Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The question you've been running away from...

Egyptian sunset

Tonight, I had an epiphany. Not in the "eureka" sense of the word, but the actual realization of a truth that is inherent within me. And, hopefully, it will also motivate my dearest reader to reach his or her own "glaringly obvious blind realization, like pure truth".

But maybe it's not even fair to blame it on tonight. While the catalyst to it was there, this one was no different from any other goal we reach: the path is also, if not primarily, important.

One of the first symptoms along this path was a general feeling of dissatisfaction. Nothing much, we all have it at some points in our lives and I've had it for quite a while now. I think the point where it stepped up a notch was when I had my first "vision" some 2 months back, the second symptom.

Now, before you go thinking I'm crazy, let me assure you it was not a sort of "I see dead people" vision. It was more a subtle realization of a desire where, for a simple moment, it's almost as if you could see the world around you as if one of your goals had been fulfilled. And it was quite beautiful. I said it was my first vision, for there were a few afterwards. While somewhat different in content, the essence remained the same. But now comes the third, and most incredibly annoying symptom: fear.

I respect fear. I believe it's a core characteristic of our very essence as humans. Without fear, I don't believe we would've survived as a species. It's what keeps us on our toes, it's what allows us to assess a situation and determine danger. But unrestrained and, especially, untrained, it will only lead to disgrace and bitter disappointment. Whereas if faced, it can produce quite incredible results. Some people call overcoming your fears as courage. I think these two names are simply different sides of the same coin.

One of the things that bothered me about my visions is that I sort of saw them in a 3rd-person perspective. More of an observer than an actual participant. And tonight I believe I got the answer as to why. Which, surprisingly (and ironically) enough, came in the form of a question.

As I was driving by to meet up with some friends, I passed a building that I have not entered in almost 10 years. A quick flashback reminded me of a question I was asked there, in front of that building, all those years ago. A question to which I essentially said "no": something that, on occasion, has haunted me, with the "what if" scenario playing in my head, in which I wondered if I should've said "yes". Sometimes, I felt as if I had been asked one of those questions that can define what will happen later down the road and that I simply shoved it to the side, not realizing its potential at the time. And alongside it came the terror of having missed out on something. And also the terror of revisiting that question.

This terror has caused me to over-think situations, to fear change on the basis that I might miss out on something if I stay still, while at the same time making me afraid of staying, in the chance that change might be what I've been looking for. It has made me undecided about many things, afraid to commit to beliefs, dreams and goals... I had lost my assertiveness.

This was the moment when my head prompted me to flashback once again to that moment. Only this time, I threw away my fear of committing to an answer. And I imagined myself as saying "yes". And hence came my moment of blind realization, as I felt a change. My visions ceased to be 3rd-person perspectives... I'm now in them, seeing them fulfilling themselves as seen through my own eyes. I felt empowered by the decision, I felt as if part of me had been found after all this time.

And while I realize that the past is the past and nothing will change it, I realize that that's part of the beauty: it's not really about what might have happened, is it? It's about what you can still achieve. I found myself smiling with excitement.

While the experience I just described is inherently personal, I feel that it can still be educational to you, my dearest reader: if you felt somehow connected to my experience through the symptoms and situations I described, if you feel your situation is in any way similar: search within you. Sometimes you won't have to search very deep, this sort of things is often near the surface.

Find your own question, that specific moment. Don't struggle with it. Instead, focus on what ails you for a while, then go for a walk, take a drive, do something different. When the time is right, you will feel it flow with such simplicity that it will amaze you as to how it remained elusive for so very long.

And when it comes, don't fear it. Embrace it. You'll feel empowered by it.

I'll see you around!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

One day, perhaps a common dot.

