’s a “ding” that goes into your workflow and ends focus.

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Considerations for interrupting

Here are some considerations to take in mind when communicating with others (or, what I would like others consider when communicating with me):

When sending someone a message, get to the point in one long sentence rather than several short ones. Never start with “hey” or “can I ask you a question?” or worse, send one word messages and trigger 10 notifications in 5 seconds. I can’t count the times I get a message, a one line that says “hey” and then I have to wait until the real message/question comes in before I get back to what I was doing. Just type in your message, even if it is one long message. Chat applications can handle long messages, only Twitter is still limited to 140 chars (and considering changing that). That will create less constant interruptions and straight forward communication.
Use chats for short conversations, email for long explanations. If your question, message, or the expected answer to it, is too long to explain in one single chat message (or paragraph) then consider using e-mail as your communication channel. E-mails are easier to track back and check the context of the conversation than scrolling back in a chat window. Some chat programs don’t even have a search function.
Only use chat programs when you need real-time conversation. A few years ago, messaging or chat applications were called “Instant Messaging” apps. I don’t know where they lost that classification, but not everything needs instant reply. Use forums, message board applications, e-mail or other types of communication instead.
Consider the time of your interruption. Avoid annoying people in chat windows with irrelevant questions. Don’t send chat messages extremely early in the morning or very late at night, unless an immediate attention at those times is required.

Tips to minimize distractions

Some tips to stop notification saturation:

If you’re like me with many gadgets in your desk, put all of them except for one in silence. This way you’ll avoid multiple beepings everywhere when a notification comes along. And believe me, you’ll feel less stressed or annoyed during the day. It has made a huge impact in my daily life.
Prefer vibration over sound. In my experience, sound creates an annoyance Palvlov response faster than vibration.
If you use Gmail, activate the “priority inbox”. Then in your apps, set the notifications to only trigger on emails marked as important.
Use web versions of mobile chat applications. Most mobile chat applications have a desktop or web equivalent version (WhatsApp web, Telegram, iChat, Skype, Hangouts). Having the chat in your computer will avoid the need to pull up your phone to read or reply back. It’s easier to just switch windows or browser tabs and faster to reply back with a physical keyboard.
Schedule notification downtimes. On Android devices you can set notification downtimes to avoid getting interrupted. I set them at night to sleep like a sane person and sometimes during the day when I need full concentration moments. If you already do this for night times, consider expanding the downtime to your first hour or two of the day. Enjoy your morning and start your day without beeps and inquiries.

Unless you’re a doctor or a sysadmin, emergencies are not life or death situations. If emergencies are constantly coming up in your life, you should analyze your environment because then the problem is much bigger than notifications.

Categories
personal

My ideal morning daily routine

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I’ve been very interested in how successful people (in different areas) have established morning routines. The most common claim is that it frees you from early decision fatigue and structures your day. Some of the morning routines are inspiring.

It has been a struggle for me to achieve a perfect morning routine because I have early meetings with my team in India. My biggest problem is going to bed early the night before to be able to wake up without much struggle at 6:30am the next morning.

This is how my typical uninspiring and stumbling morning routine looks like:

– 8:20 Wake up.
– 8:25 Make tea.
– 8:30 Start conference calls while sipping the tea.
– 11:00 After conference calls, take a quick shower (if this is skipped, then shower time is at 6pm).
– 11:30 Figure out the rest of the day’s activities as they come.

And here’s what my ideal morning routine should look like:

– 6:30am Wake up
– 6:35 Have a cup of tea (typically Monkey picked Oolong tea) in complete silence while I plan my day.
– 6:50 Meditate for 15-20 minutes.
– 7:15 Exercise for 30-40 minutes (elliptical machine or walking outside).
– 7:55 Shower.
– 8:15 Breakfast
– 8:30 Ready to start conference calls.

Achieving this morning routine is important for me because no matter how chaotic or busy the day can get, I’ve already had some time for myself (meditation), done at least some exercise and had the first meal of the day. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment: The day starts and I already have stuff done, even if that stuff is not exactly work related.

Do you have a morning routine? Does it helps you be more focused or productive during the day?

Here are a few videos of people I look up to with morning or daily routines.

