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About confirmation bias

It’s been a long time since I don’t write here. The year has started with my new job and the many many paper deadlines. It has kept me busy enough not to follow the news a lot, which is generally a good thing, because seeing what is happening in the world is usually a source of depression and disappointment for me.

Nevertheless I am Brazilian, and the latest protests in the country could not have passed by unnoticed. Specially because my parents, the most apolitical people I know, participated on it.

But this will not be yet another text on the political situation in Brazil, no no. We have plenty of that. What is most interesting, for me at least, is to observe people and their reaction. Since the elections in November I realised how irrational this opinion business can get. People immersed in the situation do not seem to realize it, but they do get really closed-minded and irrational when they decide on an opinion, no matter how rational they think their opinion might be. Everybody thinks “I cannot believe they can’t see it clearly like I do!”. But there is the paradox right there: *everybody* thinks that, no matter how different their “clear” thoughts are. And since a discussion between irrationals is a lot of work, they group together with people of the same opinion. They refuse to see (or listen, or try to understand) the “others”, and suddenly everyone around them agree, which makes them think they are even “more right”. That is the pitfall…

This phenomenon is crystal clear on social networks. There are extremist posts pro-government, with many likes and supportive comments. There are also extremist posts against government, with many likes and supportive comments. Why don’t these people talk? I am sure they are all intelligent and reasonable, and they can both find the strong and weak points of each side (or a third and better side). But they just don’t. On a failed attempt to make two opposing party relatives talk during the elections last year, I ended up as being the one bringing adversity, trying to turn them against each other. I honestly just wanted to see the beliefs questioned and put to test. (Something at which political debates failed horribly).

Confirmation bias is a real thing, but it’s a shame to see it preventing a discussion which could be otherwise very fruitful and informative.

Da série Paris: o campus

A universidade técnica de Viena era formada por vários prédios espalhados pelo centro. A École Polytechnique, onde estou trabalhando hoje, é exatamente o oposto. São vários prédios juntos em um campus imenso e cheio de árvores. É bem bonito na verdade, mas como já deu pra perceber, na França ser bonito tem seu preço. Não, não, as coisas não são tão fáceis assim…

Campus escondido atrás das árvores

O primeiro porém desse campus maravilhoso é que ele não fica em Paris per se. Fica em Palaiseau, a aproximadamente 20 kms de Paris. Mas ok, tem um trem que vai até lá e é relativamente frequente. A viagem de trem demora meia hora no máximo, mas o meu caminho, da porta de casa até o escritório é de uma hora e meia, marcado no relógio. Os primeiros 20 minutos são perdidos com a minha caminhada até o metrô e a viagem de metrô até a estação de trem. Aí eu pego o trem, mais meia hora, e aí? Bom… segundo porém, ir da estação de trem até o prédio onde trabalho é uma boa caminhada. Ou melhor dizendo, um bom hiking.

Já foi uma parte… … e temos um longo caminho pela frente

Subindo! Cruzamos com um mochileiro.

Primeira virada. Segunda virada.

E subimos mais! Eu vejo uma coisa…

Ahá!

Parece que chegou né…hmm pelo menos acabaram as escadas e eu posso recuperar o fôlego.

Um portão… bom sinal.

Olho pra um lado… … e pro outro…

Depois do hiking, a caminhada.

O caminho é longo… Ando mais…

E mais… Mais um pouco…

Pelo menos o ar é puro… Ah lá está!

Cheguei, ufa!

Pelo menos eu troquei a bicicleta por outro esporte e não por uma vida sedentária. Mas o esforço valeu a pena:

Opa, não… o outro lado!

🙂

Da série Paris: a máquina de lavar

As malas vazias, as flores na janela e eu deitada embaixo das cobertas num sábado ensolarado indicam que eu oficialmente me mudei pra Paris. Estou vivendo o sonho, na cidade luz com a torre Eiffel, bons vinhos, croissants e pain au chocolat… certo? Esqueceram de contar que o sonho involve um apartamento de 20 metros quadrados num prédio velho, último andar com um elevador de 2 metros quadrados, um chuveiro que não me cabe, metrôs cheios, pessoas (muitas pessoas!) andando num passo apressado e prontas pra te atropelar se você hesitar, pessoas pulando a catraca na estação atrás de você, e um ar de impaciência com qualquer um que não saiba as regras ainda. A impaciência talvez seja efeito de ter que lidar com turistas perdidos a cada 3 pessoas que pedem informação… Eu notei que a o semblante do funcionário do guichê de informações no metrô ficou um pouco mais leve quando eu perguntei como faz pra comprar o cartão anual, e não qual é o caminho até o Arco do Triunfo.

