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Month: October 2011

Halloween Costume 2011

And again, this year people got more scared than I was expecting. It looks like Sandman (Wesley Dodds) or Spy vs. Spy.

My idea was get some stuff from wardrobe and spend a little on a special item that after the Halloween would not be completely useless. 🙂

The costume items:

  • A classic trench coat from Men’s Wearhouse (actually is a great coat for rain, cold weather or snow, water resistant and it has an inner layer removable when not so cold. It is a kinda common coat in DC).
  • A gray fedora hat from Filene’s Basement. It was not really matching but worked.
  • Black leather gloves from last winter.
  • Snow boots from my hiking in Colorado last year.
  • An Israeli Civilian Gas Mask. The only thing I had to buy. From the product description:

    This is the gas mask issued to Israeli civilians when threatened with chemical attack by Saddam’s Iraq. It has full NBC (neuclear, biological, chemical) protection, and comes with one sealed filter.

Silicon Alley 500

I was friday night and I received an invitation to the SA500 in New York. I think I read about the event on Twitter and I filled the forms. “Well, I have no plans for this Saturdays… I could go to New York take a look on the protests in Wall Street and go to this SA500 and maybe meet some developers from the companies I love”. So I took the first flight I could and left Washington DC.

One thing that I didn’t initially realize was that the event has going to be held inside the New York Stock Exchange in Wall Street. The same day a global protest was erupting from the Liberty Square in Manhattan’s financial district at the Occupy Wall Street camping. The city was in turmoil. Paradoxically (or not), in the center of all this a group of 50 selected creative startups and 500 students and IT graduates were gathering to know more about each other.

I could talk with several CEOs and developers and here are some impressions I had.

Language agnostic environment

Almost all companies I talked have a very plural and multicultural language agnostic environment. When you have a problem that can be better solved in Ruby, you do it in Ruby. When you have a problem better solved in Java, you do it in Java, and so on. The efforts to integrate different technologies are by far eclipsed with the benefits of having a broad range of solutions. It is the good and old  “don’t put all one’s eggs in one basket” that sometimes companies try to forget.

Of course that not all companies uses all languages available but the normal I could see was about 3 or 4 languages platforms in every company.

Python Rocks

If you look into my blog maybe you realize that despite I program in some languages I have a favorite. At SA500 I saw that Python is much more stronger in the startups than I could imagine. The majority of companies use some Python on the front-end or back-end and a lot of them use Django.

For a while I thought that Python did not have a good market share for me in the market I’m looking for but I saw that I was fortunately wrong.

Small is Bigger

Looking some of the products that those companies created you may think that there is a huge development team working on them. Actually, no.

Mostly of the companies have a small team of motivated engineers with the right methodologies and tools in hands. Most of those companies have from 5 to 15 developers only. Is not rate to the CEO himself be also a developer, developed the initial product and still be coding.

Context Aware Content

Many of the products from the 50 startups at the SA500 were  context aware applications. They gather information about the user preferences and geolocation to delivery a more specific and rich content to the user. For example, knowing that the user is in a restaurant and it is a sunny day show him that there is an event in a park one block from there. And it is not just about geolocation, many of those applications even when without an user profile can retrieve meaningful content based on his last searches or browsing.

It is not a new idea but now with more powerful smartphones is much more applicable one. Despite been a very simple concept it is full of challenges and possibilities.

The “Netflix business model”

Rent something through a powerful yet simple web interface, quickly delivered in your door. At you can rent luxury designer dresses! At you can rent pieces of art!

I can see this “Netflix” model been expanded and mixed  with so many others.

Through the Open Source. To the Open Source

Of course all those companies use many Open and Free Source. They are lean. Nowadays this is the commonplace in software development. But also, many of them go beyond and create open source products and  a vibrant community around. Just to cite some examples, 10gen create MongoDB, my favorite NoSQL database and used by a lot of the companies at SA500. Long Tail Video have the JW Player that I already used here in the blog and so did so many others.

Videos are hot. Ads are hot.

Wow. So many companies working on products related to video or advertisement and sometimes even both. There is a race out there and I wonder what will come out.

I love gits!

And now I don’t have to buy new t-shirts for awhile. :3

SA500 was amazing. I could talk with people that created products I love and use everyday as Venmo and Meetup. In fact, thank you for all, specially, for organizing this event.

what I feel when I see someone using JPG when he should be using a PNG

Seriously, is that hard?

To discovery which file type you have to use for your image just follow these simple instructions in following priority order:

  1. Have text? Use PNG.
  2. Is a piece of art like a draw, a painting or a webcomic? Use PNG.
  3. It is… moving! Use GIF.
  4. Is a photo? Use JPG.
  5. Is not exactly a photo but contains photos (like people. trees and landscapes)? Use JPG.
  6. Is not a photo, does not contain a photo but I remain concerned about the size of my file despite the breakthrough in telecommunication speeds. Try PNG with indexed palette and Floyd–Steinberg color dithering.
  7. Nah, man. Use JPG but with all lower compression or higher quality options you may find.
  8. It’s nothing listed above! Sir, your problem is far away from the scope of these instructions.

Thank you.

Python, flatten a list

Surprisingly python doesn’t have a shortcut for flatten a list (more generally a list of lists of lists of…).

I made a simple implementation that doesn’t use recursion and tries to be written clearly.

I get a element from a “notflat” list (a list that can have another lists on it). If a element is not a list we store in our flat list. If the element is still a list we deal with him later. The flat list always have only elements that are not a list.
To preserve the original order we reverse the elements at the end.

The Fall (2006), Tarsem Singh

Cinema is about the ancient art of telling stories. Is about breaking the chains that hold our minds. Entertainment is good but is not good enough. We can do more and we can do better. The Fall (2006), from Tarsem Singh, is a movie that knows this. This is my kind of movie.

Roy Walker (Lee Pace) and Alexandria (Catinca Untaru)

The plot is about Alexandria, a injured girl recovering in the hospital when she meets another patient, Roy Walker, and he tells her fantasy histories. The difference of age between them creates a language gap that is very interesting and well explored in the movie as it uses a lot of symbolism. Going deeper in the language issue some dialogues between them were improvised and had an impact in the original history giving a layer of authenticity to the movie.

In terms of photography, every frame of the movie is a piece of art by itself. Here are some of them:

This is what I’m talking about

Faceless evil soldiers.

Colors and composition.

A perfectly good excuse for filming a elephant swimming.

Subtle tribute to Godfather. One of many tributes in the movie.

This scene reminded me of the Balinese monkey chant from Baraka (1992). Bonus: Avatar (2009) also did it.

A stop motion scene.

Almost every scene is breathtaking and probably was really hard to film.

Seems that they used …

… a lot of blue ink.

One of the many amazing scenes that lasted less than 1 second!

Wide shot.

In summary, it have all the ingredients to make a movie that I love:

  • Amazing photography.
  • A non-trivial plot. Doesn’t need to be really complex (though I like complex). In this case was a plot inside the plot.
  • Language and symbolism.
  • The struggle for (pick as many as you want): life, identity, purpose, love, and freedom.
  • Do not underestimate the mind and the imagination,
  • Good actors, good interpretation and when possible some improvisation.
  • Subtle references as an icing on the cake.


Go see this movie.

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