Low level fun.

As a wise man said, “low level is easy”.

There aren’t that many things below that can break except for hardware (and compiler!) bugs, they are becoming increasingly common but still the level of pressure and control to keep quality up on processors are orders of magnitude greater than those on the stacks above the OS.

A minor update of Ruby broke everything? The layout is totally wrong when a browser locale is set to Spanish but no in English? Who’s to blame for that? Even if we have most of the sources fixing the problem for everyone but ourselves isn’t that easy.

The other Monday I went to the Uni to take an exam on digital circuits (graded with 9/10) and oh boy, programming in assembler again was refreshing.

The tooling is just as awful as the last time I took that course (not as bad as the first versions of mplab but the assembler is still dumb when it comes to parsing spaces and the integrated editor is notepad in disguise) but the difference is that now they allowed us to use our own notebooks. The only saving grace is that the assembler, debugger and simulator are different executables, they accept a sane set of command line parameters and they run fine under wine.

So I was able to use vim and a simple makefile to streamline the process and finish in almost no time. Sadly the bar to pass has declined a lot in the last years.

When I’m say I’m alright

… don’t look in my eyes ’cause you’ll see I’m not alright.

But I’m trying.

About a month and half ago I snapped and couldn’t take it anymore. I sought professional help and got myself a Real Shrink and a Therapist (both extremely good and expensive). And I’m on meds now.

For the most part of the last three to four years what I described as “happy” or “fine” was actually different shades of miserable. I had my moments of truly happiness, but those were really few. And there was always that tiny rainy cloud looming above me.

I had a breakdown like this back in 2015 and I almost wanted to give up and get away from programming (I kinda did, I biked many times to the countryside trying to look for a quiet spot).

This time it’s not so bad on its own but compounded with other things happening in my life (one of the biggest is leaving Berisso) it totally wrecked me. The difference now it’s that I asked for help. I still run away from the civilization to take day long bike rides and reflex but I’m trying to get a grip on the problem and fix myself.

Lately I’ve lost interest in most of what my life is/was centered about (technology, engineering) and that bothers me a lot. Not completely, I have many drafts and toy projects that prove otherwise.

The knack it’s there but the thrill is gone. At least for a while.

As Dave Thomas put it, this is supposed to be fun. And it stopped being such for me, instead of an almost daily stream of marvel it gradually turned into a grind with an occasional touch of enjoyment, and not always at work.

I believe that we are defined by what we do (more than what we think / believe), work being a significant part of that. On that reference frame, this is a very tough situation.

So what now? I’m going to spend all the time I need to get better and take care of myself. I’m taking a bit of time off work and going back to uni for real, coming clean of my schedule to not rush things pretending I’m doing something when I’m not (attending lectures and using slack on the phone is awful). I’m saying no instead of hesitating. I’m not committing to do things just to please someone. I take a break when I feel I need it.

I know this stuff (antidepressants) takes time to make effect and it’s not a silver bullet that somehow will make everything fine overnight but I’m anxious, waiting for something to happen.

On a totally unrelated thing, the quote from the beginning is from a Storm Large song (it can be found here). I really miss her days with The Balls, the energy and vocal range from that era reminds me a lot to Skunk Anansie. But her smooth side of nowadays is gorgeous.

Sharing is caring.

Some contributions to open source projects that got merged. It’s a pity that most of the work I do has to be private but that’s going to change soon.

https://github.com/voxmedia/autotune/pull/391
https://github.com/voxmedia/autotune/pull/396
https://github.com/LimeSurvey/LimeSurvey/pull/793
https://github.com/LimeSurvey/LimeSurvey/pull/795
https://github.com/indilib/indi/pull/337

The folks at LimeSurvey are really nice and the process was super smooth.
The last one was very tricky, just a misplaced paren that completely changed the meaning of an error check.

Moving in

It’s been about a month since I left Berisso and moved into La Plata.
I miss a lot that air of simple town, the walks in the forest and the docks. I also miss that sense of security, here I need to lock my bike almost everywhere I go.

The (monetary) cost of living here is way higher but on the other hand I spend about a third of the time traveling to the uni (mostly by bike, even if it’s raining it’s still faster than the bus) and the bus to work and I am closer to my support net and the friends of Futura. I’m a strong believer that the amount time lost commuting is one of our biggest illness as society. For many lines of work it can not (yet?) be avoided. So it seems like a net win to me.

But, in spite of this I’m feeling quite down. Today I went to run a little and stopped at Parque Saavedra to rest before returning.

It’s a nice view nonetheless but not even close to the nights in Los Talas and Isla Paulino.

What nobody tells

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.

But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.

It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.
And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.
We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this.

And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.

And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.

