Time passes! And it takes us along with it: now a lazy float, now the running rapids, now an eerie calm.
And now, for me, a rising white noise of waterfall. In a month my partner and I move to Geneva. It's exciting and terrifying and anxiety-producing, but the nice thing about time is that I know it will carry me over the stress of, you know, learning French and such things.
I have loved my time in Barcelona, since moving here in 2005. The city has been pretty good to me. While I am indeed ready to go and try new things, I won't be leaving it without regret.
As a practical matter, I'll be (quite happily) staying on with Igalia, in their compilers group. Practically speaking, my move doesn't change much, work-wise; I've always met with customers over the net or on-site, never in Barcelona itself.
There are loads of practicalities to sort out, but if you have any knowledge about the town, I'm all digital ears. Also, if you happen to need some responsible caretakers for your alpine villa, do let me know. It doesn't even have to have a hot tub. I'm not particular. Just sayin'.
Last weekend in Barcelona was lovely, the best time of the year: crisp air, free outdoor music, fireworks and correfocs, castellers and wine tasting. It was great.
The town festival starts with a speech, the pregó, and this year's was from architect and poet Joan Margarit. I hope he will forgive my poor translation of this excerpt of his speech:
Freedom is a strange journey.
It is a bullring with chairs
on the sand at election time.
It is danger, in the morning, on the metro,
newspapers at day's end.
Freedom is making love in parks.
Freedom is dawn's breaking
on a day of general strike.
It is dying free. It is the Persian wars.
The words Republic and Civil.
A king leaving by train in exile.
Freedom is a bookshop.
Going without identification. It is songs
of the civil war.
A form of love, freedom.
The mayor was quite irked, to have his event spoiled by talks of strikes! Indeed, the town's festival only comes once a year, but tomorrow, the 29th of September, we have something even more wonderful: a general strike.
I grew up in the US, in a particularly union-hostile region. I never knew anyone in a union. So, with that perspective, and with the idea that many of my readers might be in the same situation, I'd like to explain a little about what's up with this.
The proximate cause of tomorrow's strike is a piece of legislation making it easier for businesses to fire workers, and generally giving more power to businesses at the time of salary, benefit, and contract negotiations. I recently looked at the Spanish wikipedia page for the 1988 general strike, and to be honest, not much has changed.
The idea is to generally paralyze the country, and force the government into negotiations. It's something of a farce, given the close relationship between the majority unions and the governing party, but I think they couldn't maintain credibility among their members without calling a strike.
Still, there hasn't been a general strike since I last moved to Spain at the beginning of 2005, so this is a big deal. Tomorrow could be quite a mess, for good and for bad.
Things are bad in Spain -- really, really bad. The unemployment rate for 20- to 25-year-olds is something like 40%. The problem is that this strike, as it is conceived of by the majority unions, is only about reform, and reform is not good enough.
A colleague of mine said to me yesterday, regarding the strike, that "the numbers just don't add up!" Like, how can people get all these benefits when the country is so bad off? The problem with statements like these is that they assume the limits imposed by capitalism. Why is there a credit crunch when 40% of young people are out of work, and can be put to work? Why are the banks not making new mortgages, but there are so many vacant flats?
And then economists have the nerve to chide Spain on its profligacy. It is galling.
Unfortunately, this acceptance of capitalist false-scarcity logic applies to the dominant unions' meek requests for reform. On the other hand, I think the people (as usual) have outpaced the majority union leadership, and things could become quite interesting.
I belong to an anarchosyndicalist union, which has been calling for a general strike for years. The idea is that yes, it's fine to strike for reform -- but one must also strike for revolution. The logic of empty flats and tight credit and wildly disparate renumeration, the logic that promises the world that it cannot -- cannot! -- give to all, this logic is crisis. It's not simply that we are in a crisis, it is that capitalism is crisis.
So really, we strike against capitalism, wittingly or not. Of course it's much better to be conscious of the place of things, but we work with what we have. That is the function of the radical trade union -- a bridge between the working people and radicalism.
Maybe tomorrow we'll have the Seattle '99 we deserve. Here's hoping. Until then, happy striking!
There are lunches, and then there are lunches to write about.
Today I started to think I was in one of the latter when the patxaran came out; but I knew it when I decided to go to the park afterwards and lay down in the sun. Tomato & oil, chard & potato, rare beef, sweet fried things, vermouth, wine, "rancid wine", and yes, a shot of espresso.
Also: Barcelona's Ciutadella is its Dolores Park. No bi-rite creamery, nor tartine bakery, but the park itself has that same feel, sometimes. Wafting guitar, bagpipes, plucked violin, tightrope walkers, and jugglers, hand and foot.
