When dreams come true

Sometimes I have to explain to people that I have grown up in a extraordinarily beautiful island, so I’m very spoiled when comes to natural beauty. I’m also very attached to water. So one of my lifelong dreams was to someday stay in a overwater bungalow. And since that’s such a romantic scenario, would also be fitted to a very special occasion, like honeymoon. So it came the day that I could afford the extravaganza and also have a perfect occasion for it. There are only two places in the world where that’s available and you can actually swim away from your room: Tahiti and Maldives. After some research, the wilderness of – and distance to – the Maldives won. With the help of TripAdvisor, we selected our destination: Gili Lankanfushi, a resort well rated in many areas like environmentally conscious, food, service and all. So there we went, for 10 days. I was aware of the No News, No Shoes motto, which was also introduced to us in the boat going from Male Airport to Gili, where our shoes were packed in a little recycled bag. We decided to take it a bit further: no computers, no phones, no heart rate monitor, no watches, no books, no kindle. Nothing that could mean controlling, scheduling, expectations. Even if I took a book, I would feel like I should read it. I decided that I would do what I was feeling at the moment, and if that meant to read a book, I was also aware there is a copy of Robinson Crusoe book at every villa. And if I was going to exercise, I would do it for enjoyment, not for counting burned calories.

The arrival was incredible. The day was perfect, a few clouds but with the sun shinning over those amazing shades of blue, my reaction was to exclaim: “It’s true!” We all know those places that look perfect in pictures, but then when you get there you find they have enhanced the colors or used angles to appear to have more space. Not Gili. All the beautiful pictures were an exact replica of this calm paradise. We were received by Brad – who said my reaction was one of the best he ever heard, Ibrahin and Aboo, which was our Mr Friday. Aboo took us on a little golf car to tour around the island – which has about 600x200m size, but packed with spa, 2 restaurants, 1 bar, 44 villas, pool, organic herbs and vegetable garden. But I was eager to see our villa. I have looked at the map and disposition of the villas previously, and I wanted to be facing the ocean. I was informed that would conflict with my wish to swim around the villa because that area is shallow, but I decided the sound of the waves would make up for it. And I could have seen it all in pictures, but seeing it live when the door was open and Aboo announced “Welcome to your new home” was amazing.
Our villa deck

We received a welcome set of refreshments with iced tea and champagne, but I just couldn’t wait to change and just take a dip. There is no reception, it’s all done in your villa, checking documents, cards and all, and we were left to enjoy and explore. And of course, the first thing to do is to try the water!

It was hard to believe. The first night, awaken by jet leg, I went outside and laid down in the hammock, watching the moon, the stars, listening the waves. I was so profoundly happy. Next day I woke up early and took a yoga session, a great way to start the day by the gentle sun and breeze. Then, off to breakfast! Unlimited combinations of any fruit juices you can imagine – Hector became quite found of mixing fruits and ginger – or eggs, sushi, english breakfast, pastries and all.

The food is just amazing. It was one of the items most cited by reviewers at TripAdvisor, but most people just say it’s great. Looking at the website, I saw they had their own herb garden, and I thought that anyone who had that must know the great difference it makes to a dish to add just a few fresh spices. After several days, I was a fan of the chef John Bakker. There is a different theme for every lunch and dinner: Lebanese, Mexican, European, Asian, Maldivian. The Asia Street Market night was amazing. Everything was well presented, and cooked perfectly, so his staff must be great as well. But the creativity which each plate had captivated me. Playing with so many things: herbs, coconut, chillies, ginger, fruits. I was in heaven. So much I decided if there was a creation menu worth trying, it must be here. And I was right, we had the Chef’s Degustation Dinner at the Wine Cellar and it was one of the most amazing meals of my life. I had to meet the chef and express my admiration, and ask for his Pomegranate & Pineapple salad recipe – which he sent me later, thank you Chef!

Another reason to select Gili Lankanfushi was the mention to being ecologically conscious. We were up for even more surprises. All the water is produced in the island via desalinisation, which is an expensive process. But you have plenty of water available, still or sparkling! All the water bottles are glass and refilled, and later struck me I didn’t see any plastic at all during my time there. We move around in bikes, as most of the guests and hots. The marine biologist gives talks twice a week about the reefs and the best practices around – he probably would be happy to know we didn’t buy any coral souvenirs, just gorgeous wooden vases. The results were the amazing fauna around us. Our villa were particularly eventful. We had what I called it our coral garden, small sets of corals right by our deck. When you look underwater with the snorkel, you see each one is actually effervescent with more than a hundred of little fishes munching around.

