•2009.November.1 • Leave a Comment

Del griego βραχίστος (el más corto) y χρόνος (tiempo). Todos leen griego, verdad? Bien, sigamos. El problema de la braquistocrona (que a mi me gusta pronunciar ‘braquistócrona’) fue resuelto en 1696 por Newton, Leibniz y toda la banda. La pregunta del problema es: ¿qué forma tiene la curva por la cual un objeto, acelerado por la gravedad y no impedido por fricción alguna, llegará en el mínimo tiempo de un punto en una pendiente a otro? La respuesta que muchos dan por intuición – la de una linea recta con una pendiente muy pronunciada – no es correcta. En realidad, la curva que resuelve el problema de la braquistocrona es la ‘cicloide’. La cicloide es la curva que traza un punto en una rueda al girar sobre una superficie plana.

la cicloide

Cuando andas en bici, puedes imaginar que la cicloide es el trazo que deja la sombra de un punto en tu rueda sobre la pared. También podrías imaginar que es el trazo que dejan tus pies si andas en un monociclo. No es exactamente el movimiento neto de tus pies en una bici pues la relación de los engranes con las ruedas no es 1:1. Aunque se me acaba de ocurrir que la curva que dejan tus pies sería simplemente
x = a (t – sen(t))
y = 1 – cos(t)
Donde ‘a’ es la relación de los pedales a los engranes. Acabo de checar con la ayuda de octave y en efecto, esa es la curva que deja la sombra de tus pies (podré dormir tranquilo!)

Todo esto viene a que ‘braquistocrónico’ es uno de los adjetivos con los que me identifico. Siempre trato de tomar la ruta que minimiza el tiempo que me toma en llegar de un lugar a otro. Un purista matemático diría que sólo basta con que corra muy rápido, y que realmente lo que busco lograr es minimizar mi gasto energético mientras que mantengo mi tiempo de traslado dentro de un margen aceptable para propósitos prácticos. Básicamente: me gusta tomar atajos. Lo hago obsesivamente, como esa gente que no pisa los mosaicos negros o que camina en ‘L’.

Estos atajos me llevan por lugares muy horribles o muy geniales, en igual proporción. Hoy, tomando una braquistocrona, me topé con un boníto fenómeno. El viento ha estado soplando muy fuerte estos días, tumbando todas las hojas de los árboles en lo que parece ser mi primer otoño en este planeta. El cielo esta permanentemente gris, el suelo verde y los árboles cafés y dorados. Mientras caminaba hacia un gigantesco árbol la tranquilidad de la tarde se vio interrumpida por una ola de viento. Comenzó con una briza, moviendo unas cuantas hojas en el suelo. Luego, las ramas del árbol comenzaron a vibrar frenéticamente, y como una orquesta soltaron sus hojas por millares que cuales hadas volaban hacia mi y me rodeaban. El viento arreciaba en un crescendo otoñal mientras las hojas se amontonaban a mis pies hasta que súbitamente se detuvo. El arbol quedó quieto también, y las pequeñas escarchas marrones que quedaban en el aire se deslizaron lentamente hasta quedar en el suelo, en el mar ocre en el que ahora crujía y caminaba.

tl;dr tomo atajos, y hoy vi un arbol


I’m in love!

•2009.October.27 • 4 Comments

So I had a long shift last week. I came into the sweatshop at half past two, so I could start working at three. I looked into the calendar to see who would be my partners that evening. The first one, T, was a guy I’d worked with before. I didn’t quite like him the first time I saw him. His English isn’t that good, so it’s hard for us to communicate; plus, he’s a bit creepy. T is in his late thirties and he’s a monkey in the line. I’m a sub-monkey, I just feed the machine. But monkeys push the buttons and pack the finished product, and boss us sub-monkeys around. I wasn’t really excited about working with him.