Flores na janela

Para tentar me sentir mais em casa, resolvi arrumar o apartamento. Tirei o tapete, enchi as prateleiras com o pouco que trouxe, coloquei os cremes e escova de dente no banheiro e roupas no armário. Aos poucos fui descobrindo o que já tinha aqui deixados por antigos moradores. Achei caixinhas de som e fiz um “entertainement center” que está sendo muito bem utilizado. Na sala/quarto não tinha muito mais coisa. Uma vela aromática que está acesa agora e um DVD player obsoleto, já que não tem uma TV. Um som com tocador de CD também faz parte do conjunto, mas como ele não tem entrada auxiliar pra conectar o tablet e eu não tenho CDs, provavelmente vai fazer par com o DVD player.

Entertainement center

A cozinha já era mais bem provida de coisas. Até demais pra falar a verdade. Dentre os itens encontrados estavam: 3 varais para pendurar roupas, 2 ferros de passar, um tapete de yoga, uma tampa velha de vaso sanitário, alguns azulejos, duas tábuas pequenas de madeira (??), um aspirador de pó, 3 frascos de limpa vidros, 3 frascos de desengordurantes, 2 sprays anti-mosquito, 2 frascos de cera pra madeira, 2 pacotes de luvas pra limpeza, 2 sprays pra tirar manchas de tecido, um amaciante de roupa, 2 rolos de papel alumínio, 2 rolos de filme plástico, 3 caixas de saquinhos plásticos, algumas buchas, palha de aço, óleo de lubrificação e panos de limpeza. Quão redundante uma pessoa pode ser? Eu não consigo nem pensar em uma explicação pra essa quantidade de itens repetidos, além da óbvia falta de organização que faz uma pessoa esquecer que tem alguma coisa e comprar de novo. Mas o apartamento é consideravelmente pequeno, e não conseguir encontrar um varal e um ferro de passar é o cúmulo da falta de atenção.
Pelo menos com essa quantidade de produtos de limpeza, você pensaria que o apartamento estaria brilhando, certo? Errado. Talvez os produtos faziam parte de uma coleção. Ou talvez a pessoa gostava de comprar vários pra testar em pequenos locais só pra saber qual funciona melhor, mas não pra limpar de verdade.

Produtos de limpeza: de todas as cores e sabores

Naturalmente eu comecei a limpar e organizar tudo. Comecei lavando os próprios frascos de produtos de limpeza que estavam empoeirados. Encontrei umas caixas plásicas, limpei elas e guardei tudo. Caixas com coisas que eu não vou usar são colocadas em locais de difícil acesso, coisas que eu vou usar vão pro armário (que também foi limpado), lixo vai pro lixo. Tudo no seu devido local. Até aspirador de pó e pano de chão eu passei. A torneira do chuveiro que estava fosca ficou cromada novamente, e a ducha tinha umas manchas marrons e agora está na sua cor original (e eu me certifiquei disso antes de tomar um banho!). Antes de continuar eu precisava lavar os panos de limpeza. Abri a máquina de lavar e descobri que eu não estava morando sozinha mais, uma colônia de fungos já habitava o apartamento muito antes de eu chegar.

… para todos os lados!
Fungos…

Qual foi o meu horror com essa visão… eu não consigo descrever. A idéia que uma pessoa poderia ter tal falta de higiene pra deixar as coisas chegarem nesse ponto me dá calafrios. Nesse momento eu comecei a pensar se eu tinha passado por alguma lavanderia por perto onde eu poderia levar minhas roupas pra lavar. Passado o momento de choque, eu decidi dar uma chance pra pobre máquina de lavar que foi tão largada pelo seu antigo mestre. Decidi que eu ia lutar contra os fungos e recuperar essa máquina. Comprei a briga. O primeiro passo foi usar bucha, detergente e água morna. Resolveu alguma coisa, mas os fungos estavam decididos a manter seu território.

