Five years ago, I wrote a review on 2006, saying that freelance photography, new friendships, the beginning of the new Elipse/LAST cycling team, and my Physics graduation, all made it a rather special year. One year later, I posted on this very blog about 2007, saying it went further, with my Graduate studies filled with euphoria, cycling victories, trips abroad, language courses, and what not. Then along came 2008, setting an even higher standard, with international conferences, my Master's defense, an epic transcontinental bike ride, and the beginning of my Ph.D. in Germany. One more, and 2009 included visits to Portugal, Brazil, Uruguay, England, and trips all over Germany to Hamburg, Hannover, Düsseldorf, Ulm, Berlin, in adition to conferences and workshops, a great road racing season and fantastic rock concerts.

Now it's time for 2010. This year, I
... moved out to my own apartment
... published my first paper
... bought my first car
... organized a surprise overseas birthday party
... won my first cycling race in Europe
... travelled to Australia
... moved to Waterloo, Canada
... experimented with new food, beverages and sports
... fell in love
... and ran a marathon.

A gallery with one hundred pictures telling the visual story of the year gone by can be found on my Picasa gallery. Do check it out!
- - -
The old adage goes, "once is an occurence, twice may be a coincidence, but thrice is surely a tendency". What's left to say when five years in a row have surpassed each other in setting new marks for incredible achievements? Easy:

2011 will be A W E S O M E.



The lighter side

With just under two weeks back in terra germanica, and given the conjecture of being away for an extended amount of time, returning just before the Holidays, with friends and family coming to visit, I could easily say I haven't yet had the time to settle back in - were it not for the fact that what I define as my usual life is a constant state of exceptional circumstances (or an Ausnahmezustand, as I have noted in a previous post). But those events will be reviewed in a forthcoming post. For the present moment, I just want to collect a few random disconnected thoughts :)

- Shopping in Germany is simply amazing. While I have probably already said that when I first moved over, it's stressed over and over again when coming back after an extended period of time away. I just came back from the supermarket, where, besides groceries for three, I also bought a few spoils to my mother and sister, and it all came to just a tad more than what my basic bread-and-butter shopping would have costed me in Canada. Vintage French wine? Check. Fancy Swiss, German or Belgian chocolates? Check. Exquisite Italian, Danish or French cheese? Check. And all the Nivea creams and lotions my skin could ever want - Yay!

- I've been listening to some new, or at least unbeknownst to me, singers and bands, and as always, it's a great pleasure to find out there's such fantastic stuff out there. Still, I was somehow saddened to find out that one artist whom I just came to enjoy is actually deceased, or that another band has since dissolved, and I'll never have the opportunity to attend a real live concert from them. Nevertheless, and somehow making up for that, my perennial favourites Belle & Sebastian are playing in Germany in April - Yay!

- Snow, oh, the snow! I never had so many snowball fights; and I had never actually managed to build a large-scale snowman - and the last few days more than made up for that. And driving and skidding through the snow has been such fun! Scary sometimes, sure, but I'm thankful the Whiskaswagen has top-notch ESP and ABS brakes - Yay!

- I take some pride on how tidy I keep my little apartment, how good my clothes smell after washing, or how I managed to develop some cooking skills with some not only good looking, but also quite tasty dishes. But with one week of mom taking care of cleaning, washing and cooking, I notice I still have a lot to learn. Oh well. For the moment, I can only enjoy being spoiled - Yay!


Sunset at Toronto Pearson Airport

Exactly four months ago, as Moni and Benja dropped me at Nürnberg's airport, I was handed one little postcard, with a huge smiley on one side, and the following written on its reverse:

"Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.
(Herrmann Hesse, 'Stufen')

And so you're off, to climb one more step in a life full of them, a life filled with challenges, achievements, defeats and victories. To follow a path full of rocks, stones, pebbles and boulders, but never any deadlocks.
It wasn't the easiest path, this one you've chosen, but certainly it was the most yours, and the richest of all. Where each experience transforms you and in turns makes your life more and more interesting.
May the magic of the beginning protect you and help you live. Have a great time in Canada and come back some day: we'll be waiting for you!
- Moni"

I'm about to cross the Atlantic for the 23rd time. It's been hard before; severing bounds as I moved from one continent to the other was, and is, never an easily-dismissed circumstance. And yet, the fantastic times I've had in Canada over the last four months, and the fabulous happenings of the past few weeks mean this one is particularly harder. Harder as in falling in unconditional love, and then realizing that one can only fight so much; that part of clinging to someone means letting them go.
Awaiting my departure in Toronto, I believe I've played all my cards. I believe I fought the fight to the best of what my whole life to the present day taught me to. I leave my heart behind, but I fly back with no regrets.

Agnes, ich liebe dich.


Stufen, Steps & Degraus

Stufen (Herman Hesse, 1941)

Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.

Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,
Der Weltgeist will nicht fesseln uns und engen,
Er will uns Stuf' um Stufe heben, weiten.
Kaum sind wir heimisch einem Lebenskreise
Und traulich eingewohnt, so droht Erschlaffen,
Nur wer bereit zu Aufbruch ist und Reise,
Mag lähmender Gewöhnung sich entraffen.

Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
Uns neuen Räumen jung entgegen senden,
Des Lebens Ruf an uns wird niemals enden...
Wohlan denn, Herz, nimm Abschied und gesunde!

- - -

There are translations out there for those less familiar with this fantastic work in its original version; I note but one part:

For in each beginning dwells a special magic

That nurtures living and bestows protection

- - -

Aponto aqui uma tradução para aqueles menos habituados ao poema de Hesse ou ao idioma de Goethe. Deixo aqui somente uma parte:

Em todo começo reside um encanto
Que nos protege e nos ajuda a viver


Of ships and harbours

In spite of the strong opinions and the somewhat gloomy aspect of some of the last few entries, I usually somehow avoid expressing more intimate feelings, with truly fatalistic posts being rather the exception here - only a few have popped up over the last few years, the cryptic Deja Vi in late 2007, I guess, or the train post from 2008. Curiously, while the situation now may be such that the expression of my feelings is called for, it should not be in an overly dark context, however I may be saddened by the way the matter has taken its course.

"A ship is in harbour safe, but that's not what ships are built for", a citation my sister Monica has been quoting ever since she moved back to Germany some 7 or 8 years ago. I posted this exact same thought here just as I was boarding, back in 2008; arriving in Waterloo, a few months back, I got a postcard from her reminding me, once again, of this saying. Ever since I recognized myself to be who I am, I've been making it a point of taking myself out of the comfort zone - after all, that's not what I'm here for. And now, having fallen in love as I hadn't in a very long time, I found myself noting just how such could be taken to be the ultimate test for the quote, as I considered dropping everything from my sport, my countries or my Ph.D. to be with the one person who, to date, best described what people call a soulmate.

And yet it was not to be, not now. Maybe because the other person had already found her safe harbour, maybe for other reasons which shall be entirely mysterious to me, but it shouldn't matter. It saddened me, deeply, and I walked away with a bitter taste. And yet, I was reminded just how the simple occurrence of such feelings was, is a fantastic thing by itself. To have those feelings, of being truly alive, of liking someone so much, no matter the implications or complications, gave a whole new meaning to the idea of taking my ship far out of the harbour, of venturing into wholly uncharted waters - and I shall hold dearly to the new ideas and values I've considered over these past few weeks as a measure, a standard for my future sailings.
- - -
The original title was "Of ships and harbours, isomorphisms and fancy new carbon wheels", but I figure the Choi-Jamiolkowski isomorphism or the Krauss operator-sum representation of Gaussian maps shouldn't, however they helped me get through the latter days by providing something distant and abstract to think about, warrant any thoughts here. Questions of science, science and progress, do not speak as loud as my heart. Now, about those carbon wheels... Well. I take part in the hardest sport in the world. Damn, running a marathon is something I would do as part of my off-season. And cycling has shaped so much of who I am, that I feel justified in rewarding myself with some non-plus-ultra tools of the trade, specially when I need a little cheering-up. So, like I did after previous heart breakings, I went out on a small shopping spree for new carbon wheels and time-trial handlebars for the upcoming season. The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys...
- - -
I may not buy a boat just yet, but I'm eager for my skipper's license. To the sea!


Dear Humans: you're doing it wrong, part I

Yet another thread of not-entirely-disconnected thoughts on the current state of affairs. This post (and any eventually forthcoming in this series) should not be taken as set in stone; some points are up not only for discussion, but also for a possible rewriting. Still, to paraphrase Pullman: no one has the right to read this blog without being offended.
- - -
An article on the Süddeutsche Zeitung a few weeks ago reported spiritual and psychological counselling to university students as being on an all-time high. Students fight with course overloads and the pressure to perform, in additional to the usual doubts and uncertainties that abound in the early phases of their supposed adulthood - sometimes on the verge of a burn-out.

