New Job

Phew! It’s been a while. As usual, life has been nothing short of hectic. A full half-year has passed now; and the changes it brought were significant. I’m beginning now a series of posts that hopefully will bring you up to speed about the recent changes and also serve as a kickstart for new updates and writings.

Life has been challenging, as you might expect; but it also was full of blessings. The Lord has been good to us and I’m grateful beyond words. This has been evident especially in the recent changes.

Well, here goes one of the most significant ones: I have a new job. That’s right; I’m no longer Rev. S.’s assistant. Since last March, I am working as a creative redactor (i.e., copywriter) in a local advertising/marketing agency.

The fact is that while Rev. S. alwas has been a kind and compassionate boss, there were several signs in the air telling me that I should look for a job elsewhere. My job was to assist Rev. S. in his office as elected officer of a Latin American-level Baptist organization, and his term is scheduled to run until April 2012. However, Baptist politicking began to show its ugly face. Rev. S. always worked with the sole purpose of giving glory to God by extending His Kingdom, and no other purpose. But Rev. S.’s position carries a sizeable degree of clout and influence, and is therefore coveted by power brokers. Rev. S’s work was done without any string attached to any ulterior motive; he is of very senior age, and he gave up the chance of enjoying a quiet retirement from ministry with his wife just to further serve God’s cause. That fact notwhitstanding, intrigues, slander and old-fashioned cloak-and-dagger politiciking began in earnest against him.

This, of course, grieved Rev. S. greatly, and he thought about resigning. He was dissuaded by Rev. A., his immediate superior in ranking. Thus, Rev. S. chose to remain; but his ministry activities were greatly reduced. Thus, many days I just sat down at the office with nothing to do but idly surf the Web. I saw the writing in the wall, and began preparing my résumé. One day, I saw on Facebook a post stating that a local ad agency was looking for a copywriter. I didn’t know what a copywriter was then, but I saw the requirements, and they seemed a good fit for my skill set. I submitted my résumé, and it turned out that the agency is managed by E., a good friend of mine of  years. We talked, agreed on the terms, and I began working there.

Rev. S. is still at his office, but his workload is greatly reduced. In my case, the new work is demanding, but so far I feel very good about it. Please pray that I could excel on it and make some real progress.

(Edit: minor corrections added. Markup sanitized… still need that for using Blogilo.)

Merry Christmas

Paraguayan manger scene

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14 ESV)

I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

For this writer, this time of the year was very challenging but also filled with hope and joy.

We had a nice Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s place. There, we shared with my two sisters, my brother-in-law, and our nieces. When midnight arrived, we exchanged gifts and embraces; and it was a good time. On Christmas Day, we had a Christmas noon dinner at my mother-in-law’s home. There, and given the fact that the in-laws are a huge bunch of people, the dinner was noisy, but joyful and rather pleasant.

This time of the year was special for the inlaws since one of my sisters-in-law came from Spain. She is a direct descendant from a line of Spanish nobility, and she has an advanced degree on statistics and mathematics; but current economic conditions in Paraguay forced her to go to Spain, where she works now as a housemaid. (And, she told us, she’s doing fine.) To take advantage of her presence, we took her and her mother to the small town of Piribebuy, where we spent some days resting. We returned to Asunción the day before New Year’s Eve.

For the New Year’s Eve dinner, we went to my in-laws’ place. We had a great dinner; and my mother in law is a fantastic cook! We exchanged hugs and greetings at midnight among the noise and blasts of fireworks; at a time they were too loud, and almost deafening. Usually, at that time, a lot of people choose to go to several New Year’s parties, where they dance till dawn and even later. We chose to go to bed; we were simply too tired for even thinking of going to a party.

Mom told us that she would be gone to the country for the day, so we had the day to ourselves. I woke up at a time that is so embarrasingly late that I won’t mention it; however, it was way earlier than the rise-up time of most people, and I was able to enjoy a rare blessing: silence. Yes, it was quiet, really quiet; so much that I was able to put a chair under the shadow of a tree in my front lawn, and sit down and get some reading done while sipping a delicious tereré.

I hope you also had a great holiday time. May the Lord bless you all, and grant you an excellent year 2011, full of faith, hope, and love; peace and enduring joy.

(photo credit: Paraguayan manger scene, taken from Facebook page «Yo te muestro Paraguay», i.e., “Let me show you Paraguay”.)

Wikileaks and the “Dissent Tax”

First things first: Merry Christmas! A Christmas post is imminent. Stay tuned 😉

And second: It’s been a looong time! I know, I know… but work and law school conspired to make regular posting impossible. However, I have several writings maturing, so hopefully there’s going to be something for you in these days.

