Categories
personal

Setbacks as opportunities

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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.

Categories
Interesting random stuff

Plantronics Marquee 2 Bluetooth headset review

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Some years ago I wrote about the first version of this Bluetooth headset and it was great. Since then, Plantronics has launched a second version, the Marquee 2, model name is M165. It is not new, it’s been a few years already in the market, but the reason why I’m writing about it now is because it simply is the best Bluetooth headset out there.

The battery is great: it lasts 7 hours of talk time and about 14 (or more) of idle time. One time I dropped it while turned on at my wife’s car and found it a day and a half later with still about 2 hours of battery life!

On to the practicality of the device. It has voice commands to answer calls, so if you’re driving or washing the dishes, you don’t even have to touch a button. Now, there are other devices that have this too, but most of them are above the $50 USD price. The Plantronics Marquee 2 is only $35 USD.

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Another good feature is the physical switch to turn it on/off, a button for volume and a button for commands. This is very important for reliability. I have a Moto Hint, it’s a beautiful piece of hardware, but it is extremely unreliable. With the physical buttons you are sure that the device is on/off and that it does exactly what you want when you need it. No accidental presses, no battery drain surprises because you thought you turned it off and it wasn’t. Also every time you turn it on, a voice tells you how much battery time is left. No need for an app with an indicator or a special button press to get that info.

The hardware design is roughly the same as the previous M155 version. It now comes in white and black and it has a matte finish. It is very light and comfortable. It comes with several ear holder sizes to adjust it and also a loop if you feel more secure with that. It’s not long like the famous top quality Plantronics Voyager, which I wouldn’t feel comfortable using in the street. This one is very discreet and small, and you can put it safely in your jeans right side pocket (yeah, that small one that almost no one uses).

About the sound quality, for $35 USD it is surprisingly good. A decent high volume, loud enough to hear music or conversations in a busy street. Noise cancelling is not the best in the market but you get a clear sound across. I’ve done tests with the Jawbone Icon HD which is almost twice as expensive and every time my test subjects on the other side of the line tell me that when I’m on the M165 it sounds like I’m using the handset microphone and with the Jawbone Icon HD I sound very far away. Oh and you can also use it to listen to music, not only calls.

In general, I can’t stop recommending this device for price, sound quality and reliability. If you’re looking for a Bluetooth headset, you won’t be disappointed with this one.

If you would like to buy the Plantronics M165 you can get it for a good price at this link. Buying it from that link will also support this blog.

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Tell me your experience with this or with any other headset you recommend in the comments section. Also if you like this bluetooth headset review.

Say hi to me on Twitter: @gabrielsaldana or on Instagram: @gabrielsaldana.

Categories
Photography

Mexico Independence day in Coyoacan

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There photos were not taken this year. I’ve wanted to share these images I took last year but by the time I got to edit the RAW files, it was around November, so it would feel weird to post September’s Mexico Independence day photos very close to Christmas celebrations.

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This time, since I didn’t go out this year to celebrate (I had an early work meeting at 8:30am the next day), I can now post timely the Independence day pictures that are timeless, since there are no dates showing anywhere. They work as well for any year.

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We went to Coyoacan for the celebrations, on my first september in Mexico city. Although I wanted to go to the Zocalo, the main place where the president does the main ceremony that is televised internationally, we opted for a smaller town. Zocalo gets too crowded, with very intimidating security and police and snipers and worse than TSA personal searches.

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Instead, Coyoacan feels more like a little old mexican town, no excessive police, friendly walks, a small fair with rides, traditional food and games. I was told you can enjoy this a lot more, and so we did.

Huge buñuelos

Mexican traditional bread

Mexican chorizo

Grilling buffalo chicken wings

Mexican corn stew

Balloon dart shooting range

Fair air gun shooting range

Cotton candy maker

Cotton candy sombrero figure

Little girl with huge cotton candy flower

The cotton candy man was a true artist. He made several huge figures, but I could only capture two of them. It was very entertaining watching him work.

We’re planning to go to Zocalo next year, but we’re looking for the safest way to do it. Nearby hotels have a view to the Zocalo from the top and offer dinners. We’ll try to make a reservation in one of them.

Categories
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.

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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

Categories
personal

A year in review and plans for 2015

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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).

Categories
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.