My advisor in Erlangen, and a recently-promoted post-doctoral researcher in Waterloo, obtained 5-year assistant professorship contracts without a permanent-position option. A recent article on Nature denotes tenure as necessary "to protect academic freedom; faculty members can disagree with popular opinion, express negative views about their institution, or research unpopular topics". Meanwhile, both the Universities of Erlangen-Nürnberg and of Waterloo resort to underpaid graduate students to serve as teaching assistants to tutor the very undergraduates who should, arguably, be the main focus of such institutions.

This Monday's IQC colloquium presented a very interesting (re-)formulation of known questions in Quantum Information as problems in asymptotic geometry. Unfortunately, beautiful mathematical structure was perverted - prostituted, maybe? - into finding a supposed application - with the speaker even going to lengths to instigate experimentalists to try and implement a proof-of-principle demonstration.

And the online triathlon/cycling community I regularly take part in has a discussion on the migration of bike parts manufacturing and development jobs to China; one of the books I've just finished reading preaches off-shoring unfulfilling tasks to India to maximize rentable working hours, but maybe this is a discussion for part II. Never mind for now.

Our civilization has managed to automate most of its existence. It has developed fantastic theories on effective and efficient management and production; let alone the incredible advances on communications and transportation we now take for granted. Yet, one is still expected to fulfill a 40-hour working-week labouring as much as two hundred years ago. Dear humans, you're doing it wrong.
- - -
Sure, I find it appealing that abstract ideas can find their way into possible experiments - if something positive can be won from the work done in the lab. I still envision mathematicians playing with such structures for the sake of mere curiosity - of knowledge for knowledge's sake - rather than for a need to report back supposed applications, or, worse yet, an increased number of publications.

If I have but one fear, one idea I dread for the future ahead, it is that of ending up trapped in a rat race. A friend recently characterized the scientist's profession as one requiring one to be "an efficient, well-organized artist" - to which he added that such ideal "corresponds more or less to an oxymoron". Whether I actually possess all traits necessary to emerge 'victorious' from such a pressure-instigating scenario doesn't enter into consideration. In fact, while I've come to realize I've produced less-than-optimal performances in certain processes and activities over the last few years, and currently strive towards more efficiency and efficacy for the goals I have ahead of me, I recognize that I have more than once avoided putting myself in situations where striving for a higher step led to potentially destructive behaviour. Be it for reasons of ethics, sportsmanship or health, I've opted to throttle back, even if it meant giving up on eventually achieving higher accomplishments (*). The same may just apply in to Academia. Publish-or-perish my behind. Either this is fun, or I'm quitting to start a small café.

(*) Have you seen "The Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner"? When he stops the race and looks around... - not just the Belle & Sebastian song , I recommend the movie as well.
- - -
Not surprisingly, yet again the theme here involves Academics and the Future. Entering my 3rd year as a doctoral student, I only have a bare idea of where I could go from here - that is, if I am to follow Physics as a career of sorts. Balance seems to be an important keyword. My work as a researcher must somehow be compatible with my current and future sportive endeavours, long-term travel plans, and the eventual prospect of developing a relationship with a significant other. And I don't seem willing to give up on any.
- - -
I'm surprised I never posted xkcd #137 here. It's a fantastic epitome for much of what I'm very often thinking:
- - -
Maybe I'm starting a café anyway.


The Updated Whiskas Facts

Back in the end of 2007, inspired by a similar posting from my friend Rocca, I wrote my very own fact sheet (in Portuguese). I've since wanted to bring out an English version for the sake of my international readership, but always ended up writing about something else. So, finally, here with you, and once again in no particular order, the updated 2010 Whiskas Facts:

... is known to the civilian world outside as "Ricardo Wickert"
... quantifies entanglement in quantum-optical Schrödinger cats
... has ridden a bicycle in as many as ten different countries
... has jumped from a moving car
... makes award-winning pancakes for breakfast
... prefers Cabernet, Malbec and Carmenére wines
... took part in left-wing militant organizations
... started his own dotcom at the age of 15
... is an atheist
... coordinated and executed roadside cleaning efforts in major highways
... dances the tunes of Franz F., Belle & Sebastian and Los Campesinos
... but also enjoys a concert with Wagner, Schubert, Ludwig van. & co
... has an airplane pilot's license (and two different driver's licenses, too)
... worked part-time with NGOs supporting cyclists' rights to the road
... spent summers building robots during high school
... won and lost money playing poker
... worked as a free-lance and event photographer
... plays table-tennis "quite well for a non-Asian"
... has absolutely no idea what is currently on TV
... took second place in the Brazilian Physics Olympiad during high school
... is addicted to caffeine
... has high-contrast skin colours
... is ichthyophagous, meaning a vegetarian who also enjoys seafood
... has planted trees and written poems (but has no kids)
... was born on a Tuesday, at 7:28 PM Brazilian Standard Time
... has dyed his hair orange, and is eager to do it again
... was run over by a car and robbed at gunpoint
... drank 42 bottles of sparkling wine to celebrate his Bachelor's degree
... invests in stock markets and still hopes to retire before turning 40
... speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish, German and some French
... loves to dance (which absolutely shouldn't imply he knows how to)
... believes he is what he does
... and thus jumps in frozen lakes to prove his point
... has run a marathon for love of a woman


A Musical Affirmation

I'm a non-orthogonal, stochastic, or maybe symplectic luminary-hearted soul got some of it wrong.

I'm "The Loneliness of the Middle-Distance Runner" in a "Stars of Track and Field"-kind of way,

I'm not Ulysses. I'm never going home.

Thus, it is only fitting that I suffer from Transatlanticisms.

You throw parties? How cool, I throw knives.

I know the trick is to keep breathing.

I'm pleased to spell "Ha-ha-ha, I've destroyed the hopes and the dreams of a generation of faux-romantics". But I do appreciate the smell of coffee on your breath against my neck.

And I'll blow you all to the wall when you realize what I've been working for.

(This is definitively a non-usual Thin Grad Line post. Just so that you all may learn a bit about my current music tastes... And my apologies in advance in case some of the videos are not available to Youtube viewers located in different countries.)


The Waterloo Autumn

(Ver abaixo para a versão original em Português)

The timespan between March and June 2009 - as of my awakening to my German Ph.D. studies, coupled with a series of trips throughout the European continent, and the establishment of countless new friendships, all interwoven by the beautiful springtime colours - was appropriately christened as "the Erlangen Springtime". Following the same line of thought, it'd be fitting to entitle the present period as "the Waterloo Autumn".

I flew in here in quite distressed circumstances - as a matter of fact, maybe the whole year until then could share this adjective. And in spite of having held meetings and video-conference calls, the research proposal I handed in was worded in such a wide context as possible to fit, basically, whatever direction my work here could take. Peter, my advisor in Erlangen, was busy writing his book, and as such I was quite on my own to choose my own heading. On the other hand, Norbert, my co-advisor here, seemed to be expecting I would arrive here with a well-defined question - both with regards to the objectives as to the methods and techniques I would employ. That this led to a stand-still in my first weeks here shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone...

Perhaps due to this stagnancy, or maybe because of other circumstances related to my moving to a new terra incognita with a different culture and lacking the social cobweb I had been weaving over the past seasons in Germanic grounds - and thus with lots of free time to spend thinking - I caught myself frequently contemplating my future role in an eventual academic career. An immediate issue concerns my capacity for such: time and again I have the feeling my analytical abilities are shallow, that my results lack a more elaborate mathematical formalism, and that, about to begin my third year, I'm still not proficient in any sufficiently advanced technique, being constrained to minor comments on the handful of subjects I've gone beyond the first few introductory steps. It is true, however - as Monica has already pointed out in a comment to a previous post - that I tend to suggest averages should be such as to fit myself somewhere around the centre of the bell curve - and I'm also sure I'm the most modest person whose blog you've ever read, by the way :) . Nevertheless. If, recognizing all those factors, I do attempt to delve into a particular technique or method, I will quickly find myself in an overly critical - cynical, almost - analysis, concluding invariably that such is not an appropriate tool for whatever problem I intend to tackle. Further extending such a perspective to the entire field - or, why not, to all of Physics - one can still reach the same conclusions, except perhaps to a zero-measure set containing as its elements those few truly original results which went beyond the borders of one's own plate (from the German expression "über den Tellerrand" - maybe you'd rather just use "think outside the box") . Oh well. I believe any reasonable physicist will conclude that such is indeed the case at hand (so far unconditionally confirmed in numerous conversations with other students (*) during the coffee-breaks at IQC (**) ); and that a large base of merely differentially-incrementing results is needed before one may, in a rare act of geniality, put the ideas together and bring an entire field forward. But how to maintain motivation, when the perspective of being one capable of providing such magnificent insights is dim at best?