… sem uma luta!
Não nos renderemos…

Já que era pro próprio interesse da máquina, pensei que ela poderia me dar uma mãozinha. Joguei um produto anti-bactérias no compartimento de colocar sabão e uma pastilha para limpar máquinas de lavar no tambor e coloquei ela pra trabalhar na maior temperatura possível. Ela fez sua parte.

Vencemos a frente da batalha… … mas ainda há resistência!

Era hora de usar a artilharia pesada. Fui no supermercado, comprei água sanitária (nessas horas a gente aprende coisas estranhas tipo como se diz água sanitária em francês: eau de javel), coloquei as luvas e esfreguei mais um pouco a borracha da porta. Eles começaram a se render.

Água sanitária… nãooo!!

Já estava em um estado razoável, comparado com o que era no início, e achei que colocar a máquina para funcionar sem nada de novo seria um desperdício. Coloquei de novo um ciclo na temperatura máxima mas agora com os panos de limpeza pra lavar. Coloquei também bastante água sanitária e novamente o anti-bactérias. Resultado:

Senhor…
… eu desisto, senhor!

Panos de limpeza limpos e uma máquina (quase) limpa. Mais alguns choques de água sanitária e vitória!

Evince annotations: almost there

The delay on drawing annotations was fixed and, together with some poppler patches by jaliste, we managed to get it working properly. Check it out:

There are still glitches here and there, but we are working on it so that the feature is available on evince’s next release (fingers crossed!). After we get highlighting done, the other text markup annotations should be fairly straightforward.

Identity crisis

I have to fill in a form now to renew my passport and I should put my occupation. It sucks that they have an exhaustive list with 50+ occupations, including specific stuff such as “Music and precision instruments assembler”, and I have to mark “Other occupation not previously specified”.

Evince’s annotations: “final” report

Google Summer of Code is officially over and it’s good to look back and see what happened during the summer (even if the work is not over yet!!). I will go ahead and do the list-based post which helps me keep things clear.

These were nice features that were implemented or fixed and that are already on the latest evince release (yey o/):

These are patches which are currently under review:
And there is a branch in which I am finishing developing highlight annotations. After several iterations, we decided to make it work with highlight first, so that adding strike out, squiggly, and underline is trivial afterwards. Here’s how it is working:

You can see that there is a big delay between dragging the cursor and updating the view with the highlight. It is precisely this problem that I am trying to fix at the moment, thus “final”, in quotes, as the title of this post.
Among fixing/reporting bugs and coding, I’ve met great people along the way and got to know an incredible community. The whole experience was great and I hope it lasts more than this summer 🙂

GUADEC 2014: the aftermath

It’s been more than a week since I am back from GUADEC in Strasbourg, and I must say it was an amazing experience! I went there in the middle of a chaotic time: I had just finished my PhD defense, was helping organize a huge logic conference and, because of this conference, had many friends around and even one at my place. This did not leave me much time to think, which was in fact good. Because if I stop to think about it, I was going to this place I did not know, alone, to meet people I met only over the internet. It sounds like something my parents would strongly oppose, if it was 1999. But it was not, and so I went.

I must say that, coming from a very technical conference, the talks at GUADEC were refreshing. There I was, a complete newbie, able to follow a lot of interesting stuff. But what made me most happy was in fact the people. You know when you are among a group of very cool people and everyone is so nice to you that you just think “I have to be part of this!”? This is how I felt. I got there and I did not know one soul, still people were very friendly and integrating. There was always company for lunch and dinner, and there were always programs for the evening. And in the meantime, I could even program 🙂

Evince’s hackfest on the days before GUADEC was very cool. Not only did I meet my mentor and all the other evincers, but also had progress on the annotation handling. I have a branch now on which annotation works, and we are currently working on optimizing it and organizing the code. Since I found out KaL is the only maintainer, I am trying to make my patches as easy to understand as possible to try and facilitate his work. It is almost certain that these will not be ready to be pushed to master by the end of gsoc, but honestly, I don’t even see this as gsoc anymore. I will continue working on it until it is ready, then I will go trolling for other bugs 😛

It’s funny how things happen sometimes… I enrolled on gsoc because of a career mishap on the beginning of this year. I wanted to prove something, for myself, at least. I listed some projects, some more academic, and gnome, just because I thought it would be so cool to contribute to something I have been using freely for years. My head was already full of science stuff, so I decided to go for gnome. Although academia-oriented people would say it is a waste of time, I do not regret one second. It was a very fulfilling experience, that went way beyond the point I wanted to prove, whatever that was. Maybe it took me some time from research, but I feel like I was doing something that mattered. I felt useful. It feels good 🙂
I wouldn’t like to let that go.