With that being said, I would like to share with you an excellent opinion piece by former programmer and sociologist Zeynep Tufekci on The Atlantic: Wikileaks Exposes Internet’s Dissent Tax, not Nerd Supremacy. There, and among other interesting points of view, she contends that the whole Wikileaks affair exposes the “dissent tax”, the fact that corporate entities, understood in its widest sense (i.e., agencies, governments, corporations) exert the power to swiftly restricting a pseudo-free speech of anyone who threaten their vested interests.

Some quotations are in order:

Horrifying as this vision is, it simply distracts from the main lessons of the Wikileaks affair: the increasing control of (relatively) unaccountable corporations and states over the key components of the Internet, and their increased willingness to use this control in politicized ways to impose a “dissent tax” on content they find objectionable. Ability to disseminate one’s ideas on the Internet is now a sine qua non of inclusion in the global public sphere. However, the Internet is not a true public sphere; it is a public sphere erected on private property, what I have dubbed a “quasi-public sphere,” where the property owners can sideline and constrain dissent…

Further, while one may disagree with the particular methods chosen by Wikileaks–and I certainly have my criticisms– […] It seems to me that states (and corporations) have become increasingly secretive and opaque, while people are increasingly exposed. This divergence was lampooned quite effectively by Saturday Night Live. “I give you private information about corporations for free,” SNL’s Assange quipped, “And I’m a villain. Mark Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money and he’s the Man of the Year.”…

During these past weeks, […] I saw the crumbling of the facade of a flat, equal, open Internet and the revelation of an Internet which has corporate power occupying its key crossroads, ever-so-sensitive to any whiff of displeasure by the state. I saw an Internet in danger of becoming merely an interactive version of the television in terms of effective freedom of speech…

The Wikileaks furor shows us that these institutions of power are slowly and surely taking control of the key junctures of the Internet. As a mere “quasi-public sphere,” the Internet is somewhat akin to shopping malls, which seem like public spaces but in which the rights of citizens are restricted, as they are in fact private.  If you think the freedom of the Internet could never be taken back, I implore you to read the history of radio. Technologies that start out as peer-to-peer and citizen-driven can be and have been taken over by corporate and state power….

The real cause for concern is the emergence of an Internet in which arbitrary Terms-of-Service can be selectively employed by large corporations to boot content they dislike. What is worrisome is an Internet in which it is very easy to marginalize and choke information. The fact that information is “there” in a torrent, or openly on a website that is not easily accessible or has been vilified, is about as relevant as your right to shout at your TV…

What the Wikileaks furor shows us is that a dissent tax is emerging on the Internet. As a dissident content provider, you might have to fight your DNS provider. You might need to fund large-scale hosting resources while others can use similar capacity on commercial servers for a few hundred dollars a year. Fund-raising infrastructure that is open to pretty much everyone else, including the KKK, may not be available. This does not mean that Wikileaks cannot get hosted, as it is already well-known and big, but what about smaller, less-famous, less established, less well-off efforts? Will they even get off the ground?

Well, that is enough. Go check the article. It’s worth it. Thoroughly recommended as major food for thought.

Four Decades

By the grace of God, I am turning 40 on this day. It’s not another birthday; it is a momentous one.

Such an occasion is always an invitation to reflect over one’s past life and try to devise some lessons to be learned and applied. I have a lot to reflect upon, indeed, but the first and foremost conclusion is that of gratitude. I’m thankful to God and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, for His unending love and mercy, and the gift of a new life.

And I am even more thankful for a lot of blessings, much more than I can possibly count or remember. My days have been hectic and busy; but the Lord was with me at all times. I also give thanks for my wonderful family, and for the opportunities to work and learn meaningful things, things that are fulfilling in themselves but also have the potential to help others.

Thank you all of you, my friends, for your support and advice helped me through the rough patches we all have in our lives.

Now, my pray is that God may give me wisdom in heaps, because I seriously need that. And that I may live the rest of my life being of service to others, while also growing in learning, and being able to provide and support for my loved ones. Please pray with me for all this.

"Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9, ESV)

Some updates

Hey, I’m still alive! Honest! 😉

My apologies for the lack of updates. Real Life (TM), especially in the form of law school, got forcefully in the way of regular blogging. I didn’t anticipate how busy this semester would be. Thankfully, all is going real fine.

I’m not forgetting about my "Least Common of the Senses" promisted posts. The first one is actually nearing completion and I have a firm outline of the second, so things are well organized, and I hope to post them Real Soon Now. Besides this, let me share with you some developments…

  • In the operating systems front, I’ve stayed with Slackware-current during the whole 13.0 – 13.1 transition. Except for some irksome bumps, this was a smooth transition and as usual, Slackware provides a solid, stable, fast and updated Unix computing platform. I’m now using it with KDE 4.4.4 as my desktop environment, and I like it a lot.
  • I just upgraded the WordPress setup of this blog to WP 3.0. So far, it looks really good.
  • I was asked by a local university to lecture a group of accounting majors on technical English. Therefore, anything you might have on accounting vocabularies would be highly appreciated. Even more so because I consider the teaching of English as something as demanding as it is rewarding.

