Friday, December 25, 2009


Personal Manifesto




It's Christmas night, late, I am tired from having an exhaustingly good day. It was so nice today that I can't stand to be awake anymore, yet, I feel compelled to share with the whole world my most personal thoughts, I will briefly attempt to describe the forces that drive my life, the principles that I attempt to live by.

But first, let me tell you about my day. Anthony woke us up at 5:45 AM, we opened our Christmas presents at 6:00, we had my sister, Chuck and my in-laws over for breakfast, I got a couple of good books, cologne and a shirt, the kids got a lot presents. I spent some time with my parents, went to the park, put the kids to bed (that was a battle), drank a shocktop beer, watched Benicio del Toro's CHE, which I highly recommend, if not for the battle scenes. Took a long bath and now that I am ready to go to bed, I got this feeling that I must write this post.


The number one principle in my life, it's quite simple and generic, but it's the most powerful thing, and I think it's what got me to where I am today, I am not sure but I believe this comes straight out of the USMC leadership manual:

"Know yourself and constantly seek self-improvement"


That is it my friends, that's my life in a nutshell, the rest it's just details.

Know yourself



As simple as this sounds, this is the most difficult thing I think. Sometimes it's easier to see other people's fault than our own. This takes personal honesty and courage. It's tough to face one's fears, to work on our weaknesses and to identify the areas in which one is best suited for.

constantly seek self-improvement



I try, and I try, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I take longer to succeed, occasionally I fail, I always make mistakes, but I never give up.



I think I started using this principle right after I went through a period of personal failures while I was in the second half of my enlistment in the Corps. I learned a lot about myself and about leadership from my own failures as a leader.


The second principle has been with me for a little while now, but only recently did it actually form as a concise sentence. I don't think it's original at all, I heard the same message on different formats all over the place, but here it is:

"To gain peace of mind, make sure your actions match your values"



This one is hard, because there are many factors that shape our own actions, This means that our values must be always present in our minds when we speak and when we do things, which is easier said than done.

The areas of my life that I wish to improve are the following:

1. My relationships with the people I care about.

Being a good Dad, husband, brother, son, and friend.
Not much to say here except that it's very personal and that I care about this the most. Nothing else matters iff I don't do this one right.

2. Emotional Intelligence and Social IQ

This is new one for me, I had developed this disdain for people who used "charm" or "people skills" to get their ways, I always saw that as manipulating and selfish, I have always been looking inward to get to know myself, but now I recognize that I need to understand other people in order to succeed in life, this is accomplished by developing a genuine interest in other people, by practicing Empathy, this is a challenge for me, I have always lived inside my own head sort of speak, and I really don't "get" other people, this has gotten me in trouble in the past, I've decided I will end this problem and become proficient in people skills, the good news is that I learned a lot about people in the service, now the hard part is to actually apply the knowledge.


3. My Craft, my Profession

This one I enjoy doing. I love Computer Engineering, and I am always trying to expand my horizons. I could write a 5 page blog spot on this topic alone. I am constantly reading about the craft and discovering ways to become a better Engineer. The Master's Degree, Programming books and blogs, practicing coding on my own, these are the things I've been doing to become better .

The art of computer programming is so rich, enthralling and exciting that I really enjoy improving this area, it's rewarding to have a profession that I love.


4. Handyman around the house

This I don't enjoy as much, but I recognize its necessity. I need to know how to maintain my house, repair appliances, dry wall, roofs and that stuff, I am not naturally inclined to do stuff with my hands, but it's a role that I must fulfill, so I might as well go all in, maybe I'll even have fun doing it.

So I think that is it. I have covered pretty much my whole life, at least the driving forces behind my actions. This is what keeps me busy.




Monday, December 21, 2009


I am glad




I am glad we have flood insurance.

I am glad we caught it early.

I am glad we have good neighbors.

I am glad the kids didn't wake up.

I am glad it the Christmas presents didn't get wet.

You might be wondering, wtf I am talking about, right?
Well, a couple of hours ago after watching a couple of Dexter episodes on netflix, we decided to call it a night. I went downstairs to get a glass of water, when I notice that hum...there's water all over the place, in the kitchen and the living room, to make a long story short, the empty townhouse next door was completely flooded and the waters was seeping over trough the wall, since our building has slight slant, it was going directly to us. I am glad that our neighbors across the street were kind enough to give a helping hand, we spent the last two hours cleaning up. But it's not so bad. Things will look better in the morning.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Avatar the Movie





I thought this was a great movie for multiple reasons. For starters, the Computer Animation was amazing. I really could not tell which parts were CG and which ones were actual camera-captured images. The jungle-planet Pandora looked suspiciously too much like the Amazon rain forest. The waterfalls looked almost exactly like the Angel Falls. In other words, this fils is pure visual candy all around. However, what I think made this movie interesting was the story line:

In the year 2154, the human race has a colony in a planet called Pandora. In this planet we have a mining operation run by some corporation and protected by an attachment of US Marines. The marines are there because of it's inhabitants, the novii

***EDIT***

I started writing a description of the plot but found a much better written one on wikipedia, here's the link

***END OF EDIT****

Anyway, the one thing that stuck with me about this movie, is the fact that a US Marine turned against his own people. I believe that this is a taboo in the culture of the Corps. In a culture where loyalty is given such high value treason is the ultimate sin, literally punishable by death (when done in the face of the enemy, yep it's in the UCMJ) . In this movie Justice is placed on a higher pedestal than loyalty to a group, something that I cannot really disagree with. Still, turning against your own group is so against the Marine ethos that I was a bit disturbed.