It’s gonna take awhile.
It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Ira Glass

Also, Andy Hunt used to say:

It is the artistry,
not the art.
It is the process,
not the product.
It is the journey,
not the destination.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Last bike trip

This is my last week at Berisso before moving out. I finished a couple of chores and went out to enjoy it.

I biked along the terraplén as usual but instead of going directly to Palo Blanco I continued through Camino 3 de Abril, on some parts the canes and other plants go from side to side of the road, making a tunnel.

There are a couple of abandoned houses dating from the 20’s and even before that, some of them on sale:

After drifting for a while I went to Palo Blanco and had a couple of mates contemplating a lovely evening:

By the time I reached Avenida Montevideo again it was getting darker. Seems that everytime I’m around this part of the city I take the same pictures (October 2016):

Gosh how I’m going to miss this.

Night sight at Puente 3 de Abril

Larralde

Yesterday José Larralde came to Berisso.

I always wanted to see him live but all of his appearances were on hard to reach places.
He gifted us with a magnificent show of a bit less than four hours.

This year I did not attend to many shows but this was one of the bests.

Burning down the house

(Watch out)

So many drafts, some stories and pictures from the last PyCon at Bahía Blanca.

I was happily hacking on the kitchen the other Saturday when I hear a strange noise coming from the garden.

To my dismal surprise I see that the shed is on fire and part of the roof collapsed. I went in to take out a propane can to avoid an impending catastrophe and called the firemen (lucky us, they are a few blocks away).

We lost the roof, tools, vinyls and books on an adjacent room but nothing that can’t be replaced. Still fuck.

Some pictures of PyCon at flickr (not mine) https://www.flickr.com/photos/70871182@N04/sets/72157677377824525

Back to Berisso

After my visit to Las Flores Cemetery we resumed the journey. I dropped my new friend at San Miguel Del Monte with a handful of money so he could travel by bus instead of waiting for someone all night.

My original plan was to take route 215 straight to La Plata (after crossing Brandsen) but I did a bad turn and mistakenly took route 41 instead. I realized that when I arrived at General Belgrano.

I continued to route 29, watching wonderful landscapes. Among them people selling homemade jellies, cheese and cured meats (chorizos, salamis…). Finally, I arrived at Brandsen and this time I took the right turn towards La Plata. I did a quick stop at Lisandro Olmos to buy a couple of kilos of strawberries to eat on the last stretch.

When I entered home I rushed for a shower and slept for about 10 hours straight. What a rest.

Las Flores Cemetery

After visiting Sierra de La Ventana I headed to Las Flores. On the trip to Bahía I glanced at the Cemetery and made a note to come back some other time.

I took route 76 and then 3. Just a tad after the crossing with route 86 I picked up a guy that looked really beated. He lives on a recording studio in Buenos Aires (property of a friend) but is totally broke. A couple of times a year packs a sleeping bag and some other stuff and hitchhikes to General Lamadrid in order to see his daughter.

We chatted for a while but then he dropped and slept until we arrived at Las Flores. He didn’t like the idea of walking through the cemetery so I picked up the car keys and my backpack, leaving him with some food.

Of all the places I visited this is by far the most decadent. There’s a chapel by the entrance that looks like one of the few spots that had a bit of care.

In spite of that the architecture is impressive and evokes memories of a wealthy past.

I really like when the vegetation starts to take over buildings:

The day was perfect for walking, plenty of sun and a gentle breeze

Now comes the gruesome details. Some crypts were used as storage rooms (that’s actually quite common) but the masonry is almost at the point of collapse. Coffins open or out of place. Strangely enough, the ossuary was not locked. It also had a casserole among the bones. If you are in need of human remains to your anatomy lessons this place is perfect to gather supplies.

Sierra de la Ventana, Villa La Arcadia

After the visit to Saldungaray Cemetery I resumed my trip to Sierra de La Ventana.

I arrived to Sierra de la Ventana and it was almost deserted. I parked near Centro Cultural Sierra de la Ventana to eat a bit and then moved along at a slow pace to Villa La Arcadia, crossing again Arroyo Sauce Grande.

Near Avenida Circunvalación there’s an elevated set of tracks and a bridge that crosses the river.
I climbed and walked a bit over them.

Not very far from that there’s again the Sauce Grande. It was a very hot day, so I left most of my clothes in the car and went for a quick dive.
Most of the water level was below knee but near the bridge pillars it rose to about my neck. Despite other parts being so carefully tended there was a lot of trash here, both on land and among the rocks.

Walking back to the car I started to feel a tingling sensation on the foot. I reach for it and I discover a glass shard that punctured my (quite cheap) sandal and made a cut on me. Fuck.

I returned to the car with more curses and headed to Las Flores. The route was overly calm, just a faint breeze