My first experience with a Mac, if memory serves right, dates back to circa '94 or '95. At the time, I was in junior high doing extra-curricular activities and one of them was (a fairly easy) introduction to computer sciences. In practice, we gathered in a room with computers and learned to work graphics, text processing, that sort of stuff. I vaguely remember this goofy, blue or green skinned character, I think it was a mascot for the software suite we were using, can't remember the name (if anyone knows what I'm talking about, let me know on the comments :D ). And this stuff was being done on a Mac. I remember the experience felt weird, having a mouse with only one button and the way the OS worked seemed rather off, considering I had a PC at home and was more accustomed to using Windows 3.1x.

Throughout the years, I saw news of Apple's products, but never really gave them much credit: they felt like cop-outs that traded in-depth OS experience for user friendliness. That's actually a bold statement, considering I mostly use Windows (but have a nice VM operating Ubuntu, mind you!), but this isn't about OS merit.

Then, 3 years ago, came the iPhone 3GS and... well, if you've ever read my blog, you know how excited I was. Then I got the iPad. And I openly admit that they are some very pretty pieces of work, if not downright sexy.

These were products that were based on a rather unique perspective. The perspective of Steve Jobs. If I recall correctly from Bill Gates, Steve Jobs had an intuitive feeling on user experience, opposite of Gates' engineering approach.

Now, I'm not here to put Steve Jobs on a pedestal, I really am not. For the most part and from my perspective, I didn't like the way his company treated users, mesmerizing customers with simplicity and fancy design, only to adopt a rather proprietary (again, from my perspective) approach to software development (namely, apps). But like it or not, Steve Jobs and Apple have changed the landscape of technology forever. The innovation of their products was, for the most part, highly discussed and, at some points (such as the recent presentation of the iPhone 4S), somewhat questionable. But the fact remains that where many others tried to innovate and fail, Apple succeeded beyond anyone's dreams and expectations and raised the bar for future developers, of hardware and software alike. And while a company is in no way, shape or form, carried on by one single man, I do believe that his vision is what defined the way in which Apple evolved. As he once jokingly stated, Apple was like a ship with a hole at the bottom, leaking water. His job was to point it in the right direction. And that he did.

Personally, while he was far from being an idol to me, today marked the passing of a source of inspiration. I am truly and genuinely saddened. One only has to listen to his 2005 Stanford commencement speech to realize that this guy had gone through a lot and came out victor in the end. Maybe not in the race against cancer, but he sure as hell came out a victor in his own merit, in what he contributed for the evolution of technology in this world. Even the simplest things of his black sweater or his choice of footwear are a source of inspiration, a sort of break-out from the status quo. I admit that this is one of the things that always catches my eyes in corporate people.

Beyond what I might think of your company, beyond what I might feel in regards to your company's business practices, beyond any discussion of iOS vs Android, I will always cherish and respect the character of Steve Jobs, for the life lessons he taught us, for the way he saw technology and for the source of inspiration that he was for young entrepreneurs (as I aim to be).

I hope to still learn from you as the years go by. As you said in 2005, we can't connect the dots looking forward, but they will make real sense when looking backwards. Maybe one day we will reach the conclusion that your life will be a common dot that many of us in the technology sector will share. I will be looking forward to that day.

Rest in Peace, Mr Steve Jobs.

Tiago Fernandes

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What about space?

Going to take this opportunity for some advertisement on my other, new blog: "What about space?"

It's an attempt at divulging information on what is being done in terms of space exploration. As anyone who has followed my blog for a bit knows, I'm a bit of a fan in that area.

Since I'm not planning on simply serving as a "proxy" for every piece of "news" that ends up on my inbox, I'll opt for writing less but more detailed posts, rather than many and poor in content. We'll see how it goes.

I'll see you around! ;)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

In our own backyard!

So yesterday was the highly-anticipated (well, at least for us, the space-nerdy kind) NASA press conference on the "astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life". And, to put it bluntly... damn, was that a let-down!

I will attempt to fully clarify my above statement just as to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.

Scientific discoveries are always important, I believe I cannot stress that enough. Discovering that some kind of bacteria was able to successfully incorporate arsenic into its chemical make-up, replacing phosphorus is, by any standard, quite a discovery! And it is important to let the world know of it.

