Saturday, January 20, 2007

bye bye blog

Yup, I'm saying good bye to this here blog.
Thanks for your visit and if you do feel like it go visit me in my new blog thingy...

DCveR's Twilight Zone

Yes, I know, ssdd same name different address.
Hopefully there will be some improvement on the blog, for the time being I'm still trying to find a way of getting my template together in XML.
Nevertheless I'm not deleting this address, unlike what I've done with previous blogs, maybe someone will still enjoy going through the archives here, and who knows, maybe someday I can even merge these contents with the new ones.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Reports, consultants and management

Remember the old saying: those who can do, those who can’t teach, those who can’t teach manage?
Well, you can add to that: those who can’t manage become consultants!
At this point maybe I’d better explain that by consultants I mean people whose sole job is being a consultant, not people with real careers and who from time to time work as a consultant for a specific task or a specific and time limited purpose, something I’ve done too and something I’ll probably do again in the future.

A couple of years ago the management in our lab got us an outside consultant to try and find ways to improve productivity (a task neither specific nor time limited, mind you).
The said consultant increased bureaucracy a tenfold, thus actually decreasing the productivity of our administrative staff, to the point of nowadays scientific staff having to handle most of the red tape the folks at the desk jobs used to deal it.
Said consultant however made very impressive reports that clearly showed one year and a half of the new system would lead us into a heaven of productivity.
Two years into the new system and the productivity is still decreasing, although the consultant managed to get himself a staff position as a full time resident consultant…
Of course he still files very impressive reports, after all he’s been part of the staff for more than a year now, that adds up to more than three years filing reports on the same subject.
This got me curious about this leech-like creature, the consultant that is.
The guy is an engineer who never worked as such, ever since he graduated he started working on rules and regulations, making it short: a bureaucrat.
Who on earth would endure five years of college learning something inherently practical never to use it?
Something popped in my brain while questioning this… several people I’ve met in college have become consultants.
This was quite strange to me too, after all I thought you had to have some experience before becoming a consultant, surely I never thought I would be a consultant fresh out of college.
Quietly I started getting some background info on their careers, where have they been working, how do their former co-workers describe them… you know, what trivially can be described as gossip!
I’m aware my study lacks statistical significance, but nevertheless all the gossip gathered points to a common profile: someone who brags a lot, who makes a big bluff as far as his/her own capacities, people who will gladly undertake a thousand tasks never to finish a single one, people you can’t rely on to actually get something done!
After collecting all the gossip I could I tried a direct approach: asking them what their jobs were.
It goes more or less like this: having the people who actually have the know-how and who do something going out of their way to prepare technical reports about their jobs, compiling the technical reports into “management readable material” (yes, this is actually a description several of them used), prepare presentations that can help management taking appropriate decisions. Another astonishing thing: they all seem to be able to work in any kind of company regardless of their supposed area of expertise…

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Featured Photo

Strelitzia reginae. Or estrilicia, as it is called in Portuguese. A flower commonly known as "bird of paradise".
This flower, originally from South Africa is very common in Madeira and has become one of the symbols of the island.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bloggers do make a difference.

Zoe posted about a journalist called Nicholas Hellen messing with a blogger (Girl with a one-track mind).
Guyana Gal regarding the same issue poses a question: can bloggers make a difference?
Media tends to act according to plenty of external influences (money, political interests, ratings, etc...), bloggers usually post things as they see them. True enough bloggers can distort information just the same way media does, but regardless of that bloggers talking about the same issue will end up presenting you several different viewpoints instead of a "digest" of the viewpoints according to a certain journalist or editor.
Plus bloggers send their voices all over this planet when they step on their soap boxes. Even though some media companies are quite global nowadays they don’t seem to be able to keep up with the speed the bloggosphere is conveying information, in fact plenty of journalists seem to be getting info for their stories on recent distant events from blogs.

Society gains when information, ideas, opinions can be transmitted to all who may be interested without being filtered.
Information is power, controlling information has always been one of the main concerns of totalitarian regimes. Being able to blog is a form of freedom, just as being able to read blogs is.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy B-Day to me!

Is it just me or do you all wish there was some kind of holiday on your birthday?
I wish I could have sleeped in today instead of getting up before sunrise and heading for the lab...
So for those of you who can read portuguese check out what else happened on this day here. As for english readers you can check it here instead.
I've checked both and it seems to be of no hope getting an event worth a holiday for this day.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy 2007 !!!

First of all thank you guys for the comments on the previous post! I truly wish 2007 turns out to be a great year to all of you!

And so we're back from Madeira, we've just heard it on the news that this year's fireworks made it to the Guinness World Records, although I can't find any reference to it on their official site. If you'd like to sneak a peek at a few more of the photos I've taken click on the picture. But you're probably better off checking it on youtube, after all videos will give you a better idea of what the show actually was, plus some of the guys who filmed it managed to place themselves better than I did.

New Year resolutions? None, as usual.
As for expectations... well, 2006 was a really great year for us, it really will be hard to top it, so all we're wishing is for 2007 to be at least as good.

PS: Just noticed the slideshow is running backwards, but I'm too tired to try and fix it... sorry about that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Xmas everybody

And to all a Happy New Year!!!

