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This is a novel about first contact with another sentient species, the Moties. I ended up reading it because of this handy chart that helps your choose which popular sci-fi book you should read.

Overall I liked the book. I miiiiight re-read it. Not great, but a good read.

This alien race has some rather interesting features ---although maybe constraints is a better word for some--, some of them not really believable, but nothing that makes the book inedible. Things like the mechanics of travelling between star systems of this universe are quite interesting. Even more so is the depiction of the politics of that first contact: deciding what you want the other race to see, what don't, why do or do not, and how to get your population to play along with the charade; in the book you get to see that from both the Motie and the human side. Also, the plot twists are really really good: unexpected, yet congruent with the story.

But, the thing I liked the most was the discussion of a particular aspect (I would dare say central) of the Motie's psychology: Crazy Eddie.

For a variety of reasons, hope is something the Moties feel very rarely, and express even less. It is not frowned upon, but at least is considered very weird/unusual by them.

So, when the Moties talk about certain things, like their sending a hibernating Motie in a space probe to the nearest habitable star system (which they suspect is inhabited, and actually is, by humans), in a trip of hundreds of years, in order to establish contact, or about that particular point in space in their star system which might allow them to travel instantaneously to the closest star, but from which none of their ships has ever returned (because the endpoint for that trip lies inside the closest star, and their ships are immediately destroyed upon arrival), they refer to those things not with adjectives (such as hopeful), but reaching for an archetypal Motie they call "Crazy Eddie", who in their stories is prone to that kind of behaviour. So you have the Crazy Eddie probe, the Crazy Eddie point, etc.

They also say that about plans, ideas, and even certain Moties: that's Crazy Eddie, he's Crazy Eddie, they are Crazy Eddie. But humans are also Crazy Eddie, all of them.

It's only after seeing many times how the Moties use the expression "Crazy Eddie" that it dawns upon you they are talking about hope. Regardless of all their technology, advanced social and intellectual capabilities, they are not given to attempt things based (to a large extent) on hope. To feel/believe something that (quoting from Wikipedia) "serves as a promise or reason for expecting a better future".

Their biology forces them to live an eternal cycle of development, overpopulation, and catastrophic war; you can't really blame them for not expecting a better future, and for mocking those who do, and labelling them and their ideas "Crazy Eddie". That's what I liked the most from the book: learning how they feel about hope by the very absence of that concept in their language, and watching them getting "infected" by hope from the visiting humans that interact with them.

Just as as side note, in this universe, the Russians and the Americans seem to have ended the Cold War not by attrition, but by joining forces/becoming a single government. I don't remember if the authors explain that explicitly in the book, but it becomes quite obvious when you see characters with last names like Kutuzov, and when you see spaceships called MacArthur or Lenin.

Posted Sun Nov 12 18:24:26 2017 Tags:

Un abogado desempleado es abandonado por su gato, y poco después por su esposa.

Después de un tiempo al abogado le sale una mancha enorme en la mejilla, y encuentra trabajo permitiendo que riquillos laman su mancha hasta inducirle un orgasmo.

Con los ingresos que obtiene de su peculiar ocupación, consigue comprar un terreno con un pozo seco, que usa para conectarse al Internet de los Espíritus (TM), en donde pasa la mayor parte de su tiempo buscando a (el avatar de) su malvado cuñado (responsable del abandono de su esposa) en ese mundo virtual.

El abogado logra provocarle un ataque (cardiaco/cerebral/no recuerdo) a su malvado cuñado, a través de sus acciones en el Internet de los Espíritus (TM). Luego de esto, su esposa asesina a su hermano en el hospital (al vegetal que quedó luego del ataque sufrido a «manos» del abogado), y va a prisión. El abogado espera su regreso.

La mancha en la cara del abogado desaparece después de atacar a su malvado cuñado, quedando así desempleado de nuevo.

...

Un poco más en serio, en el libro hay descripciones bellísimas de la soledad del abogado.

Posted Tue Oct 10 20:49:31 2017 Tags:

The book was kind of meh. The British aristocracy was deposed by the "intellectual class" (thanks to the development of the Analytical Engine), and the former aristocrats plot to take their position back. In this version of history, the British Empire is stronger than the original one; it ended up allied (kinda) with the French Empire, and so America is more of a mess, with colonies, and small republics here and there. But none of that really makes a difference because everything happens in London/Paris. I did not really "feel" anything different because of that early development.