I wonder how other marines feel about this movie.

This movie made me think about the things I learned in the Marines, Some of it I see it as necessary things that one must learn in order to survive in battles and win wars. Attention to detail and self-discipline are obvious ones. But the marines have a different code that I believe set them apart, The Marine Corps places an acute emphasis on leadership, down to the lowest enlisted man up the chain to the Commandant all marines are taught the traits of a leader. We are also taught that there's nothing a Marine can't accomplish given a plan and determination. I have been taking all that for grated but I think it's a powerful message. Many people take that and make it work for them outside in the real world. Others completely miss the point and think the Marines is some sort of gun club fraternity, well, it probably is, but I decided to take away the intangibles and utilize it to get ahead. I am no longer in the Corps, but I will alway think of myself as a marine, I am not your typical jarhead, that's for sure, but I am still a marine at heart until the day that I die.



Sunday, December 13, 2009


My Day Off







Finally I am taking a day off. No school work (well, a little, but not much) We're taking the kids to see a movie, I am reading the HItchhiker's guide to the Galaxy, and not much else. Earlier I was looking at the source code for the chrome browser, I am thinking about becoming a contributor. Funny thing is, I have no idea about how web browsers work. I have no knowledge of javascript or css, or any of that stuff, but I don't feel like these things are outside of my reach. Anyway, the crhome project has all the backing of google, it's well documented and it has a lot of support. I want to dabble in it and see what happens.

We'll see how that goes. I was looking into Iphone Apps earlier in the summer, but once the fall semester began it was hard to keep doing it. The problem is that in order to develop an app, (specially in the beginning when the learning curve is steep) I need to spend at least 4 or 5 uninterrupted hours to it. That's not that hard to do in the weekend if I am determined enough. But when I have lectures to watch, textbooks to read, homework to do, projects to write and so on, it's very hard to devote that much time to something else. Coding is not something that I can do 10 minutes at the time, worse yet, it's hard to start something when you know that you will have a lot of interruptions, like when I know I have to stop what I am doing in 20 minutes because of a meeting or some obligation, I can't concentrate. I wish I could do that, but in order for me to do math, write code, or write a blog post, the circumstances have to be JUST RIGHT. If they aren't, things don't come out quite right.

Anyway, I have to go, the movie starts in 40 minutes and we're not ready to go yet.

Be Good to Each Other.

J.V.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Nostalgia






I saw this picture and remembered so many different things about old friends, how different my view of the world was back then, how little did I know about things to come. In this picture I had no idea that in a year the whole world would be different, this is in Rota Spain in the fall of the year 2000, a year later 11 hijackers would have change the course of our Nation, two years later I would be married, 3 years later I would be in Iraq, and here we are, 9 years later, T. and I live in Florida, and I don't have frigging clue what's up with Ben E.

I am very satisfied with the way things turned out. In fact I am glad that things didn't go according to my plan back then. I wanted to go to the Naval Academy or to ROTC. I wanted to study law and someday be a bad ass General.

Today I consider myself a parent, husband, engineer and a civilian citizen, things I can't really do well in that environment. I love it now. I had a great time then, but it's not what I wanted out of life. I am glad I met all the demented people that you see in my facebook pic. I learned more from them than any of Marine Corps Schools I went to.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre





First of all, let it be known, that I don't drink that often at all, but when I do, I drink dos equis...just kidding, but seriously, I rarely drink alcohol, that explains why I am the biggest lightweight ever. A cheap date basically.

I have a friend who I admire a lot who is the biggest fan of wine, he knows all the wineries in Argentina where he is from, and for a while, (this was right after I graduated from FAU), I was trying to become a wine connoisseur myself, but there's one problem, I don't really like wine, and the wines I tasted pretty much tasted the same, well, not the same, but I felt like I was forcing myself to do something that was not me. It didn't feel like something naturally mine. Plus, I would taste a Merlot and a Pinno Noir or something I honestly could not taste the difference, then I would try a different Merlot and it would be something unlike the first Merlot I tried, at the end, I just don't like wine, and that's the fact. Do I have a point you ask? well yes, I do. My point is this: I do like Beer.

I never knew beers could be as complex and as appreciable as wine. It turns out, they go way back to the early days of civilization. Man knew about brews long before we knew about..I don't know things we found out within the last 3K years?

Having said all that, I must confess I am not cut out to be a food critic, I lack the fine palate that a lot of people have. I did a google search for dogfish head's Raison D'Etre, and what I found out impressed me. I kept reading all these things about raisins and cinnamon, and I got very excited, I have never tasted a beer like that! It even compared it to a good wine! So I took the plunge and dove in. These are my findings.

Appearance


This Beer is dark brown, it reminds me of..well, Mahogany, and that's what it says in the label, no surprise there. Actually, Dogfish knows it's market sector pretty well; they market themselves as "off-centered stuff for off-center people" you got that right!. The label for this beer is pretty good:
A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars, green raisins & a sense of purpose

With a label like that I had to give it a chance.

Anyway, there isn't that much head in this brew, and whatever bubbles come up look very tiny, so I am expecting a crisp beer here.

Nose


This was the biggest disappointment. I was expecting to smell raisins, cinnamon, apple cider, Mahogany, but, it just smells like beer to me, a little malty, and maybe some sweetness, but that's all I could detect, so I guess my sense of smell is not as developed.

