One Civilisation & One Species

It has been a long time since I have written anything worth while reading, but as I stare at a picture of a young little boy who's beautiful lifeless body washed up by the shores of Turkey I can't help it but feel a sense of despair and unbearable impotence. I have a son, just like him, he looks just like him, he dresses just like him, both loved, both with their entire lives ahead of them. 

They are the same

This can't be it for us as a civilisation, this needs to be turning point where we fundamentally realise that nations and countries are nothing but made up imaginary boundaries made by a pre-historic civilisation that fails to understand that evolution is not about technological progress but about the ability to destroy all things that make what should be one into many. 

Progress is understanding that what makes us different from one another is what makes us so similar. There should be no religion or country or boarder that makes any Human Being feel unwelcome in his own planet.

I feel such uncontrollable grief and sadness that needs to lead to something. 

I live in a Muslim country. I'm not Muslim, the friendships and bonds I have created with many people I have met and that have welcomed me into their country irrespective of our differences has made me a better person. The more I learn about the local culture the richer I am. 

How much richer would Europe and the World be if they did the same?

Action needs to be taken. 

Good old paper

I think old age may finally be starting to take over me; little by little all my digital gadgetry is having to live side by side with paper notebooks, magazines, post-its, sketch-books. My decision to go "full-scale" digital was made consciously last year, mostly driven by convenience and efficiency. It seemed so logical, as cloud computing took over with its wide range of fully synchronized productivity tools it did not seem efficient to keep using paper, so I progressively moved into digital and started using Google Keep for all of my notes, Google Draw for diagrams and sketches, all my magazine subscriptions moved to on-line, the only thing I did not do is give up books,  actual books, not that nonsense fakery you download into a Kindle device. 

A couple of months into the change  I started noticing that my ability to retain information seemed to be getting impacted by the fact that my mind had its own way of interacting with data on a digital device. It is as if my brain labels anything that is digital as something that is either temporary or unnecessary to retain and it makes sense if you think about it; the sheer volume of information coming in from a smart phone warrants some sort of an organic filtering, and not just for efficiency purposes it is also part of a defence mechanism, a logical consequence of the self preservation nature of our brains that do anything possible to retain energy and spend it only when strictly necessary. 

When I write something on paper it somewhat materializes whatever I am doing into something palpable and therefore real, my eyes can see it, I can touch it, it is materially present. Its curious that even in my profession I see the same pattern where there is an ever so present need to materialize the intangible; for those of you familiar with scrum, the sight of post-its being moved and posted on walls by teams of people is quite a familiar sight. 

There is definitely something to be said about being able to get a hold of something is actually there, moving it around, writing on it or passing it over to someone else, one of my team members used to say that as he moved a ticket from "In progress" to "Done", there was a sense of accomplishment very difficult to obtain on a digital device where everything is transitory by design. 

The convention of time

Ever since I was a boy I have been interested in the concept of time. One of my favourite artists has always been Salvador Dali, I used to spend a long tie looking at the distorted clocks of "The Persistence of Memory" as if they were melting from the blazing heat of the desolated desert. Later as I understood Dali was portraying the effect of the passage of time in a dream state, where time is present in somewhat of a liquid form, without a definable shape form or structure.

Today I came across a fascinating lecture by one of my favourite philosophers Alan Watts  exploring the artificial social institution that is time and the way it impacts our lives. 

Google+ does not understand context

Google Plus is a beautiful product, it was built exactly the way it should have, fully integrated with all of the other Google tools, effortless in removing all barriers from users to connect and share content, a logic approach from a logical company that does not do anything out of pure chance. 

In Google’s ideal world everything is interconnected, all systems are intertwined aware of one another very much like a living organism where separate parts of the system work together with the same end goal, the problem is that the principle behind the product is based on the assumption that Humans beings value convenience and utility equally on all aspects of life, after-all it worked for search, mail, and mapping, why wouldn't it work for social?

Human Interaction is not as linear as it may seem. Context is important. Once a user goes into Facebook he/she switches off work mode and the context changes completely, users are surrounded by people they know and care about (well most of the time) in an environment that does not resemble anything that can be connected to work.  

This is precisely where things turn sour for Google Plus as it is not recognizing that context affects the way users interact with a system, and so the biggest strength of the product, its close integration with all the Google ecosystem, becomes its biggest weakness. Work and leisure may be all part of who I am, it is important for me that a boundary between both parts of my life to exist.

Django is not Python

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon of young software developers that start learning a specific coding language from a Framework rather than mastering the language on the first place, to me, it's almost like knowing how to cook a recipe without having tried the ingredients first; it all goes well if the process is seemingless, but the moment there is an exception things can turn sour very quickly. 

