Inferno

It has been a while since my last posting…. no worries, still kicking. It’s just that I have been swamped at work. Anyhow, I read The Da Vinci Code when it came out few years ago. I did like it, so I got Angels and Demons afterwards. Few years later, I thought I was done with Mr Brown and then one of my daughters bought me The last symbol, so how could I say no, right?…..  well, now that Inferno is out there,  I figure I should keep the pace just for the hell of it ( Yeah, pun intended ) and read this one too.

Let alone the plot, I have been using tools on the side while reading and this book is the perfect exercise to get the most out of any electronic system available today….  let’s see, while you’re reading about Florence and don’t know what the “Palazzo Vecchio”  looks like??.. No problem, just Google it and then click on images to see lots ( and I mean lots !! ) of pictures. Once you have seen it, then you resume your lecture and you will find out that every description will make  more sense, so the reading becomes much more pleasant !!.

The scene where Robert Langdon is fleeing on the back of a scooter thru Viale Machiavelli  (Machiavelo street)… what does that street look like?  No problem, Google Maps, find the street on the map then go to the satellite view and last but not least, go to street view and voila !!!…you are actually there !!!!!…you can go thru the street at your own pace, how cool is that ??? !!!! The book has plenty of references to actual places that, if you have the time and do not get restless because reading like this takes  forever then, give it a shoot. You will see, it’s much better than watching the movie !!! (Of course I am going to watch the movie as well).

Now, getting back to the actual book. The plot does have some controversial ideas that should be addressed…. the fiction is not that far away in this particular case. I do not want to spill the beans if you have not seen the movie yet. Suffice to say, I did have a flash back while going thru some stuff in the book…. my father once said ( this is many many years ago when I was a teen……. my old man is long gone now ) he said ( I don’t even remember said it ), he said “I am not going to see this but the day will come when people will not fit in the planet”….. the thought did have an impact in me as a teen, it is still a concern today after this many years and having experience the trend of the last couple of decades. The number is getting scary…. yup, that is part of the plot.

Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo

I wish I could post stories more often but my busy schedule ( which is a good thing ) gets in the way. The only thing not negotiable is my personal time to read. My last book, The Big Bang, took me thru some historical milestones with the telescope and Galileo. I did realize that I had never read Galileo’s biography, so by the next trip to the bookstore, I did find the book “Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo” translated by Stillman Drake. Like the cliche says, “Never judge a book by it’s cover”, I was 100% sure that I was getting Galileo’s biography….. nope, I couldn’t be more wrong. The book turns out, is the translation of some Galileo’s actual pieces of work, mostly letters. I was disappointed from the get-go, I am not going to lie, so it was hard to crank the pace up to a level where one get lost in time and enjoy the reading material as if one’s existence comes to a halt. The Starry Messenger did set the haters wheels on motion, however the controversy is not what got me hooked with the book !!!…. the letters to Cosimo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, were written heavily with extremely reverent and religious language that I am sure today’s generations would frown and scratch their heads as if thinking “what a hell does that means????”. It’s just shocking and funny how things have changed in almost 400 years !!!. So, Galileo got “punished” by the holy church by forbidding him to support or say anything else about Copernicus. The whole controversy was basically based on the statement of who is going around who? The Sun goes around the earth or the other way around?. The theological implications where a big deal in that context. At certain point, Galileo was wise enough to make terms with the whole thing but then, there is this bunch of arse-holes that kept on pressing the issue until he snapped and wrote a “letter” to the Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine ( Concerning the use of Biblical Quotations in matters of science )  in the hopes this will help turn things around…. well, obviously Galileo never took the class on “writing concise essays 101”. The freaking letter is more than 40 pages on the printed book, can you imagine how many must have been on handwriting?? I think he got in trouble and didn’t get the help he expected from her because likely she did NOT read the whole damn encyclopedia !!! ( poor bastard !!!….yes, I said this with love ). The last section is an essay called The Assayer, where Galileo trashed big time the biggest jerk of his enemies and for that conservative language of 400 years ago, boy he did not held his tongue !!!!…. The last thing he said was “…but if you fail, I ask no more from you than silence, by which an end will be put to this dispute. And truly that is what I hope will now take place”. Well, from where I am standing, this is how “shut the F Up” used to be said in a polite way back in Galileo’s day !!!!!!….. and that’s all folks, until I finish reading my next book !!!!!