Categories
personal

My goldfish companion

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Today I want to tell you about a goldfish that stayed with me for the last 3 years and recently passed away. This is meaningful to me because that fish was my companion in important stages of my life. Crazy as it might sound, here’s my goldfish story.

I’ve always had a fish tank in my house. Without one, it doesn’t feel like my home. This goldfish came to a then empty tank, along with other smaller fish after I moved to a new house in a new city. I never get too attached to fish, no one does. But this guy won me over quickly.

The fish tank was near my dining table and the goldfish kept me company during all my meals. It was always facing towards the dining table when we were sitting down. The calmness of its swim and the beauty of its long dress-like tail always provided some kind of peace of mind when you watched.

It lived a happy life for 3 years through 2 cities, until I decided to upgrade its tank to one much larger. That’s when the complication began.

I got more fish to add to the larger tank and set up everything. But something went wrong at the new tank. The water quality decreased when I added the new fish, which had bad water from the shop‘s tanks. The first days it seemed okay, but after two days he started to show signs of weakness. I spent two days taking care of it, separated to a quarantine tank with good water quality and all. Researched on possible illnesses, gave it salt baths, etc. Nothing worked.

On its final night, I was looking at it and, for the first time, I gently touched it with my hand. I slowly put my hand below so it could rest in my palm, it looked up to me and gave the last breath. It was heart breaking.

I don’t know if it was a male or female. It didn’t have a name. It was just, there…always there. Now I miss its company.

Fish pets can become more than just a fancy decoration at home. You can get attached to a fish as if it was a dog or a cat, or any other type of pet. They say that goldfish have personalities and this one became a familiar face at home.

That fish witnessed important stages of my life. It saw my bachelor life in Guadalajara. We drove together from Guadalajara to Mexico city. It was the only one who saw me getting out of my house, dressed up as a groom to get married. It was also the first one to greet us home when my girlfriend and I arrived as a married couple for the first time. It witnessed when people broke into my house and stole our things. It saw many moments of me, my home and my newly formed family.

That’s why that goldfish meant a lot to me. A silent companion in my life. It will be forever missed in this family.

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Categories
personal

Resolutions for 2016

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It is that time of the year again. Time to review the year that finished and plan for the year ahead. At least this time I’m writing this in the first days of the year instead of the first months like last year. For me, 2015 was a rollercoaster. Started very steady with lots of work and projects, then changed direction completely.

Like in previous years, here’s how my main 5 points from 2015 went:

1. Health
This topic has not progressed in a year at all. This must be something to prioritize.

2. Projects
Last year I started notasbit.com as a WordPress blog to write about tech news. But then I transformed it into an automated news grabber which released me from having to write the news themselves to prepare for the radio show which I still have going on. That project is one of my favorites, as it needs very little maintenance and brings me a lot of entertainment. Is the project I’ve done that I use the most. Then I have a project with my cousin to help him in his tourism agency that has been going on for 6 months now but in very slow progress. It’s been an learning experience for me working with his team and developing it on my own. Also there’s another project I’m working on for a head hunter agency which I’m very interested in finishing for publication.

3. Photography
I had no big plans for this area of my life for 2015 other than having some lenses. Well, one of my biggest dreams of having a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 has become a reality. I’ve been wanting that lens for a while to improve the photos I take in low light in the theaters at the ballet. Another big change happened after the robbery incident. As I mentioned in my blog post then, I took that bad situation where they stole my camera body as an opportunity to improve my gear. So I finally made the jump from a half-frame body to a full frame. Now with the Nikon D750 and the zoom lens, the quality I get in low light is something I struggled for with my previous gear. My main machine is now a Macbook Pro, so I’m now fully editing my RAW files in Lightroom. I also started to get more into video this year with several videos published in my Youtube channel.

4. Travel
We never got to go to Cuba, but we did travel to several places in the country and visit friends which was nice.
5. Writing and reading
I missed on the 6 books in the year, I only got two read. And on the writing, well, this blog was almost forgotten. Only 5 posts in all year! Then notasbit blog got changed into an automated system, so no writing there either. I think I used that time to do more projects this year instead.

To remember 2015 here are some of the images captured in the year:

Fish in bags

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Sala Covarrubias

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Hotel Quinta Real Villahermosa

Hand made chocolate

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So far, this 2016 doesn’t seem to have much surprises or any ups and downs. On 2015 I’ve focused a lot on searching ways to diversify my income and came up with some plans. I think that this 2016 will be about executing those plans more thoroughly.

