Categories
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).

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.

Categories
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.

Untitled

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.

Untitled

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.

GST_0003

Categories
personal

Life achievements: It’s never too late

Change the World, Obama. | Nobel Prize for Peace version

Nowadays is more common to hear stories about people getting rich and
accomplishing great things at an early age. Fortunately, there is the
other side of the coin. Not everything is lost if you’re not a
millionaire by 30, or accomplished something important.

Recently the media published a story of the 17 year old who got bought
by Yahoo for $30 million
. Then we have Mark Zuckerberg who became a
billionare (yes, with a “b”) at the age of 23. And of course the now
cliche of Bill Gates founding Microsoft when he was 20 years
old. And well, if you’re interested you can grow this list with a
Google search on “young millionaires” anytime.

These stories are supposed to be inspiring for young people starting
out, but sometimes, for me, these kind of news are depressing considering I
haven’t achieved something remarkable or a million dollar company.

Lucky for us, the “older” folk (whatever your age can be), there is
still hope. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson’s mum recently wrote
a book at the age of 85
and is thinking on writing another one! My
favorite latin comedy screenplay writer, Roberto Gomez Bolaños, played
his now legendary hit character for the first time “El Chavo del 8” at
the age of 40.

For whatever you want to do, whatever you’ve always wanted: It’s never
late to start. Keep your hopes, keep trying and never quit.

Categories
personal

The importance of real-time personal communication

I Hate Digital

For the past two months, I’ve been staying at an old friend’s house, who’s helping me out while I move my things and rent a flat in Guadalajara. He has no Internet access at home and he says he prefers being “more analog” than, for example, me, that I do everything “digitally”. We are very good friends but handle things on a very different way.

One day we were discussing how my search for places to rent was going. While I was telling him how I found listings on the Internet to start calling, he said the best way is just to drive around the neighborhoods of my interest and look for leasing signs outside the buildings. At first I thought it was a very innefficient way to do it, but after we tried it a couple of times, I understood it is a better option. This way I knew exactly where and in what conditions the property is. The best part was that sometimes calling the owners while being outside the property got me opportunities to visit it right away, since some of the owners lived nearby and could show me the place.

Waiting for a phone call

A situation I felt bad for was when he offered to give me a ride home from the office. I was not finished yet and I was going to take some extra hours before heading out. I sent him a message using WhatsApp but I never saw that my message was not delivered immediately. He waited outside for 20 minutes, then left angry about me not telling him what was going on. I apologized later when he told me what happened, and he’s right: some things are better handled directly, either by going in person or calling in real time to make sure the other person is aware of the situation.

In retrospective, it reminded me of the times when I sent my girlfriend messages and she replied 2 hours later, when my message was no longer relevant, with the excuse that the phone was in her purse and she didn’t see or hear the notification. That pissed me off constantly.

I’ve been handling everything very asychronously or through indirect communication for a long time. I’ve been constantly communicating via IM (which can sometimes be not so instant) or Email instead of talking to people directly. It feels more comfortable to just send a message, very impersonal and you get the illusion of being in touch. It sometimes takes some extra effort to call or go to the person and talk right away, but in the end, you get instant feedback of what you need, resolve situations faster and you get in a better relationship with the people around you. I know because I feel better when I get a phone call from an old friend, than an email or a Facebook message.

It’s a good thing that my friend made me realize this and made me aware of the consecuences of indirect (or impersonal) communication. Sending an sms, a message, or emails might be practical, but sometimes is not the right way to do certain things. Calling someone right away to get realtime feedback, make things faster, easier and more personal. From now on, I’ll try to interact with people directly instead of through messages.

Some things just can’t wait for a reply.

Old school phone call

How do you balance “digital” vs “analog” communication?

I Hate Digital photo by the|G|™
Old pix of Hanim photo by rèi
Old school phone call photo by zubrow
Categories
personal

Latest events and life changes

Perduta [Lost]

The last two months have been full of unexpected changes in my life. I no longer have a steady job, nor a personal relationship (I’m back to single status). Its been hard as the two changes came quite close to each other, so these last two months have been emotionally conflicting. But, as my grandfather used to say (translated from spanish): “to bad weather, good attitude”…it’s an awful translation, but what it tries to say is that whenever you are in bad situation, the only thing you should do is to have a positive attitude and move forward.

So that’s what I’ve been doing and turns out I’ve been enjoying life quite a lot, since I’m no longer stressed out with frustrations or pressures. Of course, there’s been some days of feeling scared of changes, and still are, but little by little things are coming up well, sometimes even better than I expected. Dealing with change, even though I decided to push things to change, has not been an easy task to handle.

I finally had time to finish and push live my first Django based project, a rewrite of the silly website http://www.sabesquemecaga.com (translation: what pisses me off): A 140 character website in the style of Fuck my life where you annoymously publish what pisses you off. Its a fun pet project that serves me as a learning tool for Django development and deployment.

I’ve also been working more on Emacs Identica-mode merging latest development changes into the main branch. Development has been more active than before and we have now more contributors sending patches and ideas. A new release will be published soon with lots of fixes and features, catching up with some of the Status.net 1.0 release changes as well (like highlighting “nameless” replies) . If you don’t want to wait for the “official” release, the master branch is what you’ll want to use.

Since I have more “free” time, I’ll try to update this blog more often. I guess my mind was not ready to open up and set my thoughts in text, but as I’m writing this (I actually forced myself to write today) it feels like a good exercise to organize my thought and put it in writing. So I’ll be experimenting with some blogging ideas I’ve been reading on Sacha Chua’s blog about Discovering Yourself Through Blogging making this space a reference for thoughts and events in my life additionally to the usual tech posting I enjoy doing.

Its funny to realize what you end up doing when you’re taken out of your life routine and start exploring different edges in life. These past two months I’ve ended up at a NASCAR race, an Off-road mud race, a bikini fashion show (as an expectator, not on the runway), and doing an audition for a beer’s nation wide TV commercial.

Let’s see what new events life brings in the next days. I’ve been meeting with a lot of old friends with whom I had lost contact and interesting plans are brewing up ahead. Meanwhile I’ll be working on some new web projects I’ve had stalled for years, hopefully one might become a profitable startup; also drinking more tea, meeting new people and hopefully ending up in more randomly, unexpected and weird but fun situations.

I’ll leave you with some videos I took from those events:

Photo Perduta [Lost] is Creative Commons by ecatoncheires on Flickr