Monthly Archives: July 2012

polysemy and etymology – on tables and boards

another polysemic word in english is “table”.

my guess is that the source of the polysemy has something to do with the more than probable french origins of this word. i suppose the french people never felt the need to split the word “tabula“, which means “board” in latin (“tabla” in spanish) into a two different words, one for board and one for table, as other latin languages did. and i assume the english probably inherited this.

it also seems to me that most of the latin words in english are coming actually from france, not from spain. it probably makes sense given their geographical proximity (and affairs!).

anyway, if that was so, that would explain why this image i just composited actually makes a joke. provided you are a geek or have good memory and remember how studying chemistry looks like during (high?)school.

question of the day

why are (practically) all animals (bilaterally) symmetrical?

there is something wrong with css

i can draw a full forest with maths and c++ for you if you want. now, i cannot master drawing few color rectangles in css. there is definitely something fundamentally wrong with web layout methaphor in css. really. really.

you never know

most people assume i have studied computer science, or something related to computer graphics, computer engineering or some computer-y stuff. it makes sense, as at this moment i’m making my living around computer graphics.

however my education is on electrical engineering (well, it was a masters thing in “telecommuncations”, which as far as i can tell is electrical engineering plus other additional subjects). i didn’t really get to learn anything about pixels there, though. my teachers would talk to me about anthenas, maxwell equations, physics, electronics, signal processing and such things. i learnt to build a computer from silicon (from the actual silicon crystals, i mean), but not programming. writing graphics algorithms, physics simulations, compression techniques, creating procedural content or even writing music are things i learnt by myself, since i got my first computer when i was 14. most other kids owned computer at a much earlier age than 14, i was a late adopter, but i caught up quickly. like most demosceners and kids from the early 90s, i was a self teaching person.

that doesn’t mean my postgrad degree in electrical engineering wasn’t useful to me. quite the opposite. i’m extremely grateful i have a completely different background from most of the people doing computer graphics around me. i like to believe that having a different background can allow you to see things in a slightly different way. since you have to sort of discover things by yourself (and reinvent the wheel, or perhaps produce weird mutations of the wheel), you will probably develop a more naive approach to things. that will probably let you more easily create your own evolutionary branches and experiments and accident, far from the main trunk of research where all other computer graphics researchers are walking. i think diversification in background is an opportunity for a richer variety of solutions than from a more uniformly spread selection of backgrounds? dunno. anyway in more practical regards, having a strong background in maths, physics, optics and image processing from electrical engineering was more than useful for me when working in computer graphics.

so the moral of the story is, and this is the message i keep sending to the people that so often ask me for advice, that if you are planning to leave your engineering, physics, maths, mechanics or whatever non-computer-graphics postgraduate studies just because you think you chose wrong and you believe you don’t need that knowledge, i’d say please step back and think twice before doing it (unless you have to pay for it, of course – hi americans). perhaps not studying computer graphics is not a handicap, but a bullet. from all you are learning you never know what will come handy in the future, how lucky you’ll be by having a different perspective and approach to things. or perhaps i’m wrong and you are right, how can i tell. depending where you live, knowing stuff is free and it’s never a bad thing to do. plus you’ll have more than enough time to do professionally what you like most, if things go right. life is long, no need to rush. it could also be you are right, though, circumstances are always different for every particular case, i don’t know. i’d say, just think it twice before aborting your current degree. you never know.

it feel’s very awkward to me to give advice, i don’t have the authority (nor does have anyone really) to give advice about such important things. still, i get the question often, and i consistently find myself answering something on this lines anyway. so, there is the blog post

more polysemy

here i am thinking on english polysemes again, and how in this language, weirdly enough, the basic directions can be used for more than just directions. in particular, the verticals enjoy such a higher degree of versatility that i wonder why weren’t new words just created instead for those other meanings. probably there’s a semantic reason i’m still missing. ahhh, one day i’ll be there!

but for now, before things get too hard wired in my brain, let’s enjoy this little confusion and play transcribing pictorially how a typical phone call conversation might resonate in my brain after i had a really, really long day in the office:

not the same thing

– oh, that’s a super cool bike!
– thanks ^_^
– it’s single speed, right?
– yep.
– you’re brave, how do you get to bike in the SF hills and stuff? you coming from SF, aren’t you?
– yes. well, you just do it, it doesn’t take too long to being able to do it, you know
– oh, you got in shape and strong then
– nah, i wish. i think i just got used to handling pain and trained my tolerance to it, lol. not the same thing!

one could try a cheap reflection on how overcoming traumatic experiences doesn’t necessarily make you stronger as the popular culture claims, but it just forces you to learn to suffer and just live with it. or, one could also simply finish the article here.

a bad start for the day

aparently i went into the wrong bart train. again!!

indeed, i decide to look from the window and i sigh when i realize that i don’t freaking recognize this place. i wait for the train to stop so i can see where i actually am. after a long while we finally stop and i get to look the name of the town up in the map. Oh crap, i’m in the middle of nowhere, south in the east bay, at some remote place probably not too far from LA or Mexico. damn it, or well, damn me. i fucking run get off the train just in time, as the doors with a noisy grumbling close behind me.