Another issue arises from a more pragmatic view of the career dilemma. Marco, one of the group's post-docs, was recently "upgraded" to an assistant professorship, and even though his contract is "long term" (supposedly 5 years, if I remember correctly), it's not a tenure track. The same applies to my advisor back in Erlangen, Peter, who, in spite of leading an Emmy-Noether group in a prestigious Max-Planck Institute (and having authored books and numerous highly-cited articles), still doesn't have a permanent position. Now, at some point (preferably before one's retirement), one could expect a somewhat stable geographical location to become necessary for the development of a relationship and/or a family. My capacity to evaluate the matter at hand may be limited, but if a physicist with some 30-50 published journal articles cannot find a permanent position in an attractive institution when approaching the 35-40 year age bracket, what can one conclude about the possibilities of conciliating an academic career with what most mere mortals would call "a normal life"? (***)

(*) Other interesting discussions have addressed the focus of academic research at the border between science and engineering - and our, or maybe my, incapacity to identify a given phenomenon as scientifically relevant due to its limited practical applicability. Nevertheless, the question remains: is a theory unable of proposing an experiment capable of testing or validating itself at all useful? Equally, is it of any worth an experiment designed with the sole purpose of verifying the established theory? Now, don't get me wrong here: many a theory had to be replaced after failing to provide sufficient answers to a scrutinizing test - take the recent discrepancies found in the predicted size of the proton as an example - and those are precisely the kind we need more. But - sorry, Jonathan - once you've proved you can generate an N-partite entangled photonic state, and the technique has been shown to extend to N+1 states as well, then further increasing N may be an amazing engineering achievement, but it's no longer a scientific feat. Nature editors, give us a break.

(**) The coffee, I should add, is/continues to be unbearable, and perhaps prevents more stimulating discussions from taking place due to its watery, americano, I'd-rather-drink-English-tea characteristics. I miss my home espresso machine.

(***) By no means do I wish by this to imply I'm necessarily after such a normal life; but a certain amount of tranquillity/stability may still be welcome - if not for purely personal reasons, then at least to enable the researcher to develop his work without the constant pressure to obtain immediate results in order to guarantee his next contract...
- - -
This may all sound quite dim and obscure, but I better ratify: not only philosophical wanderings of predominantly negative nature occupy my time in Canada. The warm late-August summer still allowed me to enjoy beautiful evenings outside, and even some days when I remember to have cursed the heat. September brought me to my "definitive" address, in a cozy, if still under renovation, house shared with Kate and Lilly - and a coffee grinder and a collection of Bialettis - from which one may infer the criteria I used to decide on my new home...

Settled in, I interwove idle weekends - mostly at home, reading or lazily surfing the web - with more active ones, with different activities and trips in the nearby areas. My first excursion took me to Detroit, where I met my long-time triathlon friend Julia, currently a post-doc at Wayne State U. A fortnight later, together with IQC's Nathan and his girlfriend Emma, I headed to Algonquin Provincial Park for a weekend of canoe camping, camp-fires and marshmallows. Two weeks later, I attended Los Campesinos! (Friday) and Belle & Sebastian (Tuesday) concerts in Toronto (and danced 'til I had blisters on my feet!), with the weekend in between spent with NDI's Omar in Etobicoke, and Thanksgiving Monday with Emma's parents in North Toronto/Markham. Finally, for the last two weekends, I joined some fellow IQC colleagues in climbing afternoons in Guelph, in a novel discovery (for a cyclist) that upper-body muscles are also capable of moving the body against gravity :) . And there's still the usual brunches, dinners or pub nights with the other students, training with the UWaterloo table-tennis club, jogging and running through the neighbourhood's parks, and reading aplenty: I'm on the final chapters of "Anna Karenina" (my second Tolstoy of the year), besides "The 4-hour workweek" - a practical guide to the Whiskas Lifestyle, even if perhaps rather oriented to 9-to-5 office lemmings, "Angst vor Deutschland" - discussing Germany's new role after reunification, and "Training and Racing with a Power Meter", aiming to better shape my workouts in the upcoming season...
- - -
Meanwhile, two-and-a-half months have gone by. Temperatures now reach below freezing at night, but sunny days still make up for reasonably pleasant temperatures during the day - nevertheless, the heating has already been turned on - very much to my liking: colder days, under appropriate conditions, are always welcome. I'd even dare saying it'd be the ideal season, were it not for the local monopoly imposing overinflated prices to the delicious wines that keep me company...


O Outono de Waterloo

(An English version may follow in the coming days...)

Ao período compreendido entre março e junho de 2009 - quando do meu despertar para o início do meu doutorado na Alemanha, com uma série de viagens pelo continente europeu e a formação de inúmeras novas amizades, e a tudo isto ainda intercalada a beleza do florescer da estação - dei o apropriado título de "a Primavera de Erlangen". Seguindo o mesmo raciocínio, institulo minha atual fase como "o Outono de Waterloo".

Embarquei para cá em circunstâncias um tanto atribuladas - aliás, o ano como um todo, até então, talvez possa gozar deste adjetivo. Apesar de termos realizado algumas reuniões e video-conferências, o projeto de pesquisa que submeti foi escrito de forma ampla o suficiente para comportar, basicamente, qualquer rumo que o trabalho aqui viesse a tomar. Peter, meu orientador em Erlangen, estava às voltas com os últimos capítulos de um livro, e sob este pretexto me deixou bastante à vontade para definir meu próprio rumo. Norbert (que me co-orienta por aqui), por sua vez, esperava que eu chegaria aqui já com uma linha bem definida do que fazer - tanto em termos de objetivos, como de metodologia. Que isto levou a um certo impasse nas primeiras semanas por aqui não deve ser, portanto, um fato surpreendente.

Talvez devido a este impasse, ou talvez por circunstâncias associadas à mudança de localidade, para uma terra incognita de costumes diferentes e sem a teia social que eu vinha tecendo nos pagos germânicos (ou ainda, talvez pelo fato de ter sido alocado para um depósito uma sala janelas no interior do prédio temporário onde o instituto está sediado), me peguei refletindo mais e mais frequentemente sobre meu futuro papel em uma eventual carreira acadêmica. Um ponto imediatamente relevante tange minha capacidade para o mesmo: mais uma vez tenho a impressão que minhas habilidades analíticas são pífeas, que meus resultados - já desde o Mestrado - carecem de um formalismo matematico mais elaborado, e que, adentrando o meu terceiro ano no doutorado, ainda não domino nenhuma técnica mais avançada, resumindo-me a comentários pós-introdutórios sobre uma variedade de assuntos. Ok, como já lembrou a Monica, eu gosto de sugerir que a media seja de tal forma que eu seja normal, ou talvez até acima disto: eu prefiro me imaginar abaixo da média (e salvaguardar a humanidade? Discutam.). Mas, mais além, se vislumbro aprofundar-me em uma técnica ou método em particular, me pego analisando-o de forma crítica, quase cínica, e estabeleço invariavelmente que tal não é uma forma razoável de atacar este ou aquele problema. Extendendo esta visão para além do meu escopo imediato, concluo que o mesmo pode ser dito de, virtualmente, toda a produção do nosso campo (e, por que não, de toda a Física), exceto talvez por um conjunto de medida zero, que tem por elementos aqueles poucos resultados verdadeiramente originais, vindos de uma mente que enxergou "além da borda do prato" (do alemão, "über den Tellerrand") ou "pensamentos fora da caixa" (do inglês, "to think outside the box"). Enfim. Creio que qualquer Físico há de concluir que este de fato é o caso (isto parece ser reforçado incondicionalmente durante minhas conversas (*) com outros doutorandos durante os cafés do Instituto (**) ); e que é necessário estabelecer uma grande base de resultados com incrementos apenas diferenciais para que um ou outro possa então, num ato de brilhantismo, combiná-los e levar um campo inteiro adiante. Mas como manter a motivação, quando a perspectiva de ser um capaz de fornecer uma destas contribuições magníficas é um tanto diminuta?

Mesmo numa abordagem pragmática ("vou baixar a cabeça, calcular e publicar"), a visão não se altera muito. Marco, um dos pós-doutores do grupo aqui, acaba de ser "promovido" a professor assistente, e apesar do contrato ser "de longa duração" - trata-se de uma vaga de 5 anos - ela não é tenure track (ie, não leva à uma posição permanente). Meu orientador em Erlangen, Peter, apesar de coordenar um grupo de pesquisa em um prestigioso Instituto Max-Planck, e ter livros e inúmeros artigos bem-citados, igualmente tem um contrato por alguns anos, tampouco - não é uma vaga permanente. Em algum ponto (e preferencialmente antes da aposentadoria) imagino que uma localização geográfica estável torne-se necessária para desenvolver um relacionamento e/ou uma família. Minha capacidade de julgamento sobre o assunto pode ser limitada, mas se um físico jovem, com algo entre 30 e 50 artigos publicados, não encontra uma posição permanente em uma instituição atraente quando se aproxima da faixa dos 35-40 anos, o que se deve concluir a respeito das possibilidades de conciliar uma carreira acadêmica com o que meros mortais denominariam "uma vida normal" (***)?

