Monday, June 10, 2019

First Letter to Ian

On the night you came into this world
Your mother and I listened together
Hand in hand
To all our love songs
The water broke as the second one played
And we kept on listening
I felt infinite love for her
And let a tear or two surface and drop
(Unlike what others may say,
Men do and should cry)
We rested for a bit
There was lightning
We never see lightning in this part of the world
I wondered what kind of omen that was
Decided it was a good one
And went back to waiting
I will never forget your mother's face while she pushed you
The fiercest, bravest expression you'll ever see
All the fury and energy and power of every woman that ever walked this earth
A warrior you could not face
The primal forces of nature combined
No words will do it justice
It takes a lot to bring one of us into life
We saw your black hair first
Then you were out, eyes wide open
A blur of medical people surrounded us
But your mother and I saw just you
We cried the happiest tears
And held you a long time
A different room, a little rest
The early hours snowed the first winter snow
Wasn't it supposed to be fall?
I hope you like this world
It's weird and messy and full of beauty
Welcome now
There's much for you to learn
Know this, remember it always:
You've been loved from the start

Second Letter to Ian

I start with an apology:
I’m sorry I didn’t write earlier
I took a while because I was afraid
that my words wouldn’t be good enough
to capture these miracles I’ve seen.
That is obvious now; they never will.

(Some friends used to say
in red lettered posters
that ‘done is better than perfect’
and they were right)

I write to tell you about the lessons I’ve taken
on the subject of time.

First, that the future does not exist,
yet you’ll imagine many futures,
like I do now,
thinking of future you.

Second, that there’s only now,
all that happens is at the present moment,
and you should be mindful of it - all else is waste.

Third, that memories are but a shadow of the present,
yet you’ll cherish some forever,
because they’re all that’s left
of a perfect past.

Fourth, that human time is not made of seconds
but rather of moments. 
In that sense you enlarged my existence
a thousand fold.

I collected some of our moments here
While your memory isn’t ready
and while mine hasn’t faded
These will go one day too
But for now we fight the fleetingness
with beauty.

I. Disarray and first bottle

Dry lips in the morning
Sore breasts which you wouldn’t take
A nurse that didn’t know the urgency of life
A cupboard impatiently opened
Pots and pans on the floor
A hastily opened box full of nutrition
Your first bottle
Relieved breaths

II. Drive

Never have I felt such clarity of purpose
as when doing things for you.
I drove to three cities because you needed me to
and no traffic or rain could bother me
Nothing would stop or distract me from my mission
to provide.

III. First Light

I remember watching the very first light appear
breaking one of our many sleepless nights
turning the dark sky grey
as the world turned, revealing itself
I held you in my arms then,
as I did many times before and after,
and understood everything.

IV. Warmth

I miss the time when you perennially wanted to be held
I’d walk around rooms everywhere,
In this continent or another
Sometimes I’d sing, or count in silence
And you were always so warm

V. Old new clothes

One day you wouldn’t fit
any single one of your clothes
When did you grow?
Were we not looking?
Your mother and I packed
everything, carefully, in a box
And hugged each other as the tears flowed

VI. Banana pure

Your first solid meal was banana pure
That must be quite common
A baby eating their first pure
But like many times since we met
I couldn’t really tell you why I teared up
It’s something about life
Rushing in, thunderously

VII. Past, present and future

I opened a door
And for a brief moment stepped out of time
My father was carrying me
I was carrying you
You were carrying a baby
May this cycle be repeated a thousand times.

VIII. Remote control, red balloon

You were always eager to explore
We encouraged you, of course,
But you struggled to do more
Like that day when you got
the remote control in one hand
and a red ballon in the other
and places to go
I asked you ‘what now’
And off you went
Walking by yourself

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Most personal blogs have been dead for quite a while; Facebook has pretty much replaced them. I haven't posted in more than one year and I don't even know if any of my friends still do. Is anyone still here?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

for the record

I made up this joke while in college. A friend of mine recently thought it was funny (perhaps a first for the joke), so I thought I'd record it.

What noise did the photon make when it hit the atom?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Installing Windows 7 on an ASUS EeePC

[Disclaimer: this clearly is not the typical Gondolin post (though one could argue that nowadays the typical post is empty - let's not even get into that); I'm posting it here because I want to share the info and I can't think of an easier place to write it to.

Dear usual readers, feel free to ignore this entirely]

I recently installed Windows 7 on my wife's netbook, an ASUS EeePC 1000HE (if you landed here looking for instructions on how to do it, see for instance this guide). Five minutes after I proudly handed it over to her, considering my task done, she noticed that the special function keys (the overloaded Fn keys that one can use for various tasks such as increasing, decreasing or muting the system volume, changing brightness, etc) were not working. I naively assumed that fixing it would be a simple task. It took me 4 hours! So I decided to try to save people's time by posting a how-to.