Health

I keep promising myself to do more about my health with the tendency of not reaching my goals. I won’t stop promising myself healthier life and even though I don’t reach my goals, attempting it never hurts. I’m curious about starting to run. I’ve heard a lot of people getting addicted to it and almost being as annoying as a cross-fit nut. I’ve never tried running as an activity and don’t know where or how to start but I’ll try it. My current body fat is 29%, worse than last year’s post. I need to lower that a lot.

Projects

This is an area where I have a lot of things going on at the same time. I’m worried that because of the high load I won’t be able to manage and complete anything. My mum suggested to have an agenda and set aside time for each project in my day. It is a good idea, since most weeks go by and because of work I forget to put some time for my projects. I want to continue and finish up all projects started last year. I don’t plan on starting new ones anytime soon but a lot of things can happen in a year.

Media

This time I switched the word “photography” to “media” because I’ve been experimenting with video too. I’ve been following several vloggers and I’m very curious to explore that. Editing is not an easy task and very time consuming, but daily vlogs are the best way to practice to perfection. I won’t commit to do vlogging yet but it’s a very strong idea I’ve been thinking about for several months. In photography, I really want to make some money out of it. I’m trying stock photography websites with very little results. Paid jobs would be nice but I still lack the confidence. Maybe that’s what I should work on this year: confidence. And in that topic of confidence, I’d like to grow my Instagram account. I’m trying to post more frequently and maybe a 365 project will help grow my account faster. One post a day. Currently I have 390 followers.

Travel

Cuba is still in the plans for this year. We’ll start the savings planning early in the year so it can happen. Besides that, there’s not much planned so far for the year’s traveling. I guess less travel times means more time to focus on work and projects.

I hope 2016 will be a year of steady grow in several areas in my life, preparing for a more exciting 2017. But, many things happen in a year, who knows if this year will be as calm and steady as I see it in these early days of the year.

Categories
Events personal

Trip to Villahermosa, Tabasco

Hotel Quinta Real Villahermosa

We’re almost done with the year and I realized there’s much to post in this blog. Back in July we went to Villahermosa, Tabasco for the wedding of a friend. It was my first time there so I didn’t know what to expect. Very soon into my trip I found out that they have very interesting food and recipes. We went to a traditional Villahermosa cuisine restaurant to try it out.

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No, this is not the traditional restaurant, that was a quick stop because we were running late.

Okay back to my story. The pejelagarto is a very popular dish around there. They prepare it in several ways: grilled, stuffed, in fillet, etc. In my case, I got to try it in empanadas. To me it tasted like crab (yes, with a B not a P).

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After the wedding, we went to a cacao farm where they give tours to show how chocolate is made. I was expecting to see a big factory and large farming lands, but it was a lot simpler. The farming land looks like a small jungle in the middle of the town, which grew around the perimeter of the old cacao fields. The place feels like a real jungle with the humidity, the plants everywhere covering the sun and the sounds of birds and other animals. The tour guide told us they have a section where monkeys live. This was their habitat before the town came into the jungle, so they are trying to preserve them there. We couldn’t spot any of them but sometimes you could hear them in the distance.

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Guacamayas

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We saw several types of trees that I’ve only read about in books. The rubber tree which produces a resin that native Mexican tribes used to create shoes and the first balls to play games. A cinnamon tree, which I never stopped to think how cinnamon is obtained. The tree is small and you can peel a part of it’s trunk or branches and that’s the cinnamon sticks. Then a gum tree used by Mexicans for centuries for chewing gum before Thomas Adams created the chewing gum industry world wide.

Rubber tree | Arbol de hule

Cacao plant

We also got to try freshly done hand-made chocolate. They demonstrated the traditional process of making chocolate from the cacao seeds. I participated adding the spices and trying the resulting mix. Then they explained how that process is now translated into industrial processes and how most milk chocolate has barely any of the outstanding health benefits of the cacao (also, white chocolate is just fat, no benefits at all).

Hand made chocolate

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It’s been a bad year for my writing but I started experimenting with video recording and editing. So I’ll be posting some of my video experiments using mainly a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver. I hope you enjoy this first one about this trip.