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personal

Setbacks as opportunities

Q0CuEJU

Just when life is becoming stable, life shakes you up. This time, three people broke into my house and stole most of my gear. And by gear I mean my photography gear, our computers as well as some jewelry. We came back from a small trip to downtown and the door was busted open, things missing and a hell of a mess everywhere.

I can say it was 3 people (of a gang of 5) because I have them on video, but you know how justice works (or not) in Mexico. That’s another story. What I want to talk about is how I take this situation and what’s next.

An example of the mess we found at home after the break in
An example of the mess we found at home after the break-in.

First of all, security. Yes, we are in the process of tightening the physical security at home. From getting new locks with higher security features all the way to changing the door for a more resistant one.

Then the psychological part of the situation. Most people I’ve talked to have expressions like: “well…you’re lucky your dog wasn’t home, she could have gotten killed.” or “you’re lucky you were not at home so you were not hurt” and also “you’re lucky they only stole few things and not empty out your home”. I just nod in silence to those comments to be polite, but my real answer to those comments is: If I’m so lucky, I wouldn’t have been robbed in the first place! This is not luck, this is a bad situation and we all have to accept things for what they are. And don’t get me started with those comments that mention a God and a gratefulness to such bondage-like deity idea where you are loved but get punished.

Now that the steam is off, onward to the opportunity part. A friend of my mom told me: “when you experience a robbery, in a way, they reduce your clutter”. And that is the sanest comment I’ve heard so far. Yes, this situation sets me back on my budget, my plans, etc. But it is also an opportunity to renovate things and appreciate the ones you’re left with. Also they put me in an unexpected hard situation where I have the opportunity to be creative to solve it. Like in The Martian book (and movie), I’ll have to science the shit out of this situation to replace my stolen equipment with the budget I have.

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Unlike the movie, help is not on the way. I’ll just have to work my ass off.

So for the moment, I have no photography gear to shoot new things and I don’t have a good reliable computer to do my job fast and easy. I’m back to my old Dell XPS computer that doesn’t hold a charge. And you know what? The situation is not that bad. I can still work and I can still… well, let’s not talk about photography for a while.

Lessons learned:

1. Burglars apparently don’t bother with kitchens, under sink cabinets or blanket storage spaces.
2. It doesn’t matter that you have a locked front door in the building, CCTV system and a doorman. You’ll still get robbed. Don’t depend on building security, make your own. Get a stronger door and security systems.
3. Constant backups ARE a life saver. My redundant weekly backup systems have everything, so I didn’t lost much data. These days, digital losses are more important than physical ones.
4. Disk encryption in your computer and other devices is important. They can’t turn on my computer (bios password) or steal away data from the hard disk because it is fully encrypted.
5. Mexico’s gun control laws need to be relaxed. We need protection and the government is not doing a great job at it. It never has.
6. Getting robbed forces you to get creative with what you have left and renovate.

So now, I’ll go to get creative on ways to recover and plan ahead.

p.s. You know what pissed me the most? They stole my whiteboard markers. Really?? And they were not expensive or fancy or anything, just plain cheap stupid markers! They were THAT desperate they took my markers??!! It’s the little things that really hurt…like paper cuts.

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Interesting random stuff personal

Fish market in Mexico city

Mexico city is full of awesome little places here and there. It has so many places for so many things that I’m considering making it a hobby to explore the city. A few days ago, knowing that I love my fish tanks, my friend Luis Perez told me about the Fish Market where I could find anything I like for my fish tank.

We planned a visit on a Sunday and spent most of the day there. At the fish market you really can find anything you need or want for salt or fresh water tanks. The variety of species found is impressive and the prices are great too.

Fish in bags

Not only crowded by fish, but also by people. Very hard to walk in this tiny crowded aisles.

Mexico fish market

You can find exotic species like a fresh water ray, alligators and even a Mexican axolotl (endangered species by the way, but oh well…Mexico)

Fresh water ray

Alligators in a fish tank

Alligator sleeping in the tank

Mexican axolotl

There’s not only fish and tank gear, you can also find a few other pets around like dogs and birds.

Puppies in a box

Sleeping puppies

Bulldog puppy

Bird cages

Cardinal bird

I ended up buying some gear for my tank, a few neon tetras and a freshwater shrimp that looks awesome in the tank and will help clean it up too.

Freshwater shrimp

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personal

A year in review and plans for 2015

gabriel_saldana_and_mariachis

I’m laughing alone reading last year’s resolutions post. If you could see how things are today, compared to what I had planned that day, you might say that my life paused for a whole year. But no, actually very important milestones happened in my life but these pages were forgotten for the second half of the year.