Taste


This beer tastes good. It's a little malty, not too bad. It leaves your mouth with a sweet aroma, maybe raisins? I like the India Pale Ales, I think my favorite beer is Sierra Nevada. This beer tastes nothing like an IPA, in fact, there's no trace of hops anywhere, however, I think it's pretty good. I don't know if my opinion is shaped by the fact that I have read so many good things about it. I may have been predisposed to like it just because of it's reputation. If I was given this beer blindly, I may be tempted to say no, but only because I prefer the taste of hoppy beers.

Conclusion



Do not drink this beer if you are a lightweight, and you have an empty stomach and have not had too much sleep! The 8% of Alcohol really kicked my ass! I was feeling a buzz after just one beer.

This beer is to be taken seriously. Good beer, but not my favorite. It does make my top ten.

J.V.




Flying Spaghetti Monster






Thanks a lot to Mark A. and Angie A. for blessing us with this great gift, an actual FSM tree topper!

I wish you all a noodly winter soltice!

J.V.

Friday, November 27, 2009



Black Friday





This morning I did something I thought I'd never do. Something that I've criticized in other people. I went to a store in the wee hours of the morning, stood in the cold waiting to buy a stupid gizmo. In this case it was a 32' HDTV for $246. Showed up at 0345 hrs and there was huge line already, I stood there overhearing conversations people were having around me, I was trying to read my book but could not help hearing about how this chick was trying to quit smoking and about how hard it was to fool her husband, who is a cop, I tried to butt in the conversation, but probably came across as the biggest creep, I don't care, I was just trying to be friendly. Anyway, finally the doors opened and people started rushing in, I wanted to get out with my dignity intact, so I did my best not to run to the Electronics section, once I got there I watched in panic as everyone was running in the opposite direction with the LCD TV's in hand, once I got the stash there were only like 3 left, I am not sure, but I think I may have grabbed someone's TV, but I didn't stop to make sure, by the time I had mine in hand, the TVs were all gone. Yes, at 05:03 there were none left. None.

I paid for the TV and went back to the store to see if I could find a $3 toaster or a good deal on an espresso machine, but no luck, everything else was marked up at a regular price, so I came home and went to sleep until the kids and the cats climbed into bed and woke us up.

Lesson learned: I don't think I will do this again, unless it's a really good deal and it's something I really wanted to get anyway. It's ok to try it once, however, people behave strangely when they are grouped into mobs. Crazy. Crazy.

Be Good to each other.

J.V.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving



I am thankful for having a great family and for having the pleasure of knowing so many amazing people. If you are reading this and we've shared a meal or a drink together that means I think you are an awesome person. Thank you.

I am thankful for every breath of air. Being alive is a great gift, as much suffering, struggle, and unfairness we have in life, it still beats being dead. I am not thankful for war, but I am thankful for the lessons I learned from that experience.

I am thankful for living. That is all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Chicago



It's six in the morning in my hotel room. I am heading back home in a few minutes. I had a bitter sweet trip. It sucks that I couldn't bring Martha and the kids. She had to take the reigns all by herself.

I worked really long days here at the Motorola plant, but Friday night and yesterday I got to see Chicago.

My Friend Kamran and I visited a Turkish Restaurant in North Chicago, not far from Wrigley Field. We had a few DogHead Fish Beers. We watched the movie Infinity and had good conversation. The next day we went down to the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. I saw the gorgeous campus. The buildings look like they were built in the Middle Ages, for a minute you lose your sense of place, and forget that you are in the Midwest. I saw the historic site where Fermi did the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. I ate at Medici's a local place where Obama was known to visit. We walked around the quad, and the botanical gardens and then headed to Jimmy's a locally famous dive bar. It was a good day.


School



Wireless Networks this semester. Looks Interesting.

iPhone


I have been spending a lot of time teaching myself Objective-C and the Cocoa environment. I plan on getting into the iPhone Apps business. We'll see how that goes.

Anyway, I got a plane to catch. Be good to each other.

J.V.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oleta State Park








I used to think you had to be rich to enjoy the water here in Florida, but if you go to Oleta State Park, for a very reasonable fee you can rent canoes, Kayaks or Tandems and go out to the beautiful Florida inter-coastal. Just look at the view from the boat: (pic not taken by me)



I highly recommend it. Just don't flip the boat near sharp-edge rocks with two kids onboard, I'm just saying....

This has been one awesome, action-packed weekend, in the past 48 hours Martha and I:
-Hosted a Dinner,
-Hosted a Poker Game,
-Went Canoeing
-Flipped a Canoe
-Watched Two Movies
-Met with other parents from the FLASH parents group at Hollywood Circle
-Rode the bike through the neighborhood
-Almost got run over at State Rd 7.
-Installed a bike rack in the car
...and much more

Needless to say, we are a little tired, but I feel ready for next week, boy I am glad that the summer term course I am taking is not as demanding as the last three classes.

Anyway ya'll, just an update. Take Care of yourselves. Be good to each other.

J.V.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Morn



It's six in the morning, still tired, sleepy from staying up late the night before, (watching Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino) I hear sounds, what is that? The theme for Mickey's Clubhouse? wow, yes it is, I hear knocking on the door, is Anthony, and he is ready for a new day, next thing I know the bed gets overrun, Gaby, Anthony, the cat, Martha and I are crammed up, Anthony is constantly jumping, Martha is checking her email, and I am trying to squeeze another 15 minutes of sleep. It's futile, I wave the white flag and prepare for a brand new day.

There's so much to do, I have to pack for tomorrow's trip, I have a research paper, a midterm, homework questions and a programming assignment, not to mention the fact that we need to pick up around the house, do laundry, and watch Anthony while Martha goes to yet another baby-shower. So many babies that we know, must all our acquaintances have kids at the same time?

