Sunday, December 26, 2010


It's 1:20 AM, Martha and the kids are knocked out sleeping, the kids have been playing with their cousins and aunts and uncles all day, Martha and I went to Manhattan (here they call it "the city") to walk around, we basically did a big round starting at 59th and 5th Avenue right by the Plaza Hotel, we walked down 5th Avenue until 33rd then we stopped a Moonstruck for dinner where we saw the Miami Heat manhandle the Fakers, I mean, Lakers. Then we walked back up 5th Ave, hooked a left on 42nd, up to Broadway, checked out the stores and what not, and then walked up 7th Ave until 57th where we took the train back to Queens.

Walking around stress free just talking and relaxing makes me want to live in the city. The cold weather though, gets a little bit old after a while, but it brings character to the place you know? Speaking of the weather, we are expecting a lot of snow tomorrow. I can't wait, it should be a nice trip to remember for the kids. This is the stuff happy childhood memories are made of.

I've also been doing some reading. I am halfway trough "Open Veins of Latin America" a somewhat controversial book that was made famous when Chavez gave it to Obama as a welcome gift.

This book is about the history of Latin America from a socio-economic point of view. It bitterly narrates all the injustices that have been done against every other country in the Americas, I am not done reading but I can say that it is essential for everyone to be aware of what was done to our lands, and our people, just as it is important for everyone to know about the Holocaust. Basically, Latin America got raped from the day it was born. Now, I don't believe that the answer to the situation over there is to go to communism/full socialism, I do think that Brasil and Chile are going the right path, I don't think Latinos should go around with a chip on their shoulder asking for reparations or something. But it is imperative to know our history, know why things are the way they are, and to know what mistakes were made so that we don't repeat them, again, and again.

From my awesome sister in law, I got a book about Buddhism for non-believers, which is something I've been thinking about, I think that there are a lot of good teachings and interesting ideas behind it, I just can't get past the supernatural stuff, but I think is great to seek wisdom and expand one's horizons by studying other world views.

I also came across this article in Slate Magazine about David F. Wallace, which led me to reading this essay about him taking a cruise. I was glued to it, I will never think of a freaking cruise the same way ever again thanks to him. I don't know how to describe it, but it takes a lot of writing talent to associate a seven night cruise to Cozumel with existential despair, but he accomplishes that, and more. Good reading.

Anyway, I am wide awake, but it's getting late, I should get some rest, but I am so tired, I can't sleep. I am going to read some more hopefully I'll fall sleep soon, don't want to be tired tomorrow.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

Spending it with family. Doing well. No time for blogging.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 2

I think this vacation is getting better by the minute. If only because it has been so hectic since the beginning.

I mean, it has been good, the family here has done everything to make us feel welcome. I feel kind of bad taking over my host's main bedroom and all that. It's just that for the first time I can see why I couldn't live in NYC unless I had massive amounts of money, and even then I wouldn't stay here the whole time. I'd have to leave the city periodically to regain my sanity.

It's the little things, like, you have to move your car if you have it parked in the side of the road. That in itself it's not really bad, but I can see how that can get old.

Yesterday, at the subway, we were on our way to the the Museum of Natural History on a Bronx-bound train, and this kid gets on the train, and I honestly cannot say whether he had a mental ailment, or if he was just ghetto-stupid, but he's singing a rap song on top of his lungs all off-key and off-beat, looking like he's trying too hard to be tough. I looked at Martha and she didn't seem to mind but, I was like, really? my kids have to see this? Now, he could be a head case, someone who really needed medical attention, but in any case, the guy needed help. Later that day, at the subway again Martha was freaked out by a creepy guy staring at the kids, that didn't bother me so much because I was right there to protect them so nothing was going to happen.

So we spent a day out in Manhattan, we walked around a lot, I admit that I made a mistake deciding not to take the stroller, because Gaby does not want to walk anywhere, so yesterday I carried her in my shoulder most of the time and must have walked at least 5 miles like that.

I like the cold, Martha loves the cold, the kids, not so much, and I sort of feel bad that they are not enjoying it as much as we are. So today we stayed here with the family, technically I am an outsider, but they are treating so well, I have nothing to complain about.

Martha's sister is watching the kids tonight, so we are going to go out tonight, hopefully we can relax and what not. If there's one things Queeners? know how to do, is party hard. I am OK with that.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vacation Time, Day 1

So we are here in NY. Queens, right off Queens Blvd, this is a family get together mixed in with some sight-seeing.

I took a picture in the highway right before you pass the Brooklyn Bridge, at night, you see the whole city's skyline, I must say that's about the most impressive sight in the east coast. Massive buildings, bright lights, it's just, beautiful. It was the climax of our trip, after stopping in MD to see Kamran, this was the culmination of our trip! The GPS had us 5 miles from our destination, so we had practically arrived. Except that in NYC traffic 5 miles means about 1 more hour to go. To Go from Brooklyn to Queens took about an hour in the highway.

We are about to go out to the city. Going to see the Museum of Natural History, and then we are going to hang out with family.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Obligatory End of Semester Blog Post

I write a blog post in my head at least twice a day. It usually happens on my drive to work, or when I am taking a shower, or doing the dishes or something. I think of a witty title, and I go over the structure of the post in my head. The thing is, I never have time to sit down and blog without the guilty feeling that I should be studying or "doing something productive" so I wait, and leave it for later, but later never comes. When I do decide to write here, all the ideas seem stale and I just stall. That's the case now. I have a bunch of things I want to discuss, but my head is drawing a blank right now, and that's ok i guess, I'll do it later.