My other partner was some A, but not pronounced as we do it back home. She didn’t arrive until the very last minute before the shift started, so T and I were already at the machine. I could smell her before I saw her. She smelled like autumn, like cinnamon and pumpkin and sugar. Many girls at work overdo the perfume thing, so the air around them is choking for the first hour or so, and gradually faints until it’s almost imperceptible when it’s closing time. A, however, somehow managed to make the heavy abundance of her perfume not at all disturbing, but even mildly erotic. It was her first day at work, so I had to show her around everything. How to feed the machine, how to stack up the magazines and advertisements or sometimes refrigerator magnets so it’s easier to feed them when it’s time. I showed her my favourite part, which is when the pallet that holds a ton of magazines runs out and you have to use a lift-fork to bring another from the storage room. We even got to use the most awesome machine in the whole sweatshop, which is the one that wraps a bunch of magazines in that thick, rigid plastic ribbon that’s impossible to remove.

A’s super awesome. She’s studying to be a policewoman. I mentioned how awesome that was. I thought about adding how incredibly hot that was, but given my previous experience with danish girls, and given that she could have probably pulled my arm out of it’s socket without even trying, I decided against it. Still, we had a great time, and there was a lot more talking than usually takes place at the sweatshop.

By the end of the day, A and I were so synchronized that we were outworking the machine, and we had plenty of free time to stand around doing nothing, as T still had to pack the final products. I decided to go to him and ask him if I should help him, instead, as A was now perfectly capable of holding the line on her own. He was delighted by my offering and he explained to me that I was to group the finished packages and stack them in groups of 25.

I began, then, to count sets of five. I would grab five magazines, five times, and set them in a stack so T could wrap them with the mega-awesome ribbon machine. Something was off, though. The magazines were just a bit too large for my hands, I had to make too many sets of five and the line was moving a bit too fast. T, seeing my plight, came to help.

“No, no, no” he said. “You are doing it in sets of five. Look, it’s much more easier if you count them like this: 3, 6, 9, 12. Then again 3, 6, 9, 12. And then you add one more and you’ve got twenty-five.” At that very moment, my heart skipped a beat, and then evaporated into an uncontrollable frenzy. I could feel the blood rush to my face, my stomach dissolve into sweetness and glee.
“Yes” I said, “it is much simpler and efficient to count by twelves”. He smiled at me as I did as he told me, and produced stacks of 25 much faster and easier than I ever had before. His face didn’t seem as distant as it had before, and the cold country I found myself in didn’t feel as cold or uncaring as it used to. “Do you always count by twelve?” I asked him.
“Yes, always by twelves. Its much easier, I think”
“Yes, T” I said. ” It is much more easier”

After months of wandering the Earth alone, I found, in the most unexpected of places, a kindred soul: someone who understood, as I do, the great advantage of a duo-decimal system. Twelve is a much better number than ten, I’ve mentioned so before. You can divide 12 by 2 and get a nice number. You can divide it by 3 and get a nice number. You can divide it by 4 and get a nice number. And the ather natural numbers that are not factors of 12 give as a result very pretty, well rounded numbers.

12/1 = 12
12/2 = 6
12/3 = 4
12/4 = 3
12/5 = 2.4
12/6 = 2

What can you do with ten? Nothing! You can divide it by five, and by two. That’s all. Didn’t it ever bother you, to see the pillar of your counting system defeated by just the third factor you ever come across?
Ah, but T understands! Imagine what we could do together! Produce a duo-decimal system that would forever shatter the chains of the decimal system’s oppression. I have so many ideas, so many dreams that could now come true… but I’ll leave them to a future exploration, as they deserve a posting of their own.
For now, all I know is that I’m in love again, with T and with 12.

Denmark: a social, geographical and economical analysis in haiku form

•2009.October.13 • 1 Comment

Denmark, you are nice
but also quite expensive
and it’s fucking cold

I work at a Danish Sweatshop

•2009.October.11 • 3 Comments

I work in a sweatshop, in Denmark. We have to put magazines in plastic wrapping together with other magazines or sometimes advertisements or refrigerator magnets. A machine does all the work, but you have to take care of the machine. They beat us with tiny silk whips to make us work faster, but they apologize afterwards if they have struck us too hard.