(*) Outras discussões interessantes orbitaram em torno do foco das pesquisas acadêmicas na fronteira entre ciência e engenharia - e da nossa, ou talvez minha, incapacidade de distinguir um fenômeno como cientificamente relevante por sua diminuta aplicabilidade prática. Todavia, deixo a pergunta: é útil a teoria incapaz de propôr um experimento capaz de testá-la ou validá-la? Igualmente, avança em algo nosso conhecimento um experimento desenhado apenas para comprovar a presente teoria, já aceita como válida - ou, em outras palavras, seriam os únicos experimentos dignos de menção aqueles que vão contra a teoria vigente, e refutando-a, nos forçam a rever nossos conceitos?

(**) Café que, devo acrescentar, é/continua intragável, e deixa de estimular mais discussões pelo seu aspecto aguado, americano, melhor-tomar-chá-inglês. Quero um medeirinhos!

(***) Não quero com isso implicar que estou necessariamente atrás de uma vida normal; mas uma certa dose de tranquilidade/estabilidade pode vir a ser bem vinda - se não por critérios pessoais, no mínimo como forma de permitir ao sujeito-pesquisador desenvolver seu trabalho sem a pressão constante por resultados imediatos para obter seu próximo contrato...
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Mas antes que assim pareça, vou deixar claro: não são só as divagações filosóficas de cunho predominantemente negativo que ocupam minha estadia aqui. O verão do fim de agosto ainda permitiu que eu apreciasse belos fins-de-tarde ao ar livre, e por quê não, até alguns dias de bastante calor. Me mudei para meu endereço "definitivo" no começo de setembro, dividindo com Kate (30-something) e Lilly (uma híbrida de pastor alemão com algum modelo vira-lata) uma simpática casa (em reformas) - e um moedor de café e uma coleção de Bialettis (percebam os critérios adotados para a escolha do meu novo lar...).

Instalado, passei a intercalar alguns finais de semana ociosos - predominantemente em casa, botando a leitura em dia - com indiadas e viagens pelas redondezas. A primeira excursão deu-se à Detroit, onde Julia, do triatlo, faz um pós-doutoramento. Uma quinzena mais tarde, rumei com Nathan, colega do Instituto, e sua namorada Emma, ao parque provincial de Algonquin, onde carregamos nossas mochilas, barracas e sacos de dormir em uma canoa, e remando chegamos ao local do nosso ponto de camping. Uma fogueira e marshmallows garantiram uma autêntico clima de acampamento... Dois finais de semana depois, rumei para Toronto, para um combo de shows - Los Campesinos! numa sexta-feira, e Belle & Sebastian na terça-feira seguinte. No final de semana entre as datas, visitei Omar, colega da NDI em Etobicoke, e passei a segunda-feira, feriado de Ação de Graças, junto com a familia de Emma em North Toronto. Por fim, esta semana acompanhei alguns colegas do instituto a Guelph para uma tarde de escaladas - uma forma muito divertida de descobrir que também os músculos superiores são capazes de deslocar o corpo :) . De resto, ocupo os finais de tarde e os outros finais-de-semana com brunches, jantas ou cervejadas com colegas do Instituto, treinos com o clube de tênis-de-mesa da Universidade, corridas e caminhadas pelos parques das redondezas, e diversas leituras: estou terminando "Anna Karenina", minha segunda incursão a Tolstoy, além de "The 4-hour workweek", que posso denominar um guia prático ao Whiskas Lifestyle (o subtítulo é "how to escape 9-to-5, live anywhere and join the New Rich"), e "Training and Racing with a Power Meter", para dar aos meus treinamentos uma forma mais estruturada quando da próxima temporada...
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Neste meio tempo, já passaram-se dois dos quatro meses da minha estadia por aqui. As temperaturas já cairam para abaixo de zero em algumas noites; mas bonitos dias de sol e céu azul ainda tem garantido um clima razoavelmente ameno durante o dia - mesmo assim, a calefação da casa já está ligada - o que bastante me agrada: o frio, em condições apropriadas, é muito bem vindo - diria até que esta seria a estação ideal para colocar as leituras em dia, e tudo seria perfeito não fosse o monopólio estatal local a impor preços um tanto quanto inflados aos bons vinhos que me fazem companhia ...


Oh, Canada!

Canadians are people that say "ôt" for "out", "abôt" for "about" and, more importantly, if you bump into them, they will apologise. "How I met your mother" was indeed a good introductory course, the people here couldn't be any friendlier. I'll elaborate further. On my way from Toronto's airport to Waterloo, I boarded a bus which required exact change. I explained the driver I had just landed and had only a $20 bill on me. He waved me in, "say what, I'll let you get in, maybe you can find some change with another guest or, worst case, you get this changed at the end terminal". I had barely managed to get my luggage inside and settled into a seat, a passenger approaches me, asking "hey, I heard you need some change... can I help you with that? How much you need change for?".

A few days later, I took a shuttle from our Institute to the main campus (IQC is located quite far out, so either you drive, or take the complimentary university shuttle from the Research Park to the main central campus). I explained the girl driving where I wanted to go, a few blocks away from the shuttle's designated drop-off point. "If you want, I can drive you ôt, otherwise it's a long wôlk there". Wow, they really say that.
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The first week was filled with, well, first week chores. Registering, signing paperwork, getting acquainted with the group and its different research topics, and, mostly, scouting for a room, as my accommodations here are only temporary. I have some visits lined up for the coming days, keep your fingers crossed.

What else can I say? The Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) is a top-notch research facility focused on both experimental and theoretical aspects of quantum information-relevant tasks. The atmosphere seems really nice; staff is friendly; and rumours have it, there's even a table tennis table somewhere :) . Unfortunately, the espresso machine broke down two days after I arrived (hmm.. is there a correlation?), and the regular coffee they offer is... americano, to put it in mild terms. There's also free food (!) three times a week during seminars/colloquia which are held at lunchtime, and numerous social events to foster contact between researchers.
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Precisely aiming to network with my fellow peers, I joined the weekly basketball game held Friday evenings in the court which is set in the Institute's parking lot. Sure, I hadn't played since high school, but figured I could at least run back and forth in the field and eventually have some fun. Our team took a beating, and I developed two huge blisters in both feet - apparently, if you're going to be running and jumping around for two hours, proper footwear is required. Duly noted for next week...

Whiskas Travelling Commentary

Besides the obviously different perspectives which one gains from visiting different cities, countries or continents, I typically take travelling as an opportunity to sync up with the newspapers, as the waiting time between flights or trains - combined with the typically unreasonable prices for Internet access found at airports (*) - is best spent with a good read. So why not take this as a chance to present the Grad Line's readers with Whiskas' own take on the events around the world (**) ?
The headlines on virtually every major German periodic today discuss a change of Obama's opinion related to the construction of a Mosque somewhere close to the former site of the former World Trade Center in southern Manhattan, first supposedly supporting, now apparently denying it. Now, if we take the president's words precisely as the articles themselves put it, he did not put a case for any direction, and only spoke in name of the constitutional right to freedom of speech and religious choice. That the opposition takes anything which can be even vaguely framed as an opinion on the matter as material for a critic should not surprise anyone, but it highlights just how much the Americans are now distant from the ideals that once stood as paramount.

In contrast, one could say the "conservative" Europeans are the ones who are - to a certain extent - setting the example in not becoming religiously-motivated belligerent police States - with support from many discussions about what sort of moral behaviour I should expect were I to go for a States-side visit during my time in Canada. But the second set of headlines we read - on the immense levels of citizen-initiated protests against Google's plans of offering its Street View service - show that such a contrast is only relative, and Europeans still have conservative opinions of their own. Goethe's countrymen appear concerned about their house's façades, streets and parks being made available in digital format for the world to see. While the point could be well taken for the privacy of one's own home, what the perpetrators of such protests wish to protect that would otherwise not be accessible to an ordinary citizen walking and photographing (or painting, or writing, should the extra concerns relate to the digital media storage of such depictions) remains a mystery to me. I had a chance of using Street View when scouting for a place to stay in Waterloo, and, attesting to the usefulness of the service, I should thank all open-minded Canadians of Whatever Street that did not deny their neighbourhood being brought online. Cheers.

Germans can't agree if retirement should take place at 65, 67 or 70 years; and argue if a 50% tax on incomes above 80k a year, brutto, is fairer as a 35% on those over 50k/yr, brutto. They also discuss a new tax on nuclear fuel, which prompts power plant operators to consider shutting them off entirely as this would make them economically non-viable; ironically, were these reactors switched off, the necessary energy to balance the grid would be brought from foreign nuclear plants, from countries where such taxes are not in place, effectively just shifting the issue to a different location.