And that’s the best part of being so ecologically conscious. We felt like we were truly integrated to the environment, causing minimum disturbance to their lives. The reward was seeing not just the tiny fishes, but big puffer fishes, baby sharks (yes, baby sharks! harmless), stingrays, plus so many other fishes I can’t name all. Blue, yellow, black and white, grey, with dots or stripes. It was a sad comparison with the place were I went snorkelling for the first time (Retiro dos Frades, Bombinhas) and felt in love with it, to return to the same place less than 7 years later to find plastic bags have replaced the colourful fishes in there. But at Gili, it was all there. We found out that our privacy water garden, below the shower, was also the fishes’ spa: the 3 big puffer fishes were there all day long while little blue fishes would clean then, and frequently joined by others “clients”. We had one fish that was farming algae in our deck stairs. He didn’t like no one passing by it, being that fishes or us, and would always leave a little nudge in our feet to let us know. We had the visit of a heron a couple of days. I’ve also seen what I assumed was an eel living in one of the corals. One morning I sat down in front of the coral to watch the fishes, which was simple due the low tide. Then I notice that the eel was coming out of the coral and seemed very interested in me, but it had a little mouth and some teeth. As she was getting closer, and we have been informed that animals usually are not that curious, I prefer to give her more space. Later visiting the Dive Center and looking at pictures, I found out it was actually a baby moray! To be more specific, a Pepper Moray Eel. So I made a good guess leaving her alone. I have probably sat down too close from where she was, and in the low tide she could not easily move away. And that’s also part of a experience of being a good guest into their habitat – don’t disturb the animals, just observe.

The staff is also another great area where many commenters of TripAdvisor take note. They are always helpful, always cheerful. It’s of course their job, but reading the behind the scenes notes you see how many people are actually involved into making paradise function. Gili reports to employ 300 hosts, investing in local communities and schools to employ mainly Maldivians. They seem particularly attached to football, specially during the first days where they were preparing for a match against the team of Male, which they won by 11×2 (if I remember correctly). The manager mention to us they have invested a few millions to renovate the hosts village, with a state of the art football pitch. Later I found that in case of tsunami, everybody would run to the hosts village, which has higher buildings (and here I’m thinking we would be put into boats and sail away into ocean…). And the staff there seems happy. So it also felt good spending money in a place where treats their staff well.

After a few days resting and engaging in one of my favourite activities – doing nothing – we started to move around. We’ve been to a few yoga sessions. We snorkelled around, we went kayaking. But best of all, we went scuba diving. Then you have even more appreciation for the resort’s environmental care. We saw turtles! Peacefully napping and observing us, until getting tired of us and swimming away. Underwater is truly a parallel universe, so much life, so colorful, so eventful! We went swimming around hundreds of Blue Fin Triggerfish, and I’ve met my favourites, the Red Big Eye fish. They look amazing underwater. Oh, and an unlikely sight of a shark :) usually they stay in the lagoon, not in the reefs. But I was lucky! And hooked. I would have taken a lot more dives if I haven’t committed the newbies sin: underestimate the air conditioning. With a cold, no diving :( at least I had snorkelling!

Then enter one of my holiday heroes, Dr Rajesh. I first met him on my third day when my food indulgence and my sensible stomach weren’t getting along. A couple of pills and I was new. The second time was when my coughing was really annoying, and again he was there to my rescue.

When I got the cold, coughing and a bit miserable because I couldn’t go scuba diving, I realized the answer to a question I’ve had in my mind for a few days. Even in paradise, with such nice and helpful staff, with amazing food and nature, it was clear some people were not happy. And I kept wondering, how can you be stressed in a place like this? Well, let me tell you, that day when I was coughing, banned from scuba and realizing there were only a few days left, I was so grumpy I think I had a little cloud over my head. And everything seemed to annoy me or be wrong. Too hot, too windy, not wind enough, food doesn’t taste so good anymore. It’s hard to control it, specially in the fast pacing life we live today. But then I decided to reach to the holistic specialist in residence, Sommai, and an acupuncture session put me back on track. Meditation is also such a wonderful tool. It was a big lesson for me that I hope to continue to exercise – if you carry that little black cloud over your head, it will rain everywhere…


Gladily, I was in this little paradise called Gili Lankanfushi. There was also a never ending surprising amenities. Like special after sun shampoo and conditioner, or aloe vera gel, wonderfully soothing the skin after a day under the sun and water. Upon learning about my cold, Aboo and the spa manager sent me the ginger tea I was becoming addicted, along with nice fruits and honey. The resort also has a local timezone, one hour ahead of Male, so sunrise is at 7am, not 6am, and you enjoy more the sun! Being honeymooners, we got a little chocolate wedding cake that didn’t survive long enough for pictures – I swear it was the best chocolate cake ever! We also got a Dolphin cruise, to see little dolphins come by the lagoon by sunset. We only spend one morning by the pool, where we were pampered with nice sorbet tastings. There were the Information and the Nature guides, with infos about everything on the resort and the most likely fishes to see. Everyday we were checking the activities available, the food themes, the time for the high tide to enjoy. There was also TV and Wifi, of course, but those were never used. We rather took on using the iPod and the sound system, sometimes to wake up, sometimes to dance around getting ready for dinner.

And that’s the best part, the memories. The jet lag recovery under the star. The majestic effect the full moon have over the high tide, making the water almost roar around our deck. The little crab that stole one of the lights from the full moon dinner decoration and went running around with it. Our farmer fish, our puffer fish spa clients. Our little dances by the evening. Our tea or napping sessions, enjoying the breeze. The after yoga feeling of being a bit taller. Feeling so incredibly light floating underwater, and swimming with the fishes. Learning the underwater signs to say “everything is good” or “shark” or “turtle”, and using them! Counting stars.