Now, my issue is with the manner in which the world was informed of this. On Tuesday, NASA gave out a press release, signalling the conference that was to be held yesterday, with the phrase that I quoted above. As a good nerd, I did some research on the speakers and quickly came to realize that it would have to be about some unknown chemical cocktail that someone had found out about. Something unknown. Something unique. My first thought when I began listening to the live conference was "damn, did you guys really need to find this before you'd even look for it out there?" I mean, that's kind of like being handcuffed in a room, looking for a way out and it's only when someone else mentions a key that you even consider to begin looking around for it.

Again, I stress that I do find this discovery important. It will redefine our definition of "Life"... but now I question this: does it really challenge our concept of "Life"?

While still far from the pinnacle of our own evolution as a species, I see our kind as one that will definitely need to broaden its horizons and, eventually, even leave this planet in order to survive. But while such scenario is still (hopefully) quite a while away, it's quite imperative that we start looking for what is out there. And so we have. But at the same time, I can't shake a feeling of extreme uneasiness at the thought that it is actually needed to physically find or discover something in order for most people to shape their mentalities and accept that there might be something different out there.

Yet again, yes, it is an incredible find. But if you take the string of comments being made, about how this changes everything, at face value, the way it was publicized says more about our inability to pro-actively search for something that we might even consider impossible at first, rather than our willingness to discover something new. Not saying I get this feeling from the work involved in this discovery, but by catching a few phrases such as "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it", by Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. Really? Did we need to find these bacteria out before we thought of things that way?

I remember a few years ago, I caught a debate online (pointless by definition, I know) where people were really hammering each other on the merits of thinking that a life form might be able to evolve in the presence of other compounds (the actual argument was about water, but we can expand this for my PoV's sake). Now, said people that defended that it was utterly impossible for it to happen... will they change their opinion on the fly at this (which you should, in case you're wondering)? And, more importantly, was it really necessary for people to, basically, tell you "it's ok, you can consider it, we found out it can happen" before you'd even consider it in a semi-healthy debate?

The more I think of this, the more I think back to, say, the 1300-1500s, where just a select few actually dared to even consider stuff outside of the box and all the rest were just too busy burying their heads in the sand because any new fact would crush their fragile little worlds. I will risk it and say that our current stage of evolution as a species (albeit not our current stage of evolution as a society) demands that we grow past that.

For the time being, we all (should) know that a small change in the most basic rules can produce quite a variety of end results (and if you want a visual representation of this, you have only to consult one of the many Conway's Game of Life websites). As such, we can only guess at the full scope of what can be worked on, now that people are open to the idea of variety in Life.

Who knows, maybe we'll find some strange creatures, roaming the lakes of liquid methane on Titan!

To summarize (or as some say it, the TLDR version): Discovery that a bacteria uses arsenic instead of phosphorus? Aaaawweeeesoooomeee! Making this discovery the the turning point of all our definitions on how Life can exist? Just... wrong. You're scientists, you should be thinking outside of the box for a long time now.

I'll see you around,
Kiauze ;)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are we jaded?

I'm lucky enough that the customer where I'm working at the moment has this incredibly awesome view of our river (Tagus for all you non-Portuguese folk) and I was lucky enough for this image to happen at the same time I was taking a small break.

Now, as I sit here and look at the picture, I make a mental note of all the stuff that's going on in it and I realize just how incredibly small we are.

- Boats: still the main transport system of materials all throughout the world.
- Lisbon harbour: a hub of commerce and transportation, a lifeline that is part of one of the greatest man-made chaos systems: economy.
- Bridge 25 de Abril: While far smaller than it's cousin bridge Vasco da Gama (and many other bridges throughout the world), even this "little" thing is still pretty darn huge. Just the volume of traffic that it has dealt throughout the years is just... mind-blowing.
- Cristo-Rei: a symbol of one religion, religion itself being the driving force behind so many good and also bad things that have happened throughout human history.