I came down the stairs this morning -- pants cuffed, helmet on, cross strap buckled -- and sauntered around the corner to unlock my bike, but alas, it was not there. Last night they stole my bike.
I knew it would happen some day. Bikes are on loan to us from God, who works in mysterious ways indeed. But I didn't think it would happen this way.
See, I had a dinner on my terrace last weekend. In a fit of silliness, when people would come to the door, I'd just drop them my keys off the side of the balcony. Amusement for all!
But when I went to lock up my bike yesterday evening at a restaurant -- it had spent the weekend in the office -- of course it was the bike lock key that broke in the weekend's antics, and I hadn't noticed it.
Luckily I had the wee cable lock that ran through my seatpost, so I crossed my fingers and used that instead. So it was with pleasure that, leaving the restaurant, I found that my bike was still there.
We had a great ride last night, me and the bike. We hit all the lights, and beat the metro back to my house by 10 minutes. I figured it would last one more evening out with the wee lock, in my relatively calm neighborhood, but no, it was not to be.
So farewell, Amat Ciutat, my friend. We hardly knew ye.
Today I met up with an old friend I hadn't seen in a while, at the bar that he runs. Conversation was lovely. But that's not what I want to talk about.
On my way home, I rode on roads I hadn't been on in a while. I'm used to riding in the normal lanes, taking up the space of a vehicle, but they recently put in new protected bike lanes on these roads, so I decided to give them a try.
Most of Barcelona is laid out on a grid, with truncated corners. Like this:
/------\ ^ ^ /------\ / \. " / \ | |. " | | | |. " | | \ /. " \ / \------/. " \------/ crossing *. " /------\. " /------\ / \. " / \ | |. " | | | |. " | | \ /. " \ / \------/ . " \------/ . ^<- cars ^ <- bike lane
Streets are mostly one-way, alternating by block, and there are some larger arteries. The bike lanes that they put in are two-way, on the left of the cars. This means that every other block, cars will be turning into the bike lane -- a sure point of danger.
To compensate for this, the bike path designers made the bike lanes turn in at those dangerous crossings, and cross alongside the pedestrians. Cars are stopped at a light, in theory.
I suppose I appreciate the theory. In practice, it's a bit irritating to have to go the extra distance at the dangerous crossings. It slows you down, the curves present a danger of their own, and you make fewer lights. Sometimes there are times you could have caught the intersection if you were in a car lane, but the bike lane's light is red. Etc.
So when I came to about my tenth turnout, I looked around to see if there were cars, and seeing none, I decided to cut straight to the other side of the bike lane. I lined up my wheel with the rubber dividers separating the bike lane from the road, looked under my shoulder at speed, and accelerated across the intersection---
---into the air---
---to one of those brief moments of false clarity, the silent "shit!", the grasping rationality, the approaching pavement---
---the bounding up to look for cars---
---the joke about it, ashamed of course, with the nearby parked scooter...
Apparently I didn't line up right with those damn rubber things. They're there to keep scooters out of the bike lane, but they have other effects.
My bike appears to be fine. Amusingly, the only lasting effect is that the left side of my handlebar has been bent back by about 15 degrees, which is one of the only parts that I haven't yet had to replace.
I would like to believe that in that brief aerial instant, that I executed some clever and graceful landing, informed by Aikido, but no, the evidence points elsewhere -- a skinned knee and elbow, a pedal-bitten calf, and two stigmata on the palms: perhaps a divine warning against hubris. The Lord does work in mysterious ways.
bcn: notes from the outskirts.
22@ is the name given to the parasitic, life-sucking force that is engulfing Poble Nou. I snapped this photo biking by the other day: notice the cops in the lower right, fulfilling their functions as agents of property-holders.
I mean to write at some point about "good people and bad systems", but it is obvious to anyone at the wrong end of a porra whose interests the police serve. In this case, they are the Pinkertons, the private security service of the modern-day railroad trust, the unstoppable juggernaut of "development" in the city.
Farther out, where I live, they talk about "revitalization", and the city's responsibility to neglected neighborhoods. I am deeply skeptical. Instead of fixing up decaying buildings, they prefer to demolish and build a kind of Disneyland yuppietopia -- gentrification just like in any other part of the world. Their care is not for those who inhabit the buildings, but for those who own them.
As an American, the whole "development" situation in Spain is incredibly frustrating: I know where they're going, I've seen it in the states. The US is just starting to reap the rotten fruit of suburban dissociation, but Spain continues to tear down the livable to construct the profitable. You will give reason to your own Kunstlers, don't you understand.
Perhaps I am more than usually jealous of my freedom. I feel that my connections with and obligations to society are at present very slight and transient. Those slight labors which afford me a livelihood, and by which I am serviceable to my contemporaries, are as yet a pleasure to me, and I am not often reminded that they are a necessity. So far I am successful, and only he is successful in his business who makes that pursuit which affords him the highest pleasure sustain him. But I foresee that if my wants should be much increased the labor required to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, neglecting my peculiar calling, there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage.