On other side of things, today is Father’s Day. This is the second Father’s Day without the physical presence of Dad among us. I miss you, Dad… And, to all you dads who are reading this, happy Father’s Day! May God grant you happiness and blessings beyond counting!

Well, this should do for now. Stay tuned for more; you will not be disappointed.

The Least Common of the Senses in Computing

If you forgive me the obviousness, you may have already heard that somewhere else that “common sense is the least common of all senses”. As far as popular wisdom goes, this saying is usually right; but there are two special corollaries:

  1. Proposition is specially true in all commercial/business environments; and
  2. Proposition is uniquely true in regards to computing.

I don’t have anything to add now to corollary 1. Why is that common sense is so rare in business? Why is that all kinds of weird nonsense gets respect as “business plans” in the corporate world? I don’t know. Maybe because, as some have pointed out, the skills required by the corporate world border on sociopathy. But I do not want to discuss this, at least not now.

The other corollary, however, deserves some attention. Computing is supposedly an area where the best and brightest would reign, and, therefore, the choices made by IT people would be the best ones given the circumstances, right? Yeah, right. The prevalence of Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer alone belies that.

Therefore, I am planning some posts (at least two) where I would like to examine how current choices in computing defy common sense and, therefore, are paving the way for failure, or for more difficulties. And no, I won’t talk necessarily about Windows or IE; that would be just too obvious. I plan to talk about two issues that are the current fad or are being part of it:

  • Cloud computing
  • System resources

Stay tuned!

Software: KDE and assorted stuff

Time goes on, and with it, new software releases come and go. So, I think it is appropriate to comment on some software I use. Let’s see:

My GNU/Linux distribution: Slackware. After all these years, I am still a Slackware user. If anything has taught me on Linux distributions during this time, is that Slackware’s stability, speed and ease of use are unmatched. The plus is that is the closest thing to having real Unix running on your box.

In fact, many would be surprised to see Slackware considered “easy-to-use”. Believe me: it is. It is very simple, and while making mistakes might be easy, recovering from the is usually very easy, too. All the defaults are sensible, and almost every software package is untouched and unpatched from the pristine sources upstream. I began using Slackware in version 9.0. The last version I used, version 13.0, was a great one; and right now I am using Slackware-current, the “development” series. Despite being in the cutting edge, -current is surprisingly stable and simple. Slackware is nowhere near perfect, but it is clearly among the best GNU/Linux distributions.

My desktop environment: KDE. I begain to use KDE with the 1.1.x release that came with Red Hat 6.2, back in 2000. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t adequate to my desktop needs, yet. I took a new look at it when the project relesed version 2.1, and I was instantly hooked. I began to use it as my only desktop environment, and it has been so ever since. When the KDE community released version 4.0, that was a difficult point; I reverted to 3.5 until 4.1 was ready; but then, I used 4.1 and 4.2, and was generally pleased. Now I am using 4.3, and I think it is an excellent environment. Additionally, I began to help the project as a Spanish translator since version 2.2, because I wanted to give back to it.

Screenshot of KDE 4.3
Screenshot of KDE 4.3 on my computer

My blog software: WordPress. I began to use WordPress back at version 1.2; the latest version I’m using is 2.9, and it’s still a great platform.

I don’t plan to change this stack sometime soon. Right now, KDE SC 4.4 is right around the corner, and I am awaiting it with eager anticipation.

The Web Ads Question

Tim, in a recent blog post, has tackled a subject that touches a sensitive area of Web surfing: ads, and the ethical validity of blocking them. The issue is that an increasing number of Web surfers are taking advantage of ad blocking techniques. For Firefox and Seamonkey there is the well-known Ad Block Plus extension. Internet Explorer can do it with the inPrivate mode. And Konqueror can block ads, too. (And way before, we had Junkbusters). Suffice it to say, the issue of blocking Web ads is not recent.

This is an important question, because advertising is, in many cases, the sole source of revenue for webmasters of many informative and useful Web sites; and even if it is not, it is an important source of income that alleviates the cost of bandwith, equipment, and many other expenses involved in making available online content.

On the other hand, Web ads are clearly annoying to many; that’s why ad blockers are so popular today, and that’s also the reason why many less-than-reputable advertising networks are in a perennial arms race with ad blocking softare, with each one trying to outdo the other.

  1. And this points out the main reason why most people try to block ads: they are annoying, yes, written in bold letters. While the initial Web banner ad was generally nice, it began to be annoying because of the cheesy animations… and it has been downhill ever since. The size has changed —they are bigger— and ads became generally more and more and more annoying. We began to see ads in Flash, ads that incorporated sound, ads that broke HTML standards compliance, interstitials, and so on. We have now those stupid moving ads, blinking, appearing in pop-ups, flashing, and making noises. Don’t ever get me started on inappropriate ads, those of the NSFW kind, that too many times have appeared on supposedly safe sites.

