Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Early flyfishers in Spain

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Codex Manenssisne of my dearest passions is fishing. My granddad and dad tough me how to fish in northern Spain, and there is no doubt that those early days of my youth and puberty, fishing in the Duero river by Gormaz in Soria, will be always close to my heart. When I moved to Seattle I picked up on fly fishing (my eternal gratitude goes to my friend Lex Story for that), and since that point of my life I have devoted part of my time to the noble cause of pursuing fish with flies that I tie myself. Not that I don like gear fishing any more -I still love it and practice every now and then. But I have to admit that fly fishing has some sort of mist and indescribable aura that makes it stand above the other fishing techniques.

Having learnt fly fishing in the US has some serious consequences. All my fly fishing literature is in English, all the vocabulary I know is made of English words, all the insects I know (not many, I admit) are identified by their English names, and all the fishing media I normally consult (magazines, web pages, podcasts, dvds, and the like) are mostly from American authors. Nothing wrong with that, except that…

…I recently noticed that I cannot speak about fly fishing in proper terms when using my mother language. That bothered me quite a bit, so I started looking for information about “pesca con mosca” in the Internet. To my surprise there is not a lot of information or books on it, but what there is is really worthwhile.

The most amazing thing is thing about fly fishing in Spain is that two Unknown codixof the oldest printed books on fly fishing that are known to this day were written by Spanish authors.

El tratadico de Pesca (1539): written by a retired Aragonese soldier in 1539, Fernando Basurto’s The Little Treatise on Fishing, is the Spanish counterpart of The Treatyse on Fishing with an Angle. El Tratadico de Pesca is remarkable because it is the first known work which uses the literary form of a dialogue to establish the rank of fishing among other sports. In the book there are two characters, Pescador y Cazador, who establish a dialogue about the benefits and miseries of fishing and hunting. Does that sound familiar? The similarities to Sir Izaak Walton’s most well known work are pretty obvious, and considering this book is more than 125 years older that The Compleat Angler, one has to wonder how much influence Basurto had on Sir Walton. We have to remember that there used to be a close relationship between England and Spain in the early 1500s: Queen Mary I of England was half Spanish since she was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catalina of Aragon. Furthermore, she was married to Phillip II of Spain (her cousin), who was Consort King of England for some time. (Years later, after Mary’s death and protestant Elizabeth’s coronation as Queen of England he decided to take back England’s throne by force -hence the ill-fated Spanish Armada in 1588. But that’s a different story…). The commercial connections between the two countries were strong at that time, so it is very easy to suggest that some copies of Basurto’s book travelled to England and ultimately fell in Walton’s hands. Quite plausible and sensible, although we will never know for sure.

Basurto’s flies were tied on spade-ended hooks, and the materials were only silk for bodies and ribs, and soft hackles of chickens and the unidentified bunal. The hackles were tied in at the butt with the tip forward, wraps then being made over the butt toward the spade end of the hook, before the tip was turned up and bound back in the finishing of the head. Although it is not directly mentioned in the book, the descriptions of the patterns invite to suggest that the patterns sank and therefore were fished as nowadays’ wet flies.

The original book is lost, but not its content. You can download the book here (link, only in Spanish, sorry).

My favourite text is when Pescador says in a magnificent medieval Spanish: “Este libro va sacado de la esperiencia de muchos y grandes pescadores, y de la mía, que algunos años por mar y por tierra lo he usado, por apartarme de algunos vicios que son sepultura de los hombres y perpetua prisión de sus ánimas, lo qual escusa este exercicio por los nobles efectos de que está vestido; aunque en la verdad, no es sinrazón avisar a los menestrales que no todos los tiempos que corren buenos para pescar deven de yr a pescar, por las faltas que harían en sus casas; ni los clérigos todos los días, a lo menos antes de cumplir con Dios lo que deven en dezir su missa y rezar sus oras; ni tampoco los letrados por la falta que harían a los playteantes; porque como este exercicio sea tan codicioso, no es en las manos del hombre dexarse dél quando la ventura corre