10 January, 1851
This has been an excellent, excellent year. The underlying factor was a shift in my working arrangements. I started on 4-day weeks in January, and since March or so have been on 3-day weeks -- Monday to Wednesday, eight hours a day. I'm pleased as punch.
This situation has allowed all kinds of things to develop -- yoga, sailing, hacking for fun, travel, and for once I'm in a healthy relationship -- as if they were simply waiting in the wings for space on stage. I cannot recommend this arrangement more highly.
all good things
The time has come, though, for me to try something new. Tomorrow is my last day at Fluendo. It's been great -- the GStreamer work, hacking the stack, molesting the do-goody Python for fun and profit, acquiring a disturbing intimacy with Twisted and its perspective broker distributed object system. We built a streaming server platform that the commercial people are selling like crazy. Good stuff.
But I'm down for new problems now, new systems to build. After coming back from the winter holidays, I'll start work for Oblong Industries of the inscrutable web site. They've been in stealth mode for a while, but will be opening up in the new year.
Theirs is an incredibly compelling story. Here's the version as I prefer to believe it. The producers of what was to be the movie Minority Report were ambling across the globe, searching for someone who could tell them a convincing story of how the future would be. When they found John Underkoffler at the MIT Media Lab, they knew they had found the one. They asked him to come down to LA to work as the science adviser to the movie, and the cinephile in John couldn't refuse.
John wrote a two hundred and fifty page manual of a gestural interface system that was, to him, how people would interact with computers in the future. If you haven't seen the movie, the essence is that the computer takes its input from your hand motions ("gestures"), in three dimensional space, instead of via other peripherals such as the mouse. The writers then took these ideas and scripted out how the interactions would work in the movie. The scenes were acted out with blank screens, and the computer graphics people later came in and filled in the images for film.
A couple of years later, John decided to actually build the system that he designed. He called on his mafia of programming and business contacts, and that brings us to the present. The system they have is truly impressive -- lagless, precise, robust recognition of hand orientation and a wide variety of hand gestures, along with an innovative development platform on which to build applications. They have a number of systems installed in the wild, and as the company comes out of "stealth mode" they'll be looking to push more systems into industry and academia to see what kinds of applications people build with these new interfaces.
There's all kinds of problems to hack on in the system -- optics, image recognition, OS work, system work, framework hacking, applications, 3D graphics. I'll be doing some of everything, probably initially concentrating on the system and framework levels. We're opening an office here in Barcelona, where I'll be working from. I'll also help the company make the transition from in-house software to free software -- the plan is to release a number of libraries as free software over the course of 2008.
I just realized today that the address of the space that we're looking at is on a street that has two of the fundamental constants of the universe in it: carrer del pi, commonly abbreviated c/pi. Nifty.
And yes, in case you're wondering: for me it will be a three-day-a-week job. Oh, oh yes. May the year 2008 rock even more than 2007.
"Una situació diferent de la del futur hotel de cinc estrelles [al costat], que s'alçarà sobre una llosa que construirà la Generalitat a sobre de l'estació per sostenir el pes de la innovadora estructura de metall i vidre de l'edifici. Amb el turisme no s'hi juga."
Don't mess with
Going aight, trying to tie up loose ends for a Flumotion release -- hopefully will write a bit more about that tomorrow. It's been waaaaaay too long.
The code monkey's guide to cryptographic hashes for content-based addressing, by everyone's favorite hackwriter, Val Henson. The tables are especially amusing.
Real pleased with the weekend in Paris. Pleased because I got to hang out with some quality folks I hadn't seen in a while, pleased with the city, meta-pleased because the visit fixed the city for me. The last time I was there left a very grey impression.
The light is different there from here in Barcelona. Here it is a soup, generously spooned out by a well-fed sun goddess; there it is a garnish on a plate of wild mushrooms. Very dramatic when it breaks through the clouds, colors come out in relief.
Also interesting was the way time has unravelled the knots in us, leaving us a bit more simple, a bit more who we are.
read("/dev/summer", 1024) = 0
There is a palpable feeling here of end-of-summer. People are starting to come back from holiday, the days show an occaisional chill, it rains. Fine for me; I don't think I'll be spending too much time at work in September.
I broke yet another spoke on my bike. What's up with that? Before here, the last spoke breakage I had involved a bent wheel, a failed jump, and a deflated ego. These times have been due to my half-hour commute to work. Do the changing circumstances mean I lead a more boring life? Or perhaps do I inject an EXTREME element to commuting? Choose your own adventure!
Opened comments, not sure why they were off.