And more rain is forecast for the coming week, but this should not matter: not because I'll be long gone, but rather for everyone that had their chance to move out long ago (and still have!), but never did (and, as it seems, never will). Weather provides the perfect excuse to keep complaining, making the dark grey skies very fitting.
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The plane was delayed for almost two hours; besides a complimentary newspaper, not a single glass of water was offered for the waiting passengers. Still, we made it to the other side, and while the connections I had written down were then long departed, I managed to follow Nathan's public transport instructions and got to Waterloo just before 11 pm. But that's already another post.
(*) "Air travel is a joke", reads a t-shirt which I am still to print. The premise that every traveller is a potential terrorist subjects everyone from young children to pregnant mothers and elder citizens to long inspections lines; moreover, commercial pressure allows airlines to deny passengers of not only leg room - already a given when flying Economy - but lately also any sort of snack or beverage. While the need for more profitable passenger-miles can be well understood in times of economic recession, decency should still allow for a regular-sized human to travel with moderate comfort, and any reasonable calculation can show that it is not the few cents saved by sparing a cup of coffee or a can of soda that is going to drive airlines out of the red numbers and into profitable margins.
And then there's the airports. While you can always get decent-priced food, coffee and hotels around any bus or train terminal - in fact, typically the cheapest ones in any given town - airports induce just the opposite, inducing all sorts of "convenience taxes" and what the hell else. I'm still all for paying ten euros or dollars more for a ticket every time I fly, but having access to reasonable-priced internet access, coffee, snacks. And a seat I'll fit, please.

(**) "Every home owner, or even every tenant nails his name plate on the door, like a coat of arms and studies the morning paper as if he were a world leader. (...) [There are] as many small states as there are individuals. And these small states are mobile. Everyone carries his own state with him..."
from Wim Wenders' Der Himmel über Berlin - a great movie, by the way.


Of koalas, taxis, and other Aussie stories

The almost thirteen-hour flight across up to five timezones, which I encounter whenever I fly to Brazil, are nothing in comparison. A total of 26 hours aboard airplanes, first from Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi, then to Singapore, and finally to Brisbane, crossing no less than eight time zones, were a whole new game. But with a bit of planning and appropriately-timed in-flight sleep, I managed to arrive in Brisbane well synchronized with the local time. There, I met my Institute colleagues Benoit and Kaisa at our booked university accommodation, and together we went out to explore the city of Brisbane and its surroundings, culminating with a wonderful swim in the Pacific. The only, barely noticeable manifestation of the dreaded jet lag was found in my early 20.30-ish bedtime. So far, so good.

The conference, which began on Monday, was a great opportunity to put faces to many of the names I had become quite familiar with through journal articles over the last year and a half. Some interesting discussions on all levels, ranging from experimental implementations to theoretical proposals to near-philosophical interpretations of the universe as one huge quantum computer. Found others working on similar topics as mine, exchanged some ideas, received some feedback on my poster's results, and left with a few ideas to work on. In fact, one person who asked a few questions about my poster also happened to be a certain famous taxi-driver-turned-physicist. As luck would have it, I also had a poster about Quantum Taxi Driving - what are the odds of that? :) - which I promptly brought out. After the proper explanations, Tim Ralph posed for a picture, and thus I won my bet with Peter Rohde, who had challenged me, two weeks earlier, to approach his former advisor and start a conversation about taxis. Except for the coffee, which was terrible - I soon resorted to a nearby coffee shop for my daily fix of quality espresso - QCMC was fantastic.

Oh, we also had a mid-conference tour of a Koala sanctuary, which was in fact a fully featured zoo with every possible Australian animal. Played a bit with guinea pigs, kangaroos and even cuddled a koala - but didn't pay the 15 dollar fee for my picture to be taken with them. Still, there are pictures aplenty in the usual place.

With the conference over, joined with Benoit in our plans of checking out the Whitsunday Islands, some 900km further up North. From the launching pad of Airlie Beach, we boarded the 75ft sailboat Habibi for a three-day, two-night cruise of the islands. Unfortunately, the weather gods didn't provide us with the blue-skied backdrop the travel brochures so marvelously depicted, but it doesn't matter. We had a great time sailing, snorkeling amidst the corals, walking the white sands of Whitehaven beach, and also playing card games and drinking cheap wine onboard :) . But the lack of postcard-perfect shots means I'll have to try my luck there sometime again in the future...

Boat trip over, we rushed to the airport for our flight to Sydney, where we arrived late Tuesday evening. We had some sushi in a small Asian eatery and made it back to our hostel, appropriately named "Wake Up!", for a basement rock'n'roll party. Wednesday greeted us with overcast skies and a constant drizzle, but we decided to soldier on and see as much as possible, given our limited time schedule. Again, the shots of the Opera House and its world-famous bridge background weren't nearly as impressive as I'd have liked, but were enough for an "I've been there" kind of proof. We were then guided by a fine gentleman named Arthur, who found us in the tourist shop inside the Opera and took some time to walk us through the main downtown district around Circular Quay, where, after parting ways, we took the ferry to Manly Beach - another wonderful journey which I should definitively undertake some other day in more favorable weather conditions. After dinner in a charming Argentinean tapas restaurant, we met a long-time family friend of mine, Juliano, who has been working in Sydney for over three years now. Now, even though we don't talk so often, there's just something about meeting people - former classmates, family members or long-lost friends - abroad, and finding so much in common to discuss. In spite of the price, which will be discussed in a forthcoming post, viajar é preciso - "traveling is a must".

Thursday presented us with slightly better conditions; we walked through Darling Harbour all the way to the Fish Market, before it was time for me to head back to the hostel to pick my stuff and head to the airport, while Benoit would still enjoy one more day before flying back on Friday.

The direct, westward flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi didn't fit my sleep schedule so well as the inboud flight, but I still managed to wake up just before landing in Frankfurt, at around 6 am, local time. Suffered the train ride back, was greeted at the station by Monica, and had a pleasant surprise of finding some fresh supplies in my fridge provided by Benjamin. Home, sweet home. The rest of the day went on trying to keep awake, before collapsing around 8 pm and sleeping all the way to 2 am on Saturday (this got better as I woke up just past 4 am on Sunday, and was finally synchronized back to local time on Monday, when I woke up at 6 am).
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Now just one more week, and I'll be boarding again to yet another continent: another six time zones, a new apartment, a new office, and hopefully some new results. Buckle your seatbelt, Dorothy, 'cause Erlangen is going bye-bye...



The Atlantic was born today and I'll tell you how...
The clouds above opened up and let it out
And thousands upon thousands made an ocean,
Making islands where no island should go.
Death Cab for Cutie sang "Transatlanticism" as I celebrated my 21st time across the Big Water Pond. There, and back again - once again. In fact, it was my 5th time over in less than two years of graduate studies in Germany. No, it's not a routine thing; see the Ausnahmezustand post from a few weeks back. And yet, yes, I have to accept that my life is now here, but I was born there. Just how does one live normally with that?
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That was early May, and I had just flown over to Brazil for my father's 60th birthday party. I flew on a Tuesday, and by Friday I was back home in Erlangen. We're now in July, and I'm about to begin a new series of trips abroad. First, Whiskas is going Down Under - I'll be presenting some results at the Tenth International Conference on Quantum Communication, Measurement and Computation (QCMC), in Brisbane, Austra-li-a. I'll extend my stay for a few days, hoping to get some snorkelling and backpacking before flying back. My time in Erlangen will be kept short, though, as after two weeks I'll be crossing the Atlantic again, this time to Canada, where the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo will host me for a semester abroad. And I should still visit Brazil one more time while there, let's see how that will work out.
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For two days in a row this week, I arrived at the office with a desire for a night at the Mulligan pub with my old gang. No matter how many new friends I have made over here, some people are simply irreplaceable. However, the converse is also true. I've been enjoying great rides while training and racing in company of my teammates; the PhD enjoys favorable winds, and has thus far provided a unique experience allowing me to meet people from all over . In fact, I've recently made a count, and in the course of my PhD, I have made friends from no least than 19 different nationalities and virtually every continent. Yes, it'll be tough to get them all together someday, but maybe it's a small price to pay after all...


Asleep on a Sunbeam, em português

(Click here for the original English version)- - -
(Para a letra da música que intitula este relato, veja o original.)
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Enquanto os alemães celebram sua vitória por um a zero no Tal Negócio de Futebol, uma infinidade de buzinas tocam, uma gritaria generalizada. Mas eu, longe de estar assistindo a partida junto à hordas de tedescos bêbados, estava acompanhando pela rede um evento muito mais interessante: a partida na quadra 18 de Wimbledon entre John Isner e Nicolas Mahut, que, ainda naquele segundo dia, já fazia história como a disputa mais longa da história do tênis, com mais de nove horas de duração.

Naquela mesma tarde, havia treinado com meu colega francês Cédric. Ao longo do nosso trajeto pelos arredores de Erlangen, discutimos como os motoristas estavam particularmente impacientes com nosso pedalar lado-a-lado (a lei aqui ordena que ciclistas andem em fila, mas isto é tipicamente tolerado se não for feito em avenidas ou estradas muito movimentadas). Concluimos que todos estavam tão nervosos pois queriam chegar logo em casa para assistir ao jogo. Futebol - ou talvez o fanatismo a ele associado - arrastam qualquer cultura e civilização a um estado terceiro-mundista desolável. E ainda por cima, todas estas manifestações nacionalistas que, em qualquer outra ocasião, serviriam de pretexto para uma nova Grande Guerra. Aff.