now it seems i gotta wait 15 minutes for the right train to bring me back to known territory. at least there is a group of kids here dancing some sort of street/break dance thing all in perfect synchronization, like in a movie or a popstart dance show. but instead of getting entertained, their moves make me think of an army, and the reward of feeling part of a bigger robotic whole, of subconscious acceptance of rules and repetition, the lack of free dance and improvisation. are these types of dances a training/indoctrination tool?

i know, how unfair of me to have these thoughts. these kids are probably just enjoying their dance, and it’s all just as naive as that. but, heh, i got a bad beginning of a day today, if you didn’t notice.

swimming pool table

i know this joke has been done already, but i suppose this is my own quick take on it:

doing photo-retouching relaxes me for some reason. find images in google, copy them, put them in layers, deform, match, cut, crop, erase, clone, color match them, add fake contact shadows, downsample, color correct and vignet it. no better way to distract and waste those 10 minutes of break when you don’t feel like answering emails or doing anything productive.

my little contribution to the uselessness of the internet

otra más

“distractivo”, que distrae. vamos, básicamente lo mismo que “distrayente”, pero así como más culto, ¿no?


… es cuando algo no puede hacerse peor u ocurrir de peor manera. porque si tenemos inmejorable, también necesitamos de un impeorable.

la palabra inventanda de esta semana

dear scientists, please stop using the term “theory”

a “theory” in science is pretty much what we call “a fact” in popular culture. in the other hand, what we refer to as a “theory” in popular culture, that is called a “hypotheses” in science.

it always saddens me this confusion, and the very unfortunate choice of the term “theory” by scientists in the first place (which given the etymology of the word was probably the correct choice at pythagorean times, but certainly not anymore in the context of modern science).

thing is, because scientists work for the people, i tend to think they should learn to communicate better with them. among the many things they should fix, there is the issue with this term. so this is my message: scientists, please, stop using the term “theory”.

… i won’t spoil it

today i got an offer by which i would get paid for adding some links/ads to my website (the geek portal part of it, not this blog, of course).

i have always found annoying when i am reading or learning or just surfing in the web and i find myself surrounded by all those ads and random links to places i am not interested in (no matter how corporate and techie they are nor how much boobs and pussy they show). the links are usually not relevant to anybody really, and if you were looking for that information you’d find it anyway without having to bump into it all the time as you read. but of course, money is made upon the game of statistics, by which randomness ensures that somebody will accidentally click those links once in a while, and so increment a counter somewhere in a database and therefore provide a cent or two to whoever sold the ad. yeah, you could call it “web noise” (i should copyright this term).

in this case i was proposed links to web related services. but still, of course, despite the amount of money i was offered to put a few of such traps in my website was not inconsiderable or negligible, i rather keep the site the way it is right now – simple, clean and honest. and i think the more than a thousand visitors i get every day will appreciate it too (and i suspect some of the reasons for them to visit it everyday besides it’s content are precisely related to those qualities).

my reasons to deny the offer? for one thing, i already have a job. secondly, whenever i decide i’ll try to make money it will be bigger and by other means. thirdly, i don’t need that extra money in the first place. lastly, and more importantly, i care a lot about my website and what it represents – that small space for enjoyment, breathing, learning, brainstorming, enjoying and, beyond all of that, giving.

so the decision is very easy…

mrs. potts

i get in one of those weird shops in polk street, just looking around without any intention to buy anything. just that, looking around. and there, among many other teapots, i see a couple of incredibly familiar shapes. the brain and it’s pattern matching and memory mechanisms are incredible, so it’s a matter of milliseconds for me to have a flashback to “Ma chère Mademoiselle, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight.”

chiste estándar

¿Cuál es el único hobbit que es PORTADOR, y nunca se da MEDIA VUELTA? … ¡Frodo BOSÓN!

¡cata-chis, pun!

invisible living fossils

i didn’t know these gadgets were still around.

i don’t recall using such a thing since i was a 16 or so. furthermore, in these times that everybody carries their own phone + tv + agenda + book + newspaper + journal in their pockets, or more probably in their hands as people down here in the platform are mainly commuting to or from work, these phone cabins in the b.a.r.t. station cannot but be the secret door to the Men in Black offices or to the Ministry of Magic building of HP. so from now on, every morning i’ll keep an eye see if there are weird and funny looking people or suspicious character walking around them…

joking apart, what surprises me the most is not that these must be some of the very last living phone cabin fossils, but that i had never seen them despite i have been passing by them almost every day in the last two years!


i’m in the b.a.r.t. car, and there is this informative ad written in spanish in front of me advising women to get tested against some potentially dangerous illnesses (which i never heard of before) during their pregnancy. the ad is short, merely consisting on four sentences. yet, i spot three grammatical mistakes (one is the difference between the two forms of “to be” that we have spanish, another one has to do with the mixed use of the formal and vulgar “you”, and one has to do with a mistranslation from an english word) that make my wonder, was this translated by a non native spanish speaker (and if so, why didn’t anybody supervise it before releasing the ad), or is it a manifestation of some really broken mexicanglish?

to this day, i still have the impression that south american countries in general (as opposed to north and central american, and european too) do have the healthiest and richest spanish