The characters chase one another trying to acquire the book's MacGuffin, a set of punched cards (apparently written by Ada Lovelace) containing what might be either:

  • The perfect mathematical/statistical model for placing bets (the Modus).
  • A computer virus, possibly the first of its kind.
  • An example program demonstrating/exemplifying the Incompleteness Theorem, discovered in the 19th century thanks to the early development of computing.

This happens in three sort-of-related stories, each with its own main character, each dealing in some way with the mess created by the punched cards, or the people trying to acquire them for $WHATEVER_REASON.

However, the book made me curious about some things. So.

Things I learned thanks to the book (or, more exactly, wikipedia pages I read because of it):

Finally, what is it with William Gibson? Does he have to have a computer becoming sentient in every one of his books? Meh.

Posted Wed Sep 6 22:15:58 2017 Tags:

Having a way of importing a single class/function into the current file/module:

# ---------- A.py -------------
class MyClass:
    ...

def my_func():
    ...

# ---------- B.py -------------
from A import my_func

my_func()

The language support for named arguments, and variable number of arguments, specially when calling functions with many arguments:

def my_func(a, b, c=2):
    print(a, b, c)

my_func(0, 1, 3)
# 0 1 3

my_func(0, 1)
# 0 1 2

my_func(0, b=2, c=4)
# 0 2 4

my_func(b=2, c=4, a=0)
# 0 2 4

The awareness in the community (and by extension in the documentation and other online resources) about how to handle bytes vs. strings in your program. Precious little other languages take care of talking about this.

The handling of negative indexes for lists, and the range() method for generating sequences. Some other languages have syntax for ranges, but they end up being either more limited, or unfriendly in non-standard situations (I'm looking at you and your handling of negative endpoints in ranges, Elixir.)

Also, IPython, and its automatic module reloading.

Posted Thu Jun 22 21:24:02 2017 Tags:

You cannot behave like a militant atheist all the time. The idea of God/Gods/the supernatural is important to most of us, because you can find strength, relief, resolution, even joy in it. In the most intense times of your life, it helps you cope with the magnitude of reality. So don't be an asshole to people who believe in some God. They need the idea. You might need it, only you haven't been unfortunate enough to ending up there (or fortunate enough, some might say).

As Regina Spektor puts it:

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor
No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one's laughing at God
When it's gotten real late and their kid's not back from the party yet
No one laughs at God when their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one's laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they're mistaken
No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door and they say we got some bad news, sir
No one's laughing at God when there's a famine or fire or flood
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they're 'bout to choke
God can be funny
When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious, ha ha
Ha ha
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God
When they've lost all they've got and they don't know what for
No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they'll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one's laughing at God when they're saying their goodbyes
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they're 'bout to choke
God can be funny
When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one's laughing at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor
No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God, we're all laughing with God

Religion might be valuable as a personal thing. As a social/public institution, it must be destroyed. We are long past due realizing that we don't need it to define our ethics/moral, that the state is now (must be) capable of providing all the social services associated to its institutions in the past, and that we are better off without those potential (and many times actual) nurseries of fascism.

We need to be done with those creepy groups of people that already know what's good and proper for everybody and will ram their ideas of the world down all of our throats.

As Regina Spektor puts it:

you know that statue
that statue of baby jesus
in the window
in the window of the 99 cent store
last night I saw the owner kiss it
and whisper in its ear
I was walking home from walgreen's
and he did not hear me see him
and on the
very very next morning
all the subway cars were hallelu-leluing
welcome back the baby king, the baby king
all the believers they were smiling
and winking at each other
I could honestly say I was scared for my life
they said, all the non-believers they get to eat dirt
and the believers get to spit on their graves...
you know that statue
that statue of baby jesus
in the window
in the window of the 99 cent store
they've been showing it on the news
it was thirty times its size
with a megaphone and a heart-shaped bruise
it was hovering in the skies
and all the
subway cars were hallelu-lelu-leluing, hallejuah
welcome back the baby king, the baby king
all the believers they were smiling
and winking at each other
I could honestly say I was scared for my life
they said, all the non-believers they get to eat dirt
and the believers get to spit on their graves...
believe!...
you know that statue
that statue of baby jesus
in the window
in the window of the 99 cent store
when I woke up I ran and bought it
and locked it in my closet
with a little bread and water
and a flashlight and a first aid kit til he grows