Se estou a torcer pela Alemanha, é somente pois a loja onde comprei meu novo notebook oferece um prêmio/desconto significativo se a seleção nacional retornar vitoriosa - e eu posso, de fato, usar uns euros a mais no meu orçamento. Ainda assim: apesar do meu ódio pelo futebol, sou capaz de dissimular interesse, nesses tempos de copa do mundo, principalmente pela manutenção de interações sociais menos polêmicas. Fora isso, estou cagando e andando.
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Neste último fim-de-semana, conquistei minha primeira vitória em solo europeu. Cronometrei 25m02s no campeonato aberto de contra-relógio de Straubling, pequena cidade às margens do Danúbio, no leste do estado. Pedalei a uma média de 47.2km/h, que foi suficiente para ganhar na Elite - o segundo lugar, Alex Biewald, levou quase um minuto a mais no mesmo trajeto, com 25m58s - mas ainda assim, foi uma vitória com um gostinho amargo, dado que dois atletas da categoria Master fizeram tempos melhores - mesmo que só um punhado de segundos: Jürgen Fuchs, que aparece no ranking como um dos 5 melhores do estado, fez 24m55s, enquanto Karl Aichner (10° lugar no Estadual, quase dois minutos à minha frente naquela ocasião), marcou o melhor tempo do dia: 24m54s.

Mas a corrida mais importante ainda estava por vir. O campeonato regional de contra-relógio da Francônia realizava-se nessa terça-feira. Esperava melhorar meu 3° lugar do ano passado, mas as coisas tomaram outro caminho. A agradável tarde de verão, com temperaturas amenas e tempo seco - ano passado a prova se desenrolou embaixo de chuva - influenciou não só meu tempo, mas também a participação no evento, com quase 180 ciclistas completando o percurso de 15.3km em forma de T, ao sul de Nürnberg. Além das minhas habilidades deficitárias nas duas curvas de 180° do trajeto - derrapei na primeira, e abri demais na segunda, quase entrando calçada adentro - faltou um ritmo mais forte, especialmente no trecho de subida dos últimos quilômetros. Consegui alcançar três ciclistas que largaram na minha frente, e ainda baixei em 18s meu tempo do ano passado (de 21m14s para 20m56s), mas com isso só consegui o 4° lugar, ficando de fora do pódium por 9s. Michael Schultz da equipe de Aichach, que abriu fuga comigo na clássica de Schrobenhausen no início da temporada, levou as honras, com Markus Beck e meu colega de equipe, Christoph Schwedt, completando o top 3.

Nada menos que 76 corredores tiveram médias iguais ou superiores a 40km/h, o que, dado o percurso acidentado em que a prova foi disputada, mostra o calibre do pelotão em uma prova regional típica. Olhando por este lado, minhas performances ao longo das últimas semanas - lançando ataques nas últimas voltas, e seguidas vezes abrindo fugas - não são inteiramente insignificantes. Mas ainda assim, sinto que os resultados não tem correspondido da mesma forma. Ainda preciso melhorar meu posicionamento e minha confiança para andar no meio do pelotão, para só então os resultados ficarem de acordo com aquilo a que as pernas são capazes...
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Passei algum tempo nos últimos dias folheando o Lonely Planet em preparação para minha viagem para a Austrália, daqui a três semanas. Depois da conferência, fico ainda mais uma semana por lá, em companhia de Benoit, colega francês do Instituto. De mochila nas costas, queremos explorar o que for possível neste tempo, que já parece ser demasiado curto. É de qualquer forma muito pouco tempo para atravessar o continente pedalando, e com os custos e incomodações associados ao transporte da bicicleta, não justificaria levá-la somente para uma prova de circuito por lá. Pelo jeito, a bicicleta só vai conhecer a Oceania mais tarde...

Ainda no assunto de viagens inter/transcontinentais, meu projeto de pesquisa para um semestre em Waterloo, Canadá foi aceito no início desta semana. Igualmente, não pretendo levar a(s) bicicleta(s) para lá quando agosto chegar: poucas corridas, e o outono/inverno se aproximando fizeram-me desistir da idéia. Ao invés de pedalar, vou procurar uma academia para malhar durante o inverno - e complementar com outras atividades - um tour de caiaque e algumas longas caminhadas estão nos planos, se o clima permitir.

Para ambas viagens, ainda preciso de uma mochila nova, talvez lentes novas para minha câmera, e alguns outros acessórios. Tantos brinquedos, e só uma bolsa...
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Duas semanas trás, acreditava ter encontrado um argumento muito convincente extendendo uma prova de impossibilidade para uma classe muito maior de estados. Tudo que faltava eram meras formalidades matemáticas, fisicamente tudo parecia fazer perfeito sentido. Esta semana, todos os cálculos parecem sugerir que encontrei uma exceção, e assim esta impossibilidade - na qual todos acreditavam, era dada como fato por todos nas últimas reuniões do grupo - não é verdadeira. Ainda estou no processo de revisão formal para garantir que nada passou desapercebido, mas se o algoritmo que propûs de fato funcionar como imaginado, será uma virada de mesa bem interessante para toda a área de códigos de correção de erro gaussianos...

Com resultados ou não, todavia, ainda tenho a impressão que meu formalismo é raso: tenho novas idéias constantemente, mas não consigo expressá-las propriamente com afirmações matemáticas propriamente definidas - ou ao menos, não com a desenvoltura que eu gostaria. Um paralelo com a situação no ciclismo não é difícil de ser traçado.
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Morando no meu próprio canto, eu às vezes me divirto com a vida de solteiro, com roupas de ciclismo por todos os lados, louça de alguns dias empilhada na cozinha, e isotônicos e cervejas a torto e direito. Mas também me orgulho muito de quão aconchegante e arrumado consigo manter o apartamento quando assim o desejo (ou preciso...). Como é de se esperar, estes dois estados se alternam, em ciclos que ultimamente tem sido de alguns dias para cada um. Igualmente alterno períodos nos quais passo bastante tempo em casa lendo, escrevendo, navegando ou cozinhando - e outros nos quais "casa" é só um lugar para dormir ou trocar de roupas, numa rotina que me leva do treino para o Instituto e de lá para algum bar e fins-de-semana nos quais mal paro em casa, graças a agenda pontuada de corridas...
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A vida que eu tanto esperava, e há tanto planejava. Talvez eu até devesse aproveitá-la um pouco mais... mas a Solidão do Corredor de Meio Fundo é assunto para um outro post.


Asleep on a Sunbeam

(Aos leitores da língua de Saramago, informo que a este post seguir-se-á em breve sua tradução em português)
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Lying here asleep on a sunbeam
I wonder if you realise you fascinate me so

Think about a new destination

If you think you need inspiration
Roll out the map and mark it with a pin
I will follow every direction
Just lace up your shoes while I'm fetching a sleeping bag, a tent...

Another summer's passing by

All I need is somewhere I can feel the grass beneath my feet
A walk on sand, a fire I can warm my hands
My joy will be complete
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As the Germans celebrate their one-nill score in that Big Soccer Thing, horns abound. But, instead of joining hordes of drunk countrymen in watching the event, I was following live tickers from the much more interesting "Wimbledon Forever" match between Mahut and Isner, which had by then already made history with over nine hours of court time. That was sport.

That same evening, I had gone on a training ride with my French teammate Cédric; along our route through the outskirts of Erlangen, we discussed how the drivers were impatient with our two-abreast riding, and concluded: "everyone is so nervous because they feel they must get home before the match begins". Soccer - or rather the fanaticism associated with it - drags any culture down to the lowest standard possible. And don't get me started on these "nationalist feelings". Phew.

If I am cheering for Germany, is only because the shop from which I bought my new notebook is offering a significant cash-back should the Germans return victorious - and I could really use some extra euros in my budget. In spite of my soccer hatred, I'm able to fake interest pretty well for the sake of social interaction in these World Cup times, but otherwise, I couldn't care less.
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I scored my first victory in European soil this past weekend, stopping the clock at 25m02s in Straubling's open time trial championships. The resulting 47.2km/h average was enough for the first place in the man's Elite class - with second placed Alex Biewald almost a minute behind at 25m58s, but still a bittersweet win as two Masters' riders could better my time - even if only for a handful of seconds: Jürgen Fuchs, a top 5 rider in the state 40+ rankings, managed a 24m55s, while Karl Aichner, who placed 10th and beat me by almost two minutes in the Bavarian Championships, clocked the best time of the day: 24m54s.