In any case, here I am, deciding what has priority, and I think I'd rather spend the day doing Fatherly stuff, I am going to miss Father's day, Martha's b-day, and a whole week of interaction that I am never going to get back. The school work can wait for my hotel room in Chicago. (well, it's Schaumburg to be precise)


Of Books and other Projects



Two weeks ago I finished reading "Journey through Genius, a history of Mathematical Masterpieces" a look a Mathematics's greatest theorems from a historian's perspective, it went over the lives of the world's most influential math masters, I was fascinated with the elegance of the greek's Geometry, the simplicity and genius of their proof. Archimedes proof of the Pythagoras Theorem is breathtaking. The amazing skills of Newton and Euler left me in startled. 500 years from now, our computing and communication technology will be obsolete but their theorems will still be sound and relevant. Math theorems are forever, we can always add to the knowledge but we can never make it obsolete.

Take Euclid's proof that there is an infinite number of Primes, he uses redutio ad absurdum.

1. Suppose that there exists a finite number of primes, and the largest prime is Pn.

2. Now take all the primes up to Pn and multiply them together and then add 1.
1 * 2 * 3 * 5 .......Pn + 1 = N

3. Now, this number N by construction, is either another prime or divisible by a prime number larger than Pn.

4. Q.E.D.

Thousands of years have passed since Euclid's time and nobody has been able to put a dent on his proof. It's simple, concise, elegant and pure genius. If you can appreciate that, then you can see why so many say that math is the language that god speaks. I don't know about all that, but it's the best language to describe natural phenomena and it's the best tool to model and understand our world, not to mention that it's beauty is captivating.

I have also been reading Bart Ehrman's books, Jesus, Interrupted, God's Problem and Misquoting Jesus, and studying the bible from a historical perspective. I am interested in knowing what's in the Bible. It's good to know the circumstances around it's many authors, the story of the people who wrote them and why it matters. I have learned a lot about the New Testament, things that you don't learn in Sunday school. I don't think that knowing about the Bible is necessarily a stumbling block for people of faith. Although it can open up the doors for more doubts. It'll let that be for now.

I have so many side projects that I have started and left open...

***Breaking****
Just found out Gaby has a 100.4F temperature, so I have to go to deal with that. No worries, I am sure she's going to be fine, but I am going to have to cut this short.

Be good to each other.

J.V.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bicycle



When I was ten years old, on Christmas day I woke up to the best Christmas gift of my entire life. As soon as I opened my eyes, there was the nicest bike, right in my room! From then on, I would spend my days after school riding around Barcelona, that's how I remember my childhood, racing my buddies, going places too far for my parent's comfort, I would head out there, just myself and the bike, and I would savor the day, feel the hot breeze of the Venezuelan East Side, I would stay in the sidewalk the whole time, but the rides could always be dangerous, there's no such thing as a pedestrian right of way down there, and I almost got hit many times, but I learned to be careful, to be alert on the road. When you are riding a bike it's the exact opposite of patrolling in the infantry, the key is to be seen. So I would make sure that I was in nobody's blind spot.

I liked to ride so much because it gave me time to think about stuff, I would ponder upon the things that seemed so important back then, plans for the future, questions about life, about school, friends, later about girls that I never had the courage to speak to. I remember the last time I rode the bike in my town, I knew I was about to come to the United States and I was conscious of the fact that this would be the last time I would see my neighborhood like this, I tried my best to take a mental snapshot of the park I used to ride trough, my park, it was basically a wide sidewalk lining up the main avenue that connects Barcelona to Puerto La Cruz. I don't remember what else I did that day, all I can recall is how it felt, to know that life was changing, to be aware that after that day things will never be the same. It hasn't.


Today, I rode a bike again, not trough the old park of my childhood, but trough my current neighborhood. Today was one of those nasty hot muggy Florida Summer days, the thunderstorm clouds lurking nearby, threating with rain and lighting, the multitude of little bugs hitting my eyes, the fiery hot air that burns my lungs. Sweat sticking to my shirt, and I am loving it, I traverse all the streets in my block, looking at all the houses, all the palm trees, mango trees, the local dogs, rednecks working on their cars, teenagers hanging around, people fishing in the canals, (will they eat whatever they catch?) I ride around, feeling like I am twelve again, I swear I must have been smiling the whole time, although I am sure I must have swallowed a bug or two.

I think I am going to do this more often.

J.V.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Chicago



I'm in Schaumburg IL, in a work-related trip to the Mother Ship (Company Headquarters)thankfully, work has been uneventful, which means things are going according to plan. It's interesting to see other sides of the business doing their thing. I am at one of the factories doing some quality control work, actually, my job is to standby, in case a major catastrophe or something comes up. The thing about that is that I am there representing my whole department. People here are not shy to tell me their opinion of the Development team from Florida. I think it's natural, because the feeling of love is mutual. Other than that, I am having a good time. I kind of like Chicago, it seems like NYC with a Mid West mentality. Everywhere you look there are people with Cub's shirts, hats, etc, and you can't help but to smile and sympathize, for a city that still loves their baseball team after 100 losing seasons can't be all that bad.

The only thing missing is Martha and the kids. I know they would love it here, the weather is nice, and there are a lot of things to do here. It's too bad they could not make it. In the other hand, it's nice to wake up in a quiet room. Lately I've been starting the day with a hyper three year old and two cranky women, one is two and the other 24, they both act the same in the morning. The funny thing is, I can't live without any of them.

Well, it's time to go to work.

J.V.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Curious Case of The disappearing Milk Bottle



This morning we lost a milk bottle. It must be in the same place where all the odd socks go.