It seems that I’m getting worse than last year in reviewing my year goals and achievements. Last year I wrote the post on February and this year, it’s already March! Anyway I don’t want to skip a year just because I couldn’t find the right time in the first days of the year.

So last year I had 5 major points of focus and I’ll review what happened on each:

  1. Health – Although I did lost the weight I wanted, I’ve accomplished somehow to gain it all back in December and January. I think I got even worse. My formula to loose the extra weight does work, but my formula to keep myself in shape is missing. So in that regard, I’m back to where I was last year.
  2. Projects – Artistelink has not happened. I didn’t even wrote a single line of code for it in the whole year. I mentioned that two days before writing that post I got some bad news that would change things. Well, things did change, work-related. But now that things have settled, it was a great change! I couldn’t have thought of it better. Artistelink might happen someday, but that idea evolved into something more that is half-way done and I’ll talk about later.
  3. Photography – There hasn’t been much paid jobs this last year, but I’ve done a ton of “free” work that I haven’t published but I did processed most of the RAW files I had pending back then. I still owe my family’s 2014 Christmas photos…and 2015’s too. I also got started editing video since I got a GoPro and combining footage from my DSLR and the GoPro has been fun.
  4. Traveling – I did a lot of travelling through 2014, and ended up moving permanently to Mexico city. I’m still not used to the traffic, but it’s not a big deal since I work from home. So in this regard, I consider it an accomplished goal.
  5. Writing and reading – I don’t know how to consider this. On one side I forgot to update these pages in more than 6 months! There’s a lot to write down, get off my head and share. But, I also started a news blog in Spanish: Notasbit. I update it every week with the latest tech news that I talk about on my radio show segment. Oh yes, that’s one of the things I haven’t shared in these pages: I have a radio segment every Tuesday at 5 pm Central Time in Zona3 Radio in Guadalajara. Okay, that aside, I have been writing a lot, just not here. On the reading side, I finished 3 books from my queue. Not much for a whole year, but it’s better than nothing.

So having 2014 craziness gone away now, my life has settled a lot more since moving to Mexico and getting married (this deserves a post of its own to elaborate the details). Settling down helps a lot to focus the mind and stop thinking about a thousand possibilities and end up doing none. I hope to get more done, more consistently.

Health

A few days ago I had some studies made on my respiratory system. There is a possibility that I’ll need surgery to help me finally breathe better. Maybe this is the root of the cause of my dislike of aerobic exercise? The Fitbit has helped me a lot on being conscious about my daily activity and I’ve done a lot better than before. I also got the Aria smart scale and I use it daily to keep track of my progress or failure. I need to get in better shape and a stronger body. I don’t mean big muscles, just a healthy body with a lower body fat percentage which is currently at 27.4%.

Work and Projects

Currently I love my work, my workspace (home) and what I’m working on. It hasn’t been all roses, but it’s been a great learning experience so far in the project management, client management and team management areas as well as programming challenges and new technologies. It is the whole package. Apart from that, in the first days of the year several projects came to my door by clients so life will be very busy. I have two main side projects that I’d like to get going this year, one with my dad and one with my brother, so that’s the goal here.

Photography

I’ve been using Darktable all these time and I recently tried Lightroom for the first time. I’m still skeptical if I’ll prefer Lightroom or not, mainly because my main machine (running Debian) can’t run it but I’ll continue exploring. I like how fast it was even in a slower computer compared to the one I use with Darktable. If it helps me get more done faster, it will be a huge selling point for me. Project wise, I don’t know, I don’t have real plans here, except for getting better lenses.

Traveling

I just want to go to Cuba this year. It might be the last year before McDonald’s or Starbucks starts popping up over there now that the US has announced they will reactivate relations.

Writing and reading

I’ll continue posting on Notasbit every week and try to update here at least once a month. I have a long queue of books to read. So far I’m half way though two books, so that’s more than half of last year’s mark. I won’t commit to a book a month yet, but let’s put the goal at 6 books this year at least.

Let’s see how a settled life affects my achievements. I’m optimist on being more focused and able to control better my environment. Working from home allows me to have a great quality of life, healthier home-cooked food, walk the dog between tasks, etc. It can also lead to bad habits like less socialization, being in pajamas all day and don’t shower for a week… but being married means I need to socialize with at least one person and shower every day. I’ll work on the pajamas part, as it’s 2 pm while writing this post and I’m still wearing them (oops).