  2. Another problem with the use of the ads is the ad networks. If ads were just a linked element from the same Web site offering the advertisement, that would not be a problem. However, they usually come from ad networks; and believe me, the enormous lag they add to navigation is, in some cases, unbearable. The pun that says that the World Wide Web became the World Wide Wait is the responsibility, in great part, of ad networks. Just think of it yourself. How many times have you stared to a blank page of a site, supposedly loading? You wait, and wait, and wait… that is, until you decide to enable ad blocking and them all of the site loads like a charm. The ad networks would like to serve ads in your site, right, but the performance of their servers is downright abysmal.

  3. Finally, another reason why so many people choose to block Web ads is privacy. By using cookies —third party cookies— Big Ad Network Brother is able to track your surfing habits; they can learn that you have browsed as many times as you have browsed They can learn about your sex, your age, your preferences, and other information that can be potentially all linked back to you. This bulk of data is used to serve ads that are “relevant” to you (yeah, right), and also is sold to any interested party.

I really don’t know why is that the state of Web advertising became so terrible. People is fond of comparing online media to printed media; but you open a magazine and the ads down there don’t blink at you, or require extraneous plugins (Flash), or make annoying noises, nor make a scan of what you read and then phone home… you get my idea? And ad rates in printed mags are usually way higher than Web ads! that’s right: the advertisements pay much less in the Web for the latitude of being more invasive than ever.

Because of all these reasons, I have ad blockers available on all my graphical browsers. Note that I said “available”, not “enabled”. When a Webpage becomes too annoying, I enable ad blocking, and I can continue browsing with no problem at all. However, I recongnize that this is not a definitive solution.

Whan should we do when confronting this reality? Should we move to a “walled-garden” model (i.e., subscription model with no ads?). In my opinion, the walled-garden approach is never a good one. Under this approach, I think a Webmaster would stand a far lesser chance of making decent money from a Web site. In addition, the epic freedom of information and the global exchange of ideas would end, taking with it the chief reason why people surf the Web today. In extremis, the Web would implode and die.

We must recognize, then, that the only way that stands any chance of long-term feasibility is so far the persistence of Web advertising. However, if this alternative is to be fully realized without the widespread blocking of today, Web ads must evolve. They must load fast, should not impose an unreasonable load in system resources (such as is the case with Javascript-laden ads, heavy images, Flash or other plugins, etc.), should not be annoying, should be appropriate, and should be far more respectful of end-user privacy; and all of this, while representing solidly the message the advertiser wants to be delivered. But it looks like we are just too far behind on realizing this dream…

So, what should one do to cope with annoying help ads? Here is some advice taken from my personal experience.

  1. Block all plugins by default. Enable them on-demand only. Especially, do not forget to install the Flashblock extension in Firefox, and enable on-demand only loading in Konqueror. Really; Adobe Flash is the scourge of the Web and, besides YouTube, I did not see too many useful examples of it. However, there are valid exceptions and that’s why I am not advising its uninstallation. Keep it around, but restrained. In this way, you will block all annoying Flash-based ads, while still retaining the ability to use the technology when it is really appropriate. Do this with a clear conscience. I feel no pity for advertisers who feel that it is their right to abuse your system resources, annoy you with sound, or put you at risk from Flash malware just for the privilege of showing you an ad. If they want to show us an advertisement, let that be in plain HTML.

  2. Block third-party cookies. In this way, you prevent Big Brother advertisers from stealing your personal data while you still allow the parent site to set cookies that might be useful for site navigation.

  3. If the animations are becoming just too annoying, disable them. Firefox, if I remember correctly, has a setting where animations are allowed to cycle once and then stop. But Konqueror in this case is the best: animations are allowed; but there is always a right-click setting of “Stop animations”. In that way, animations are allowed until they become too annoying, and then they can be stopped on demand by a right-click.

  4. Finally, if all else fails, you may resort to ad-blocking; but remember, the Webmaster depends on the income of the ads to maintain the site. Consider leaving the site if you find the ads unbearable.

The issue of Web ads is really complex, as I have tried to show here. Let’s pray that the advertising industry —an industry known for its lack of values, their ruthlessness and their extreme greed— begin to use some common sense, and choose to behave.

2010: Perspectives for the New Year

As a flip-side piece to my 2009 evaluation post, I would like to set some things that I should take into account regarding the year 2010:

In the personal side, it is clearly evident that I should become more careful about my own health. It is also clear that I should do this not only because of myself, but because I am a steward of God’s creation of my own body, and because I am indebted to people who love me and appreciate me. It is going to be a tough effort, no doubt; but I should do it nonetheless.

Regarding work, it is clear that I should go look for a better job. This would include a better-paying day job, and also see whether I can improve on my translation practice. A tough call, again.

In my studies, I have several goals, but the most important of these is to try to keep as high as GPA as possible and to read as much as I can.