It’s located inside a warehouse, south of town. I work 8 hour shifts, with a fifteen minute paid break and a half-hour unpaid break to have dinner and tea. They also give us free apples and warm cocoa. Sometimes they expect me to work up to 15 hours a week. They pay us just enough to cover rent, food, holidays overseas and a beer once in a while.

If you don’t cover your quota of magazines wrapped in plastic together with other magazines or sometimes advertisements or refrigerator magnets they get angry at you. The overseer will sigh and tell you that you didn’t cover the quota, but that it was probably due to the machine malfunctioning. Last Friday a girl dropped some magazines on the floor; the overseer told her to pick them up and she had to pick all of them up, even some that fell underneath the machine and were hard to reach.

Sometimes we have to work night shifts or on Sunday. They ask you first if you can work those shifts, but I always say yes because they pay you more. The overseer leaves at 17.00 and he doesn’t come at all on Sundays, but he leaves his tiny silk whip hanging by the wall, so you work hard anyway.

When I have to work a night shift I take a nap in the afternoon and draw the curtains so the light won’t disturb me. When I wake at 20.00 or 21.00 it’s dark outside. I ride my bike to work and it’s dark, so I pretend I’m a vampire, who for some reason has to put magazines in plastic wrapping together with other magazines or sometimes advertisements or refrigerator magnets. I hiss and bare my fangs on the way to work, but its dark and no one sees me. When the night shift finishes at 07.00 in the morning, the sun is coming up. I’m very tired, so I keep on pretending I’m a vampire and I ride my bike really fast to get to my bed before it’s light outside, or else I’ll die. I hiss and bare my fangs on the way back, and it’s morning, so sometimes a lady will see me while she tends to her garden or gets the paper. She pretends she didn’t see me hiss at her, but I know she did.

Soooo… Zombieland

•2009.October.9 • Leave a Comment

I am, by default, not only excited but glad when I hear of any new zombie flicks. I’m excited on a personal level, because I simply really love zombie movies, but I’m also happy as human, when I see that steps are being taken to alert and inform the general public of the imminent threat of a major zombie outbreak. Zombieland does so very explicitly by having the narrator point out his ‘rules for survival’. Now, I have certain qualms about the rules themselves, and even more on the morality of giving out inaccurate survival information on a widespread media outlet, but from the cinematographic point of view, I must say I was very pleased.

I understand there had been a moderate amount of hype around this movie before its release, and with big hype often comes big disappointment, even with very fine final products such as this. Fortunately, I was largely ignorant of the existence of Zombieland until a few days ago, and so could face the content unbiased and unprepared.

The plot is uneventful. It follows what I call a type-4* zombie storyline: a wandering loner meets some
survivors after a class 3** or greater outbreak. You’ve got your typical spectrum of characters, which interact in humorous and/or entertaining ways and tricking each other. You’ve got the breaking stuff montage, the walking down deserted streets montage, the “we’re having fun in a grocery store doing stuff you would like to do in your non-zombie-infested reality” montage, the works. A proven formula, upon which no modification is expected or desired by the audience. I will therefore limit my criticisms to those things which deviate favourably or unfavourably from the norm.

The Good:
From the begining I noticed that there was a good deal of effort placed in the production of the movie. The opening credits are really awesome, among the nicest I’ve seen in the genre. There’s a great deal of attention placed upon visual effects and having stuff fly around. Music was fine, nothing extraordinary. What irked me about these great visuals you see in the first half is that they seem to forget about them halfway through the movie, and you notice their absence in parts where it would have made lots of sense to really put in a nice shot of a zombie flying through the air. The characters are more or less likeable, but not enough for you to actually worry about them. Dialogue is actually kinda okay through the larger part of the movie, but there’s a point where it gets totally ridiculous. That’s when Bill Murray as himself shows up. Oh yeah, Bill Murray as Bill Murray is a character. I imagine there’s lots of criticism to his appearance and the silliness that ensues, but I think his bit is of benefit to the plot quite fitting to the genre.