There's not much of a story, really, the last time I saw the bottle was this morning after the kids got out of bed, we have one for each child. Gaby was asking for milk so I took one down to fill it up, when I came back upstairs to get the second one it was gone. Just like that. I thought, no big deal it probably rolled under the bed or something. So I started to look for it. It's been 12 hours, we turned every piece of furniture, searched every imaginable place, questioned each other's sanity, integrity and method of birth, (not really, actually it has been a civil search, it's amusing really) but we have not found the bottle. The mystery remains to be solved. It has to turn up eventually, I can't wait to find out where the thing is. I am not sure I am going to be able to sleep soundly until the bottle turns up.

J.V.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I am still around



I just have not had the chance to write. It's hard to find the time to write something worth reading. Personally I am good. I am glad I could pass Digital Comm. That class was very tough. However, I liked it. I feel more drawn towards mathematics. I just have to accept the fact that there is so much to learn. Of all the skills that can be learned in my profession, I believe that math is the more valuable, it's something that will never go out of date.

Anyway, I'd rather not write at all than to publish a bunch of non-coherent rant, so I am cutting it short for now. Maybe I'll get a chance to write later.

J.V.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stress can take the joy away from anything



I truly enjoy figuring out how things work. That's why I am in grad school, I find all of mathematics fascinating, elegant and beautiful...(just like my wife). However, It has been difficult for me, I keep taking these test where the problems that are given to me take me by surprise. There's nothing more discouraging that sitting in a test with a question you have no idea how to answer, not even how to begin to approach the problem. Somehow, that hasn't stopped me from trying. In this grueling process, I have learned a thing or two here and there. Here's what I'd like to share.

You don't know crap until you've done it



That's true, Anyone can read and memorize technical jargon until they are blue in the face, but to really know something, you have to put it in practice. You can't become a good runner without running. You can learn all you want about painting, but nobody can call themselves a painter until you actually paint something. Same thing with engineering, you have to put things together, try things out, make it work, and then the theory solidifies in your head.

Grades don't really mean crap



Ok, it's funny that I say that now that I am no longer getting good grades, but it's true. Yeah, I used to get good grades in my undergrad, but I wasn't trying to get an A, I was really trying to get to know the subject. I knew people who would try to do just enough to get the grade, and not more, any "wasted" effort learning something that wasn't necessary to get a good grade on the class was in their eyes, an inefficiency, the whole point was to get the degree so they could check that box. I, in the other hand, became thrilled when I realized how much there is to know about computers. I had to work hard for the grades, but usually the more effort I put in a class, the easier it was to get an A.

Not Anymore.

These days I study, I memorize, I read, I try to comprehend, but there's so much material, and it's all so new, I feel I've met my limit, however, I am not defeated, I will keep going. I will not give up. I am trying new things, for example, (and this may sound obvious) but I am going to try to concentrate on solving problems, practice, practice, practice. Also, I am going to try this thing I heard somewhere, I am going to try to write all the theory concepts in my own words, that way it forces my brain to process it. It's tough to do with the abstract math, but it helps.

Anyway, I have to go now, Gotta help pick up the house we have visitors coming.

Later ya'll.

Be good to each other.

J.V.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Academic Battle









I have been trying to learn a brand new professional skill for the past 12 months. It's called Digital Signal Processing. About this time last year I made the decision to focus my Master's Degree on Electrical Engineering as opposed to Computer Science. Ironically, that decision was based on the assumption that a degree in C.S. would be too much work (because of the programming assignments) and that DSP would be easier because it's math based, after all, how hard can the math be?

Well my friends, on retrospect I could welcome programming projects, I have been reviewing and learning math, math, math for the past 12 months. I think I am finally getting it, but only because of rote determination, by the sheer power of my fear of failure, I have been spending my evenings and weekends trying to know, and understand the material in the books pictured above.

From Calculus I am reviewing Integrals: Integration by parts, the number e and its properties, logarithms and logarithmic functions, Taylor Series, Fourier Series, Power Series, Trig identities.

From Signals and Systems I had to teach myself the Convolution Integral, something that I never saw my undergrad and something that was truly meant for computers to calculate, I don't know how on earth mathematicians knew these things before the age of electronics. Kudos to them.

From Probability and Random processes I realized that I am a math chump, an inferior being who can't grasp the simple concepts of combinations and permutations, who has trouble setting up probability densities and distributions. Random variables, Random functions, Random sequences and Random processes nearly took my sanity away last semester.

This semester looks more promising, since we use all the math in the foundation subjects to apply them and come up with working systems that transmit and receive information using electromagnetic fields, binary or M-ary signals. We learn about the signal to Noise ratio necessary to have a low probability of error. It's kind of rewarding to see how all the material comes together to make something do useful work. I never thought so much about something we take for granted on a daily basis. We expect cell phones to work, our laptops to get flawless wi-fi signals, our long distance phone calls to sound crisp and instantaneous. Behind all these things there were industrious engineers making things happen.

So I have been studying. I take a break every now and then, but I can't think of much else, just the family, the job, and the math.

I am glad I took this break though, after this a little more work and then put the kids to bed, and watch a movie with my lady.

Be good to each other guys.

J.V.

Monday, February 16, 2009

SHIT



Venezuela is going to be the next Cuba. It's really upsetting. Well, they chose that path, let's see where it leads them. Oh well. I am glad our family is here.

J.V.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Busy Week




Last week was non-stop craziness. Hopefully things will get back to a slower pace now. School is finally picking up, Work has been ramped up for a while now. I've also made new commitments that I feel are important. So as a result, now new post this week. No worries, I'll be back soon. I always come back.