As for the computer stuff, it looks like this year is going to be interesting in both Slackware and KDE fronts. I just converted the laptop to Slackware-current, and so far it’s great.

Finally, I should improve my spiritual life, in church attendance and in devotional practice.

All in all, this is just a small sample of what I see ahead for me in 2010. Please keep me in your prayers.

2009: The Year in Retrospect

Oh my. 2009 was such a year! It was a year full of news good and not so good, and it came and went in style, but all was so hectic! 😉 But I digress. The year 2009 was a year full of blessings, challenges, and opportunities and one more reason to be able to give thanks to the Lord.

In the work front, things were not so easy. I got a much needed raise; but falling U.S. Dollar prices and a serious threat of cuts in our fundings reminded me of how unstable my position is despite the good efforts of Rev. S., my patient, kind, and understanding boss. Now, more than ever, it is clear that I should look for a job that could allow me to improve on my weak finances. For that reason, I went to see Uncle M. (you’re right, the big shot lawyer) to see if he can get me a position in the Judiciary Power (one of our three branches of government). He told me upfront that the situation is not very good, but he would look into that for me anyway. Now, I am awaiting for news. Let’s pray for that.

As for my personal life, things were more or less okay, but this year will mark the departure of Don Victorio, my father in law. He was quite a character, and I liked him a lot. His countenance and ideals were the perfect embodiement of the Quixotic archetype; but despite his quirks he was a kind, generous, and fair gentleman. We all miss him. As you may have read in my previous post, too, one of my sisters got married near the end of the year, and it was a joyful moment for all the family.

I also realized that I was having increasing problems with sleep, tiredness and lack of concentration. This made me see a doctor yesterday, and he gave me some news I would rather not hear. I am going to write about this ASAP.

Regarding my spiritual life, I recognize that I should really get my act together. A number of circumstances that act very well as excuses —tiredness, my hatred of praise bands, noise and music, and the disagreements with the current church leadership, and so on— all led to a dismal attendance to church services. One may chose to ignore this fact, but the truth is that my spiritual life will not be helped by it. I am trying to revert this dreaded habit, but it is not easy.

In my academic life (i.e., law school) things went very good. I was able to study on full scholarship thanks to a perfect 5.0 (equivalent to a 4.0 in the American system). We had some difficult subjects, but thankfully I was able to pass all of them with flying colors. I got an 5 in everything save for one course, where I got a 4. But I am happy, and I look forward to my third year with confidence and anticipation.

Well, this is a short summary of what happened on 2009. Please keep me in your prayers. Stay tuned!

Merry Christmas!

Paraguayan Manger Scene
A typical manger scene from Paraguay.

for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.

(Luke 2:30-32, ESV)

I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The year that just passed was a difficult one, but the Lord granted us His love, comfort and wonderful provision in all times. More than anything, I have seen the Nunc Dimitis (Simeon’s song, Luke 2:29-32) become a reality in my life.

On Christmas Eve we had generally a good time. Since my father in law passed last June, we had to spend the traditional Christmas Eve dinner with my in-laws. We ended up having a wonderful time, not exempt of tears, of course, but all in all it was full of gratitude and joy for the gift of Christ’s presence among humanity.

Later, we had some hectic times since one of my sisters married on Sunday, December 27. It was a beautiful time, only that it was too hot, even for a late evening. Our clothes were drenched. But we were very happy.

Then, we spend the New Year’s Eve dinner with Mom and my other sister (the married one was too busy in her honeymoon 😉 ). It was a peaceful time, and that allowed me to think long and hard about the blessings that God granted us along the year.

I hope you had a wonderful time these holidays, and may God grant you peace, hope, forgiveness, and happiness.

One More Year

Today I’m officially one year older. So far, it is a nice day; I had lunch with the family, amidst a nice day at the office. And in a few minutes, I am supposed to be off for school.

This has been an amazing year. The Lord has blessed me beyond all comprehension, and I am really thankful for that. It was a difficult year, though; this was the year I lost both my father and father-in-law, together with many other dear relatives. All in all, God showed me the profound truth of Ecclesiastes:

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9)

Thank you, Lord, again, for all your mercies and protections on this year. Grant us, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that we might continue with hope, joy, and love.

P.D.: I am running Slackware 13.0 now. It’s simply amazing. Try it!

Some updates

Well, another month has passed. Someone took my month away! 😉

In fact, life has been hectic. Thankfully, finals are over, and with it another semester. I feel really relieved and grateful, and with great expectations for the next semester. In fact, this semester was really difficult due to a sum of things. My father-in-law passed away, and that was an especially tiring period, right at the closure of the class period, with term papers being due and all the related hoopla.

And then, I moved, right among the finals. That was extenuating. I finished the bulk of the moving on the wee hours of a Monday. We put our last box of movables at the new home at 4am and then I crashed the bed, only to get up at 8. I then did some quick review, and went off to school where I had final oral examinations on Civil Law of Persons and Family… so you get the idea.