I am just glad that the fall semester is finally over. I am excited about our trip to NYC. I am super thankful for miAmor who puts up with me. I am grateful for my awesome friends and for my not-so-awesome ones too. ;) you know who you are. Most of importantly, I love the fact that I am alive. I don't want to take anything for granted. I aim to enjoy my family, enjoy the kids while they are still young and still think I am the most important person in the world. Savor everything.

I am reading a few books at once, today I just finished Being Geek. It turned out to be a career guide for software people, which is not what I expected, but it turned out to be useful info. Glad I read it. If you write software for a living, you should give it a look. It's nothing about how to write better software, rather is a book about managing your managers and how to deal with office politics. Things that they don't teach you about in Engineering School.

Not have much else to write. I have a few side projects I want to complete. If I ever finish any of them I'll post about it here.

Be Good.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Miami Book Fair

I took a break this weekend, (and gave the wifey a break as well) and I took the kids and myself to the Miami Book Fair. It was great, thanks Greg for inviting us.

There was a huge section for children which was a plus for us, I was surprised at the sheer amount of children's books available. It was a bit crowded but I think it was worth it. I saw a lot of interesting books. Many things caught my attention.

-I am starting to fall in love with Miami. I used to think this city was shallow. Boy was I wrong. Miami is one of the most cultured places in this country. I am very glad I live minutes away from it.

-You can get great books for little money. There were tons of good books for resale for $1.

-They placed the Muslim Association of America Booth right next to the Israeli Culture Booth. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. If you think about it. Think about it.

-Someone from the Muslim Booth offered me a free Koran. I accepted it. I might even read it again. Can't turn down a free book. I would have taken a Bible for that matter.

-Speaking of religions, I had a nice chat with a guy from the Buddhist Books. Although I will never tag myself with any particular religion. I think that Buddhism has many good teachings. It's more like a philosophy of life than a religion per se. I must say they have sparked my curiosity. After all, Buddhist are so happy.

-I love meeting writers. I think they are the most interesting people to talk to. Too bad that I couldn't get enough time to really chat because the kids would either run away or start beating each other up.

-The place is really kid friendly. There were lots of people dressed up in costumes from children's stories. Gaby wanted to take a picture with the monster from "Where the Wild tings are" but wouldn't get close to it. She's so funny.

-I met Michael Moore! He was walking in my direction in a crowded sidewalk, and nobody seemed to notice him. I was like "Hey, isn't that Bill Moore" and he looked at me and was like "How you doing?" I don't know if I said anything, it wasn't until a little later when Greg asked me if it I meant to say Michael not Bill. Somehow, I didn't feel like I needed to take a picture with him. He's not that important to me I guess.

-I am glad there was a big turn out, after all, it was an event for books.

That's all I have. Back to studying now.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Study, Work, Life, Study

I have not posted anything in this blog because I am busy, is not that I don't have time, is just that I'd rather spend the few spare time with the kids and the family. I'd feel guilty otherwise, so in a sense, it's true. I don't have much time to sit and pour my thoughts out, it's a shame because I miss it. However it's too crazy right now, I get up at 4:00 AM to study, Anthony wakes up at 6:30 AM, I get him ready for the bus stop, then it's time to go to work. At work I never stop, the pace has become so frantic that one day feels like it's not enough to get anything done. Then I get home, attempt to help out as much as I can, I put the kids to bed, and then depending on how tired I am, I try to study some more. Somewhere in between I browse reddit and facebook. I try to keep touch with my friends and family. In a nutshell, I don't expect to write much until I graduate. In May, if everything goes according to plan.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

What Android Apps to get?

A friend of mine recently got an Android phone, he just asked me what Apps he should get, that's like asking a chef what a person should eat. The answer can be very long and very short.

It just depends on what you want to use it for.

I'll tell you the apps that I use all the time, the ones that I think are awesome but never use, and some website with recommendations.

The app I use the most for sure is my gmail app, I get my UF and personal email routed there, so I always get my email that way. The thing about Android is that there is more than one version, so I have an old version of Android, (hey, I got it free, and early on) but the newer version probably has the gmail thing set up.

The other apps that I use are the Opera mini for web browsing, swift, a twitter app,the reddit app, and the wiki app. I also would use the google news app, but it's super slow on my phone. I would also use the google maps to navigate, but it's super slow on my phone, (I don't have a 3G phone, ) I have a weird hybrid, it's a nextel phone that runs Android.

I really like Shazam, it samples a song, and lets you know it's title, something very useful if you ever hear a song on the radio or out in a bar and you don't know the name of the song, this comes in handy for techno songs, since they don't usually have lyrics to speak of.

There is Calibre, an app that lets you read ebooks, but some reason, I don't use it that much. I have a ton of ebooks that I want to read, but my phone screen is too small to read a book, If I had a tablet, it would be a different story.

I hope this helps.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Marathon

It's a long run, not a sprint.

So tired, need rest, can't for another six weeks. 8th course, two more to go, then Master's is done.

left foot, right foot,

one more home homework this weekend.

left foot, right foot,

write the compiler due in two weeks.

left foot, right foot,

midterm June 28th

left foot, right foot

study lambda calculus

left foot, right foot

keep trucking, next semesters Ad Hoc Wireless networks

left foot, right foot

Spring Algorithms

left foot, right foot

Is that the finish line up ahead? Will I make it until next May?

Keep moving, don't stop, pace your self.

left foot, right foot.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Second Diaologe, Part I

A-Hey Corporal, you look depressed, you got a Dear John letter or something? what happened?

J- Nothing Ali, I just, been thinking...

A- Oh boy, here we go...

J-See that's the thing, people misunderstand what I've been saying.

A-No, I think you made your point clear from last time we talked

J-no, but when you called me an atheist, you were merely learning something about what I don't believe in, but you know very little about what I do believe in. You make a bunch of assumptions, and but at the end you have not heard what I am supposed to be about.