Take care. Thanks for reading.

J.V.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

25 Random Things about me



I got hit by the meme in facebook, and, I don't know, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought I'd reproduce it here.


1. Deep down, I am just a curious person. I love to learn things just for the fun of it.
2. I am the definition of a nerd, dork, etc. etc.
3. When I was a kid, I was very shy.
4. I love books, baseball and science.
5. I used to think I was good a Math until I got to Calculus.
6. Computers fascinate me.
7. I have an awesome family
8. I never thought I could love my kids as much as I do.
9. I still feel like a kid.
10. I love Spanish food.
11. I must have spent 20% of my childhood riding a bicycle.
12. At the age of 12, I started reading Stephen King novels.
13. I was born and raised in Venezuela, lived there until I was 13.
14. I learned English by watching T.V.
15. My middle name is Ali.
16. I don't like Sea Food.
17. I love Italian food. Specially lasagna.
18. I put my foot in my mouth a lot.
19. I still drive my first car, and after ten years, can't find a reason to get rid of it.
20. Thanks to the Marines, I have been to more countries than states.
21. I have been to 14 states.
22. I love to travel.
23. I honestly and silently admire my son's courage (At 3, he has more balls than most adults I know)
24. I love math, but math doesn't love me back.
25. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a baseball player and a Pastor/Missionary in the off season.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gustavo Duarte's Blog



Software, Computer and Business.
A new favorite. Where I can find good engineering articles and technical essays written in an easy-to-digest way. The articles are like Coding Horror's, but with more meat in them.

I got lured in with "Anatomy of a Program in Memory" a detailed description of stack, heap, and bss space in memory, something that I had to learn the hard way, (finding and fixing mysterious bugs) it was finally laid out and explained away.

The article that got me hooked to the blog was "Lucky to be a Programmer" which is something I can relate to.

I don't know much about who this Gustavo dude is, what exactly it is that he does, the only thing it says in his profile is that he works in Colorado. Secret Government Agent? Nah, probably AMD, or Intel. There's too few software engineers that are that familiar with hardware. My guess it's that he's a processor designer.

Enjoy.

J.V.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Miami Heat Game




Low Bowl Seats at the AA arena: $66

Parking: $10

Cotton Candy for Anthony: $5.75

Spending quality time with my son: priceless.


I wasn't planning on taking Anthony to the game since I thought he was too young to enjoy it. But he behaved surprisingly well. Plus we enjoyed watching the Heat explode in the third quarter, I think Wade made the best play of the year tonight. I have no words to express the sweetness of the slam dunk he pulled. When I find the youtube video I'll post it.

Good Times, Good Times.

****EDIT*******

Here's the video, you could see me high-fiving Wade right after...well, not really, but still, it was awesome, the fans went wild right after this.




J.V.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Something deep to think about






Kevin Kelly, executive editor from wired magazine gave an interesting talk on TED. It's titled "Predicting the next 5000 days of the web".

He mentions that the web as we know, it's only 5000 days old. It started by linking computers (in the old days), then it evolved to liking pages, but what's next?

I don't want to spoil it, but it has to do with A.I. and consciousness.

I couldn't help to think that Isaac's Asimov's fantasy, is going to become true.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cool Visualization



I've always wondered how the zip code system worked. So did this guy, and thanks to him, it's easy, simple and beautiful. Good job dude.

It was done using Processing, a programming language used to visualize data.

Gotta love'em interwebs.

J.V.

Thank you.



Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

I was just at the lobby of the office building where I work, where I saw this ad playing in the big screen.



This was touching, because for some reason, that's exactly how it feels when you are back from a long deployment. I felt so alone even though I was surrounded by people who love me and care about me. When I saw what was happening I decided not to let the war define who I am. I made myself a promise, that I would move on to the next stage of my life. But I was lucky because I have an awesome support system, and I had some goals set in stone that helped me keep my mind off the past. It also helps that I blogged about those experiences here in this blog.

However, there are times when you need more than that. I am thankful to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America for having this website. I sincerely thank you because I know there are some out there that can use your help. Veterans sometimes come with invisible injuries that must be treated.

Busy Weekend



This weekend I will be:

1. Moving furniture for a friend.
2. Working overtime.
3. Studying Maximum Likelihood Decision Rules and Maximum A Priory Detection Probability for my Dig. Comm. Class. (Joy!)
4. Spending quality time with the Monkeys.

The last one will not be a chore at all. The kids are at that age when they are actually fun to be around. They are not as helpless as babies, but they still have uncomplicated behavior. (unlike older kids)

So it's really easy to have a good time, just go to a park and let them run wild.

Anyway, that's all for now. Be good.

J.V.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Military Justice



I saw this article in the news today. The headline reads "Marine Jailed for Sex with Widow".

It's a short, very sad story. Recruiter gets a kids fresh out of high school in the Marines, kid goes to Iraq. Kid dies. Recruiter sleeps with the kid's wife. Pretty screwed up right?

If you get technical about it, the kid was already dead. And there was no adultery. In a civil court, (if adultery were to be a crime, which I don't think it is) the case would have been thrown out.

Not in the military. There's a widely practiced thing called "making an example out of you". I looked up Article 134 of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the definition of Adultery is vague enough to include the behavior of our Casanova recruiter.


Conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces. To constitute an offense under the UCMJ, the adulterous conduct must either be directly prejudicial to good order and discipline or service discrediting.


So that's what happens if you mess around. The story doesn't say how this came about, did the widow complain afterwards? I wonder how does she feel right now? Was the Marine Corps too harsh on the recruiter? Should the widow share some of the blame? Does all of this even matter since the kid is not even alive anymore?