And now for the nerdy bits:
- Water: the volume of water involved and present in this small river and the fact that it can rise or drop 3-4m, depending on the tides, which themselves are influenced by the presence of a body that is 1.23% of the mass of our own planet, around 384 thousand km away... if that alone doesn't blow your mind..!
- Clouds: they can give you quite a low mood on a rainy day, but they are responsible for the water cycle on our planet.
- Blue sky: signifies the mixture of gases in the atmosphere that has protected our species (and all others) from having a liiiiittle bit too much tan.
- Sunlight: deadly when unfiltered, a source of life when it is, it comes from a big ball of plasma, more than 1 million times Earth's volume, "sitting" in the middle of the void, just burning away at a "comfortable" 150 million km distance...

And still, when I turn on the news, I only hear about the latest reality show, the latest celebrity scandal or how our country is going down the drain.

I'll be trying to understand the mechanics of nature on that corner over there... call me when sanity has returned to our species.

I'll see you around,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life is a roller-coaster

It has indeed been a long time since I last posted anything in here. As I browsed the web, I found myself at a friend's blog and noticed she had changed her template. So why the heck not do the same with mine.. and at the same time use it as a kickoff to start blogging again?

The past 8 or 9 months have been a journey of self-discovery. Learning to adapt to a new mindset and, especially, learning to focus on yourself and your own development as a person may sound easy in theory, but it's quite the opposite in reality. These have been some mildly annoying times but fortunately enough, I wasn't alone and there is a handful of people to which I'm more than grateful for opening, or rather re-opening my eyes.

If there is one thing that I've learned this year is how deeply important it is to manage, appreciate and respect yourself. You may surround yourself of your best friends, attend all the parties you want, engage in all the flirting you wish, indulge yourself in every little thing that grants a momentary pleasure... but at the end of the day and when you squeeze all the content of what happened, all that really matters is how you face yourself when you're just standing still. How you look at yourself in the mirror. How you take your thoughts and turn them to reality. How you commit to and achieve your own goals.

The ground where I'm standing on is still a bit unstable at the moment, but at least I'm getting a firmer grasp of the direction on which to aim myself at. The more you realize who you are, the more you begin to filter out what is really important and what is just... well, not important at all.

This whole "Life" thing is one heck of a roller-coaster ride. There are those first frightening moments where your eyes are just slammed shut and you're holding on for dear life. And then the excitement starts to kick in and you start opening your eyes, realizing that no matter what happens, this is your own ride. No one else will enjoy it for you... so might just as well open them eyes and enjoy it while you can! :)

I'll see you around,

PS: As I wrote the title, I just couldn't shake this song's title from my mind, so here it is :D

Saturday, April 17, 2010

As I look up...

Let me start this entry with a question: how long has it been since you've taken the time to look up towards the night sky?

Do it now. If it's night where you are, go outside, go to a window and take a few minutes to just look up to the stars (obviously, this works best in a clear sky setting). And, if possible, do it while listening to the following music:

For the past few months I've been thinking about space. It has always been a passion of mine. I look up to the stars and I can't stop myself from imagining what it must be like to discover the secrets of the Universe like we see on Star Trek.

And this really itches my head from the inside... we, as a species, have always prospered with discovery, with our wish to go towards new horizons, new challenges. And yet, kids nowadays only realistically look forward getting a new smartphone... or better internet access. They don't really care about anything other what provides an immediate and, ultimately, futile pleasure.

But truth be told, they ARE just kids. Kids need idols, icons that they can look up to. And in spite of the awesome work that astronauts do... let's face it, it's not enough. And even that isn't the astronauts fault, I believe they do what they can. It's the damn mentality that the human race has adopted of profit > all!!

Right now, I feel myself on a crossroad. It's scary because you don't really know which path to take. But at the same time it's exciting to realize that you have more options. The ending of 3 and a half years of relationship prompted some priority shifting in my life. Maybe I'll be thankful in a few months... right now, it's chaotic in here.

*raises glass* here's to choices, may they always be the right ones.

*puts above song on repeat and goes back to contemplate the stars*

I'll see you around! ;)