The translation would be something like: “This book results from the experience of many and great fishermen, and from my own, since I’ve used it in the mainland and in the sea to go away from some vices that send men to their grave and their souls to eternal prison, which excuses this exercise for the noble effects it has. Although it is necessary for the reader to be aware that he should not go fishing at any good time for fishing, for the faults and problems that would create in their houses. Neither should priests go fishing before saying mass and pray their prayers. Neither judges for the inconveniences to their clients. Because even though this exercise is very addictive, it is in one’s hands not to let himself be carried away” I guess there were already fishing bums 500 years ago…

El Manuscrito de Astorga (1624). This book was written by Juan de Bergara,  possibly a monk at the Monastery of Astorga (León), after the instructions given by Lorenzo García, a local fisherman of the town, who according to the book is not the creator of the patterns, but rather the collector and verifier of them all. We have to remember that Astorga was one of the most important cities in northern Spain in the XIV, XV, XVI and XVII centuries, a real communication hub for all the pilgrimage routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela (St. Jacob’s Way). It would not be a surprise that many fly patterns in the book were not locally created, but originated in other parts of northern Spain or even south and central Europe and travelled in the pockets of those fishermen who wanted to enjoy fishing in their pilgrimage to see the Saint Jacob’s tomb.

The original title is “Libro de aderezar y adobar plumas para pescar truchas“, which translates more or less into “Book of feather tweaking and seasoning to fish trout“. There are 36 patterns in the book, and all of them are very sophisticated, densely tied and heavily dressed flies, in many cases being more complex than late nineteenth and early twentieth century British patterns. Some of the patterns have up to 5 different hackles, and they were obviously thought as floating lures. In addition to all the feathers, silk and flax threads were used for the body and the ribs.

The main problem of this book is that it does not give any detailed instruction on how to put all those materials together on the hook. Whereas Basurto’s book gave specific descriptions on how to tie the flies, Juan de Bergara’s text only gives very sporadic and cryptic instructions, such as “turned twice” or “put upside down”. This lead to what many Spanish fishermen knew as “Astorga’s Enigma”. Some books have tried to decipher the enigma in the past years, being this book (link) by García Gonzalez the one that is currently considered to give the best adaptation. Here (link) and here (link) you can see some pattern examples.

Another interesting thing about his book is the location of the original document. In 1963 the authorities of Astorga gave the original book to Francisco Franco, former Spanish dictator and a very well known avid angler, and since then nobody has known the exact location of the book. In 1975, after Franco’s death and the return of democracy to Spain, the family of the dictator never disclosed if the book is part of the family’s heritage and resides in their private library, or if it was given as a present to somebody else. A real shame. At least the content is public and even though there are not many hard copies, everybody can download it from the Internet. Here (link) you have the link to the original in old Spanish, and here (link) you have the transcription.

Finally, I would like to remark that it is a shame that the international fly fishing community is oblivious to these books, even though they could be considered as important as, or even more important, than other English classics such as The Compleat Angler or Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle. It is a paradox that Sir Izaak Walton is buried in Winchester Cathedral, his person appears in plenty of other books, there are many Piscator and Venator bridges in his meory, and his work is worldwide famous, whereas Basurto, Bergara and García’s contributions (or even their names!) are fully neglected, even by their fellow Spaniards. Another interesting paradox is that the feathers and cocks that are described by El Manuscrito de Astorga are internationally known by a French term (”Coq de Leon“) and not the Spanish words Gallo de León. It had to be some French anglers that used to go fishing to León, and not the local Spaniards, those who finally showed the World the properties of these feathers.

I guess this is one of our national defects in Spain, that we always think the grass is greener on the other riverbed and we tend to forget to honor what we have got or have accomplished. I hope this text contributed to partly fix that.

PA.

New Way of Working

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Codex Manenssisy company moved to a different location a few weeks ago. Google is determined to build GooglePlex on this side of the town and they are getting their hands on every building east of the 101 in Mountain View. And when I say every building, I mean it. That even includes the old, blue building that has jinxed every company that has owned it with the most horrible of the corporate deaths that exist… Will Google be next? We’ll see… Point is that they also bought the campus that my company inhabited for the past years and they kicked us out. Nothing bad, to be honest with you. Shoreline is definitely a nice place for a company, but the Google traffic was a horrible addendum to the whole picture.