Feeling renewed. Thank you to all the Gili staff. Special thanks to Dr Rajesh for saving my holiday twice. To Aboo for organizing everything for us, for the red apples and the rose petals, and for the moray story! And to Shifau, for always having something new to bring for us to try, always with a smile. And to Andrea from Stopover Reisen, for helping us to make it happen. So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Technical content

Para quem ainda não notou, eu não publico conteúdo técnico aqui. Antigamente ainda publicava muito raramente, mas agora que faz parte do meu trabalho, minhas publicações estão concentradas na Intel Developer Zone. Os artigos são exemplos do que ando trabalhando no momento – agora por exemplo estou começando no mundo de desenvolvimento de aplicações para Ultrabooks usando sensores. Toque, GPS, começando agora com acelerômetro, NFC, etc. Também tem algo de HTML5, o que vou expandir no futuro. Então se você quiser saber o que ando fazendo na parte técnica, ou saber mais sobre desenvolvimento para Utrabooks, pode dar uma olhada nos meus artigos e claro, visitar todo o conteúdo disponível na IDZ.

For those who haven’t noticed yet, I don’t publish technical content here. I used to do that seldom before, but now that’s is part of my job, my articles are published at the Intel Developer Zone. Those articles are samples of my work at the moment – right now for instance I’m starting on the development for Ultrabooks using sensors. Touch, GPS, now going into accelerometer, NFC, etc. There is also some content about HTML5 that I intend to expand in the near future. So, if you would like to know what I’ve been doing on the technical side, or to know more about Ultrabooks development, you can check my articles and of course, all the content available at IDZ.

I had a dream…

In the future, operating systems will be obsolete. Computers would have personalities. One could be sarcastic, another would be really nice and optimistic, and another would be quiet, artistic and musical. All according with the owner’s personality and desire, and learning user habits and preferences…

A bit of Sci-fi? Hold that thought…

As I mention before, I have an increase interest for cognitive science. It’s the one thing that awakes my passion for technology that has been missing for quite some time. After more than 10 years dealing with integration and support, everything feels like ‘been there, done that’. Even if it’s a new piece of software, protocol, language or interface, it’s a matter of finding out how it works and done, next. So I’m on a very reflective moment in my professional career trying to find what’s next. Not just next position or next job, but in the big picture, what’s next for me, what do I really want to do. And what I really would like to do is to make integration among computers and people, to find new ways to develop computers. Keyboard for instance; it feels such an engineer’s solution. I have no doubt that iPhone and Wii success are hugely due the fact they integrate the user physically in the virtual world they represent, invoking the touch sense rather than just sight.

So, I’m thinking and reading and wondering… but two days ago, I question in my head made me freeze: ‘very nice, but do you have enough imagination to do such work?’ It was a doubt. I’m very creative, but how creative am I really? I was still thinking about it when went to bed, and there is that zone between sleep and awareness where I started imagining…

In the future, computers should have personalities. No keyboard or even input devices should be necessary; we already have headsets reading brain waves, and voice recognition has got to be better by them. Display could be anything, isn’t there this new window glasses where you can display information? So, not just the TV, but your microwave could display news and weather forecast. But that’s for someone who would like to read the news in the morning… what about someone like me, who prefer music? And maybe my microwave would already warm up the milk and pour my coffee.  The fridge would warn that I’m running out of cottage cheese and add it to the list, which would be a list that accepts both touch input – selecting the items I want from the supermarket’s products pictures  – but also accepting my writing and adding it to the list. But that’s easy – fridges are already running Linux

Ok, so the person who likes news can see the news and I can hear music and have my breakfast, what about the family organizing everyone’s breakfast and getting ready to take the kids to school? Traffic information would be nice; ideas for recipes for lunch based on what’s available in the fridge and cupboard, maybe a connected food processor would start chopping the vegetables before you arrive? Adding spices would be my part to it, I never know when I feel like adding cumin or oregano…

The computer would be the main brain of such network of devices. Having your data in the cloud seems fine, until you ran into problems like bandwidth, the fact your data is controlled by someone else and they may shut it down – or even the government may cut your access. So the PC would be an “in-house-cloud-server”. It could be inside of a wall – I bet some people would have it already; I’m certainly doing that when I have my own apartment. And the display would be a small one in the wall, which would display pictures while not in use. So user interfaces also will be obsolete. But all this can only be possible if the industry ever agree on following standards. If you have one ‘Samsung house’ or one ‘Siemens house’, everyone will have to start from scratch and I won’t be able to see it in my lifetime. If we all use the same protocols and APIs, we could do that by 2050 maybe…

Of course, we are talking about people living in areas with Internet access and with money to buy such electric devices – and in many countries, that’s not really an issue. But if we really would like to change everyone’s experience, we need to think about everyone – poor people in Africa, India, Brazil. And amazes me the power technology has, the importance it has over many things I would think are more important. I’ve seen a presentation showing how people use cell phones in some regions in Africa, where there is one source of electricity for everyone, usually in the center of the village, in the city hall or something like it. That doesn’t stop them from having cell phones – remembering glorious days of Nokia phones whose batteries lasted more than one week… so everyone takes their phones to the electricity source and charges them there. Those phones have processing capabilities and network coverage, what else could they do? Play radio? Will processor be so small, cheap and powerful that even those people would manage to have one? So they would have TV and internet capabilities?