A- I guess that's true, so what's the big deal?

J- well, for starters, I don't define myself as an atheist, many people think that I am obsessed with the subject because I am willing to speak about the things nobody else wants to talk about. But the reality is that I spend my time worrying about many other things.

A- like what, staying alive?

J- yes, that and my wife back home, I wonder how my life will play out once I get out of here, but in the meantime, this war is teaching me a lot about the nature of human beings. I am shocked at the fact that after all the cultural differences how much we are all the same. We have more things in common with the people we fight that we like to admit. I think about that and about how amazing it is to be alive. If I make it out alive, I will not make any excuses, I will live my life trying to improve myself, living to my full potential.

A- what do you mean? what's your full potential?

J- I don't know yet, but I am going to go to college, and I will educate myself as well, getting a degree is not bad, but that's not the point of educating myself, I want to sharpen my intellect, I also want to raise a family, if I make it back I am not going to leave my wife's side any more. I am going to get out of the Corps, and I am moving back to my hometown to be close to the rest of my family.

A- well that makes sense, that's pretty much what we all want, right?

J-well, I don't know about everyone else, but yes, I have these goals, I want to sharpen my mind, I want to cultivate my efforts on spending time with people I actually like, and I want to exercise my freedom, I want to seek wisdom to the best of my knowledge.

A- All these things you are saying, don't they sound self-centered?

J- well, when all individuals try to improve themselves, society as a whole benefits.

A-I see

J- so that's it, I hope you understand that, I don't go by any label, I don't stand for being anti anything. Hell I don't even consider myself a member of any political party, I just decide on my own which things make sense, whatever seems like the right thing to do, you know?

A- I guess so, it's just so much easier to leave the thinking to someone else, you don't actually get things done if you just sit there pondering

J- I know, words without actions don't mean much. But raw power with dull intellects are the true enemies of humanity.

A- Corporal, I see that you've been reading Nietzsche, that's what happens when you get into that crap.

J- who's the hater now?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Just got back from a nice, relaxing vacation with the family. What I loved the most is that the kids and Martha were very happy. Although Anthony thought that the animals you see from your window at the Animal Kingdom Lodge were "boring", I had to laugh at that one, damn, they have no idea about how good they have it.

I have been reading that book "Founders at Work" Stories about startups' early days. I have learned a lot from it. I know a few things about starting something. However, I know that I am not ready from the technical point of view, to take the plunge, I might do it someday, everything depends, I am glad I don't have an MBA though, business types think that the hard part of a business is the analysis, figuring out if there is a market for something, all these things of course are important, but the thing they don't get is that they think that implementing something is trivial, that the execution part is straight forward and the programmers are in the back just doing their thing while they (business people) run the company and make it rain or something. The fact is, that the engineering matters. Making a high-quality product that matters is hard. Good programmers that know how to write quality code quickly, who understand the business and the technology, those people are invaluable, that's what I am planning on becoming. I am more than a code monkey, I understand the customer, the business, the product, the science and the math. Having this knowledge yields the power to start a whole industry all in one person. That's how strong an engineering education is. I know that I can get there, that's why I keep investing in my education, because this gives me the freedom to create whatever I want.

Anyway, right now I must focus my energy and effort to COP5555, one of the projects is to write a lexical analyzer ,which I knew it was coming, but the challenge seems good, I feel ready for this battle, all I have is the summer, the fall, and I'll be graduating in the spring, FSM willing.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Some thoughts here and there

I finally get to blog! I have been meaning to write this whole week, but every single day something keeps coming up. I had three birthdays this week, and there's always something to do around the house. Plus this week I've been getting up early to go to work early, and I am really tired by the time the kids go to bed, which is when I usually have some spare time to do these things. But I've had these thoughts about these things I want to share here and so here it goes.

Philosophy is for everyone

So last week I finished reading Plato's Republic. Now, that sounds so...intellectual or something, right? well no, it is not, I found Plato deeply approachable. The book is not only about Government, is much more than that.

I can't read a book more than once, but I think I am going to make an exception for the Republic. I have the Spanish edition that belonged to my father and a new copy I just bought when I was at Chicago. Anyway, I would read a chapter in English and then I'd do the same in the Spanish version and I would always find something in the second reading that I somehow missed the first time I read it. I know I probably didn't do a good job of "getting" everything about the book, since the book itself is so rich, and I was reading a few pages right before falling sleep. However, there are a few things that stuck with me.


I remember hearing about this when I took an undergraduate course in philosophy, but when the teacher mentioned the word "justice" I thought about the Judicial system, meaning justice as punishment. But Plato is not about that, it is a dialogue where they discuss what does it mean to be just.

One of the things that I keep thinking about, is the question: is it better to be perceived as just but in actuality not be just? or is it better to actually be just, but perceived as unjust? The issue being, should we be just just for its rewards or is there something good about being just in itself?

In politics and business perception is reality, but we see how CEOs politicians and the like don't always do what they preach, which tells me that they would rather be unjust but be perceived as just, which explains why so many people distrust politicians.

Another thing that caught my attention was how Plato classified people, he divided people by those who love wisdom, those who love money and those who love honor (soldiers).

I see that we all have a little of each, I would say that there are those who seek pleasure, those who seek money, power, fame, and wisdom.

I see the utility and the necessity to have money, and I don't think there is anything wrong in being industrious and seeking to create and accumulate wealth. But the love of money changes people. I turns people into conniving, lying, calculating creatures that lack compassion, I think that greed can be a very bad thing, a person who only loves money and pleasures will never be satisfied.

Same kind of goes for people who seek fame, power, honor, just for their own sake. Those things by themselves do not bring fulfillment. The thing that Plato said that I will carry with me forever, is that the love of wisdom is the best thing we can aim for. It's a simple yet powerful concept.