If you go to the ASUS download page, you can easily enough find and download drivers for your EeePC netbook. Just type the model name on the upper left hand search box, fill in the model name (in my case, "1000HE"), select the OS and it will show you links for a bunch of things. Windows 7 installation picked up most things by itself (Video, LAN, Audio), so I didn't bother to get specific drivers for them. I did download and install the "Hotkey Service Utility" (under ATK), the "Touchpad Driver" (under Touchpad) plus the "ASUS Instant Key Utility" and "ASUS Update Utility" (both under Utilities). The latter installer refuses to run and quits with a confusing error message: "WARNING ASUSUpdate only support Eee PC Product and please install the ASUS ACPI Driver First".

The symptom one would typically experience after installing the other three utilities and restarting the system is a mysterious error message popping up after logon saying "ASUS ACPI service Can't get WMI ASUSManagement Object".

The fact that ASUS Update refuses to install is unfortunate; in fact, it seems ASUS created a chicken-and-egg problem. It turns out that ASUS Update doesn't want to be installed because the BIOS version doesn't match its requirements. The error message after login is caused by the same reason. However, the easiest way to update the BIOS would be by running ASUS Update.

There are other ways of flashing your BIOS, but they are poorly documented. I had to search for hours and try multiple different things until I arrived at the following (reasonably simple) solution.

How to update an ASUS EeePC BIOS

1. Get an USB drive. It can be quite small, you will need less than 1MB in it
2. Format the USB drive using the FAT filesystem (aka FAT16). This is important. Do not use FAT32; otherwise the EZ Flash utility will freeze (specifically, it hangs saying that it's reading the file). You can do this by going to Windows Explorer, right clicking on your USB drive, selecting Format and choosing FAT. Quick format is turned on by default and should work just fine
3. Download the latest BIOS version for your netbook from the ASUS website. You don't need to do incremental steps; you can go directly for the latest version (which is the highest numbered update (in my case, it was version 1104))
4. Copy the ROM file to the USB drive
5. Rename the file to ModelName.ROM. In my case, I had to rename it to 1000HE.ROM
6. Turn the netbook off
7. Make sure the USB drive is connected to one of the netbook's USB ports (prior to turning it on)
8. Make sure you have your power adapter plugged in (because you really don't want to run out of battery in the middle of a BIOS update)
9. Turn the netbook on
10. On the initial screen, press ALT+F2 to run the EZ Flash utility
11. If it finds the pendrive, it will say so. Otherwise it will keep on an infinite loop looking for it
12. If it finds the file with the name it's expecting, it will say so. Otherwise it will complain
13. EZ Flash will then read the file and perform a bunch of operations. In my case, these took less than 5 minutes. When it's done, it will instruct you to reboot. Do it!
14. You're all set. :)

After you went through this, once you boot Windows it will stop displaying the error message and it will allow you to install the ASUS Update utility.

Friday, August 14, 2009

i feel old

Today my sister mentioned a blog post I wrote 7 years ago. Seven years! That's 25% of my life so far, and 10% of my life expectancy.

How long will this blog live for? It was about to die, but right now I feel like I should keep it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the socks problem

I have the habit of leaving my clean clothes on the dryer until they run out or until I need to dry some more, case in which I transfer everything to a large basket. I rarely spend the time to put them away. When I need some socks I go to the dryer and try to find a matching pair. This process is often more difficult than I'd expect and it has bothered me for years.

So today I decided to compute the probabilities involved and the expected number of draws until I find a matching pair.

I draw one sock at a time uniformly at random until I have a matching pair. If I have 10 pairs of socks (all of them different), the probabilities of drawing a sock exactly at the k-th draw are as follows:

p(1 draw) = 0 (can't have a pair with only one sock)
p(2 draws) = (1 / 19) (I have 1 sock in my hands and I can draw any of the other 19 socks)
p(3 draws) = (1 - p(2)) * (2 / 18) (To get here, I can't have drawn a pair in the previous two draws; and now I have 2 socks and I can draw any of the other 18 socks)
p(10 draws) = (1 - p(2) - p(3) - ... - p(9)) * (9 / 11)
p(11 draws) = (1 - p(2) - p(3) - ... - p(9) - p(10)) * (10 / 10) (To get here, I can't have drawn a pair in the previous ten draws; I've also got all possible socks so anything that I draw at this point will match one of them, so the probability of finding a match here is 1)

The expected number of draws to find a matching pair is:
1 * p(1) + 2 * p(2) + 3 * p(3) + ... + 10 * p(10) + 11 * p(11)

That gives around 5.7 draws.

Ok, I don't feel as bad now. I still feel the universe is playing tricks on me, but at least they're subtle enough to keep my paranoia at bay.

Bonus: a graph showing the probabilities of finding a match on the k-th try.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

go humans go?

Walking home an hour ago, I saw a similar advertisement on top of some random building here in Seattle. Having discussed the economic crisis and the apparent lack of purpose of many things in life over dinner with some friends, I felt like defacing it. Given my absolute lack of spraying and urban climbing skills, I didn't do it. Not incurring the risk of end up in jail was a nice bonus. But I hate to see an idea wasted, so here it is. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, Microsoft Paint and the generosity of Gary Soup (who published the original under the Creative Commons license on Flickr), here's my virtual manifest:

Monday, March 09, 2009


I saw Watchmen at the IMax theater last Saturday. I felt bad for Alan Moore. I know he's a crazy dude, but... If I had written it I'd be pretty pissed off.