(Comments? email me! jerojasro AT devnull.li)

Posted Wed Nov 30 23:29:30 2016 Tags:

One of the things that always baffled me from Asimov's "Robot" series, was: if the robot's ultimate goal is to look after mankind's welfare, why don't they take care of the scientific research? Why do they rely on humans for that? After all, they are sentient, can read minds, have far more speed and processing power than any human.

In Asimov's universe, even though the robots know that scientific progress is useful for the preservation of mankind, they always rely on third parties (meatbags) for research, and coming up with new developments.

After finishing "The End of Eternity", I kind of suspect why things are like that for him:

"The greatest good?" asked Noys in a detached tone that seemed to make a mockery of the phrase. "What is that? Your machines tell you. Your Computaplexes. But who adjusts the machines and tells them what to weigh in the balance? The machines do not solve problems with greater insight than men do, only faster. Only faster!"

I can't say I wholly agree with him; I suspect things will change in the future. But, at least today, he's absolutely right. As long as we use computers only as minions to carry out our exquisitely specified desires, we won't have anything better than a fancier/faster/dumber human.

Posted Tue Jul 8 14:11:43 2014
A/B
He stood upon the last
Bastions of the place
Looked out on the ruins
With thunder in his face
An introverted spectacle
In the flowers on the rocks
The daisies on the ramparts
Blowing free
His heart was divided
Clouds gathered in the sky
The belfry made of wood and steel
Was silenced in it’s cry
Something must have happened
What, he wouldn’t say
But shown within
The wider lens of history
[Chorus:]
His mission the transmission
Of technology
One cannon trained upon the church
This one caught his eye
“to keep the bishop in his place”
He muttered with a sigh
His mood was melancholy
His attitude severe
His inner burden
Weighed upon him mightily
A bird as never seen in books
Flew in overhead
A kind of dove it might have been
But not a sound was said
All the ancient knowledge lay
In pieces on the ground
The cause of all his suffering
Was not for love of me.
[Chorus:]
His mission the transmission
Of technology

Compare with:

You say you love me but you never beep me
You always promise but you never date me
I try to fax but it's busy, always
I try the network but you crash the gateways
You never spend your nights with me
You don't go out with other girls either
You only love your collider
I fill you screen with hearts and roses
I fill your mail file with lovely phrases
They all come back: "invalid user"
You never let me into your computer
You never spend your nights with me
You don't go out with other girls either
You prefer your collider
I gave you a golden ring to show you my love
You went to stick it in a printed circuit
To fix a voltage leak in your collector
You plug my feelings into your detector
You never spend your nights with me
You don't go out with other girls either
You prefer your collider
You only love your collider
Your collider.
Posted Tue Jul 8 13:56:41 2014

There is a CARDIOID in my cup!

(or is it a nephroid?)

Posted Tue Jul 8 13:56:41 2014

Ese local existe (y ha tenido ese letrero) desde antes de que yo conociera Linux.

Posted Tue Feb 18 21:27:17 2014 Tags:

(come semillas de girasol)

Hum, en últimas es difícil comer semillas: para abrirlas necesito usar al menos una mano, y la boca. Generalmente las dos manos y la boca.

Apuesto a que hace falta una cantidad de inteligencia no-trivial para lograr comer este tipo de semillas.

... las semillas de las plantas como herramientas del Monolito, planteando retos evolutivos para especies promisorias en la Tierra...

¿Cuál será la semilla más difícil de acceder?

Tienen que ser los cocos.

Maldito coco, lo lancé contra el piso, con fuerza, ¡Y rebotó! ...

¿Qué pasaría si hago chocar un coco contra un 1100?

¿Qué animales comen cocos? Deben ser pocas especies...

(busca en internet)

ajá, conque no soy el primero en preguntarme al respecto...

¡Miremos las respuestas!

Posted Wed Jan 29 20:48:30 2014