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personal

The circle of life

At my new home, I happen to have a particular kind of neighbor. Actually I feel lucky to have such neighbors because they are so interesting.

These neighbors are a bird family. They have a nest next to my door and they, like me, are starting a new family. The analogies and symbolism reflected to my current life moment were a lot and meant a lot to me.

hatching egg

I too was moving into this new home, recently forming a new family (although no kids yet) and everything was as new to me as to those birds.

Every morning from my breakfast table I could see the new family interactions. The male bird bringing home food for the female bird while she was taking care of the eggs and later the male bird alert watching over while the female bird fed the baby birds.

I think that however liberal and egalitarian we want to be as a civilized species, each gender has a natural role. Girls have their “motherly” instincts and guys have the “provider” and/or “protective” instinct. Observing this in nature is fascinating.

Even more, having the opportunity to witness these events in the so-crowded-crazy-traffic-ultra-urban Mexico city is something very fortunate and unique.

baby birds

young birds

I couldn’t catch the exact moment when the birds took flight. Actually there was some trouble that day. One of the birds flew and fell in between two buildings, in an inaccessible hole left between constructions. Later I saw the mother bird flying over there to help. I think it did make it after all. The other one fell to the parking lot area below and later, mum helped there too and later in the day it was gone too.

Bird ready to fly away from nest

The nest was left empty for several months, all through winter. Then a few weeks ago, I noticed new bird couples scouting for a new home. Several came, saw the nest and went away. After a few days of the same interaction, one of the birds came and dropped a twig. I took that action as leaving the down payment for the new home. And soon enough, the new couple moved in, putting new things into the nest, fixing it to their liking.

Since the nest is right outside my door, I could check every day if there was new activity there. Two days ago, the circle of life is starting over.

new bird eggs

Some day, it will be my turn to talk to you about my circle of life, but it’s not my time yet. First, I have to update these pages with lots of stuff I missed to log in the last part of 2014, and the first part of 2015.

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personal

Engaged

One of the main topics I couldn’t yet write about on my first posts of the year, was my plan of getting engaged. But now I can talk all about it without ruining the surprise.

It all started around December, where the plans started to take form. I’m from the north-east of Mexico, where most people are used to travel to Texas for shopping. So I planned a trip there to get the plan going. Having moved to Guadalajara (west, and more to the south part of Mexico) two years ago, accomplishing my plan was getting more complicated than usual. After many travel attempts to the north, because of one thing or another, I couldn’t make it in January, but my parents did. I asked my mother to look around and send me photos, hoping to do the shopping that way. I was visiting my girlfriend that weekend in Mexico city, and while having dinner with some friends I finally received a message from my mum. The message had a single picture of a ring and the words “I got it”. I was shocked! I didn’t want my engagement ring to be picked by my mother, I wanted to choose it myself! Well…at least remotely. I could barely hide my red face in the dinner table, and my girlfriend was wondering me suddenly messaging back and forth, not saying anything about who I was talking to and even trying to hide the screen from her eyes. I excused myself from the table and called my mum, she said it was no big deal, that I should call the place and tell them to hold it for me. I made plans to go in two weeks.

Two weeks passed and again I could not make my trip. It was now mid February and my plans to pop the question on Valentine’s day were frustrated. I finally made definitive plans to travel to Texas by the end of the month. My excuse was that I had ordered my Lenovo X240 and I had to pick it up. So finally I went to the jewelry store, explored more options and made my choice. The next problem: to have it sized in her number was going to take one week. Since having it sized by the store was of no extra cost and covered by warranty, it was the wisest thing to do. So I came back to Mexico empty handed.

It was now March and I had no excuse to travel back. March is important, because after Valentine’s, the next “big” date is my girlfriend’s birthday near the end of the month. I was hoping my parents would go but their agenda was busy too. Fortunately, my mums best friend, whose daughter lives in Texas, was travelling soon and I asked her to do me the favor of bringing the ring back for me. She did, but delivered it to my mum, in the north-east of Mexico. The ring was still not in my hands and had to travel all the way to the south-west in a secure way (we don’t trust mail here). My mum and I ended up planning a meetup in Mexico city, she would get to visit my brother who lives there, and I would finally get the ring. That moment finally happened one week before Ada’s birthday.

So with all the complications and timing problems, and adding to that that I live in Guadalajara and she lives in Mexico city, I couldn’t plan a big moment or fabricate a special situation for the occasion. So, being the software engineer and a photographer, I relied on technology and photography to create a good moment that not only will be emotional at the time, but can also be saved and relived in the future. I made a nice slideshow video with lots of photos from all our years together using Google+ photo gallery and video editor. I’m passionate about photography, and I’m dedicated to technology. It makes sense to put to work my two passions together to get the third and most important one that completes my life.