Big Bang

I know, the Big Bang Theory have just started season 10 for the TV sitcom….. even though I am a big fun, this blog is NOT about the show. This is about a book called “Big Bang” by Simon Singh. Usually when I am browsing a book store, I will grab any book that may look compelling and then find out if I got what I thought I was going to get. This book in particular, I thought I bought a technical description of the Big Bang theory and as it turns out, it is a historical description of the events that lead us to understand the Universe, from the very beginning with the Greeks thinking about our place in the great scheme of things, all the way to today’s CMB chart that explains the basic principle on how galaxies where formed over the span of 13.7 billion  years. I thought about writing a quick summary of the sequential events by going over the names of the contributors and then realized the list was getting too long. Instead, here is a compressed list with the main characters and keep in mind, there are plenty of important names in between that I am not going to include. Having a conceptual theory to explain  how the Universe came to being is not trivial, even if it may seem like it is. Anyhow, there was a Greek dude called Aristarchus who dare to say back in the day that the Sun was the center of the Universe. He was a lucky dude because if he would’ve said such thing when the Catholic mind set came to place then he would’ve been burned alive. The sad part is that when we stand on our lawn and look at the horizon, it kind of looks like the Sun is the one going around the earth. So, in other words and on a long story short, no one believed him and the Sun centered idea was forgotten for … mmmhhh…. just about 1,700 years !!!. To make matters worst, Ptolemy developed a convoluted and complex system with epicycles to explain how the Sun and all planets moved around the earth. Copernicus comes along and thought about taking a stand in favor of the Sun centered universe but realize that Bruno Giordano was stripped naked, gagged and tied to a stake and burned to death for just impliing that the stars in the night sky could be other worlds !!!… So, Copernicus wrote this stuff and then just after publishing decided to kick the bucket ( how  smart, hu?? ). The Sun centered idea kept on getting stronger with Tycho Brahe, which collected tons of data that eventually where used by Kepler to develop the elliptical trajectories around the sun. With all those ideas laid out to build the foundation of the Sun centered universe, Galileo confirmed a lot of that by using a telescope to discover the moons of Jupiter and it settled the argument that NOT everything revolves around Earth ( We were NOT the center of the Universe !!!….yeaph, Catholic church was freaking out ). Once those wheels where set in motion then here it comes guys like Newton to develop the first theory of gravitation and then Einstein to change everything up side down, while in parallel a lot of things were happening. Alexander Friedmann, using Einstein ideas, jumped to the conclusion that the Universe was expanding and no one ( pretty much ) understood what he was talking about. Georges Lemaitre ( The Charleroi priest from Belgium ) came up with the  very first idea of starting the universe from a primeval atom…. the explosion concept was now outhere and Hoyle coined the term Big Bang as a mocking thing that unbeknownst to him, the term would stick forever. Not only that, Hoyle was supporting the opposite idea based on a steady state eternal universe and yet, he is the one who developed the nucleoshyntesis theory that helped the Big Bang to explain how Hidrogen and Hellium were formed at the first few mintues after the misterious begining. One thing leads to another and then Hubble comes up with his observations to confirm the universe is expanding, therefore it’s safe to say that the universe of yesterday was smaller than today. Take this idea to the extreme and you can move all galaxies to a single point, which is the beginning of time. Again, I can’t do justice to this book in few paragraphs. If you like science, philosophy and history then this is the book to get your research started.

What do we really own?

We go thru life, day in day out, dealing with all kind of activities where we either help to move things forward or whatnot. While we do that, we collect stuff from the things we do, the things we learn, you name it. As we grow old and accumulate wealth, experience, memories among other things, we eventually realize that everything is just an illusion. Everything we are will eventually  disappear. This thought has been going around my head for a couple of days, so here I am writing my thoughts down in the hopes to make sense of this deceiving simple question: What do we really own?…… let’s see, few examples: a) I think I own my car and yet, any given day it can be stolen, crashed, broken. b) I think I own my house and yet, any given day it can be burned down, flooded, wiped out by a tornado, demolished by an earthquake. c) I think I own my job and yet, any given day ( particularly under today economic scenario ) I can get the pink slip ( lay off )…… get the idea?…. what do we really own????. Even memories can be erased by Alzheimer !!!!!…. holly stinky freaking rats !!!! So, I kept on dwelling and then I realized that I can think of few things that we really own ( like it or not ). The first one is the place where we were born. That label cannot be changed !!!! Even after passing, I will still be remembered by relatives as the one who was born as such and such. We also own our biological parents. They are the beginning or our own existence, they are our own Big Bang !!!!. In other words, we own very few things that were setup by external events and we didn’t even have a say on them !!!. It’s ( at least to me anyway ) a very deep question……What else do we really own?