And why do we have to hold phones anyway? They are so annoying when you are in a long call, so unnatural to hold them to carry everywhere… why can’t I have already a wristwatch phone, or even bracelet-phone? Even better if I can change its colour to match my outfit – and I hope by 2050 we are over that idea that everything for women has to be pink, please. My watch phone would have a small earpiece for receiving or making calls…

It’s a bunch of ideas and idealization. It may be utopia. It may be people already developing it. But it sure answers my question – I do have imagination…

Qt, MeeGo and AppUp – Qt Contributors Summit

I recently attended the Qt Contributors Summit in Berlin, from June 16 to 18, 2011. The unconference was held in the nice Café Moskau, with many room and common areas for chatting. The main focus for the unconference was to talk about the next version of Qt and the definition of an open governance structure, reclaimed by developers for so long.

Lars Knoll opened the discussion about the next version in one of the first sessions. The last major version for Qt – Qt 4 – was launched 6 years ago. The world was a very different place, and users’ expectations now are also different. There was no iPhone or applications store, touch screen was not prominent and social media just starting. Nowadays all this is just basics, and so Qt framework wants to provide easy infrastructure for developers to create applications meeting those expectations. Qt Quick/QML will play a huge role in this scenario – they will have almost the same capabilities and resources as Qt. The intention is to make easier for ‘opportunistic developers’ – those who want to create simple and small applications to monetize – to use Qt. There were many discussions on how to do that, the priorities, but main message – everything is going QML. Pure Qt resources will continue to be available and improved, but QML is expected to be sufficient for most developers. But I invite my friend and consulting resource for QML, Helio Castro, to write more about it.

Another big conversation was the open governance. Community has been asking this for a long time – 11 years to be exactly – and it is finally happening. The governance will be similar to the Linux kernel governance:

This blog post explains it in details – http://labs.qt.nokia.com/2011/05/20/open-governance-roles-and-responsibilities/ – and as I could not do any better, I will leave to the link to explain J there is also a talk – or rather a discussion – held by Thiago Macieira at Qt Developer Days 2010. http://qt.nokia.com/developer/learning/online/talks/developerdays2010/tech-talks/qt-301s-open-governance-model/

I held two sessions: Qt, MeeGo & AppUp Developer Program and – due the interest raised in this session – MeeGo Application development store.

In the first session, several developers seemed please to find out AppUp is a perfect channel for open source applications to reach mass users on Windows desktops. As Qt is a multi-platform, there are a huge number of Qt applications also available for Windows, but no efficient distribution channel. AppUp is this channel, offering the possibility to distribute open source applications with the source code. When you upload your application, you can choose between several open source licenses, and if you do so, you are required to submit also your SRPM source code package. And your application will be available not only on AppUp, but also on many applications store powered by AppUp. One of the most recent examples is Dixons KnowHow store, pre-installed in netbooks being sold by one of the largest retailers in UK and Ireland. But I shall go into further details in a future post, with screenshots and examples.

During this session, there were many questions on MeeGo application development environment. So we scheduled another session for the next day to talk about the resources and the community to support it. The first place to look at is the main wiki page for MeeGo Apps. Conversations about MeeGo application development are happening in the MeeGo community mailing list and the main #meego irc channel hosted on Freenode. To help developers to package their applications, there is a community OBS server – OpenSuse Building System. For open source applications, developers can request an account for free and submit their code. To host the source code in a collaborative way, MeeGo suggests Gitorious, where developers can also create an account for free.

On the wiki page, you can find the guidelines for packaging applications for Meego, as well as information about the QA process. When one application is submitted to testing, the community can test and rate it. Long story short, if an application has been tested enough and is approved, it will be available in the community repository. You can find more information in the documentation ahead. I’m still learning the process myself, so I can submit more information later.

And overall, was an extremely well planned and awesome event. And even so it was an unconference, the conversations in the hallway still provide many great opportunity and insights. I’ve learn about several great projects, like QML 3D and Gluon, both of with deserve their own blog posts. I also hope the developer present there appreciate our efforts on bringing ClubMate to the unconference – even if that meant empting Germany’s supply that week! And I would like to thank Alexandra Leisse for the amazing job organizing everything – you literally rock! Seriously, you people need to hear her singing…

I shall declare Mondays the Blogging day for me, and hope you all enjoy some of the reports. If you have any suggestions on what subject you would like to see more of, leave your suggestion!

Geek Runner

So this year I decided to embrace my dislike of gyms. I’ve been fighting this dislike for a long time, to the point of hiring personal trainers to make sure I would actually go to the gym and do the exercises without having to memorize everything. Two years, 4 PTs and a lot of money later, I have to say it didn’t work. No fault on the PTs, don’t get me wrong. Although I would appreciate if they could get to a minimum consensus on how training should be, but that’s their issue. On my side, I did get fit; I was less stressed and with almost no fibromyalgia symptoms, had many laughs and learned a lot, but didn’t lose weight. And it’s very simple – exercise and no diet won’t make you lose weight. Dieting and no exercise will. So, exercise is just for management – toning up and stress prevention. And I won’t argue about this point anymore – you can say whatever you want, I won’t change my mind. And if exercise is management, I can tune it down a bit.

Living in Munich is a great motivator for outdoor exercising. Everyone is on their bikes, the sky is blue and there’s green everywhere. So after buying me a nice Fahrrad, I signed up for C25K program and started running – and loved it. I thought I didn’t like running – what I didn’t like was gyms. So after a few weeks, still building up resistance but several apps later, I decided to do a post about it. If you like technology to motivate you, maybe you will find this helpful. You probably also will need a smartphone…

Like I mention, the first app was C25K, or Couch (potato) to 5K run. Although it says K, the distance in there is measured in miles, and you can adjust your goal from 3 to 5 miles. Which is the first low point – how hard it is to have the metrics also in kilometres and kilos instead miles and pounds? I found this app long time ago on The Lady Geek TV app show, and was curious since then. I really like it because it acts like a coach, giving you feedback on what you should do: “warm up”, “run”, “walk”, “run”, “walk”… “cool down”. It tracks your path by the GPS and allows you to add a music playlist which will play randomly. I filled mine taking songs like “Run to the hills” and “Fly away” on iTunes Genius and pushing the resulting list into the app. I miss an option to tag power songs, to push some sprints especially on the last half of the exercise, when you are warm and feel you have more gas then time left on the app. It also has support for social media – Twitter and Facebook – but I won’t post my newbie lame runs while my friends are posting results preparing for marathons. But for start to running, it’s the best app so far.

I also tested the Nike+ GPS. My pair of tennis shoes/trainers/laufschuh is a Nike Structure Triax+ 13, which has a stronger support to correct pronation. I have to say it gives me a lot more stability than any other shoes I’ve tried, and it was one of the reasons I decide start running. Using regular trainers usually made me feel pain just for walking. This model also has support for Nike+, which is a tiny device you put underneath the sole and counts steps and speed. But since Nike+ GPS app do the same with the phone GPS, this piece it’s a bit useless now. As for the app, it doesn’t have anything especial – music, map, distance feedback, online report and social media – but nothing that makes it stand out from others. The only thing would be having a diary online, but that is also available from Polar. Although it does have the power songs tagging… maybe I should explore it a bit more…

A new app I’m trying is Endomondo. I like the name, I guess it comes from endorphin. I was attracted by the possibility to integrating with my heart rate monitor Polar FT60 – but it wasn’t what I thought. See, I love my FT60 – it keeps the log of my training and gives me feedback on the progression; counts my calories according to heart rate but also with the log and previous workouts; and even nags me if I’m particularly lazy in a certain week (feature I disabled after giving up on the gym, I may turn it back on now I’m regularly running). I love it even though Polar shamelessly won’t support Twitter or Facebook posting status, which drove me mad many times as I worked out my ass off into workouts like body combat or double spinning classes, which I would like to brag about it. But no, I had to post it only on my personal blog under https://www.polarpersonaltrainer.com/, where only other Polar users could see. Many people request social media on Polar forums and Facebook page, but no answer from the company. And c’mon Polar, I’ve worked with social media libraries and if I can write a small app to do it, you can too.

Unfortunately, Endomondo don’t work with the FT60, will only work with a Wearlink+(the strap to capture heart rate) with Bluetooth support. And the one with Bluetooth won’t work with my FT60. Maybe Polar is driven by personal trainers, each one believing their training is the correct one and all others are wrong, so not even their own devices talk to each other… Right now I don’t have any particular motivation for buying a Wearlink+ with Bluetooth after spending good money on Polar to leave my precious pink FT60 useless. Maybe I’m the wrong type of consumer who still expects devices to last longer than two years. Hippies… and without that, I’m not sure I need Endomondo. But I will test it a bit more, since many friends are there.

And although I really like my Triax trainners, I’m really inclined to try five-fingers and barefoot running. I love to feel the grass under my foot or burry them on the sand, but I have fairly sensitive feet and I don’t know if that will work. I never liked Converse trainers because of that; I could feel every bump or small rocks on the street. But at the same time, I read about how trainers actually make your muscles weaker for too much cushion, so barefoot running would actually strength them. I’m not sure I will be able to get used to, but I’m willing to try.

I hope the fitness gadgetry will congregate at some point. I heard nice things about Garmin devices and the fact they follow industry friendly standards, which would provide better integration with software and applications. If I will have to buy something new, I would probably investigate them. But for now, I would appreciate if C25K could tag power songs and let me use metrics I’m used to instead making me do mental conversions every time. Let’s see who sprints first…

The Science behind our decisions

Or “why we do what we do”. (or even “what I’ve been reading”.)

I have a growing interest in Cognitive Science. Long story short, I did psychotherapy for a couple of years (and that was by far the best investment in my life, btw). With time, I became more and more intrigued by my own reactions and how many times I perceived myself acting on some impulse from out of nowhere. This nowhere is our subconscious, and our reactions or responses are the results of how our brain perceives situations. So far, nothing new. But why, so many times, do we respond to situations in a manner that we know isn’t the best, yet we seem unable to control it? More, why, after realizing you misinterpreted some situation, do you find yourself reacting exactly the same way again even though you know it’s not good or necessary?

We humans tend to think very highly of ourselves. We are surely capable of amazing things. Shakespeare once wrote a text which many people live by:

What piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!

“How noble in reason”. There are tons of people who believe their rational side is much stronger than the emotional or irrational side. If like me you live surrounded by engineers, you know how they are particularly inclined to think they are purely logical minds. Many of their favourite shows or series praise the ideal logical mind: Spock, House, Sheldon. But even among those Spock-wannabes, it’s very easy to perceive that egos, appearance, defensiveness and well, tribalism plays a strong part.

On the other hand, I’m also intrigued by our reactions to the different. Let’s take racism for instance – it makes absolutely no sense. We all came from Africa, we all have immigrants in our roots – be that Indians or Vikings. I don’t know the author, but this quote is brilliant: “Illegal immigration is not a new problem…Natives Americans use to call it White People”. For me it’s even more absurd when it happens in places like Brazil, a country known by its diversity. There where the native Indians, then came the Europeans, they brought the Africans, and tada, you have Brazil. But there are some people there who pride themselves in being descendants of Italian, German or some other European background, and look down on other people. But when their ancestors came to Brazil, there were lots of displays of xenophobia against these poor, hungry, and houseless immigrants, running away from the war, and who were then granted land by our government.

But as absurd as it is, this behaviour is way too common to think it’s restricted to some people culturally limited (I recommend reading this article if you think otherwise). I mean, I find myself sometimes being angry at some group of people because the way some individuals of this group treat me. I gotta tell you, sometimes it’s really hard being a foreigner, speaking with an accent and being generally clueless about the local costumes around here. And no, I’m not speaking about British people… but even when my reactions were towards a certain group of people, I knew rationally that this was absurd. There are good people and bad people in any race, country, culture and so on. But the fact that I felt inclined to jump into this reaction caught me by surprise. I mean, I’m not the most politically correct person, but it’s one thing to make jokes about certain nationalities and another one to automatically go into defensive mode when meeting one of them.

So, why, so much of the time, do our reactions ignore reason?

The answer to this question is complicated, and there are many books about it, and I’ve been reading a few. Part of the answer lies in our amygdala, a small piece of our brain that can process information much faster than the neocortex and can hijack our system if there is signs of danger – that’s a very, very simplified answer. When our brain recognize an object, our amygdala processes how we feel about that object. If that object has caused any trauma in the past, it’s very likely the amygdala will trigger a fight-or-fly reaction. So, when we are in a situation, our brain recovers the past information about that situation. If most of our memories about something are negatives, no wonder we will have a negative reaction to it – even when that something isn’t precisely the same and very likely doesn’t have the same intentions.

This clearly has a profound impact in our happiness, but can we expand this science beyond psychotherapy? Well, turns out, everything we deal is affected by this. How we decide our finances, our relationships, our interests, our health or activities, all our decisions are based on our experiences, how our brain reacts to things. Cognitive Science is exactly the study of “how information is represented and transformed in a brain or in a machine. It consists of multiple research disciplines, including psychology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, neuroscience, learning sciences, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, and education”.

When I started reading about it, one of the first books I read was Emotional Intelligence – Why it Can Matter More Than IQ. You may think this subtitle is too strong, but many studies have shown that people with high IQ many times fail in professional and personal life for believing that IQ is all that matters and being unable to integrate themselves with others. However, this is a dense and scientific book, and my damaged (by internet) attention span found it difficult to really dive into it. For the past year I’ve been looking more and more into this area, and I’m finding that maybe starting with lighter books would be more productive.

The second book I bought about it is Nudge – Improving your decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. It’s an amazing book, showing how simple nudges help people make better decisions. For example, did you know that the way food is displayed in a cafeteria influences the selections people make, including how healthy their meal will be? There is the ethical discussion about this, of course: How much should we influence people? How do we control the boundaries of influencing people’s behaviour? Should we influence behaviour at all? But this book has an extensive chapter about finances, and that makes me anxious, so I can’t read it too much right now.

So, I bought two other books. I’ve read only the introduction so far of Predictably Irrational. The one I’m reading right now is called Emotional Design – Why do we love (or hate) everyday things (thanks to Kathy‘s twitt!). That would be the marketing side of Cognitive Science. Why some products are so appealing? How to design a product to appeal to most people? How to decide which people will you  appeal with our product? In the first chapters, this book explains what is involved in product design: the visceral, the behavioural and the reflective design. The visceral design means the appearance, and pretty things get a better first impression. The behaviour design means its usability, if it’s effective at what it does. And the reflective design means the memories and feelings that object brings to you. Which one is more important? Haven’t we all got a useless object, that sometimes isn’t even pretty, but holds a strong memory for us? Or we often buy things that are pretty but not very useful? And since aesthetics are different among cultures, and memories are very personal, you can guess the difficulty inherent in designing products.

I haven’t finished this book yet – nor any of those previously mentioned – but I’m really excited about the area of Cognitive Science. It opens a new dimension on how our brain works, and how emotions play a great deal in everybody’s life. I’m considering applying for a master’s degree in the area, but I will have to wait at least another two years to drop my overseas status and be able to pay the regular fee. But until then, there’s lots of material available, like finishing the books I bought. My plan is to return to them in the reverse order I mentioned them in this post.

And with all that reading a bit of Round Ireland with a Fridge to distract me. Will I ever finish them all?

A Ciência por trás das nossas decisões – tradução vindo depois do almoço :)

Ada Lovelace Day – My Heroines

“Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines, whatever they do. It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited. Just sign the pledge and publish your blog post any time on Wednesday 24th March 2010.”

I have many heroes that inspired me to go ahead. Valerie Aurora, Telsa Gwynne, Pia Waugh, Akkanna Peck, Carla Schroeder, so many… but today I would like to talk about two women, who were the most inspiring for me from the beginning. One is a historical figure, other you may not know.

My historical figure is Grace Hopper. She is someone to admire. Seriously, she was an Admiral :) As many women who made history in Sciences, she was born from a professors couple, who support her interest in academic studies. She is known for many things, the first computer bug, the concept of a compiler and the COBOL language. She won 7 awards for her amazing work in the Navy. She never retired, because every time she tried, they would call her again.

Once Jon Hall “Maddog” told me some stories about her. See, he meet her in person, and attended one of the many talks she would give to schools and academies about Computer Science. The first thing is she was a firm believer that is better to as for forgiveness than for permission. If you ask for permission to do something, you probably will have to fill many forms and reports, schedule, estimations… if instead of that you do it, they may ask ‘why did you do it?’ but you can say ‘sorry, but look! it solves this and that problem, look how great it is now!”. It must have worked, since she could never retired :)

The second thing is about nano and pico seconds. She is from the time when computers were huge, occupying entire rooms, and processing information in seconds or centiseconds. She was talking to a cadet once, and she expressed her frustration visualizing a nanosecond. Then she said ‘get me one nanosecond’. He said ‘I’m sorry?’ and she repeated ‘get me a nanosecond’. From time to time, she would see him and ask ‘where is my nanosecond?’. Some time later, this cadet goes to her and hands a piece of paper. She asks ‘what is this’ and he says ‘this is your nanosecond. This is the distance light covers in one nanosecond’. She was delighted, and whenever she would give talks about Computer Science, she would distribute nanoseconds – pieces of paper of 29.9792458 cm. Some years later, she met the cadet again, only now he was Captain. She said ‘you know, you did a great job with the nanosecond thing, would you be able to get me a picosecond?” This time it took him less than a day , when he came back with a black pepper seed, and said ‘this is your picosecond. In the space of one picosecond, light goes around the surface of this seed.’ After that, she would give away picoseconds, and Maddog still has his save.

My second story is about my first boss. When I entered my first year at university, the Federal University of State of Santa Catarina, I was looking for an internship. I came around this job in the Processing Data Nucleo(NPD) of the university, where they have openings for help desk. I had never ever turned on a computer in my life, I was really scared of doing so because I though I could break it. So I met Katia Juca, the manager of the help desk team for the entire campus. And that was my real beginning with Computer Science. Most classes at that point were about Maths and Logic, only one was programming, so for really getting experiences and using a computer, I had my internship. Kathia taught me the start of everything, and she couldn’t remember the last time she got someone so newbie at it. Under her management, I became a support engineer, than a sysadmin, and later support analyst. I’m one of countless people who passed by the NPD and later developed great careers. We had the best time, we had plenty of new toys to play, we had plenty of support from brilliant minds (I only wish I wasn’t so young to take better advantage of what I had there, but I think I turned out ok). But from all of them, Kathia always was my Amazing Grace. Thank you!


“Ada Lovelace Day é um dia internacional para blogar (vale vídeo, podcast, desenhos, etc) para chamar atenção as conquistas da mulher em tecnologia e ciência. A contribuição feminina geralmente não é reconhecida, suas inovações pouco mencionadas, e suas faces dificilmente reconhecidas. Nós queremos que você diga ao mundo sobre estas heroínas, o que quer que elas façam. Não importa qual novo ou antigo seu blog é, qual seu genero, que idioma você ira blogar, ou o que você normalmente bloga a respeito – todo mundo está convidado. Apenas preencha a inscrição e publique algo no seu blog a qualquer hora na Quarta-Feira, dia 24 de Março de 2010.”

Eu tenho muitas heroínas pessoais que me inspiraram a seguir em frente. Valorie Aurora, Telsa Gwynne, Pia Waugh, Akkanna Peck, Carla Schroeder, tantas… mas hoje eu gostaria de falar a respeito de duas destas heroínas, aquelas que foram as maiores inspirações para mim. Uma é uma figura histórica, a outra você talvez não conheça.

Minha figura histórica é Grace Hopper. Ela é alguem admirável. Sério, ela era Almirante da Marinha dos EUA :) Como muitas das mulheres que fizeram história em Ciências, ela era filha de professores, que a motivaram e incentivaram seus interesses acadêmicos. Ela é conhecida por muitas coisas, como o primeiro bug de computador catalogado, o conceito de compiladores e a linguagem COBOL. Ela ganhou 7 condecorações por seu trabalho na Marinha. Ela nunca conseguiu se aposentar, porque toda vez que ela tentava, eles a chamavam ao trabalho novamente.

Porém, em uma visita ao Brasil, tivemos a honra de conhecer algumas outras histórias curiosas a respeito dela de alguem que a conheceu pessoalmente e esteve em uma de suas palestras, Jon Hall Maddog. A primeira é que ela dizia que era melhor pedir desculpas que pedir permissão. Quando você queria fazer alguma coisa, se você dissesse ao seu chefe “posso fazer tal coisa, será bom por isto isto e isto”, geralmente ele vai pedir que vc preencha um relatório, escreva as vantagens e desvantagens, qual a previsão, o cronograma, as consequências… O invés disso, você vai lá e faz. E quando vierem dizer “porque você fez isto?” você diz “desculpe, mas veja, soluciona este e este problema!”. Deve ter funcionado com ela, já que eles não a deixavam se aposentar…

Outra foi sobre os nano e pico segundos. Ela é do tempo daqueles computadores enormes, que processavam informações em segundos ou centésimos de segundos. Ela certa vez conversando com um cadete estava falando: “sabe, eu posso entender o que é um centesímo de segundo, até mesmo um milésimo de segundo, mas não consigo entender um nanosegundo. Faz o seguinte, me arrume um nanosegundo”. Ele perguntou “como, oficial?” e ela repetiu “me arrume um nanosegundo”. Ele acatou, e frequentemente quando ela o encontrava, ela cobrava novamente “e o meu nanosegundo? Eu não vou esquecê-lo, me consiga um nanosegundo”. Meses depois, este cadete vem até ela e entrega uma folha de papel. Ela pergunta “o que é isto?” ele diz “isto é o seu nanosegundo. Esta é a distância que a luz percorre em um nanosegundo”. Ela ficou encantada, e como sempre fazia palestras sobre computação, passou a distribuir nanosegundos nas palestras: folhas de papel de 29.9792458 cm(segundo o wikipedia a medida que a luz percorre em um nanosegundo é esta). Alguns anos depois, ela encontrou este mesmo cadete, mas agora ele já era capitão. Ela disse “sabe, você fez um trabalho tão bom aquela vez com o nanosegundo, será que você conseguiria para mim um picosegundo?” Desta vez ele levou menos de um dia, aparecendo no outro dia com uma semente de pimenta preta, e a depositou sobre a mesa. Ele diste “este é o seu picosegundo. Em um picosegundo, a luz vai de um lado a outro desta semente.” A partir de então, ela passou a distribuir picosegundos nas suas palestras, e segundo Maddog, ele ainda tem o dele guardado.

MInha segunda história é sobre minha primeira chefe. Quando eu entrei na universidade, na UFSC, eu comecei a procurar por estágios, e encontrei esta vaga no Núcleo de Processamento de Dados, NPD. Eu nunca havia sequer ligado um computador na vida e morria de medo de queimar um ao tentar fazer isto. E neste ponto conheci Kathia Juca, a gerente do time de help desk to campus inteiro. E aquele foi a minha real iniciação em Ciências da Computação. A maioria das aulas naquele período eram sobre matemática e lógica, apenas uma sobre programação, então para ter verdadeira experiência em computadores, eu tinha meu estágio. Kathia me ensinou desde o começo de tudo, desde montar e desmontar uma máquina, instalar, configurar e resolver problemas. Ela não se lembrava a ultima vez que havia pego alguém tão novato na área. Sob o seu gerenciamento, eu me tornei primeiro atendente de help desk, depois administradora de sistemas e mais tarde analista de suporte. Eu faço parte de um imenso grupo de pessoas que passaram pelo NPD e dali seguiram para grandes carreiras profissionais. Nós passamos pelos melhores tempos ali, tinhamos muitos ‘brinquedos’ novos para testar, todo o suporte possível de mentes brilhantes que trabalhavam ali (eu apenas gostaria de não ser tão nova quando passei por ali e saber que eu deveria ter aproveitado melhor o que tinha disponível, mas no fim das contas, acho que consegui me desenvolver bem). Mas de todos, Kathia sempre foi minha Amazing Grace. Muito Obrigada!