Don’t despair, though: I plan to sound on the web ads question, as promised. Stay tuned!

Law School

Some of you may have seen scattered references to law school in my previous posts and therefore wondered about it. The gist of the story is that I am, in fact, in law school. How I got there is quite a story.

Back to Monday, 10 March 2009. I was busily doing my work in Rev. S.’s office when the phone rings. It was Uncle M., one of my mom’s younger brothers and one of the country’s big-bigshot lawyers, a renowned authority in civil and contract law. He runs the family’s law firm, started by my grandfather back in the 1930s. He droned on his usual imperative low bass voice:

Uncle M: Son, I have been thinking about you. I think you have a great mind for legal matters. You are uniquely qualified for being a lawyer. So, why don’t you give a try?

Myself: Yes, Uncle, I also have been thinking about it. But I have no money, and no way to get books. I am planning to start studying maybe next year, because with some luck I’ll be able to save some money…

Uncle M: Son, the moment is now. Don’t worry about the money. If you are willing, your studies will be paid on your behalf, no strings attached. As for books, you can always borrow textbooks from the law firm’s library. Now, son, this is an extremely important question: are you willing to enter into the study? Because your moment is NOW. Are you willing?

Myself: (Rather trembling) Yes, Uncle, I am willing.

Uncle M: Good. I’ve heard that Universidad Columbia has a great law school and they can get you started now. So go and register yourself TODAY!

Myself: Yes, Uncle, I will register today…

Uncle M: Attaboy. Send my love to your mom, will you? Good bye, son.

I hung up the phone, stunned. I told the conversation to Rev. S., who told me: “This is a long-awaited answer to some of my prayers. You really need to have a good paying secular job besides your theological training. The Church has not been completely fair to your commitment and you need to secure provision for your family. You have a job with me, but you know that our financing can dry up anytime. You will do great in the legal profession, and studying law will be great stewardship for you.”

Moreover, Rev. S. helped me by reorganizing my work schedule so I could opt for afternoon classes instead of evening ones; he also was kind enough to allow me to take days off in exam times, and many other courtesies.

Well, I told about the news to my mother and my wife, and both were enthusiastic. Dad was also very happy and supportive. So I went to the university that very day, registered, and then had my very first class session. That 10th of March was a momentous day; I started the day thinking it would be just a regular Monday, and I ended up being a law student…

Fast forward to today: I’m about to finish my semester. It has been really hectic, and tiring. But so far I am maintaining a 5.0 (equivalent to an American 4.0) GPA. Please pray for my studies; on Wednesday I must sit for final exams on Constitutional Law.

All in all, this has been a wonderful demonstration on how the Lord could turn your life upside down in a matter of minutes. He is really in control of our lives.

Don Victorio, RIP

You might remember about my father-in-law, Don Victorio, because I wrote about him previously (see Don Victorio the Spaniard). Today I am writing about him to tell you some sad news: he passed away on Friday, June 12th, and he was buried on the next day. He had some complications and had to be hospitalized; sadly, he never recovered.

Don Victorio was stubborn as a mule and he was quite an odd character, as I wrote before. But first and foremost, he was a man of nobility and integrity, who raised six children with his lifelong wife without ever compromising his high ethical standards. A direct descendant of General Riego, he shared with his ancestor the passion for human freedom, dignity, and rule of law. This, together with his staunch, lifelong Catholicism, led him to be one of the founders of the Christian Democrat Party of Paraguay back in 1960, and stood against the totalitarian regime of General Alfredo Stroessner. Another passion of him was teaching, and he held a professorship in the Catholic University of Asunción for several years, and he was a teacher in several schools as well.

He was born into a wealthy family that shortly afterwards lost all money, and was thrown into poverty. Despite that, Don Victorio was a tireless worker, and could provide for his family well enough. Right now, no one of them is wealthy in money; but Don Victorio left them the best inheritance a man can leave his children: the sense of honor and integrity, and the unyielding commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ.

Please pray for the family: for the widow, the children, the grand-children. They are doing well enough, but we know that the upcoming months are going to be very difficult for them.

Good-bye, Don Victorio. I will miss our talks about “life, the universe, and everything”. May you rest in peace, dear suegro.

Bilbo Blogger!

I just discovered a great blogging app: Bilbo Blogger, a blogging app for KDE4. I set it up in its simple config dialog, and presto! it retrieved all my last posts, and automagically set itself up. So far, it looks very promising. We’ll see. Until then, it surely looks like a winner.

For Tim: I plan to post something related to my law studies ASAP. Stay tuned!

Powered by Bilbo Blogger

Extremely. Tired.

Here I am, at 2.35 am, working at a term paper I should submit to Law School. Yeah right, domicile theory should be straightforward… famous last words. 😉

Well, other than that, I had a nice Saturday. This is going to be one busy year.