Currently Django is my Framework of choice. Not only does it use Python, but despite all of its flaws it does a fantastic job in maintaining some of the principles that make Python so great (i.e. DRY) while speeding up the development process by adding structure: MVC, great DB handling and design. "The Web Framework for perfectionists with deadlines"

The problem is that convenience can be a dangerous thing; as with most Frameworks it is very easy to get lost in abstraction of all that magic that happens under the hood. It is terribly addictive, when I am developing on Django I don't really feel like I am coding at all, it feels like  operating a factory line joining parts together, by the time I a done its difficult to know/remember how I got there. 

For example Classes in Django have very little resemblance to Python Classes. From a configuration perspective, it is far from ideal, but if a developer is not fully versed on Python before dwelling in the "Merlin World" of Django, looking a the way that Django converts strings into objects for example may look like an act of Magic. 

Django is a fantastic tool used by Python developers to speed up the development process, I do not recommend it as a starting point to anyone wanting to learn Python. 

Mediacity Timelapse

This was the last Time-Lapse I shot while living in the UK, all of the footage was shot in Media City, most of it from my balcony overseeing the BBC Studio Complex. It was shot for about 3 months as it is somewhat challenging finding decent weather up in the North. All of the footage was taken with the Canon 550D with various lenses, from a wide angle lenses to my personal favourite the Canon 24-105 mm EF f/4L IS USM.

Moonlight Breeze from Pedro Sttau on Vimeo.

Kepler 186f

A clear sign that I am terribly behind on my usual readings is that I only came across the latest publication Kepler 186 today. As a reference point, Kepker 186f is the first planet with a radius similar to earth ever been discovered in a habitable zone. That is to say that the distance between the planet and the star that it is orbiting puts it in an area that could theoretically sustain life. It's worthwhile notinh that the concept of of life needs t be put in context to the environment that we are observing. 

"Being in the habitable zone does not mean we know this planet is habitable. The temperature on the planet is strongly dependent on what kind of atmosphere the planet has," Thomas Barclay

While Kepker 186f is close enough to its star to make it possible to have water in liquid form, nothing is really known about the atmosphere or composition of the planet at this point. This is a major milestone, not so much because of the discovery of the plant itself, but for what it means; It proves that planets of similar size to Earth in habitable zones exist, and considering Kepker is orbiting an M dwarf, the likelihood of other planets orbiting similar stars in habitable zones is very high. 

"M dwarfs are the most numerous stars," said Quintana. "The first signs of other life in the galaxy may well come from planets orbiting an M dwarf."

The melody of long lasting organizations

Today I came across a fascinating talk by Keith Yamashita on what great visionary leaders and CEO's have in common, how they use their power to envision what does not yet exist, and how they create the culture for their organisations to succeed and endure. Keih worked along side some of the most prominent leaders in the Valley; during the early days at NeXT with Steve Jobs helping to materialize Steve's ideas and Vision, and later alongside Mark Zuckeberg on Facebook. 

It was so interesting to get the perspective of someone that was there as these leaders were making critical decisions that would affect the outcome of an entire industry. Keith has this special demeanor that makes it possible for him to connect with an audience at a personal level making his talk so captivating.

The process leaders use to set-up an organization to deliver a vision always captivated me. I like the idea that the Culture of a company sets the tone from which everything else emerges, creating this self-sustained organism that outlasts its creator. Keith made this brilliant analogy between a melody created by Tchaikovsky - The Nutcracker Suite first premièred in 1892, and its later reinterpretation by Duke Ellington in 1960. While the composition technically is different, there is a consistency to the tone of the melody that resonates the same tone as the original composition. "A Strong Character and well-defined essence can remain true even if their expressions change over time" Keith Yamashita 

All of this reminded me of a this really great talk that I listened to about what it means to build a long lasting company, and how setting the right cultural tone can make a huge difference further down the line. Recently I have had the pleasure of seeing this first hand in the organization I work for, the impact of having inspiring leadership in place is remarkable.

It is curious to me that Apple is often given as an example of a company with a very strong culture, however it does seem very much like the company's culture is still reliant on Steve Job's charisma and has not yet been able to move forward despite Tim Cook's efforts. One of the traits of long lasting companies is that the culture that was set by the founders tends to act as an independent organism that sets the environment for the organization to thrive.

I am not entirely sure this is the case for Apple, the fact that Steve Jobs felt the need to leave a product development plan for the next generation of products  lead by a leader that he meticulously chose is not very comforting. In an organization with a strong prevalent culture, the organism should be able to take care of itself.