Good: scenarios, special effects, sound track, Rorschach, Comedian
Ok: Nite Owl (could be more dorky), Dr Manhattan (could have less feelings)
Bad: Ozymandias (not smart enough), Silk Spectre (not annoying enough)
Horrible: plot and continuity (it should suffice to say that the ending sequence was a complete screw up; it's not nearly as powerful as the original - maybe I'll write more once everyone saw it)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

free, free palestine

Today a few hundred people here in Seattle protested against the Israeli attack on Gaza.

War sucks. Humanity should know better.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Little Joy in Seattle

Last Thursday I watched a couple songs by the Dead Trees and went to the bar to get a beer. We were standing there chatting and Rodrigo Amarante passes by, completely unnoticed. No fan crowd after him, just another guy at the bar. The four of us, all Brazilians, recognized him instantly. A bit afraid at first, we finally gathered courage to ask him to pose for a photo. He was very friendly and sat there talking to us for half an hour, just before their show. He told us that they've been on the road for quite a while, crossing the country in a van, carrying their own equipment, booking their own hotels, doing their thing like a small band. Amarante also mentioned Little Joy's plans to play in Brazil, and said that sometime in 2009 Los Hermanos will get together for a concert, and after that they'll go to a studio to record their next album.

Yay! The best Brazilian band is getting back together soon!

Uhm, the concert? Yes, that was pretty good too.

Edit: adicionando uma versão em Português e mostrando a nossa foto no El Corazón aqui em Seattle

Quinta passada eu assisti duas músicas do Dead Trees e fui pro bar pegar uma cerveja. A gente tava ali de pé conversando e o Rodrigo Amarante passa do nosso lado, totalmente despercebido. Nós quatro, todos brasileiros, reconhecemos o cara na hora. Vencemos o medo e tomamos coragem pra ir pedir uma foto com ele. Ele foi muito amigável e sentou ali conversando com a gente por meia hora, logo antes do show deles. Ele falou que eles estão na estrada faz um bom tempo, cruzando o país numa van, carregando o próprio equipamento, reservando hotéis, dando uma de banda pequena mesmo. O Amarante também falou dos planos do Little Joy de tocar no Brasil, e falou que em 2009 Los Hermanos vão se reunir pra um show e em seguida vão pro estúdio gravar o próximo álbum.

Uhu! A melhor banda brasileira volta logo!

Ah, o show do Little Joy? É, foi muito bom também.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Little Joy

Little Joy is the best thing that happened to music this year. Rodrigo Amarante (Los Hermanos) and Fabrizio Moretti (Strokes) got together to write a delightfully unpretentious album about love. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Congratulations, Mr. Obama

The world welcomes you in hopes of a brighter future.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Death Magnetic

Believe it or not, Metallica's last album is actually good. Oh boy, it was about time they remembered how to do it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Such Great Heights

I am thinking it's a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images and
When we kiss they're perfectly aligned
And I have to speculate
That God himself did make us into
Corresponding shapes like puzzles pieces
From the clay
True, it may seem like a stretch
But it's thoughts like this
That catch my troubled head
When you're away, when I am missing you to death
When you were out there on the road
For several weeks of shows
And when you scan the radio
I hope this song will guide you home
They will see us waving from such great heights
"Come down now," they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
"Come down now," but we'll stay


(this is a song by The Postal Service that inevitably makes me think of the woman I love)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

you've got to love the Music Genome Project

While exploring Pandora, I somewhat randomly clicked on a button on the iPhone version of the app. Then it said:

Why this song is playing:

"We're playing the track because it features electric rock instrumentation, punk influences, extensive vamping, major key tonality, electric rhythm guitars and many other similarities identified in the Music Genome Project."

I couldn't resist clicking next:

"electronica roots, a laid back male vocal, vocal samples, a repetitive verse, a repetitive chorus, use of modal harmonies, dry snare, emphasis on instrumental performance, a tight kick sound, inventive instrumental arrangements, a slow moving bass line, use of strings, subtle use of pianos, mellow piano timbre, thin ambient synth textures (...)"

One more:

"subtle use of vocal harmony, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, solo strings (...)"

Wow! I really like all those things but I had never thought of the individual elements that attract me in a song. Great job!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

IE8 Beta 2 released

You can already download IE8 Beta 2, now featuring InPrivate Browsing. Excerpt from the site:

Sometimes you don’t want to leave any trace of specific web browsing activity, such as when checking e-mail at an Internet café or shopping for a gift on a family PC. InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer 8 helps prevent your browsing history, temporary Internet files, form data, cookies, and usernames and passwords from being retained by the browser, leaving no evidence of your browsing or search history.

Pretty awesome, huh?


I just came back from their concert here in Seattle. Good show, nothing really special to note. I was surprised to see them ending their set with "I am the Walrus", but it seems they do that.

Along the same lines as the Radiohead "review", my personal impression of Oasis is that they're not unique and they're not different, but they excel at being a normal rock band. And that's quite an accomplishment, since that's pretty much what a lot of other bands try (and fail) to do.