Again, I don’t care about moving between offices. With all the different places and countries I have worked on during the past years I can definitely say “being there, done that”.  But this time is different. Some genius mind up high in the hierarchy of my company had a acute case of mental diarrhoea and decided that we were to implement a New Way of Working in the new campus. With the ultimate goal of improving communication and cooperation among co-workers, as well as adding agility to the whole organization they came to the following conclusions:

  • All the offices have to follow an open space concept, without walls, cubes, or divisions of any types. Only labs are to be delimited by walls and doors.
  • Nobody has assigned desks. When you arrive in the building you can seat whenever there is an empty desk.
  • All the desks are equipped equally and look the same and there is no room for personal customization (this means, for example, no picture of one’s wife, dog or gold fish on the desk).
  • There is no personal location for employees except a roll bag for your personal belongings and a drawer with a lock.
  • The basic idea on how all this works is: you get in the building, go to the drawer, get the roll bag and look for a place to seat. Once you’ve found it, you take out your keyboard, mouse, laptop and other working artefacts from the bag and set up your desk for the day. When it is time to go home, you reverse the process.
  • Since there is no assigned seats you don’t get a physical phone. All the phone communication is implemented with VoIP and therefore your laptop is your phone too.

Unknown codix

After having worked in such an environment for a few weeks, these are the highlights and the drawbacks of the new working environment:

  • SUPER-DUPER: world-class meeting rooms. Somebody noticed that such an open environment will have to provide lots and excellent meeting rooms if they wanted to have a silent office. A cube can hold a conversation between three people without disturbing the neighbours. In an open environment you can hear the ziiiiip if somebody opens his fly 5 tables away. Therefore we got a lot of meeting rooms with all sort of facilities: huge flat screen for projections, walls to write on as whiteboards, ergonomic chairs… It is definitely a pleasure to grab someone by the arm and say: let’s have a meeting. :-)
  • EXCELLENT: light and openness boost optimism. One thing California has plenty of is SUN. And you have to take advantage of it. The new building has huge windows with shades, and the lack of walls makes the light be everywhere. The tables are white, and all the colors used for interior decoration tend to be light, so the whole environment irradiates optimism and positivism. It is definitely no pity to go inside in the morning.
  • GOOD: Quality of desks. All the desks are ergonomic with the possibility to make them higher or lower. You can even bring them all the way up and work standing - a great pleasure for your back. All the desks have two huge monitors that you can customize in all possible ways. The chairs are also super ergonomic and the only problem they have is the huge user manual you have to read to be able to understand all the things you can adapt in them.
  • FAIR: communication/cooperation improvements. I have definitely seen some improvement in the way people communicate and cooperate, but not a whole lot. The new building has plenty of working corners with sofas and coffee tables so that people can use those as communication centers, but I have not seen many people using them. Many people thought that without assigned desks many people would sit in different groups every day (say a marketing guy sitting one week with the engineering group and the next week with the service teams) and that would improve the internal awareness… but the truth is quite different. People are sitting in different places but always within their area, so no additional inter-group communication is happening.
  • BAD: noise. Some people are very noisy at their working place. Either on the phone, on when they talk to themselves, or even when they move stuff around their working place. We have a few of those and everybody is avoiding them. When two or more of those noisy bastards gather in one particular area of the office then say goodbye to productivity. Noise-cancelling headphones have been in great demand lately. I hope this will get better in the future and people get more and more used to the openness.
  • UGLY: VoIP phone. The phone is useless. The software you have to install in your computer to have the phone functionality seemed to have been designed by a drunk monkey. It is slow, trouble-prone and not intuitive at all. Sound quality is actually not bad, but the rest is a joke. I am never running the software and rely totally on my cell phone. Man, I really miss a good ‘ol phone with real keys to push…
  • FUGLY: unassigned desks. The worst part of my day is when I have to look for a place to sit down every morning after I arrive. I hate it with all my heart. I am not an early bird and since I am riding my bike I arrive later than the majority of the other people. So that means that I always get the shitty places. I knew that from the very beginning, so I gave up on the good places and took two of the shitty ones as my my go-to desks. Well, there are some morons that are incapable to see some very clear behavioral patterns and they always take my places -even when there are better ones available. The problem of changing places is that you have to spend a lot of time customizing and setting everything up in the morning: the desk, the chair, the monitors, wiring up the cables for the mouse and keyboard, connecting all the power supplies, headphones… A pain in the lower back. Sometimes the desks are dirty and you don’t know from what. Disgusting. So you have to go and clean it - more time wasted while I could have been reading my emails and doing productive stuff. And then before you go home you have to put everything away. More time wasted. Another annoying thing is not knowing where everybody is. 95% of all the phone calls start with the question: “where are you today?” 90% of the conversations start with: “have you seen Fulano today”? Very aggravating.