Another thing that I really liked, and there's a lot gems like these in the book, is the part where it explains that true freedom comes from being able to control the passions of the soul. It seems paradox, but, self-control actually gives us more freedom. When we lack self-discipline we become slaves to our vices and appetites.

Anyway, I highly recommend it to everyone, books like these are classic for a reason, they have survived the test of time. Generations and generations of thinkers have written their ideas but all most of them are either a response to or an echo of what Plato wrote. That's awesome.

Founders at Work

Reading a great book about how some great companies got started. Eye opener. I know that I will never be a businessman, but I will not be ignorant about the subject. I am going to get more knowledge in economics, finance and accounting. I want to know how to read contracts and how to run a business, it will come in handy someday. However, I want to be an engineer all the way, I enjoy making things, but the temptation to start a company has been there, maybe someday...

COP 5555

This week I start the famous compiler class in UF, is my second Computer Science course in Grad school and I can't wait, I actually want to start reading the book now. It can wait though.

Ok everyone, that's all I have. Be good.


Sunday, April 25, 2010


I just finished my final, well, I just solved all the problems that were assigned, it was a take home test. I still have to put all the answers in pretty format, need to scan it, same with the project, it's all done, but have not turned it in yet.

I was sitting here, not knowing what to do, so many different different things that I could be doing. I have more interests than time, so now that I am free, I am having a hard time deciding.

One of the first things is going to have to be fixing up the house, we have had the stairs bare for the past couple of months, long story short, it's a home improvement project from hell, everything that could go wrong in a home project went wrong.

I have a few books on my queue that I want to finish. Martha just gave me a copy of 1776 the Pulitzer-Prize-winning best seller about Washington's fight against the Brits that year. Thanks Babe! I am about to finish reading Plato's Republic, and well, you've seen what it has done to my blog writing, it has me writing dialogues and what not. Reading Plato makes you want to really think about things, think clearly. I don't know if that makes any sense at all, but that would be another post.

I also have Founders at Work, a collection of stories about successful startups, they should also have a book about failed startups as well, lately, I've been getting more interested in learning economy and business, but from a scientific perspective, I am curious to know how the world works, people are motivated by economic and political factors. I am wary of people who are obsessed with money and money making, but it would be foolish to ignore what moves the country and the world. Also, realizing that although I work as an engineer, I am make money because of a business, and all business is sales, therefore, I need to make innovations that sell, not just things that are neat, or impressive, but to make it as an engineer, we need to work on stuff that's profitable, that's reality.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dialogue, Part IV

A -Oh, it's nothing. I think I saw something in the rooftop...(looks trough the night vision goggles) No, I don't see anything, maybe our imagination?

J -You know what? These big questions about life? Why doesn't anyone ever want to talk about it?

A -I feel the same way, very few people want to talk about these things because it is so important, it's such a big part of their personal identity that they take it as a personal attack.

J -So people are that fragile?

A -Is not that they are fragile, but if you are used to seeing the world a certain way, then you don't want to change your mind. Plus, I don't know, talking about these topics can affect the way people look at you.

J -I just, want to know what's true and what's real. Is that like, an impossible thing?u

A -what a freaking question. What the hell are you talking about Corporal? What is real?

J -yeah, what is true, what is real, what does it mean to know something. what is justice? What is the right thing to do? How do we answer these questions in a purely scientific way? Is there a way to check our answers? What can we do to know? How can I know that I can trust an idea?

A -a lot of people have been asking themselves the same questions.

J -yes I know, that seems to be a problem, scientist have gotten very far studying the material world. But it seems like these questions about our human race remain to be answered

A - I have all the answers, just follow God's teachings and you will be ok

J -yes but, how do you check that? you really can't, you have to accept, can't question, have to take it by faith.

A -well, how can you know?

J -I don't know. I don't know

A - hey I think I did see something up in the roof, is that a...?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dialogue Part III

"Whenever you write, write the truth...Fiction is the truth inside the lie"

-Stephen King

(The radio opens up)

Radio - Apocalypse One, This is Bushmaster X Ray Radio Check, over

J - Bushmaster X Ray this is Apocalypse One, Lima Charlie, over

Radio -Be advised, Wolvepack elements will be present in your sector in about five mikes, over

J -Roger,

R -Bushmaster out.

A -well, looks like Alpha company got the crappy end of the stick this time, I bet they are going to raid that shiek's place, he's supposed to be on our side, but I know he is one of THEM.

J -so, how do you know when something is true?

A -there's always clues, here and there.

J -but how do you know for sure?

A -At the end is hard to know for sure

J -how do you know you made a mistake?

A -there are ways to test out theories

J -Ok

A -I think I know where you are going with this one. You are going to say how come I believe in God since there is no proof. But there's no proof that he doesn't exists. So it's better to believe and be wrong than not to believe and be wrong. I believe without proof and that makes me a better person. I live better, so what if I was wrong? is it so bad to try to be a better person?

J -You brought two things Ali, I can only handle one thing at a time. First of all, I hope you are not saying that you NEED to be religious to be a good person, to live better. I can be a good person without having to believe in supernatural stuff, I can live a good life, with meaning without having to believe in imaginary friends that are watching us from the ski or something. Plus, there are so many choices of religion, how do you know which one to believe?

A -well, my family is protestant, so therefore I am protestant.

J -doesn't it bother you a bit that there are so many religions out there? They all claim to be true, surely they can't all be true.

A -I believe that they worship the same God, at the end, Allah, Jehova, Yahwe, they are all one and the same.

J -wait a minute, aren't you a Christian?

A -yes, I am

J -Jesus said that he is the only way to get to the father, right? doesn't that mean that if you are not a Christian you will not get to heaven?

A -yes, but I believe that God will make a special case for everyone

J - so then, I am good, since surely he knows that I am trying to be rightous

A -I am sure God loves you Corporal, even though you are a fool for not believing in him.

J -so you think I am going to go to heaven?

A -I don't know, because you rejected him, you know about him and reject him.

J -but why, if God is so powerful, so great, does he need us to worship him, why? is he insecure or something? Why does he say he wants to save us, but only if we believe him and worship him? why not just save us? and then why make it so hard to believe in him?

A -what do you mean?

J -I mean, I can't see any evidence man, I can't see any reason to say that yeah, there definitely is a God out there.

A -But that's the thing, it's called faith. And that makes you better.

J -it doesn't make sense to me to say that believing in something without any sort of evidence to back it up, is some kind of virtue or something. I don't see how that could even begin to make sense. I have looked, I have thought about it, is not that I don't want to believe, I mean, I would like to think that at the end the just will get a reward, I would like to survive my own death. I just don't see anything that makes me say that it's real. It looks to me like the whole thing is all in our heads.

A -I know that he exists.

J -really? How?

A -Because he answers my prayers.

J -what did you pray for Ali?

A - I pray for a bunch of things,

J -do you have all your prayers answered?

A -no, but that's because what I asked for was not his will, he knows better

J -I always thought that was funny that we had to pray, since he knows everything already, why do we have to remind him? doesn't he know? but anyway, I have tried praying myself, believe it or not, I used to believe back in the day. But I don't really see a difference otherwise, why don't you try it out? test it out for yourself, keep a tab of answered prayers, see if it works.

A -God doesn't work like that, Corporal

J -what does that mean? it's in the Bible, it's a claim that's made by many religious. If you can't test it, why do you believe in it?

A -I don't think you get it, that's not why we pray, I feel a sense of peace when I pray, like I am one with him...

J - I think you can get the same feeling by just meditating. Do you really think you can get God to bend the laws of nature for your request?

A -yes I do.

J - Oh boy, but why? I have not seen anything close to what you might say a miracle, everything that I have seen seems so underwhelming, I have been to a Benny Hinn or whatever his name is, my cousins in Fl swear he can do miracles, but I will be convinced when I see someone that can grow back a limb, why is it that you never see amputees growing their limbs back? every miracle is always this fuzzy thing, like a cancer test coming back negative after a previous positive result, when in practice that sort of thing happens all the time.

A -look, I just know what I believe in is true, ok? plus, why does it matter to you what I think? if I am happy with my beliefs, if it makes me a better person, who the fuck are you to tell me what I should believe? why does it bother you so much that I want to worship God? This is something very personal, and I don't see what can be so wrong with having the hope that I have someone watching over me, somebody protecting me, someone that will reward my faith and my good deeds, someone who will provide eternal salvation, someone who gives me peace, direction, and something that I can use to relate to everyone in my hometown. Why do you seek to destroy it? What good can come out that?

J - I know, I know, look, I don't care what you worship ok? remember that you asked ME why I am an atheist, my question is, don't you want to know if what you believe in is true? doesn't it matter? I just can't accept something without some kind of way of checking if it's real or not. Plus, one thing that irks me about religious people, is not that they believe is that they are so sure of their beliefs that they think that anyone who doesn't share their views is a fool. They want everyone to believe what they believe without providing a solid proof, but they are so confident, they are so cocksure, and I wonder, how can they claim to know what you can't know, nothing can be proved either way, I am not sure, I know that I could be wrong, so I don't go around trying to unconvert people out of their faith. But these people, and maybe you are one of them, they think that they know more, they have no idea what it means to know something, and yet, they sit there making statements based on faith, that they have no way of proving, like it's a fact of life.

A - well, I am not one of those people

J - hey, is that somebody on that roof top?


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dialogue part II

(warning, contains foul language, and disturbing images)

J -yes we are scanning our sector Sgt

Sgt V -Well, don't get too caught up discussing all this stuff, remember that you have to pay attention to what's going on around you. That's why you're here.

A -Aye Aye Sgt.

Sgt V -Very well, carry on

---V leaves-----

A -anyway, back to your question Cpl. Would Jesus agree with my actions? The answer is yes because he knows that I am doing this for a just reason. It is for a just cause and I am doing my best.

J -so then you agree with me? there are no absolutes moral rules, it depends on the situation.

A -well...I don't know, he did say thou shall not kill, but then, the army of Israelites did some killing in their day.

J -so you feel like a good Christian, then?

A -I don't know, listen you are changing the topic, I wanted to know why you are an atheist, how can you not believe in God?

J -how can you believe in God, after all we've been trough.

A -Precisely because he has protected you and me, my faith in him has grown, my prayers are being heard.

J -see? that's the most disgusting thing I have ever heard.

A -Why? believing in God has given me the strength to get trough these hard times.

J -I mean, really? Do you think that your alive because somehow you are more special than Sgt Adams, or Lt Ski who got shot or blown up? Do you think that you matter more, or you were more pleasing to God and that's why he spared you? Lt Ski was a devout Christian, and he is gone. I am an atheist and I am still alive. What about all the orphans running around in this place? This is fucking shithole, and you sit here saying that it's ok because God is in control. You tell me this and I think about what happened last week.

A -the vehicle incident?

J -yes, the vehicle incident.

A -is that what made you an atheist?

J -no, that's not why, but, supposing there was a God, why? why would he allow that to happen? That car that ran trough our traffic check point, we had to no choice but to shoot it, we freaking lit up that car Ali, and at the end, what? There was a family there, no weapons, no bombs, just a car, with a Dad, a Mom, a ten year old girl, a baby. We saw it Ali, we saw the bodies, we did nothing illegal, we were following our orders, we were protecting the compound against a real threat and yet, goddamit, we have the blood of these Iraqis in our hands. Why did your God allow that happen? What kind of fucking twisted sick God allows that to happen, why is that some kind of test? does he really have no disregard of the innocent? What are you going to tell me? That everything is going to make sense in the end? Well no! I want nothing to do with your God, if he's in charge of this joint, and he's real, I am not going to kiss his ass. I spit on his image, I curse his name for putting us through this.

A -But Corporal, we have free will. What happened is not God's fault. It was only humans that got us in this mess.

J -yes, but they, I mean, they ran a traffic point, who knows why, and then they got shot. Crap, you are telling me that he intervenes to keep you alive, but doesn't intervene to save an innocent family, something doesn't make sense. You are right, I do think that it's only us, there is no way that a just, all knowing, all powerful god would allow these things to happen. There is just no way, and if it's true, and if this is all some part of some kind of plan, then he can take this world, his lofty plan and shove it! I want nothing to do with this kind of God.

A -so you somehow think that you know more than God. You need to bad to appreciate the Good.

J -at what expense? don't you care? look at all the people who are dying, who are starving, who are losing their family? and you still talk about a plan? does this make sense to you?

A -you can't make sense of everything, you are a small creature with a small brain, trying to comprehend this world.

J -so none of this bothers you. I bugs me to even conceive of something that could intervene, could save us, and you are telling me that he cares, he loves us, and allows us to live this way. I need to chill out, stop talking for a bit.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The setting: a hot summer night in the city of Ramadi, Iraq. The participants, Lance Corporal Ali, from Paris, Texas, Corporal Joseph from Queens NY, and Sgt V, who we don't know much about.

V -Alright guys, here's the deal, you two are on watch until 23:00 that's when Lcpl Paul and Lcpl Chris are supposed to come back and take over, until then, here's some extra batteries for the radios, your call sign is apocalypse 1-Alpha, watch the northen road, we heard reports that the insurgents are planning a big attack on American forces.

Joseph -oh yeah? what else is new.

V -Quiet Joe, I'm trying to pass some intel here, shut your pie hole for two minutes alright?

J -Yes Sergeant, (sarcastic tone)

Ali- Sgt V, one question

V -what is it, Lance Corporal

A - do we know where this intel comes from?

V - I don't know, it was passed down from the CO this afternoon, from there I don't know, why?

A -it's just that, we never seem to really know when really are going to get attacked, I mean, last week when they threw grenades into our compound, nobody really expected that, and now they have been saying that we are going to get attacked for a whole week and nothing happens, I don't know, I just, question the validity of it you know?

V- Lance Corporal, it is what it is. I am just relaying the information as it was passed down to me, ok? my job is to keep you alive so that you can tell your war stories when you get back to the U.S. of A all in one piece, you understand? don't be goofing off, specially with this clown, Cpl Joseph.

J- Aye, Aye, Sergeant!

V- Ok, I am off, got to take care of the other posts.

---Sgt V leaves----

J- I hate it when Sgt V is Sergeant of the watch, he actually wants people to stay awake during firewatch and what not.

A- Cpl, can I ask you a question?

J- What is it Ali?

A- I heard that you were an atheist, is that true?

J- who the hell told you?

A - does it matter? is it true or not?

J -yes, it's true, what about it?

A -nothing, I just, I don't know, can't believe anyone could be an atheist, that's all.

J -why do you say that?

A - well, I mean, everyone has to believe in something, right? don't you have any morals?

J -listen Ali, believing or not believing in a god, has nothing to do with morals, ok?

A -well yes but, don't you believe in anything? I mean, where do you get your morals from? if not from God? don't you live with no moral authority?

J- I use my reason to decide what is moral and what is not moral.

A -your reason, huh? Somehow that seems problematic, Corporal

J -I think I know what you are going to say, what if I were a serial killer or something, who is to tell me what I am doing is wrong? right?

A- Right

J -well, we are social animals, The Philosopher Aristotle said we were political animals, we all get organized and each society will have its particular norms and values.

A -Do you think you would be ok with Killing if it were part of the culture?

J -Well, look at us, we are here in Iraq aren't we? Back home, we are generally not allowed to kill. Here we are taught how to kill, life taking is part of job in this place, and yet, when we get home we are hailed as heroes at churches and government functions. How come? I thought God commanded us not to kill.

A -It's different, we are defending the country, we are in a combat situation, you know we engage the enemy only when it is necessary. We do not go out of our way to kill civilians, only combatants..

J- I could argue about the defending part, but, the point I am trying to make is that there are no absolutes when it comes to morals, it just depends on the situation.

A - I see what you are saying, but I have a problem with that. Surely there must be things that always apply.

J -Well, you tell me, you are the Christian, and you are here with me.

A -I think we are here doing something good for the country, we are helping.

J - Do you really think that Jesus Christ would approve of your actions here?

Stg V: Hey guys, are you scanning your sectors? This ain't the Lyceum.

TO Be Continued.....

Monday, April 05, 2010

testing blogging app

testing blogger app for phone.

testing blogging app

testing blogger app for phone.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Open Courses

The best thing thing in the internet besides Wikipedia, is the increasingly common practice of putting the content of classes for free in the internet. At the forefront of this effort is MIT. They have been putting a lot of material out there, and not just their world-famous engineering courses. Check it out for your self.

Yale University's Open Courses, while not offering as many classes as MIT, does offer one unique advantage, the course transcripts are provided, so I don't have to watch the lecture, I can just read it, this offers multiple advantages, for once, I can read it a lot faster than I can watch it. It's better for my embarrassingly-short attention span. And I can read it pretty much from anywhere, my phone, laptop, without having to wear headphones or anything like that.

I started out with the New Testament and Old Testament classes, I struggled a bit with the Old Testament stuff, some of it was kind of boring for me. But the New Testament course was fascinating, there are so many things in the New Testament's text that reveals so much about the history of Christianity, and I never noticed it. It's there, in plain sight, you just have to open your Bible and read it. Text Criticism was something new, I just never studied the Bible that way before.

But the class that compels me to write about this is the new course I am looking at, it is called Introduction of Political Philosophy, and it just hit my brain's sweet spot. It deals with the idea of the "Ideal Regime" the questions that are extremely relevant today have been asked for a long time by some great thinkers of the human race, learning about it is an awesome experience. I think that's what learning is supposed to be about. I think this is one of those course that will shape the way I think about politics for the rest of my life.

Well, that's all for now, I am sitting next to a fireplace in a Panera in Schaumburg, it's 6:30 AM, and I am headed for the office, long day of work ahead of me.

Be Good to each other.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Some personal thoughts about beliefs systems

Disclaimer, this post may not make much sense from the structural point of view, because I am just going to start typing things as they come to my head.

There's something I need to tell you, because many people may be dealing with the same thing, this is tearing me apart.

On one side, I understand perfectly and completely the thing about people living their lives the best way the know how, I know many people out there who consider themselves christian and who live decent lives, some people I consider close friends, believe in some form a god, most often is the christian god Jesus Christ, it's not accident, I do after all, live in a Westernized society, if I were born in Saudi Arabia, most of my friends would be muslim, If I were born here, but 400 years ago, chances are my friends would be worshipping mother nature or something. Anyway, the thing is, I live in a society where the majority consider themselves some form christian.

I don't respect or care for Christianity, but that doesn't mean I don't respect or care about you as a person. If I know you, and you are a nice person, I don't care if you worship a grilled cheese sandwich, Zeus, Yahweh, or Lady Gaga, I don't give a damn. The same applies if you are atheist, if you are a total douchebag and you call yourself an atheist, it doesn't mean that I am your pal.

Going back to Religion in General and Christianity specifically, I do have many issues with it. This position comes from a lifetime of thinking, analyzing scriptures, being around church and what not, my doubts did not come on a whim, this is not a phase that I am going trough, it's not a response to an oppressive childhood, I did meet hypocrites in church, but even if 100% of the people I met were true christians, I still would have my doubts. Some people (i.e my Mom) think that I was influenced by the "liberals" that lurk universities , my Dad thinks that Iraq made me an atheist, he maybe onto something there. But, the truth is, it all started very early, however, I did want to believe, I wanted it all to be true! I did not rebel against it just to be different, I did want it all to be true, and it took courage to separate from a community that gave me so much comfort, I miss the close-knit feeling of belonging you get when you are part of a church. I still do.

But it was reasoning that made me change my mind, I knew there are a lot of other religions, so I thought, are they all true? some are more true than others? (Catholics vs Protestant, vs Jehova Witness, Mormons?) what's the deal here?
Then it was the problem of evil and suffering, the explanations that I got for it were mentally unsatisfying, then it hit me,
what if they are all wrong? what if this is something we made up to make sense of the world? and then everything makes sense.

How I figured it out is the silliest thing in the world, but I'll share it anyway, the first church I ever went to, I had a crush on the pastor's daughter, ( I was 12 ok?) I was too shy to actually tell her that, but that did not stop me from having a romance and a relationship with her, all in my head. I moved to FL and never saw her again, but to me, this was my first love, to her, she probably didn't know I existed.

This silly example is a instance of the power of the mind, when you really want to believe something, you can go off and make the world fit your views.

But what I did when I was older was to look for evidence that Christianity is the right faith. See, I knew the answer was that God is real, and Jesus is the way. But I wanted proof, so I looked, and looked, and did not find anything that would make my faith more valid than any other faith, so I keep going to church because I though of faith as a virtue, and I was lacking in that virtue, but I though God would provide me with faith if I kept on praying for it.

Then I went to Iraq, I saw that rightous people suffer in this world, regardless of how faithful you are. Suffering. Seeing people suffer for no reason got to me, Then I came across a book that told me it was ok to say that I don't believe in God.

"The God Delusion" made me aware that I was not alone in my reasoning, so I embraced that label. My mistake was thinking that if I showed other people my arduous path to my current position, they would see that I was diligent, that it was an honest inquiry and that they would follow me. I wanted all my friends and family to know, that it's ok, that you can leave the church, and it would be allright. But I found out the hard way that people don't want their beliefs challenged, when somebody wants to believe something they will make everything fit what they want to believe.

When I see somebody make a statement 3*2 = 7, I have to say something and correct it. When I see someone saying they have proof or reason that God exists I feel compelled to tell them that I have been down that road and came up empty, But they don't want to hear it. Nobody does, So my question to myself is, what should I do?

Should I keep my opinion to myself? Well, I don't know,
If everyone takes the same path, then nothing would ever change, if that was the attitude of our forefathers, we would still be a colony of England, we would still have slaves, women would not be able to vote, and I would probably have to go to a different bathroom in certain parts of this country. So no.

I think is wrong for religious groups that feel that they are so righteous, they can get away with intolerance in this country in the name of their beliefs. I think is wrong to block scientific research in the name of a religious belief. I think it's utterly ridiculous to "teach both theories" when it comes to science, clearly, one thing is science, the other is not. I think it's wrong to discriminate based on sexual preference. I am tired of otherwise good people to pick and choose from an old book what they think is right or wrong, I think is wrong to call this country a "Christian Nation" it is a secular government where most of citizens are christian, that's something very different from having a Christian Government.