So Sad. Damn.


J.V.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Trivial fact about my self



You know how sometimes you could have a song stuck in your head?

Well, I spent all 13 weeks of Marine Corps Boot Camp with the song Swallowed by BUSH stuck in my head.


And for the whole second half of my tour in Iraq, I was singing Bonito, by Jarabe de Palo.

J.V.

It is NOT good to be a Gator




Ok, I need to calm down, I know. I am really upset.

one.

two.

three.

four.

five.

six.

seven.

eight.

nine.

ten.

Ok, better now.

I applied for a private, student loan last September, not a Grant, not a subsidized loan, it was a private loan. It was between me and my lender. They told me they had everything they needed from me, that they were waiting for my University "to confirm my status".

My employer reimburses me, but I have pay tuition first. UF got my application months ago, but did not bother to inform me that they were not planning on approving the loan until I finally got to speak to someone today. Today, after tuition was due last week, two weeks before I get dis-enrolled for not being able to pay tuition.

Is not like I was cavalier about it. I called the financial aid office numerous times, asking what was going on with my money, NOT ONE PERSON COULD TELL ME what was going on until today.

The reason for denying my loan? Bad Credit? Nope. Information missing? NOPE, They are a bunch of retards? no, I don't think so, even though it's debatable.
It's because I am only taking 3 credits, so I am not a full time student, so therefore, I must not need the money. Thanks for telling me in advance, UF.

/*******EDIT***********/
I feel better now.
Ahh, the therapeutic powers of blogging.

J.V.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomorrow




So much free time, don't know what to do



I've got an extra free day today and I don't know what would be the best way to spend it. I've got good quality time with my family, I am covered when it comes to school (but I could always be doing doing SOMETHING with school) there are many side project that I'd like to partake. And of course, I could write a deep, meaningful blog post.

I think I am just going to relax.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good Bye President Bush





I am sad to see him go. Well, not really. A lot of my friends think I hate him. I don't.
Being president is a tough job, It is something I wouldn't want to do. It's too much stress to have so much power and be under scrutiny all the time.

There are many things that he did wrong. But he also did some good things in Africa, I've heard.

I think the economist did a good job of analyzing the Bush years.

The thing with me, is that when he said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I believed him, when he said that we were going to find Osama Bin Laden, I thought that would be our top priority.

 When I was sent to Iraq, I thought we had a plan. I had a hard time in Iraq because I thought we were doing the Iraqi people a service by getting rid of a terrible dictator. But when I see that we are not welcome there, I have a hard time thinking that we are the good guys in that story. Of course I know things are more complicated than that., I understand. Bottomline I was lied to. I went to war for the wrong reasons.

 I hope Iraq turns itself around, with or without our help. Bush seems to think that in long run he will be recognized as the president that did the right thing. We will see about that. I don't blame him for the economy, or the gas prices, but I can't forgive how his leadership tarnished the image of American servicemen. Once that happened, I became more and more critical of his rhetoric and I stopped supporting him. 

 There are so many things that can be said about him, but I will let the historians and the press do that. I try to be objective when forming my opinions, I don't think he's a bad person or that he's as dumb as he sounds. I wonder about his character, but that's not for me to judge. I hope the Republican Party changes direction, the neoconservatives have self-destructed. A little advice: Palin is not the answer.


Oh well, what really matters is that things will change now with this new president. Right?....Right?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

An unanswered important question



So the Middle East is in turmoil. Surprise! Who would have thought! I have a hard time deciding who I dislike the most. A terrorist organization that kills innocent civilians, or Hamas. I really can't side with an organization that has no respect for human lives. I understand the reality and the complexity of the situation, I just can't sympathize with any side. I am really divided over this. Deep down, I think Hamas is wrong, but Israel can't win my affection for this.

Now, while I was trying to argue this issue with a friend, an important question came up. How should a Country deal with terrorism? What is a State supposed to do when a non-government group decides to launch un-conventional warfare on its citizens? Peru dealt with Sendero Luminoso by crushing them like cockroaches, they caught his leader, and displayed him in a cage like an animal. But that brings other issues, I can't get to deep into it right now, but my point is that I don't think the means justifies the end. But I can't think of a way to solve this. What would be the best remedy?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

CWE/SANS Top 23 Most Dangerous Programming Mistakes







Thanks to CodingHorror For posting it at his site. This list deserves the attention of all software developers. The errors are very common indeed.

Good night.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bad ass Mathematician from back in the day





Augustin-Luis Cauchy(1789-1857)




It's interesting to learn how the great minds of the past came up with the ideas that are still relevant today. Among these is Augustin Cauchy, who gave rigor to Calculus.

How in the world was Calculus invented?


If you are interested in this question
Who gave You the Epsilon? Cauchy and the Origins of Rigorous Calculus (pdf) by Judith V. Grabiner gives a good answer to that.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This is what I am reading



Thomas L. Friedman: Hot, Flat, and Crowded.



I've been a fan of Tom Friedman since I had to read from Jerusalem to Beirut. I like the way he explains complex situations in everyday words. I am halfway trough and it's very insightful. In summary, Global Warming, Globalization and Overpopulation are issues that need to get addressed. Now. It urges Americans to take the lead in developing and adopting innovative ways of producing clean energy. I hope the upcoming administration has someone in their payroll who read this book.


Socrates Cafe



I've had this book for a while. In fact, I bought it right before deploying to Iraq, and didn't like it then, but I started to read it again, and it's growing on me. It's about this guy who goes around and sets up these meetings or "socrates cafe's" in order to get regular people engaged in philosophical discourse. I am taking my time with it.