So in general it has been a very positive change, except for the phone thing (which is easily avoidable - enter cellphone world), and the unassigned seats. Let’s hope that the morons settle down a bit as time passes and everybody has a go-to desk sooner or later.

PA.

Why Singapore Airlines rocks (even in economy)

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Codex Manenssis

n a long, transoceanic flight the attention that the airline pays to details is what really defines the traveler’s experience. Details like the ones I had the possibility to experience in my last trip in economy class from San Francisco to Singapore:

  1. Lots of room for your legs… and even more important: for your elbows. I don’t have to hurry and lay my arm on the arm rest before the person sitting next to me does because there is room for both people.
  2. Travel toothbrushes and toothpaste for free in all the bathrooms. Plus mouthwash, floss, perfume and lotion, all for free.
  3. Travel socks, eye covers and good quality headphones.
  4. More than 50 movies, 75 TV series and 40 documentaries to choose from. More than 100 radio channels including a dedicated and interactive audio channel with all the hits in the UK and USA lists since 1950.
  5. Huge multimedia, panoramic screen twice as big as the ones in other airlines, with input for external audio and video signal, plus a usb port (you can bring your own movies in the usb stick, plug it and watch them in the screen)
  6. Individual electrical socket in every seat so that you can plug in your laptop or phone. No need to worry about running out of battery on those extra-long flights.
  7. Real menu to choose from for every meal with more than 4 possibilities. Food actually does not taste like airplane crap.
  8. Free, 2 hour city tours in Singapore to make up for a  long stop over.

While many airlines treat their economy passengers as cattle, others try to make them get the most out of their flight experience. That’s why Singapore Airlines will be my first choice next time I flight across the Pacific.

PA

De vuelta / I am back

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Codex Manenssis

an pasado más de dos largos años desde que me dejé ver por estos lares, pero en mi haber he de decir que la ausencia ha sido obligada. Han sido muchos y profundos profundos los cambios que, para bien o para mal, me obligaron a  dar una prioridad casi nula a mi actividad bloguera: Para empezar tuve un hijo. Para continuar cambié de curro. Y para terminar me mudé de estado y ciudad.

Los cambios y las decisiones no fueron fáciles, pero al echar la vista atrás me consta que fueron para bien. Como siempre ocurre en estas ocasiones, más que el cambio en sí lo que nos pone las vidas patas arriba es primero la incertidumbre previa a la decisión, y más tarde el consecuente caos que la adaptación a la nueva situación conlleva. Aun así mi intención fue siempre regresar a este mi rincón particular de Internet. Añoraba el poder escribir de vez en cuando, aunque fueran cuatro líneas mal puestas, así que me alegra haber vuelto.

Ignoro cuanto tiempo podré dedicar al blog en esta nueva etapa de mi vida, pero al menos mi compromiso con ello está de renovado una vez más.

Hola de nuevo, Internet. :-)

*******
Codex Manenssis

t´s been longer than two years since the last time I was here, but in my defense I have to say that my absence in the blog has been very much forced. There were many and rather deep changes in my life that, for the better or worse, required to reduce my blogging activity down to zero: To begin with I became a father. Moreover I changed jobs. And finally I moved to a different state.

The changes and the decisions were not easy, but when I look back I know they were the right ones. It is not the change itself what brings instability and insecurity to our lives, but the uncertainty prior to the decision, and the chaos of the adaptation to the new reality. But even when I was dealing with the chaos, the uncertainty and the instability, my intention was always to come back to my personal corner of the Internet. I really missed the writing, even if it were some short and badly elaborated text, so I am very happy to be back.

I don’t know how much time I’ll be capable to spend here in this new phase of my life, but I can say that my compromise with the blog is herewith once more renovated.

Hello again, Internet.

PA.

Sentence of the Month

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Codex Manenssis

 have the impression I am going to say “fuck” a lot when I am in the middle of the contractions… I hope the nurses and midwives don´t care”

Amanda, after I deep thought on what giving birth is going to feel like… :-)

La Historia, la Sangría y el Jabugo

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Codex Manenssis

o dicho: este hombre es mi héroe.

