Quote of the Day →

April 16, 2012 |

Dare to be yourself.

André Gide (1869 - 1951), French critic, essayist, & novelist.

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What Happens When A 35-Year-Old Man Retakes The SAT? | Deadspin →

April 13, 2012 |

Many times, I had to skip a question because I couldn’t figure out the answer, and then I got that paranoia that’s unique to someone taking a standardized test. I became fearful that I had failed to skip over the question on my answer sheet. So every five seconds, I’d double-check my sheet to make sure I didn’t fill out my answers in the wrong slots. One time I did this, and so I had to erase the answers and move them all forward. Only I had a shitty eraser, which failed to erase my mark and instead smeared the mark all over the rest of my sheet. FUCK YOU, TRICK ERASER. I HATE YOU.

Aaah, the College admission tests. Good times.

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Caine's Arcade →

April 12, 2012 |

This is, without a doubt, the best thing you will watch today.

Via everyone on the Internet.

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Quote of the Day →

March 16, 2012 |

Just once, I wish we would encounter an alien menace that wasn’t immune to bullets.

Unknown, Brigader Lethbridge-Stewart in “Dr. Who”.

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The Inevitable Ugliness of Women | Black Hockey Jesus →

March 15, 2012 |

Dear Women. I have tried to love you. I’ve smelled your hair and kissed your shoulder and written poems about your bones. I’ve studied your neck with my fingers for hours. I’ve looked you dead in the eye, shocked into presence by your sight, and said _My God you’re beautiful_ (and I meant that shit too). But not once, not with a single one of you, have I made a dent in your armor. You’re so tenaciously devoted. Married. Committed to being not pretty.

Fantastic, awe-inspiring essay, as usual, from BHJ. But this one struck a nerve, because I share his pain. Women. How on Earth can they not see it? They are goddesses. Each and every one of them. It breaks my heart, seeing such wonderful creatures buckle under the pressure of a stupid society that has long lost its mind.

How on Earth can they not see it?

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Madrid’s Subway Station, Sol, Temporarily Renamed to “Sol Galaxy Note” | El País (Spanish source) →

March 13, 2012 |

Estacion Sol Galaxy Note?

Here’s the thing, in a nutshell: One of the oldest subway stations in Madrid, the centric Sol station, located in the very heart of the Spanish capital, has been renamed “Sol Galaxy Note” as part of the latest advertising campaign for Samsung’s most recent device, the Samsung Galaxy Note. This new device is being marketed by the South Korean company as a hybrid between smartphones and tablets that provides its lucky owners with the best of both worlds. Or so would Samsung have us believe. The new name will be in place on every banner at the station for one month.

This whole thing feels very, very wrong. And silly. And quite frankly, it sounds ridiculous. Now, I’m not saying this to attack Samsung or Google, although I do question whether they’re making the right decision here. What feels wrong is that they’re taking one of the most iconic places in the city and changing its name just for the hell of it. Whatever obscene amount of money the city may have decided to charge for it, it doesn’t matter. Some things are just not messed with. The Sol station has always been a landmark where people meet, one of the most recognizable spots in all of Madrid ever since it first opened its gates in 1919. Well, not anymore.

Nueva estación de Sol

I don’t know about the rest of Madrid’s citizens, but there’s something about this that deeply offends me on a very personal level. And, though the ultimate responsible is of course the government of the city, I cannot help but feel a certain sense of animosity towards any company that would decide to advertise its products in such an intrusive, disrespectful way. I would imagine that no one in their right mind is going to look at the new banners at the station and cheerfully march on to the closest store to buy a brand new Galaxy Note, while chanting “thanks for reminding us, Samsung!”. In fact, if you’re anything like me, this puts the very product that’s being advertised in the negative part of your subconscious, where money is nonexistent and reactions are hostile. You do not want to be there, Samsung, trust me.

Companies should be very cautious about the reactions their ads evoke on people. If you miss the mark, you may find yourself on a slippery slope that goes down all the way to irrelevance. Actually, the Samsung Galaxy Note seems to be doing a fine job of that on its own, I don’t think it needs any more help from its makers to get there.

Madrid’s Sol station is quite simply the Sol station. Not the Sol Galaxy Note station, or the iSol station, or the Windows Sol Enterprise Edition Service Pack 3 station. If we start changing those things, pretty soon we’re going to wake up in a city that will feel alien to the people that built it and shaped it into what it is today. And that’s something you just don’t do.