The more important race for me was still to come, however: Franconia's time trial championships took place this Tuesday evening. I was looking forward to improving from my 3rd place last year, but it was not to be. The dry, mild early summer weather - compared to last year's rainy 15-ish degrees - had a noticeable influence not only on the times, but also on the turnout, with almost 180 starters for the T-shaped 15.3km course. In addition to my poor handling in the curves - skidding in the first, and overshooting the second 180° turn, I lacked a stronger rhythm in the uphill leg. I did overtake three cyclists which started before me, and still managed to shave 18s over last year's 21m14, but this year a 20m56 was only good for 4th place, missing the podium for 9s. Michael Schultz from Aichach, who I knew from a long breakaway in the Schrobenhausen spring classic, took the honors, with Markus Beck and my teammate Christoph Schwerdt rounding out the top 3.

No less than 76 riders managed a better-than-40km/h average in the quite undulating course, which shows the depth of the fields in a typical local race over here. Through this perspective, my performance over the past few weeks - launching attacks in the final laps, or consistently making the breakaway - is not entirely insignificant, but still, I feel that my results haven't been commensurately matching. There's still a lot of mental work to do before the scoreboards match the legs...
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Spent some time skimming through Lonely Planet's Australia guide in preparation for my upcoming trip down under. Can't make up the best way to explore everything I'd like in just under a week. It's definitively too short for another coast-to-coast cycling challenge; and even if just for one single circuit racing, it's an enormous hassle given the connections and my plans to go backpacking with Benoit. I guess I won't make it with a bicycle there until another later time...

Speaking of intercontinental traveling, the acceptance of my research proposal for a semester in Waterloo, Canada came in earlier this week. But I'm also not planning to fly (any of) the bike(s) over there come August: the sparse racing schedule, and the looming autumn, have discouraged it. Instead, I'll be facing some serious gym time over early winter - in addition to kayaking and hiking trips, weather permitting.

For both these trips, I must still buy myself a new rucksack, maybe some new lenses for my camera, and a few other accessories. So many toys, and just one scholarship...
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Two weeks ago, I believed I had come up with a very convincing argument extending a known impossibility proof to a much wider class of states. All that was missing were minor mathematical formalities; physically it seemed to make complete sense. Today, all calculations suggest I've found an exception and as such, this impossibility proof - in which everyone believed, and was all but settled in several internal group discussions - doesn't hold. A formal review is pending to see if my algorithm indeed works as depicted, but this would be a very interesting turn for the Gaussian quantum error correction tide.

With results or not, however, I still have the feeling that my formalism is shallow; new ideas flow in constantly, but I'm unable to direct them to properly defined mathematical statements - or at least not with the prowess I would like to. A parallel with cycling is not hard to find.
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Living in my own little apartment, I sometimes enjoy my bachelor lifestyle with cycling clothes all over the place, cookware from several days piled in the kitchen, and sports drinks and beers pretty much everywhere. I will also take pride in just how tidily cozy I can make everything when I want to. Predictably, these two states alternate - the cycles have been typically of a few days for each one. I also alternate periods in which I'm very much at home - independently of the apartment being in the organized or disorderly state - and will then extensively read, write, browse or cook - and others in which home is just the place I go for a change of clothes, as I hop from training to the Institute to some bar get-together...
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The life I had long hoped and planned for. Maybe I should even enjoy it some more., but the Loneliness of the Middle Distance Runner is yet another post.


The fallen are the virtuous among us - ou, a teoria dos bens internos de MacIntyre

You've already been and we've already seen
That the fallen are the virtuous among us
Walk among us
Never judge us to be blessed
As linhas acima vem de "The Fallen", da banda escocesa Franz Ferdinand. Há quase um ano, iniciei um rascunho de título muito parecido, onde elaborava: "Not the winners and the glorified, but rather those who've tasted the bitterness of falling, are the ones who carry our times' most true virtues. Or is it?". Neste meio tempo, li "After Virtue", de Alasdair MacIntyre, onde o autor elabora sobre o discurso moral e faz uma análise bastante interessante sobre o papel das virtudes.

Nas últimas semanas, esboçava - mentalmente, devo dizer, travando diálogos comigo a caminho do Instituto - outro rascunho para o blog, onde queria discorrer sobre a competência técnica enquanto mecanismo de validação. Recordei que já havia abordado um assunto semelhante em outro post, e no comentário da Monica a teoria de Csikszentmihalyi me remeteu àquela de MacIntyre, que me levou, por sua vez, ao rascunho com a música de "Fallen". But I digress.

Queria descrever a busca pela competência - na Física, no ciclismo, ou em qualquer outra prática que eu exerça - como sendo um componente fundamental para me sentir pleno. Importante distinguir aqui que não trata-se de uma busca frugal por resultados - que MacIntyre chama de "bens externos", que nas práticas citadas acima seriam talvez publicações em revistas de renome, ou vitórias em corridas prestigiosas - mas sim a busca pela excelência na atividade em si: desenvolver a capacidade de articular um formalismo abstrato, ou exercer a melhor performance possível sobre a bicicleta - os chamados bens internos.

Aqui cabe, então, revisitar o que escrevia há um ano. Talvez ambos, o corredor que, de forma dominante, conquistou a vitória, e o atleta que abandonou a prova ainda nas primeiras voltas, carreguem de forma equivalente os bens internos da prática do ciclismo. Talvez o atleta derrotado - the fallen - tenha sofrido o preço de um resfriado ou uma lesão, ou um erro de estratégia, mas mesmo assim tenha, no caminho percorrido até a disputa daquele evento, feito a melhor preparação possível, estudando o posicionamento sobre a bicicleta, cuidando de sua alimentação, e apreciando cada uma das sofridas sessões de treinamento - e que assim definem seu êxito no esporte. O vencedor, porém, estará potencialmente inebriado com as láureas da fortuna, e pode deixar de reconhecer os bens internos que conquistou. Neste sentido - voltando ao meu esboço anterior - seriam aqueles que tombaram os virtuosos mais verdadeiros, pois teriam somente os bens internos consigo.
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Em tempo. Apesar das últimas semanas quebrando a cabeça atrás de uma teoria que não surge nunca, apesar do recente abandono na última prova - ainda quero outro artigo, ainda espero um pódium nesta temporada. E algumas outras coisinhas mais...



I've never been fully comfortable with the idea of tackling life as something absolutely normal. This is not to say I haven't achieved a certain degree of routine in my daily life - which is, to an extent, a necessary condition if one is to succeed in training or producing academic results - but as I've written before, it's the extraordinary that provides the motivation, the will to look ahead. Given the happenings of the last few months, I can either say I now face commonplace activities with excessive anticipation, or - entitling this post - I've been living in a constant state of exception (Ausnahme, exception; zustand, state).

Maybe not everyday, of course. I still find time to sit in my appartment, enjoy a hot beverage and listen to some music - but my mind is, surely enough, already rushing towards whatever the next big thing will be. This was evidently clear before coming to Europe - from the end of my Bachelor studies, the entire period of my Masters had some out-of-the-ordinary popping up every few months - travelling to Europe a couple of times, winning a race series, the conference in Canada, then driving almost one thousand k's for championships, or the queen of it all, crossing the continent by bike, to name but a few - all while conciliating, or trying to conciliate, the day-to-day activities. It's been no different here. After the initial phase of my Ph.D. studies, which was an exceptional period by itself, the last year was marked by numerous notable happenings. 2010 began on a particularly high note, with the paper rush, moving to a new apartment, a conference, my father's visit, buying the WhiskasWagen, racing the 500 Millas in Uruguay, planning an exchange semester abroad, travelling to Brazil for my father's surprise birthday party, etcetera, etcetera. And already looming on the horizon are a number of equally unusual plans...
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The derailings must be kept in check, though, as I've found myself way too distracted in the last few days. I don't expect to treat my first trip to Australia as a minor event, but at some point one must be able to unplug - which maybe means accepting special circumstances as part of the everyday Whiskas Lifestyle.
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For quite some time now, I've been envisioning a future in bucolic chalet somewhere in the countryside. A healthy dose of exercise, maybe work the land, a glass of wine and a good book's company as some Beethoven sonata plays in the background. Maybe I'm setting myself up for doom with such scenario, but at some point I do intend to try it. Maybe that will be the exception to a routine of out-of-the-ordinaries?


Across the pond

So I crossed the big water pond once again. During the check-in in Frankfurt, someone from the ground staff even noticed "Hey, you've flown with us not too long ago, right? Welcome aboard" . Thanks again, Roni & TAM. Made it to Porto Alegre in time for lunch with Mom, off to the far-away campus for Carol's Master defense, and then the usual get-together at the Mulligan Pub. It felt like I had barely left - indeed, just two months separated my last visit.

Bike assembled on Saturday (thanks, Fleck!), I raced Sunday's 128km Volta das Hortensias, as my first race of the season. 14th place, 3'02" behind the winner, was not bad at all. Showered, had a quick nap, and boarded the overnight bus to the southern border. Raced a very sucessfull 500 Millas with my former Elipse/LAST teammates, which culminated with Gean's 6th place in the overall classification. Had a great time, enjoyed seeing the team in high spirits - and, of course, the morale booster of a strong performance. Myself, had good feelings throughout most stages, was able to take strong pulls, and felt myself slowly coming into form. Weather was great, too. Couldn't have asked for anything more.