The Bad:
The zombies were meh. There’s practically no blood or gore in the film, so there goes a big section of the audience. You hardly ever see someone get eaten or even bitten. Make-up was sleazy and uncreative. The flashbacks are nice but few and, given the type of narration, many more could have been introduced. There is a part where the kid asks Murray if he has any regrets, to which he answers: “Garfield”. So he made a bad movie. Was it really necessary to point it out in that cheap manner with such poorly thought dialogue? It ruins the funny mood of the moment, and the film never recovers from that ghastly scene.
But the one thing that really kept this good movie from being a great movie was the plethora of factual inaccuracies that were presented as ‘survival rules’.

There were some nice details that I appreciated. For instance, they show a flaming zombie running around chasing a firefighter, perhaps helping dispel the rumour that fire is a good way to fight the infected (What’s worse than a zombie chasing after you? A zombie chasing after you on fire). I also appreciate his policy on checking the back of a car, being careful around bathrooms and not being a hero. There are, however, some details that could be misleading to the general public. For example, one of the main character’s rules is ‘Travel Light’, and he is shown strolling around a piece of airport luggage. How is he supposed to run if he’s carrying that around? That’s not traveling light at all! He should at least be using a backpack, not a stroller, and then only to carry food, water, weapons and shelter.

Also, the characters are shown traveling in a variety of vehicles: an SUV, an Escalade, a Hummer. How frequently must they stop at a dangerous gas station to pump up some fuel? Not to mention the fact that most roads would be severely congested and major cities would be completely blocked.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie is good on most of its facts and is what most experts would agree a close representation of what we can expect of an outbreak of that magnitude. I think watching this film could help some unprepared fellow humans survive the coming catastrophe. But if you are reaching out to such a large audience, why stop at being helpful when you can really make a big difference and educate millions?

Whatever the case, I should end my review on a positive note. The film is good reliable entertainment. Don’t expect nothing more from it than what it is -a typical zombie survival film- and you will be pleasantly surprised by its small entertaining details.

*Storyline types for zombie films are based on stereotypical plotlines.
Type-1 deals primarily with class 1 or 2 outbreaks, with a small group of survivors fighting on a single spot and running from the initial outbreak. See Night of the Living Dead (1968), Braindead or Dead Alive (1992), Rec (2007), Dance of the Dead (2008), Død Snø (2009).
Type-2 deals with a single survival story, which is small in scope and specific in details, but which has nevertheless inspired many stories and nightmares. It’s the Survivors in the Mall storyline, after a class 2 or 3 outbreak. See Dawn of the Dead (1978) or its remake (2004).
Type-3 deals with a medium-sized group of survivors barricaded and to a certain degree thriving under a class 3 or 4 outbreak. Day of the Dead (1995) Land of the Dead (2005) La Hora Fría (2006).
Type-4 deals starts with a single survivor after a class 3 or 4 outbreak, running from the infected, and traveling in search of a safe haven. See The Omega Man(kinda, 1971) 28 Days Later (2002) Zombieland(2009).

**Outbreaks are classified according to the number and distribution of infections.
Class 1 implies a small number of infected, which are localized in a small area and quickly controlled, typically in under 72 hours.
Class 2 implies a larger number of infected, perhaps an entire town or village. The infection is controlled to this small region, but the infected have effectively conquered a part of the planet.
Class 3 implies a much larger area and number of infected, perhaps a whole country or part of it. Whole nations are mobilized to keep the infection from their borders, and the planet is divided into safe zones and dead zones.
Class 4 implies a total domination of the planet by the infected, leaving only small pockets of survivors, or even no pockets at all, with just lone wanderers perhaps still free of the infection, but without hope of finding anything but corpses and ashes of what was once humanity.
More information on the different classes of outbreaks can be found it your Civilian Field Manual, which your local authorities ought to have given you. If you don’t have a Field Manual, you can get one here.


•2009.October.1 • Leave a Comment

A kid is missing.


They found him. He was hiding underwater.
He wasn’t alive when they found him.

Of course I always think I’m right

•2009.May.4 • Leave a Comment

I can’t imagine who wouldn’t think they’re right all the time. If you don’t think you’re right you are not thinking enough.
The moment I realize that what I thought was wrong, I change my mind, and think I’m right in thinking that I was wrong before.
Need I explain everything?