Madrid - Metro - Estación de Sol

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Apple Unveils The New iPad

March 08, 2012

The new iPad

Not the iPad 3, or the iPad 2S, or the iPad HD. Just the new iPad. I like that. I believe Apple has decided to change their naming convention after the small backlash they received with the iPhone 4S not being the iPhone 5. It somehow made some crazy people think that the new upgrade wasn’t big enough that it was worthy of a new version number on its own. Which is nuts, because a name is just a name, and the simpler it is, the better for everyone. I always liked how, whenever there is a new iMac, it’s simply “the new iMac”. It may look different, but it is the same product you already know and love. It works, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t do the same for all their product lines.

So, the new iPad. Good improvements all over the place, but the not-so-hidden gem here is clearly the new Retina Display. If the difference is anywhere near as good as it was on the iPhone, this new iPad is going to be an absolute joy to use.

Yet, for some reason, I’m not feeling an immediate, unrelenting urge to upgrade. Yet. Wait till I get my dirty hands on one and then we’ll talk. That display, oh my.

The rest of the improvements were largely expected by pretty much everyone on the Internet, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 4 months. They include: a better processor (the Apple-designed A5X, with quad-core graphics to drive the new Retina Display), a better rear camera, now labeled iSight and with the same optics as the iPhone 4S (here I am a bit surprised, I wasn’t expecting that big of an upgrade on this camera, to be honest), and of course 4G LTE (which must be great if you’re willing to pay extra, but considering I prefer the WiFi-only version, this really doesn’t tell me anything).

Everything else stays the same, prices included, which is nice. The most impressive claim? Even with the new Retina Display, quad-core graphics and LTE, the new iPad still retains the same 10-hour battery life, or 9 hours if you’re on LTE. That’s huge, considering how much power the LTE radio alone uses.

Of course, Apple has one of the best engineering teams in the world to make this possible, but as of today they don’t yet have magicians in-house, so in order to achieve all this, the new iPad needs to be slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad 2. However, the difference is small enough that you’re not likely to notice it, unless you’re doing a side-by-side comparison.

All in all, a nice set of improvements that make a great product even better.

Oh, and one last thing: they’re keeping the 16GB models of the iPad 2 around, with a $100 price drop. The WiFi model is now $399, and the 3G model is $529. This should help make the iPad an even more attractive choice for many people, and may very well be the final nail in the coffin for all those Android wannabe’s. By the way, this could also be the slight opening Microsoft desperately needs to finally gain traction in the tablet space. With Android looking bad, if they’re able to make their Metro UI shine, they just may have a shot at success. Not iPad-like success, of course, but something that goes beyond being a footnote and starts being a legitimate contender in their own right.

Of course, many analysts and industry observers will be disappointed by the new iPad. Stock may even take a small dip after the announcement, just like it happens after every Apple event. Oh well. Let them laugh nervously with their calculators and their charts. Meanwhile, everyone else in the world will be happily using it. Because the magical part of the iPad is that people get it. They see it, and they instantly get it. Its appeal cannot be measured by numbers or statistics, you just get it, or you don’t. That’s what drives the analysts crazy. No amount of market research can ever decipher that effect. Because it’s magic.

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Quote of the Day →

March 02, 2012 |

Productivity can be like sausage; no one likes seeing it discussed at length on the internet by middle-aged men.

Merlin Mann, 43 Folders.

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My name is Álvaro, and I am an addict

February 27, 2012

Drenched in sweat.

Whenever we run for an extended period of time, endorphins are released into our bloodstream. They are a morphine-like substance that our body produces to help itself deal with extreme exertion, suppress pain, or temporarily boost our own awareness and reflexes. A cool side-effect of endorphins is that they make us feel good. That’s why running until we’re out of breath is so exhilarating, and we feel so incredibly great afterwards. The same thing occurs every time we have sex or eat chocolate, two activities that also trigger a release of endorphins into our system. You get the idea.

I’ve recently realized that I’m sort of an endorphin addict. Without a frequent release of them into my bloodstream, I find that I am not able to function properly. My creativity suffers, and my ability to come up with original ideas and build new things is severely compromised. When that happens, I’m extremely frustrated and unhappy. The lack of any substantial posts in Analog Senses lately is a prime example of that. And I don’t like it one bit.

Some creative people work better when depressed. For them, alcohol, one of the most readily accessible depressors there is, is an essential tool of the trade. They start knocking down whiskies and find that their inner Shakespeares or Dalis crawl a little closer to the surface with each sip, until they’re so totally hammered that they end up passing out on the floor. Misery is the gasoline that fuels their creative fire and keeps their flame burning.

Me? I’m more of a feel-good kind of guy. Not that I don’t appreciate the creative wonders of personal misery, of course. Been there, done that. But I find that my creativity is at its best when I’m feeling upbeat and optimistic about the world. I have always had faith in people. Even now, in such difficult economic and political times, I still do. I still believe our ability to produce great things can redeem us as a species. I still believe some people out there wake up every day and genuinely make the world a better place through their creative work. I refuse to give up on the notion that we can be better, and every day is just another chance to prove it.

But that didn’t change the fact that I had lost my way, and my focus was gone. And here’s why. For the past few months I had given up on my early morning jogging routine. I used to jog for 40-50 minutes every other day on my way to work. It was the perfect way to kickstart the morning, and I found myself more energized and more alert throughout the whole day. But then the cold winter came and I was slightly less inclined to leave my warm, cozy bed and step out into the freezing morning, no matter how badass I may look in running tights, which trust me is A LOT. So, since hypothermia wasn’t a particularly attractive proposition, I quit jogging and started cycling my way to work. The whole way from my place to the university is basically downhill, and I can make it there in under 10 minutes. While this would not isolate me from the cold completely, it presented an acceptable compromise: it allowed me to avoid becoming a popsicle while still getting some kind of exercise (considering that the way back from work is obviously a big-ass uphill battle).

At first the switch seemed to work exactly as planned. I was once again enjoying the simple pleasure of riding my bike and I could stay tucked in bed for a few more precious minutes in the morning. It was a perfect arrangement, or so it appeared. However, after the first couple of weeks went by I started to feel increasingly tired at work. I had lost my focus, my motivation suffered, and procrastination threatened to kill my productivity. It soon became clear that I couldn’t function like that and I had to make some changes. But what could I do?

It still took me some time to figure out what the cause of my apathy was. By pure chance I took to running again during the weekends, trying to make good use of the nice weather that came about on occasion. Without even realizing it my Mondays began to feel better, and I found that I was eager to start the week. However, as the days rolled by I once again struggled, and by Friday I was pretty much dead already. I did not have the energy to go out at night, and I crashed into bed early, just wanting to sleep forever. Then after a good night’s rest I would wake up early on Saturday and force myself to go running, because my body was screaming at me to do it, and once again I felt so much better. I carelessly repeated this whole process again, and again, until I finally saw it: It’s not just that I enjoy running, I actually need it to stay productive.

I’m a running junkie, I know that now. Just as I need, physically need, my cup of coffee in the morning, I cannot function properly without jogging regularly before work. Jogging later in the day will not do the trick, and other forms of exercise fail to alleviate the problem (except for maybe tennis, but that is impossible to arrange in the early morning on a regular basis). Also since I’m currently single, other forms of team exercise suitable for the early hours are not regularly available. A quick examination of the problem, and even the casual observer will agree that jogging is my best option.

Once I accepted my new condition as an addict, it was considerably easier to deal with it. I devised a schedule that would allow ample time for my jogging sessions, while providing the opportunity to ride my bike as well. On alternating days, I would ride my bike to work, carrying my backpack with a change of clothes in it. This bag I would leave at work overnight. On the next day, I would wake up and jog my way to work, where a nice hot shower and fresh, clean clothes would be waiting for me. Repeat as needed. Talk about a win-win scenario.

I’ve been following that schedule for just over two weeks now and I’m already feeling the benefits. I’m once again energized and upbeat, and I’m smiling so much more. My efficiency at work has improved dramatically, too.

I may be over analyzing this, the engineer in me tends to do that. I’ve always paid close attention to the feedback from my body. You see, through self-reflection and analysis we can effect important changes in everything we do. Knowing how the mechanism behind my mood works, for example, gives me an opportunity to act on it. Effectively, it empowers me to course-correct the ship whenever I detect an iceberg ahead. These seemingly small choices, of which we make dozens every day, have a tremendous impact on the quality of our lives. That’s why this kind of self-knowledge is crucial to our well-being.

Listen to your body. Follow its lead, and do what it tells you to do. It is much wiser and much more aware of your needs than you think.

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