Another century of fakers.

It was a typical Fall day, grey, cold, and rainy. Mathematica was taking too long to calculate an expression, leading me to alt-tab to my browser, fire up google maps, and start daydreaming: "we should do this ride someday", "hmm, maybe one can drive all the way to...", or, "I should take the train and follow this route..." .

I drifted east, and further east. And, realizing I knew very little of some northern-India province, I wikipedia'ed it. And then clicked through to China. And further to the relations between those countries, and Taiwan. And some other countries in the region. And their takes on strategic nuclear war. Non-proliferation treaties, non-first-use policies, minimum credible deterrences. And somehow I landed at the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. (PapaTango, anyone?). Snap. Wake up, Neo.
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Over the past week, my Brazilian friends were involved in a discussion on that country's local state of affairs, following a very revealing interview by the president. At one point, one noted that many of us had actually already left the country, precisely or in part due to some of the issues underlying the current problems. However, we were also quick to realize that other countries, including those which currently serve as havens to those in exile, may be doomed the same fate, however possibly through different mechanisms or in different time scales. Time will tell how different cultures will deal with this increasing entropy; nevertheless an exhaustive treatise on social thermodynamics is beyond the scope of the present rambling (for which this paragraph serves merely as some sort of reminder or placeholder).
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One of the following is true:
- no matter how much I devote myself to understanding, classifying, and eventually working towards the solution of all those outstanding issues, I won't make a single, measurable difference; or
- there's a non-zero probability of causing change. Cue to the disputed Margaret Mead quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. "
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The staggering popular repercussion following Apple's CEO Steve Job's passing have astonished me. I remember wearing a black armband once, after the passing of a famous Brazilian sportsman, some fifteen years ago. For a moment I wondered if my relationship to sports, and athletes, was so different from that to technology, and its inventors - but found them to be more alike than apart. Still, all those the flowers and candles across, virtually, all countries which have access to a modern computer?

It's not that I want to defend my own sci/tech heroes - however I should believe that there are much worthier contributions from, say, Tim Berners-Lee, Richard Stallman, or Linus Torvalds. Rather, it's about those countless, virtually unknown, members of the community, who, maybe as a matter of principle, will never be in the spotlight, but yet, through their unsung efforts, keep the vast and complex structure afloat which enables this iGadget generation to enjoy those very instances for which they now praise but one single icon.
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Behold, the calculation has reached some result... but, alas!, again, it doesn't match. Back to the drawing board - it seems I'll get to write more soon...


The Atlantic was (re)born today

It was June and we were in Munich for the weekend. We had camped by a lake, gone biking in the Alps, ran a 10k run, and were wrapping it up with a concert by Death Cab for Cutie. The final song played was Transatlanticism, for which we had been waiting the whole evening. The first few keystrokes of the intro led us to embrace; I cried joyfully throughout the whole performance as we celebrated a long-awaited victory over the dreaded waters which, for so many turbulent months, we had so often cursed.

Fast-forward 16 weeks, and our summer bliss went by too fast.

Yesterday, driving back from the airport, the soundtrack from that concert somehow made its way to my playlist. The ocean was back, and though some perspectives may be quite different this time around - it is still less of a lake, and more of a moat. May it be not for long.

I need you so much closer.