Happy Easter!

We are about to finish an exhausting Holy Week. For those of you who live up North, Holy Week in Paraguay is almost entirely a holiday week, thus providing a much needed break from the daily stresses, in a climate of reflection and contemplation of the Passion of our Lord.

I thought I would mostly rest on this week; however, things conspired against that. Besides having two serious term papers to write for law school, I had to finish the church bulletin early (because the presses don’t work on holidays), and some other projects: a court-ordered translation, a report for Rev. S due in two days, and some paperwork. To all this, you should add that the car needed some fixing and spent three weekdays at the garage. The result? is about to be Easter Sunday, and I am exhausted.

I took the opportunity to recompile KDE during all this hoopla and now I am happily running KDE 4.2.2, which appears to be even more fast and stable than the previous 4.2.x releases.

Despite all this toil and work, tomorrow we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. He is Risen! and with Him, the promises of new life, new heavens and a new earth. Happy Easter to everyone! The Lord is risen!

Wireless? Yeah!

There’s a story with sombragris, the trusty laptop that my brother, friend and namesake Ed Hurst graciously gave me. Sombragris is a Dell Latitude D505, and works great with Linux. Great, that is, with the exception of wireless networking, which is furnished by a Broadcom chipset, that never worked, not even in Windows.

Now, whenever I checked /var/log/syslog I began to notice something similar to these lines:

Feb 10 20:32:53 sombragris kernel: b43-phy0 ERROR: Firmware file "b43/ucode5.fw" not found
Feb 10 20:32:53 sombragris kernel: b43-phy0 ERROR: You must go to and download the latest firmware (version 4).

And just because I was tired, I wondered… “what if I go to that website, get the darned firmware, and see what happens? At least I will make these annoying warnings go away…” And I did exactly that.

It turned out that the Linux Wireless Wiki is an excellent resource on all things wireless on Linux. I followed the instructions that it gave me, got the Broadcom firmware, placed it in /lib/firmware, and lo and behold! I am wireless!

Next, I tested the usability of the wireless connection with the wireless network that my sister put up at Mom’s home. It is a network with an encrypted password, and a good speed. Armed with the passphrase, I was granted access in no time.

Now, I am writing this post using wlan0 as my Internet connection. Yikes!

And here I am, working wireless in GNU/Linux, in a machine whose wireless was unusable in Windows. If only I had paid attention to that warning before. Oh well…

And thank you, Lord, for our small discoveries of every day.

The Historic Ships at Vapor-Cué

Historic flag from ARP Piraveve

The inscription at the flag says:
“This flag was the last one to wave on the Yhaguy River, on the boat Pirabebe. One of the sailors was Hermenegildo Almirón, who gave this to Mr. José Asunción Rolón.

August 18, 1869”

I’m back at the helm after a quick vacation trip. I visited the historic site of Vapor-Cué (“Old Steamboats’ Place), a site near the town of Caraguatay, where the last seven units of the Paraguayan Navy (including a small warship) were ran aground by Paraguayan sailors so they couldn’t fall into the hands of the Brazilian forces in 1869, during the final skirmishes of the Triple Alliance War that Paraguay fought to the bitter end against the combined armies of Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina (1864-1870).

I’ll try to post some photos. Click on them to see a larger version.

Warship ARP Anhambay, captured from Brazil.
Warship ARP Anhambay, captured from Brazil, rebuilt.
ARP Pirabebe, rebuilt. Use the small gate at the fence for scaling.
ARP Pirabebe, rebuilt. Use the small gate at the fence for scaling.
The Memorial at Vapor-Cué
The Memorial at Vapor-Cué
The Manduvirá River (rather a tiny brook) from the ARP Anhambay. I took the pic from abeam, looking at the port side.
The Manduvirá River (rather a tiny brook) from the ARP Anhambay. I took the pic from the centerline, looking at the port side.
ARP Añambay's fore. This was a huge ship!
ARP Añambay's fore. This was a huge ship!
The historic museum at Vapor-Cué. It is very small, but adequate. My car can be seen at the right.
The historic museum at Vapor-Cué. It is very small, but adequate. My car can be seen at the right.
Boilers and other remains of the ships at Vapor-Cué. At the right there is a memorial with inscriptions.
Boilers and other remains of the ships at Vapor-Cué. At the right there is a memorial with inscriptions.
A view of the gardens at the hotel near Vapor-Cué, looking toward the swimming pool. The price, roughly USD $15 for a double room (but no meals at all, not even breakfast) was right.
A view of the gardens at the hotel near Vapor-Cué, looking toward the swimming pool. The price, roughly USD $15 for a double room (but no meals at all, not even breakfast) was right.

After spending three days at Vapor-Cué, we went to the town of Piribebuy for some additional rest. All in all, we are thankful for this trip.