First things First



This one is for personal growth. It's about how to prioritize things and get things done according to importance. It's very good. It has made me look at myself and all the roles I play in my life. However, I feel stressed every time I read a chapter. Because there are so many things that are important to me, I don't have time to do all of them. One thing though, I am making an effort to stay healthy, because I can't afford to procrastinate with that one. So I am making the effort to not over eat, to work out at least 3 times a week, and to take care of my overall health.

Digital Communications



This one is for school. It's for a class with the same name. Very interesting stuff. It deals with the very bottom of all the communication layers. The physical channel. This deals with the problem of sending and receiving information reliably. When you talk on the phone, send an email, watch a video on youtube. Information is traveling through many channels and making it to your device in a way that appears seamless. In reality, that information travels through wires and in the air as electrical signals. All of this is realized with information translated to binary form. It's all zero's and ones. This course deals with channel coding. Meaning how information gets across the physical layer (trough free air, copper lines, water, bouncing off walls, going through your flesh, etc, etc.


and more...

It usually takes 4 or 5 lectures until I lose the prof, but I this time I broke the record, by the second lecture I was lost. The truth is, I suck at math. Well, not really, I love math, but math does not love me. Like any love story, my relationship with math is filled with joyous moments and painful heartbreaking. I used to think I was doing good, then calculus came along and ruined forever. Last night though I started reviewing all the math I took at my undergrad, well, not all, but most, I took out my calculus, differential equations, Linear Systems, and Probability for Signal processing, I meant to do a quick glance at all the chapters so I can refresh all that information, and to get in the math mindset, I fulfilled the latter but not the former. I got stuck in CH1 of Calculus, looking at limits, I remembered, I don't think I ever really got what calculus is about, even after 3 semesters, I was so worried about passing the class, I didn't stop to think about it. Last night I started reading each paragraph and each formula, graph and explanation carefully, and then suddenly I was struck by how beautiful and elegant and mathematical proof is. Reminded me of a mathematician's apology.

Best.Customer Review. Ever.



Ever had a hard time opening those hard ass plastic packages? This guy did too, and lived to write about it in Amazon.com

Thursday, January 08, 2009

GO FLORIDA!!!!!!





It's good to be a Gator.

J.V.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back to the daily grind



It's nice to be back after a vacation with the fam.

I have been doing some thinking, and some reading as well. I am refining my goals and trying to sort out what's important to me. And I have some goals, I really don't want to say that these are "resolutions" because to me resolutions are always meant to be broken. I have done some thinking, and I want to prioritize some things.

My Priorities



I don't think anyone lies in their deathbed and wishes they spent more time in the office, so I plan to make more time for the people that matter to me the most. I want to spend more time with my kids, I want to watch them grow into good people. I would like to work on my personal relationships on not lose sight of that. It's very easy to do. In the name of providing for a family to forget why we are doing this in the first place. That's all I am going to write about that here. I don't like to make all of that public. All ya'll need to know is that I love my family more than anything.

Be a leader in my profession



Besides doing, you know, my job, I want to become a leader in my field, this is a tall order since Computer Engineering is filled with brilliant minds. But I want to contribute to the collective knowledge of the software community. I need to find a cause, a problem to solve, a new invention, or some way to make a contribution.

This is going to be hard because just doing my day-to-day job is consuming. Writing quality software takes a lot of work. But I do not want to be another mediocre engineer The good is the enemy of the best, and I would hate to be an average worker, I'd rather not do anything than to do an average job.

Being Creative



This ties in to the last goal, the thing is, I am the type of person who likes to take stuff in, I like to read, to analyze, to criticize, to understand, but I don't usually create things. I don't invent things, well, not usually, at work I get told what the end goal is and I make it happen in the code. But being creative involves visualizing the thing you want to create and then realizing it. I don't usually do that and I want to. This blog is one of the first things that really stem from my creativity, and I don't want to give up on it.

I'd like to write down the thoughts that come to my head, but I can think faster than I can type, so by the time I write it down, I always end up deleting it, because I hesitate.

However, I'd like to start with some short essays and eventually work my way up to a book. The thing is, I just don't know what the book will be about if I don't have anything that will inspire me to write. Probably technical stuff.

Work for a good cause



I know I am sounding really vague up to know, I want to invent something but I don't know what, I want to write a book and I don't know what I will be about, and I want to help a good cause, I just have not chosen one yet, but there are many good ways to give back to the community, I want to pick something that will make a difference in people's lives, I want to do something to help low-income students become interested in science and math, but there are so many other good things out there, like solving world hunger, genocide, diseases, I guess is better to think globally and act locally. Therefore, it will be something to help out people in the South Florida Area.

Take better care of my health



Ok, I've put on a few pounds since I got out of the reserves, and it's not too bad yet, but when I have my aunt in Venezuela urging me to lose weight I know it's time to do something. So I want to lose 20 lbs by my 30th Birthday, seriously, I am tired of being overweight, I just feel all nasty and I think about how I could get sick with heart disease and I just don't want to check out early, if you know what I mean. Therefore, I am going to work out at least 3 times a week. This one will be hard to do as I already have some many things to do. So many roles I have to fill. Husband, Father, Home Manager, Grad Student, Engineer, Creator, Blogger, friend, community member, etc. etc. But it would be stupid for me, not to do it.

Anyway, these are my resolutions for 2009 however, these are things I want to keep doing for the rest of my life. It will take some effort, but I can be done.

Take Care.

J.V.