It's hard to say these things without hurting people's feelings without offending. I am very sorry, that's not my intention, I just want to make this place a better world for everybody whether you are a believer or not. A world where we are equal, a world were we can tolerate each other and everyone has the freedom to pursue happiness.

In conclusion, I don't think I can convince people in a personal level that their beliefs are wrong, no matter how well I present the argument. But I think that we can at least stop the side effects, teaching science in schools, stopping the intolerance are a good start. Religion is at the root of these issues, but its also a touching subject to people, so attacking religion is a risky thing.

I am torn because, if I choose one path, I compromise the other. I don't want to alienate my friends, but I do want to make people aware of these things. I don't want to turn into an intolerant bigot. But I do want to fight against social injustice.


Friday, January 29, 2010

What I am reading

Lately I've been busy, (what else is new?)

I am supposed to be 50/50 between two projects, but in reality is more like 100/100, working a lot of hours.
I am taking Wireless Communication at UF, this is my last Communication Class, after this I have two electives and a math class and then I am done with the master's. I am trying desperately to get an A. I have a 2.91 course avg, I am not that worried, I am not ashamed of that GPA either, in fact, I am darn proud that I can go to school while holding a full time job and fulfilling the role of being a father and a husband.

I wouldn't trade them for anything in this world.

Anyway, I have a long book queue that I am trying to get trough, but at the top of the queue are two books that were lent to me by good friends.

I am reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Ecco, It's pretty awesome, the made that movie in the 80's with Sean Connery based on the book, and as always, the book is much better, I am 200 pages into it. It's going slow because of what's in the first paragraph of this blog post.

Right behind in the queue is Parenting Beyond Belief, it's about Raising Ethical Caring kids without religion. It's a series of anecdotes and essays about the tough job of being a parent, for people who choose to be superstition-free.

Speaking of religion, I am reading the transcripts for a History of the New Testament class from Yale University Open Courses, they are going over Bartman's book. Very interesting, I am in lecture 16.

I am reading Steve Yegge's Drunken Blog Rants, awesome. blog. period. It's a programmer who used to work at Amazon and basically drinks a lot of wine and rants, he is full of great insight with regards to the craft of building software, good stuff.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Finally finished reading Coders at Work

This was a fascinating book, basically interviews with notable programmers, there are a bunch of reviews out there that will tell you why you should read this book if you write software for a living. Here's one that I liked.

I just want to write the snips and pieces that stuck together, some simple things I had heard before, others were new and unexpected. There isn't any structure to the ideas I have so I am going to put it in list format:

1. Lisp

I was a bit surprised to see how many of the programmers that were interviewed for this book were lisp developers, after all, Lisp is not as widely used as Java and C++, but then I found out that the author Peter Seibel also wrote a book titled "Practical Common Lisp" so that kind of explains it. I guess the message that I get from all these Lisp hackers is that the perfect programming language well, not perfect, but the most advanced programming language was actually invented first, but it was not adapted for reasons x, y and z. So these inferior things came along and became popular, programmers who don't know Lisp just don't get it. Of course I am exaggerating a bit here, but the point I am making is that Lisp is not what gets used in the industry. However, it aroused my interest, and I think I am going to look into it. I started by reading some wikipedia articles, but I can tell this is going to be an intellectual challenge, I can't say I understand lamda calculus yet.

This is the starting point from my Lisp endeavors. (It's a bunch of free Lisp resources in the web, gotta love the internet.)

2. Is Programming an Engineering Discipline, an Art a Craft or a Science?

It can be argued that Computer Programming is all the above and more, it can be approached as an Art the way Picasso approached his paintings or the way Hemmingway, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky approached writing prose. In the other extreme there are those that say that we should build software the way we build bridges, there's a formal process and bridges don't fall, well, with some exceptions in Minnesota.

Personally, I am aware that Programming is craft that it's a bit different than building bridges, engines or any other physical thing, software is more like math in the sense that it's is made up of thought stuff, it's more abstract ideas, A "program" is just a bunch of instructions. I always think of it as writing a recipe for a very very dumb cook. Great Programmers can combine characteristics from all of these approaches and create great software.

I think that all programmers should treat it as a craft and therefore should practice and sharpen theirs skills constantly, I think that just learning enough to do your job is a grave mistake, programmers should always try to improve, to grow, to push their limit.

However, I agree that Software Engineering should be formalized, we should find out the things that work and stick to them, but we need to understand why it works and we need to be flexible to accept and try out new ideas.

This field is so young, we've only been programming computers for about 60 years, that's nothing compared to the 2000 + years that we've been making buildings, for example.

3. Is programming a young person's game?

Some people would say it is, I think that you gain so much wisdom with experience that an older person can still make huge amounts of contribution. I do see how a person with a lot of responsibilities and commitment outside of just writing code would have a lot less time to sit there and code for hours and hours continuously. This is why I am having such a hard time developing apps for the Iphone, I just don't have the time to sit for 20 hours trying to put something together, specially in the beginning when there's a learning curve to get over.

4. Don Knuth is a bad-ass

This I already knew. If you can read and understand the Art of Computer Programming, you know what you're doing.

5. What books to read?

The author asked this question to all the Programmers interviewed, there were a variety of answers, not much overlap, among the books that I have read was Code Complete and Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, and Design Patterns, there are some books that already were in my list of books to read, like Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs and the Red Dragon Compiler Book.

Other books have been added to my list like the bit twiddling book "Haker's Delight"

Read Source Code

It's amazing how many other programmers stress the importance of reading other people's code, not only to educate one's self to seeing how an interesting program might work but also to force yourself to understand what another mind was thinking when they were solving a particular problem. This leads to an expansion of the imaginations and provides tools for future use.

Overall, nice book. Highly recommended.