We're still alive.
We took some time off to visit this:

Cordoba 2006Cordoba 2006

Then GH had to attend a meeting in San Francisco, not all work judging from her pics:

San Francisco 2006San Francisco 2006

Now we're going to spend Xmas with our families and afterwards we'll be heading to Madeira to enjoy New Year's Eve alone... Like a third honeymoon. Huuummm... make that an n th. honeymoon!

Xmas 2006

Although I've been completely neglecting this poor blog I could not leave without dropping by to wish you all the best for 2007!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Socrates’ Cultural Revolution

First of all let me get things straight: this is not a post about the brilliant Greek philosopher but one about our dim Portuguese Prime Minister.
Well, not actually about him personally, but about another action of the bunch of jerks government he leads.
In 1948 a Museum of Popular Art was created in Lisbon, ever since it has gathered an enormous collection of traditional art from all over Portugal. It is a unique collection that reflects the evolution of the popular crafts and art forms in our country.
Sadly enough the museum has been closed for the last six years, in order for the building to be repaired.
Now, after 4 mil euros having been spent on it, this government decides to close the museum and instead create a virtual museum of the Portuguese language. A multimedia center to celebrate our language and to promote reading.
I won’t even take much of your patience elaborating on how a virtual museum can be visited over the internet without the need to evict a real museum to make room for it. Nor will I ask why don’t they make a new building for the new museum or why don’t they use one of the buildings that are already state owned and yet are not being used. I won’t even be as poisonous as usual and say that a media center to promote reading is an oxymoron.
But one thing I must ask you: is it just me or this whole thing about taking cultural and historical references away from a nation, depriving current and future generations of their traditional cultural background, carries plenty of resemblances with Mao’s Cultural Revolution as well as with plenty of other cases of the destruction of cultural treasures so that dictators and would-be dictators can rewrite history in their own terms?
During the last decades, successive governments have alienated public property, selling whatever they could sell in order to balance our economy in spite of their bad management. It is strange to watch a nation standing still while a few squander the richness that is supposed to belong to all. But when cultural treasures are going to be taken away from the public to face an unknown destiny (eventually rotting away in an old storehouse or ending up in private collections), it’s not the Portuguese people who are being robbed by the Portuguese government, it is all mankind that is being robbed of a piece of its collective memory.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Peniche's fortress


Some fifty miles north from Lisbon, by the coast you'll find the city of Peniche. That's where we are right now. GH is attending a meeting of Portuguese scientists from several different areas and yours truly got invited also.
At lunch time we took a little stroll and we ended up visiting this old fortress (XVII century).
This is a place that brings back mixed feelings of pride and shame to Portuguese people: it evokes tales of heroism as a key strategic place on the defense of our coast and it brings painful memories of its use as a jail for political prisoners during our dictatorship.


(click on the photos to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


At our lab we’re roughly one hundred creatures.
Of these, 6 are currently away under psychiatric leave.
Among those currently at work, twice as many have been away with psychiatric leave at some time or another.
Many years ago, while being a trainee at a Scottish university I came across Professor M., a brilliant chemist that had this theory: “society regards chemists as some kind of crazy odd nuts and we mustn’t disappoint them by acting sane”.
Right! But from my stats almost twenty per cent of my co-workers are raving mad, I wonder if it really is healthy to stick with my job.
Don’t misunderstand me, I still love working at a chem lab, but is it safe?
Oh, by the way, a friend of mine faced with these stats asked: “What? Only 20% of you have been diagnosed yet?!”

Monday, October 09, 2006

Price tags

Whenever I buy something I always must get rid of the price tags before using whatever I bought. This is true especially when it comes to books.
My wife on the other hand doesn’t worry about the tags and the result is rather simple: you can easily know which one of us brought a certain book home.
We both buy plenty of comic strip books and while browsing through GH’s new acquisitions looking for some light reading I realized they weren’t sorted. Now I’m not the kind of person who needs to have everything neat and tidy, but I decided to sort them in order to make it easier for me to pick the ones I hadn’t read yet.
During the sorting process I realized they could be sorted by their price tags: the price increases from one book to the next…
Somewhat this feels like a really bad symptom about our economy, although no real statistical analysis has been conducted to ascertain the relationship between the books’ prices and our financial troubles here in Portugal.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hell bound train

Standing on a crowded railway car, heading to Lisbon for another day’s work.
Suddenly I realize there is a preacher in the car, a damned Jehovah Witness, preaching to the trapped listeners.
I wouldn’t care for his preaching if it weren’t for the fact that I had forgotten my mp3 player at home! 22 minutes of a train ride never seemed longer!
After the first few minutes I was starting to feel like throwing that prick preacher out of the train…
Then the preacher starts walking and addressing the passengers one by one… eventually he reached me.
Realizing he was getting no reply that little piece of a no-brainer decides to grab my arm and shake me! At least he tried to shake me, until I got my arm loose and slowly squeezed his arm without uttering a single word.
When I let go of his arm he started saying I was surely an evil creature!
He even shouted it!
Then he went forward trying to convert the rest of the passengers.
Ok, maybe I am going to hell, but I’ll make sure not to forget my mp3 player again!!!
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