On the weekend of her birthday, I traveled to Mexico city on a red-eye bus and arrived very early in the morning. After a nice rest at her place, and before leaving the house to get something for breakfast, I sent the video to her Google+ account and told her to open what I just sent her in her tablet. She smiled through the photos but never expected where they leaded. Right after the last photo, I popped the question.


Untitled

She said yes! And after the emotions calmed down, we went to get some street tacos as a celebration breakfast. We just love tacos.

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Later that night, we celebrated the engagement and her birthday with some friends. Here’s my girlfriend fiancee and a friend who also got engaged this year.

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So after a long relationship with many ups and downs and long distances and short ones, and many many adventures together, we have formal plans to continue living more adventures for (hopefully) the rest of our lives.

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Categories
personal

Resolutions for 2014

2013 the year of the selfie

It’s now February. I know, it’s very late to be writing about resolutions once that a whole month has gone already. Things have been crazy busy the last two months. I’ve been travelling very frequently and having a lot of projects going on so finding some time and mind to update these pages have been tough.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to skip posting this. I might forget to post a lot of things that happen in my life that I would like to remember later on reading myself here, but I don’t want to skip doing these year reviews and resolutions posts.

Checking on last year’s resolutions, it seems that my life was completely out of control back then, and I think I managed take back some control. Unfortunately two days ago I received very unexpected news that have now changed my whole plans for the year, but I’ll still try to stick with them as much as I can.

  1. Health – On the health side, I made good progress. I lost those 5 kgs I wanted (and a bit more) three times in the year. I did got them back but now I know my formula on how to loose that weight. I need to keep a better track of health results when I experiment on things but health checkups can get expensive if I want to do them frequently (monthly).
  2. Photography – It was another very active year on photography for me. I didn’t take any courses or got to assist another photographer, but I got my first paid gigs to shoot classical ballet and dance events.
  3. Cooking – I learned new dishes thanks to The 4 Hour Chef book. The cauliflower replacement for smashed potatoes is great, created a recipe for spicy fish and as simple as it sounds, my morning scrambled eggs are so top quality that anyone else’s scrambled eggs taste plain and dull.
  4. Projects – On that camp there’s still work to be done. I started the code and planning on one project that I wanted to launch on December, but as I mentioned earlier, these last two months have been very busy and the project has been sitting idle. However we did made some marketing at an event and launched an initial landing page at http://www.artistelink.com

Last year was a very active year on many fronts and another emotional rollercoaster. Things have settled by the end of it but the beginning of 2014 has been crazier than I had anticipated. For this crazy year, here are the resolutions I plan to achieve:

Health

This is going to be an important landmark year (I won’t say why yet, spoilers) so health is something I need to take serious now more than ever. I know how to do it and I will do it. Those 5 kgs that have been coming and going, will be gone very soon and will try to continue dropping throughout the year. I need to drop 10 kgs, I hope I reach that goal before December and keep it that way.

Projects

ArtisteLink is going to happen this year. That is a fact and it will be very interesting to watch it grow and change. On other projects, there are a lot of things happening this last weekend that I need some time to think through and plan, but many projects are definitely happening this year. Business is going to be a big item for me this year.

Photography

The paid jobs last year have been small but it’s a great step forward for me. I still need to polish my skills a lot and have much to learn. I hope to get more paid photo shoots this year. Also I need to improve my workflow. I have a ton of RAW files I haven’t edited and I’m shooting more than I can edit and publish. I think I still owe my family last year’s christmas photos!

Traveling

I had great ideas and plans for traveling this year but things just changed last Friday so I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to keep up with those plans. I’ve been travelling like crazy for the past 4 months, I love travelling. I hope I can keep doing it as often.

Writing and reading

I hate to read myself in the past and see that I keep failing at writing more. I don’t want to stop putting it on the list because it is something I really want to achieve. It feels great to be able to go back in your life and read yourself. Sometimes it is useful when I read my posts and realize that I’ve been wanting something (like writing more) or that I’ve achieved progress on some areas (like photography) that I hadn’t noticed. On the reading side, this last year I lost track of how many books I read but I’m sure it was not more than 3. I have lots of books in my shelf that I’ve purchased but I haven’t even opened yet.

There’s a lot I’m not telling here and a lot I’m not covering yet, but as I said I’ll try to keep writing more often, I do promise to post about those unsaid things later in the year when things are ready to be known.