My father came over for the last two stages, which was also great as I wouldn't otherwise have had much time for the family. We drove back on sunday evening, arriving back in Porto Alegre in the early hours of Monday. Some sleep to catch up, but not much, as Monday was packed with visiting mostly everyone I'd try to squeeze in - and the already traditional farewell beer-and-pizzas at my dad's. Boarded back on Tuesday, got home late Wednesday evening.

Took the bike out for a spin already the following day - springtime was blossoming, very inviting indeed. Raced Aichach on the weekend, where teammate Benni took a fine 4th place, while I managed to finish inside the main bunch, but unable to move to the front and try any attacks.
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There and back again, in just over a week. Again - but I'll digress on Transatlanticism in a future post. Suffice to say that, a few days later, I was already back in the usual routine. I took extra care not to suffer a temperature shock and come down sick as it happened last year (it apparently worked, felt great the past two weeks). Had some issues with the jet-lag, which I didn't particularly remember from the last spring campaign, but it eventually got dealt with.
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Our paper finally got posted to the online repository, and last week was submitted to a journal. Cross your fingers with us as we await the referee's comments... Meanwhile, I'm trying to get my work focused back on the many different ideas I had before the paper rush took over. And hopefully, get these ideas to some new result...
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Anxiously awaiting this weekend's Bavarian State Cycling Championships, where I hope to significantly improve on last year's 24th place. From there, I'll be able to base my expectations for the upcoming Brazilian National Championships in June - across the pond again, in some two months from now...


Packing - or the Whiskas Lifestyle, yet again

For some particular reason, the act of packing (for some distante destination) motivates me to write. In between disassembling the bike, folding clothes and uniforms and arranging my bike-case, I browsed some of this blog's posts from almost two years ago; a wave of nostalgia soon took over.

But I write not to divagate on the past. Not, at least, such distant past. Rather, the main drive lies in the past few weeks - which have fascinatingly reminded me of all that the Whiskas Lifestyle can comprise. If the off-season was mostly quiet and appropriately deemed to rest - both physical and mental - then as soon as the preparations for 2010 started, so did everything else. The latest paper rush has kept me busy at the Institute since I got back from Brazil in mid-January. Ideas have matured, discussions were improved, and now I can really say I believe it's about as ready as it can get before it is submitted. Coupled to that, my desire to train longer, harder and *smarter* for the upcoming season led to interesting training-eating-resting-working schedules - a vicious routine I have already noted before. Nonwithstanding, I was also involved in a quest to find the WhiskasMobile, which involved checking a number of websites, calling to inquire details, and rushing to a certain dealer - most of the times, only to find the car was already gone (only in some cases were the cars turned down by me or Jan, my friendly auto mechanic advisor). The search finally came to an end last week, as a former cyclist from my team put his 2002 Golf for sale - we settled the deal and I drove the WhiskasWagen 1.0 home this weekend. In between all this, there was still a trip to Recklinghausen for the christening of my cousin's son, my father's visit to Erlangen, and another trip to Hannover, where I presented some intermediate results in the German Physical Society's anual conference.

I am now wrapping up and shall embark - tomorrow, hopefully - on to South America; Porto Alegre for the weekend, and then Artigas in North Uruguay, where, if not to repeat my prologue win of 2008, I hope at least to have a convincing performance to seal the preparations for the upcoming European season. The form is good, the morale is even better; it should be a lot of fun.

"E lá vamos nós
Seguindo a frente fria
Pampa a dentro e através..."
(Vitor Ramil, "Indo ao Pampa")



Creio que a maioria deve ter visto a retrospectiva de 2009. Espero também que muitos de vocês me sigam no twitter , como forma de acompanharem de forma mais imediata alguns dos acontecimentos por aqui. Não obstante, de fato estou um pouco relapso com as atualizações do blog - e espero motivá-los a crer que isso deve ser visto como um bom sinal...

Nem todos acontecimentos entraram na seleção das 100 fotos. Alguns eventos, por exemplo, não tinham uma câmera fotográfica por perto, ou não eram exatamente fotografáveis. Outros estavam temporalmente espalhados, de forma que não podiam ser capturados como um momento, mas sim como um longo processo. Dois mil e nove foi um ano muito bom, como espero que tenha conseguido transparecer nas postagens anteriores, mas insisto: estou morando onde eu queria, estudando um tema que me interessa, com uma bolsa para tal que me sustenta de forma bem adequada, e com flexibilidade suficiente para manter o ciclismo no que, espero, ainda venha ser o melhor nível que jamais atingi. Na universidade, procrastinei um monte, mas tive alguns momentos inspirados. Um resultadinho aqui, uma visão sobre como um sistema funciona, uma percepção melhor da minha área de pesquisa, da ciência como um processo. No ciclismo, além do entrosamento com os colegas de equipe por aqui, e dos novos equipamentos, algumas boas performances, mas que ainda ficaram bem aquém daquilo que espero - o que justifiquei, em parte, como sendo parte da adaptação ao circuito europeu. Grandes expectativas para este segundo ano no doutorado, e para a temporada que se inicia em breve, mas isto é assunto para outra divagação. Bla-bla-blá, whiskas-ciclista-sachê, isto talvez tenha ficado nas entrelinhas. Sejamos mais explícitos, então, com o que não ficou:

- O curso de "Técnicas Avançadas de Tênis-de-Mesa", no semestre de verão. Voltar a empunhar uma raquete, e ainda por cima contar com valiosíssimas dicas e correções técnicas do treinador Freddy Hüber, foi uma grande experiência. No semestre seguinte, que acaba de se encerrar, participei dos treinos livres, como forma de manter uma certa atividade física regular além dos treinos do ciclismo - o que se mostrou uma bem-aventurada alternativa. Devo "descansar" neste semestre de verão, mas já antecipo tornar a jogar no próximo outono...

- A não-ida para o campeonato Brasileiro, que talvez tenha mencionado em alguma postagem de meados de junho ou julho. Foi uma decisão bastante significativa, tendo em vista que havia organizado boa parte da temporada com este objetivo. Motivou também uma reflexão sobre quais são meus objeivos ciclísticos a longo prazo; de uma forma ou de outra, ainda aproveitei muito as demais corridas e, principalmente, os diversos treinos ao final das agradáveis tardes de verão, pedalando pelas montanhas da Suíça Francônica...

- Minha carteira de motorista européia. A carteira brasileira era válida aqui somente nos primeiros seis meses após fixar residência; após este prazo - que para mim se completou no início de maio - eu deveria validá-la perante às autoridades locais. Conforme o país de procedência, essa validação requer apenas uma tradução juramentada, ou somente o exame teórico, ou - caso tupiniquim - o exame teórico e prático. Estudei toda a apostila e gabaritei o exame teórico, fiz algumas aulas para aprender os "macetes" da prova aqui - além, é claro, de algumas peculiaridades de um trânsito ordens de magnitude mais civilizado do que estava acostumado. De habilitação na mão, estou agora à busca do Whiskasmóvel #1...

- No apagar das luzes de 2009, um grupo brasileiro publicou um artigo que, à primeira leitura, parecia conter resultados muito parecido com os que eu e a Nadja havíamos obtido nos últimos meses. Tal publicação apareceu numa sexta-feira, após a festa de fim-de-ano do grupo, e poucos dias antes de todos nós debandarmos para casa para as festas de Natal. Como reação imediata, em um final-de-semana escrevi um artigo para enviarmos como resposta e assim "demarcar nosso território" - o que acabou não acontecendo, pois ao apresentá-lo na segunda-feira, meu orientador concluiu que poderíamos explorar nossas contas de outra forma, e assim ter uma certa independência dos resultados já publicados. Neste meio tempo, já se passaram mais de dois meses, o artigo já cresceu algumas páginas, com muitas edições e revisões. O processo parece às vezes um tanto frustrante, mas é uma forma única (se não a única forma) de realmente conhecer nosso trabalho...

- Por fim, em meio à correria do artigo, recebi naquela última semana em Erlangen a notícia de que havia "vencido" a disputa por um simpático apartamento na Ulmenweg 17. Aceitei de imediato, marcando a data da "posse" para 1o de Fevereiro, quando já estaria de volta do recesso de Natal e Ano Novo no Brasil. Estou prestes a completar 45 dias na nova casa, que aos poucos vai tomando a cara do seu novo dono. Fotos entrarão em breve em alguma galeria...
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Este post vai ao ar com algumas semanas de atraso, mas espero nas próximas semanas emendar com mais uma divagação sobre este inverno que se encerra (ou não, dada a quantidade de neve lá fora...), a tão esperada chegada da primavera, e com sorte relatar também sobre o novíssimo Whiskasmóvel, a publicação do nosso artigo, etcetera, etcetera. Até lá!