I hope to see you all in Sweden next year!

MacBook Air + fedora

Apparently I don’t have enough projects on my hands, so I decided to install fedora on a MacBook Air to see if I can get the best of both worlds. I am sure you are thinking “are you crazy? OS X is the best system ever and you want to ruin it?”. Well, I’ve seen people install window on macbooks, so much for crazy huh?
Jokes aside, I have tried using OS X. It is indeed an awesome system, but nothing beats Linux for programming for me. Especially since I have started contributing for gnome, I could not really consider abandoning Linux for good. So I have two laptops, one old sony vaio with linux where I do most of the work and a fairly new macbook, that works like a charm, is quiet and has a battery that lasts forever which I use for… presentations… videos? sometimes… hmm I tried programming, but installing the tools is annoying and the terminal is kind of slow. I wondered for some time (too much time!) whether I could join forces and have a decent running linux on the macbook. I even installed a virtual machine with debian to see how it goes. It worked well, but a virtual machine is not a machine, and it was eating the battery up. In the end, I was too afraid of going through the process of partitioning disks on some non-standard hardware and messing up a perfectly functioning computer for good. (Yeah, I know this would not happen, but I wouldn’t want to spend a week trying to fix stupid installation mistakes).
Anyway, I was in GUADEC and the amount of people running linux on their apple machines encouraged me. I decided to install fedora 20 with gnome 3 (dual boot, of course) and I’ve been happy so far. I only had problems because I decided to be funny and create an HFS+ shared partition for my files, but it was not so hard to fix that. Basically, the steps were:
  1. Install rEFIt
  2. Partition the disk using OS X’s Disk Utility: 50 GB for OSX, 150 GB for my files (HFS+, not journaled) and 50 GB for Fedora (free space)
  3. Download fedora’s Install DVD 
  4. Create a bootable usb from the dvd image (again using Disk Utility)
  5. Reboot the computer with the usb connected.
  6. Install Fedora 🙂
I had to install TLP additionally because of overheating, but that was easy enough. I also had to force mounting the 150 GB partition with rw permissions, as it was read-only by default. In the beginning I was having some reading problems on this partition. Fedora randomly stopped reading some files and directories. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened since I upgraded to kernel 3.15. I have installed everything I need and I am programming on it since yesterday. Everything looks good and I am very happy with my new computer! Also, gnome 3 is awesome 🙂
Ah, you might have noticed from the picture that it has a German keyboard… nothing is perfect 😉

GUADEC 2014

Three weeks of conferences and no weekends. Next stop, GUADEC 2014 🙂
For the past weeks I have been (still am!) busy with VSL, the big logic event going on in Vienna this summer, and with my PhD. For this reason my google summer of code project was a bit delayed 🙁
I am looking forward to going back working on it, specially because there was some progress before chaos took over and I really want to finish what I have started. I basically used patches from gpoo and Anuj (the other gsoc student working on evince) and implemented text markup annotations (highlight, underline, squiggly and strike out) to evince. Although they implemented free text and line annotations, these depend on some changes to poppler. For text markup, poppler seems to be ready to go, and I guess these are nice annotation that people use more anyway.
The days before GUADEC will be evince 24/7 to finish these annotations!
Looking forward 🙂

PhD thesis

Finally! It is done 🙂
Not officially published yet, and still waiting for the defense date, but upon seeing these copies it feels like it’s over. There is an online version here, if you are curious. I recommend the reading of the first chapter, which was written to be understood by all (yes, I mean *all*) people.
Thanks everyone for keeping me sane while working with crazy things!
And yes, it has a white cover with pink letters.