Empires of light

“What” do we read may say something about whatever…. however, “why” is another contributor !!… So, why did I read this book? This is one of those things that one thing leads to another. Few days ago, a friend of mine asked me something about Nikola Tesla. I don’t even remember what it was but I am sure I said something, I just can’t keep my trap shut. Anyhow, I knew that I have a book about Tesla, that I read few years ago. I grabbed it off the shelf and once I start browsing then all bets are off. I had to re-read it again. Every time a book is revisited, there is always the possibility to discover something new. It was a pleasant and quick read. Few days later, I was walking about “HalfPriceBooks” ( Yes, I like cheap thrills ) and found this book “Empires of light” by Jill Jonnes. This one is very good in particular because explores the sequence of events between three great contributors, were for the most part the grand majority of people identify the one ( Thomas A Edison ) and vaguely remember something about a Edison’s feud or sort of competition against this super genius hardly understood ( Nikola Tesla )….however, there is a third wheel here called George Westinghouse. Plenty of mangled  events between those three ( Not going to describe all details here…. want more?.. read the book !! .. smile face here ). The outcome? … the one thing that  we all depend upon and take for granted every second, day in day out…. electricity !!!! ( We just hook our computer to the wall and do not worry about anything else… think about that !!! ). Anyhow, one particular chapter that kept me reading like nothing else existed around me, was about a son of a gun called William Kemmler. He got caught up between a nasty battle between Edison ( DC ) and the duo Westinghouse/Tesla ( AC ), to determine what would be the most efficient method to kill this sucker ( don’t judge yet…wait and read the details first ). A drunk William Kemmler out of the blue, walked into his house and found his wife cooking breakfast. Something didn’t agree with him ( we will never know ) and went outside to get his ax. Came back in and whacked the hell out the poor innocent woman. She probably never new what hit her. He was guilty, that wasn’t part of the question…..  Long story short, the DC/AC battle was about egos and investment. The whole process was focused on getting the most efficient and “human” procedure to execute William Kemmler in the electric chair ( A mercy he never had with his wife !!!! ). After long trials and battles, the day came and executed he was ( He was even asking for it, since he was sure it would be painless and quick … well, not so fast dude ). It seems that Karma existed even then. First attempt, as horrific the spectacle was to all present attendees, he was still alive. He was gasping for air thru the leather mask covering his face. He was fried for a second longer time, to make sure the deal was done. Done it was, but he most have gone thru a hellish way to go, very well deserved ( My own words ). Again, don’t judge.. instead, look it up, do your research, get your data and form your own opinion. For me, this is one more book in my background. I do treasure each and every one !!! Now, I do have another book about Edison biography that I read years ago too. I think I am bound to re-read that one soon too !!!!

ISO9000, maybe the greatest hoax of all

Well, it is that time of the year. Preparations for an audit to make sure we do comply with ISO9000 requirements. In a nutshell, the main idea is that everyone within the organization follow written procedures. Ok, it’s a noble idea with good intentions ( perhaps ) and yet, probably pisses me off because I DIDN’T come up with this idea myself !!!!!…. think about it…. some smarty  pans thought a while ago, let’s create a standard that everyone must follow and then we can make a very good business by policing how they do the things they say they do ( is your head spinning already? ). Long story short, the ones enforcing the standard, don’t produce anything and yet they charge a good chunk of money !!!!!. I do believe having written procedures is beneficial for the organization because helps to maintain continuity when resources migrate to greener pastures, among other things. The part I do not agree ( or dislike if you will ), is the additional pressure ( on top of everything all employees have to deal with now a days ) to get scrutinized by an external person that pretends to know more than the ones that do the job !!!. Well, I think the most flagrant flaw in ISO9000 philosophy goes like this….. how about this….. what if we would write just ONE procedure. Yes, only ONE written procedure and that would read “We do NOT follow any written procedures but this one”. Voila, there you go !!!!…. it is a perfect statement where we would do as we say we do and then we would be perfectly compliant !!!!!! ( Of course I am being sarcastic ). Another way around is to book vacation days during the audit ( management won’t like it, of course ) or even, play the second language card !!!… when the auditor comes over and start asking questions then I could tell him “No hablo Ingles”…. ( Yes, sarcasm again ). I am just venting to myself. The reality of the situation is that the audit is upon us and most importantly, if I have time to write this blog then, no doubt I do have time to prepare, as I should. Always grateful that I do have a good job !!!!

My old man long gone but still here

As I am driving to work ( It’s just another day, right? ), I am listening to Pink Floyd The Wall ( Great work from those dudes by the way ). One of the songs lyrics goes like this… “Daddy what you leave behind for me?”……. I kept on driving with my mind spacing out to places and now I wonder how did I manage to get to work safely? Maybe I did run a couple of red lights and I’ve just got lucky ( didn’t killed no one or,  get killed or had a ticket ). Anyhow, what did my father left behind for me?. He passed 13 years ago. It has been a while and still feels like he is still around. He did have a strong personality and always made an impression on pretty much everyone. He was an entrepreneur in so many ways. He worked in several disciplines and was always very successful. Success is kind of a relative term and usually it gets  understood as wealth. Well, that was the case with him. He started from zero with no education and yet managed to develop businesses in different activities. Just to set the baseline here, he started sweeping the sidewalk of a butcher shop when he was a desperate and hungry little kid. Eventually  he got to own and run that shop so successfully that he became wealthy enough to explore other lines of work. I could write stories but the point is, even though he had to deal with all kind of challenges during his life, I don’t recall ever ( and I mean ever ) to hear him say something like “I don’t feel like working today”, “I don’t want to do that”, “No, that’s not my problem”….. he was always booted up to get the job done. So, what did my dad leave behind for me? Ethics, work, discipline, willingness to do whatever it takes, sense of adventure, loyalty… to mention just few things. He was a great man and I am very proud to say it. That’s probably the most valuable thing that he left behind for me.