KDE 4.2: Oh. My. Goodness…

Yep. That darned thing left me breathless. After roughly 14-15 h of compiling (that is excluding dependencies, such as Qt which alone took > 4h, and KOffice and Kdevelop as well), I am finally using KDE 4.2. I’m typing this on KDE 4.2, using Konqueror.

After KDE 4.1 I was expecting something good, but, honestly, not that good. The old annoyances are gone and the whole thing seems to have improved by leaps and bounds. And, it’s beautiful.

It might not be perfect, but having a free desktop such as this one is a treat. Kudos to the KDE community!

My current desktop
(click for a larger image)

KDE 4.2 released!

That’s right. You can read all the gory details at the announcement. This new version promises a host of improvements over previous versions.

The fact is, we’ll see. The level of outcry against KDE4 was unprecedented; the ‘nullification’ of KDE in Red Hat 8 was nothing compared to this. Even Linus Torvalds, a long-time known KDE user, is using GNOME now. Perhaps the “change shock” was too much for too many people (there’s also a response from KDE hacker Aaron Seigo and a more balanced evaluation by Bruce Byfield).

When KDE 4.0 was released, I switched back to KDE 3.5 within hours. The fact that the printing system wasn’t quite there yet, together with the absence of critical applications such as Kontact, made clear the fact that the release was not exactly usable for me. KDE 4.1 was something entirely different; here I had a completely usable desktop, even though it wasn’t able to complete with the engineering feat that KDE 3.5 is. But it convinced me enough to prompt me to switch (I hereby state that rumours of KWin 3D desktop effects running at excellent speeds on my old hardware had nothing to do with this decision 😉 ).

Now, I’m pulling sources from the Slackware source tree and I plan to compile them as soon as I can (read: if my wife doesn’t get too upset). I’m curious; it surely looks promising. As said before… we’ll see.

KDE 4.2 - Be free
KDE 4.2 - Be free

Lazy summer

Our summer is slowly passing by with no major news. I am still without a job, but we are praying for a new one. Days are usually hot, but now we are going through some rainy days that bring a welcome relief.

Meanwhile, I plan to install KDE 4.2 as soon as it comes out. I plan to write the results. Considering how good KDE 4.1 is, the prospect is good.

Merry Christmas!

Paraguayan oxcarts
Paraguayan oxcarts

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.

Excerpt from the Magnificat, Luke 1:46,49,50

I would like to wish all of you a merry Christmas and a happy 2009. May you spend these holidays with all your loved ones, in peace, joy and comfort.

I spent Christmas Eve with Mom and my sisters, and Christmas Day with my in-laws. Today the reverse will apply: we plan to spen New Year’s Eve in my in-law’s place, while I plan to spend New Year’s Day with my mom and sisters.

All in all, this has been a stressful year, full of changes, but right now is not the time for evaluations. Instead, let’s join me in thanking our Lord Jesus Christ for all his blessings and protection, and asking Him for his continued protection in the year to come.

And thanks to you, my readers, for your continued patience, support, and encouragement. May the Lord bless you richly today and every day of your lives.

Slackware 12.2 on sombragris

I was able to upgrade the Slackware setup on sombragris the trusty laptop, to Slackware 12.2 without any problem. I didn’t install KDE, though; rather, I plan to put the KDE 4.1 setup from Slackware current, /testing directory. I plan to get back with more news as they develop.

Meanwhile, Asunción is an unbearable mess. 38 C / 100 F with no wind is taking its toll on the city. This is going to be a very, very hot summer.

The Last Day of My Current Job

As I told you before, Rev. S. (my boss) told me that my current job would run through December 31. Well, today my boss told me that he already needed the office. Some of his relatives would come over for the holidays and therefore he needed to convert our office into a makeshift bedroom. So, he paid me in advance and, at noon, I walked away as an employee for the last time.

Right now I am without a job. I have my (meager) severance pay, so I might get by for a month or so; but the fact is, I need a job as soon as possible.

I was told I might get rehired if a certain special project is approved. My boss also told me that the pay would be way better. In any case, I covet your prayers. Thanks!

Linux Canuck’s: How to Help a Newbie

Wandering through the Web, I found this piece by Linux Canuck: How to Help a Newbie. The writing is full of excellent advice; therefore I am glad to recommend its reading. It is a great resource indeed, and valuable not only for helping “newbies” in the Linux community, but in a whole range of social groups as well.

Meanwhile, I upgraded the blog to WordPress 2.7. So far it looks great. Now, let’s download those Slackware 12.2 ISO images…

Today’s Collects from the Daily Office

Given the sorry state of world affairs, these collects make great prayers:

Most gracious God and Father,
in whose will is our peace:
turn our hearts and the hearts of all to yourself,
that by the power of your Spirit
the peace which is founded on righteousness
may be established throughout the whole world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
infinite in wisdom, love, and power:
have compassion on those for whom we pray;
and help us to use all suffering
in the cause of your kingdom;
through him who gave himself for us on the cross,
Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen.