Go forward in time to December 2003.
Talking to the Boston-based hackers is interesting. It feels good to know the city at least a bit, and be able to take Miguel Ibarra for a nice dinner in Chinatown. What I know about the city feels just right; I don't know every nook and cranny so there are still many new places to discover, while at the same time not being perpetually lost like a tourist.
Aaron, Ettore and I went to the excellent little tapas place near the Lucky Cave, Nat and Miguel's old apartment in Beacon street. The owner looked happy about being able to serve people who speak Spanish.
I miss Oralia so much; I would love to show her around the city, have good food, and laugh together at the local paranoia. She would have loved to visit New York while I'm at the GNOME Summit. We'll have to come here together in the near future when we get a tourist visa for her.
I woke up from a little nap in the train, and I am feeling so full of energy. I want to be in New York and take pictures like a photo ninja. I want to talk to all the hackers and fix big problems in our GNOME infrastructure. I have no idea of why this little nap was so good for me, but listening to John Adams and Prokofiev on the headphones while closing my eyes, and then in the background listening to the technical conversations between the hackers that are awake on the train... it is all fabulous, and it has made me really happy.
On Saturday Germán and Marcelo took us to the Chiflón del Diablo coal mine near Concepción. It stopped working years ago, and it is a tourist site now. You step into a cage and go down a shaft 40 meters deep. Then you walk for a while along the mine's main corridor, which gets you to a point that is about 500 meters into the sea, but underground. Amazingly, no sea water at all seeps into the mine. You can still see walls of undug coal. When the tour guide, a retired coal miner, told all of us to turn off our helmet lamps, we were in total darkness. Just like in George Orwell's amazing book, The Road to Wigan Pier, one has to practically kneel down to be able to walk through the corridors with low ceilings. To have to do that all day long while carrying the coal you just chipped off the wall must be a grueling experience.
That night we took the train to Santiago. The train cars are between 30 and 40 years old, but they still run fine. I wish we still had trains in Mexico. We didn't do much in Santiago; we basically walked around the downtown area, had some delicious pastries in a cafe where they also sell books, and just killed time until we had to leave for the airport.
Our plane arrived to Mexico City yesterday morning, and I had to practically elbow my way through customs so that I could quickly pick up my ticket for the plane to Atlanta and then Boston. Fortunately Miguel Ibarra had already picked up the tickets for both of us, so checking in was not a problem. We took Oralia to the taxi base, I gave her a big hug, and then she left. Miguel Ibarra and I went back inside the airport to wait for our plane to leave.
Boston is cold, but not uncomfortably so, at 9 degrees Celsius. We registered at the hotel, I took a shower as I hadn't done so since Saturday, and then we went for dinner at the Chinatown Eatery. I had a gigantic dish of rice/tofu/pork/spicy ginger sauce, and Miguel Ibarra had a tubful of noodle soup with pork and chicken. We walked around downtown Boston for a while, got lost, got back to the park, and took the aging subway back to our hotel.
It is nice to see the Boston-based hackers again. I may get a new digital camera during the week; I want something less unwieldy than the Coolpix 990 to carry around in a pocket or in the little pouch that I use for my Rollei 35.
I managed to wake up at 6:20, beating the alarm clock, and had a leisurely breakfast. Walked around, bought some tea and a mug. It's impossible to find mugs without Christmas decorations, so I got one with a Christmas tree. Eventually got to the office and set up my machine with the help of Peter Pouliot.
Oralia and I have been in Chile since last Saturday. We were in the city of Talca until Wednesday, at the CONASOL conference. I gave three talks there: History of GNOME, the canvas, and how to start contributing. I am very happy about how the talks turned out; Oralia gave me a bunch of suggestions about how not to make them boring or hard to understand. There are many young students who are either starting to use Linux or even starting to program with GTK+ and GNOME, and they were eager to learn more. It is very encouraging to see high-schoolers getting up to speed with free software. They have so much energy, never get tired, and they just need someone to hand-hold them for a while. I'll be doing that remotely with some of them.
For example, Ismael, a 16 year-old kid, doesn't have enough money to buy a computer that can run GNOME. In the meantime, he wants to at least help the translation project, as he can edit the .po files in his old machine just fine. I spent some time talking to him about how the translations are done; Germán can help him in the future as they both live in Concepción.
On Monday afternoon I talked for a few hours with Edgar Villanueva, the Peruvian congressman responsible for the proposed law to use only free software in the government. He is a very smart person, and evidently has given a lot of thought to these issues. I hope we can invite him to the GULEV conference next year. I could not attend to any of his talks here, however, as they all collided with my own talks.
Mr. Villanueva told me about how he got to know about free software through a series of anecdotes. At first he was the only person in congress who knew about free software, and everyone else thought he was crazy. Nowadays he has about 50% of the Peruvian congress in his favor.
Oralia's photo of most of the speakers at the conference:
On Wednesday, after the conference was over, we went to the Balduzzi vineyard near Talca. We got explained how wine is made, and the process is quite different for white and red wines. The dark basements where they store the wooden barrels all have a delicious smell. The barrels are extremely solid, and they have interesting red stains on the smooth surface. It is good to learn things that are not obvious at first: dry years are good for wine production as then the grapes store more water in them; during humid years the plants put out more fruit, but it has less juice in it. We got to taste some good wines, and eventually bought a few bottles to take back home.
Chile is like a parallel universe to Mexico, but with subtle changes that make it feel familiar but not quite. Sabritas potato chips are called Evercrisp here. Nestlé Bambino ice-cream is called Savory. Bimbo bread is Ideal here, and the disgustingly cute bear logo is not an icon of universal good here. Chileans have absolutely no tolerance for spicy food, so when they took us to the seaside town of Tome for seafood, they were pretty amazed when Oralia and I put a lot of spicy sauce on our mussels, crab, and other delicacies. Even then, it was like the mildest sauces we have in Mexico; in turn, our spiciest fare is nothing compared to really hot Indian food.
We are now in the city of Concepción, in Germán Poo's house. This looks like a very nice city, and the students here are just as excited as the ones who went to Talca. Here I gave the History of GNOME talk again in a smaller auditorium and talked to people afterwards. Denys, one of Germán's friends, is writing a cool program to help people download and install kernel modules to use winmodems. Projects like that help people learn about pygnome, Unix arcana, and other things that will make them proficient hackers. I talked to Germán and Denys for quite a while yesterday, mostly explaining things about GTK+ reference counting, exotic ways to do signal callbacks, and the perils of memory management in C.
Oralia and I have been thinking about Chema a lot. Death makes you realize that unconsciusly you left many things pending with the dead person. Before the news on Monday, I had the unconscious idea that I would see Chema in Boston next week and then in New York during the GNOME summit. One always assumes that you'll see the person again some time. Even today I still cannot believe that Chema is just gone. He left books in his office in Mexico, pending projects, ideas on the whiteboard, shampoo and soap and shaving cream in the office bathroom. One is never prepared to die; one's life is never quite finished. Maybe it is a good cathartic therapy to think about all of that until you cry.
My good friend Chema Celorio had a skydiving accident last Saturday, and he died on the evening of that day in the hospital.
Chema was one of the most enthusiastic people I know. He did a lot of good work for GNOME, running the gnome-love project, maintaining gnome-print and ximian-setup-tools, and being the manager of the Ximian Desktop team for a while.
Chema was the sort of person who would order good sushi every day for lunch and have it delivered, so that he could stay in the office, coordinating big projects. He was always smiling. During the last few months where he alternated living in Boston and Mexico City, it was always great to see him in person when he arrived.
We took the bus to Mexico City last night so that tonight we can board our plane for the CONASOL conference in Chile.
I forgot to bring the plug converters.
|120 V 60 Hz||220 V 50 Hz|
Canceling our apartment lease on Friday was unpleasant, but not horribly painful. "You have four cracked window panes". "Yeah, you gave us the apartment with four cracked window panes *and* a dusty mess everywhere." After the paperwork was done, we emptied my office and packed the things into the car. After hauling around my 25-kilogram Yamaha S80 keyboard, a 19 inch monitor doesn't seem heavy anymore...
We drove back to Xalapa yesterday morning, and it was a pleasant drive. We stopped right after Puebla to grab something to eat at one of the random highway stops; it turns out that the place we picked makes very good breaded chicken tortas. Two cyclists stopped by (on the four-lane highway!) and they were carrying some totally awesome side bags with clothes and water. It turns out that they are a Swiss couple that bikes around the world; they have done parts of Asia and the Philippines, and now they are in Mexico. They were going from Mexico City to Orizaba, and they would be making the trip in three days. We chatted for a while, and I even got to practice my very rusty German.
Rubén and Oralia's parents came to visit our new apartment, and we took them to Jalcomulco today. We walked around the river and the bridge, took a bunch of pictures that need to be developed, and finally went to the delicious seafood restaurant to which we went last time. I had an amazing fish soup in a bowl that must hold a liter of broth. This time they had some excellent mamey ice-cream for dessert. We'll be going there rather often, it seems.
Go backward in time to October 2003.Federico Mena-Quintero <email@example.com> Sat 2003/Nov/01 21:43:59 CST