Y qué más puedo decir? Pues que ante tanta Taifa de mierda, egoísta, embustera, ególatra y mediocre siempre no quedará Don Benito y Don Arturo.

Candidates for the European Parliament?

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Codex Manenssis

fter a few years without participating in any political election I changed my mind last month and exercised my right to vote in the European Parliament election. Being a Spanish wanderer myself and having profited from the benefits the EU gives its citizens when it comes to labor rights and resident permits across pretty much the entire continent, I figured it was my duty as a thankful European to show commitment to the public institutions that support this thing called Europe.

Obviously, the EU is far from perfect. The complexity of the construction process is daunting and it will surely take more than a couple of generations to start figuring out how the pieces of this huge puzzle of 27 countries and 23 languages fall together. The political, economical and social union those Brussels politicians tend to brag about is just an illusory thing in many aspects. They are so worried about building Europe that they’ve lost touch with the European citizens – they live in a realm where things happen much faster and easier than in reality. But nonetheless, all this does not mean that the idea (or the dream) of a united Europe is not worth trying. Actually, it is the only way for the Old Continent to have a voice and some influence in this globalized world.

Codex Statutes of the Order of St. Michael, 1525

But this post is not about the EU itself -it’s about the European Parliament election, and more concrete, about the Spanish political parties that ran as candidates in this past edition. When I opened the envelop the Spanish consulate sent me with all the necessary paperwork to vote via mail, and I saw the different parties my jaw just hit the table. Let me tell you one thing: if the political parties that one is to find in a given country offer any indication about that country’s sanity, I bet Spain is really messed up.

Let’s just take a brief look at some of the different parties that want to represent Spain in the EU Parliament :

• Partido Popular (PP): The “right” party (with some extreme-right touch to it)

• Alternativa Española (AES): The “extreme right” party (with some super-extreme-right touch to it)

• Frente Nacional (FN): The “super-extreme right” party (with some fascist-wannabe inclinations)

• Falange Española de la JONS (FE de las JONS): The fascist themselves

• Falange Auténtica (FA): The “we-are-purer-fascist-than-the-other-fascist” fascist

• Partido Familia y Vida (PFyV): The “conservative catholics” party

• Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE): The “incompetent left” party

• Partido Comunista de los Pueblos de España (PCEP): The “incompentent AND pathetic left” party

• Izquierda Unida (IU): The “united-but-still-incompetent-AND-pathetic left” party

• Movimiento Social Republicano (MSR): The “nostalgics”

• Izquierda Anticapitalista Revolta Global (IZAN – RG): The “anarchists”

• Iniciativa Feminista (IF): The “we-are-better-than-men-but-we-want-to-behave-like-them” party

• Europa de los Pueblos Verdes (LV): The hicks and rednecks (aka. independentists) from the Bask Country and Catalonia disguised as the greens

• Grupo Verde Europeo (GVE): The “greens” themselves

• Por Un Mundo Más Justo (PUM+J): The “stoners”. Literal translation: “For a more fair world”. Check the logo of the party here – it´s priceless.

• Partido Antitaurino Contra el Maltrato Animal (PACMA): MY FAVORITE!! The literal translation is “Anti-Bullfighting and Anti-Animal Abuse Party”. The logo is also priceless - check that bull vomiting blood in their website

Needless to say I had a difficult time choosing a party to vote for. There are some others but they are as laughable as the ones I just mentioned. I finally voted for “Unión, Progreso y Democracia” (UPyD), which I figured are the less bad ones since they are small and have not had enough time to get corrupted yet (the party was born just a couple of years ago). They are also a pro-laicism, center-bound party with social compromises but firm enough with state-critical issues. Or at least that is the way I see them… others will probably disagree. I knew they wouldn´t win, but it was the only party I could vote for without feeling nausea.

UPDATE: Now I know why so many Spaniards want to represent their country in the European Parlament… and it is not out of patriotic reasons. Mel just nailed it down here and here (sorry, only in Spanish). What you defend and propose does not matter… the goal is to get elected and enjoy life working for the EU.

UPDATE 2: Joder, si antes los voto antes la lían (link). Lo dicho, me voy a hacer mi propio partido y me presentaré a eurodiputado. Se admiten nombres :-)
 

Money as Debt / El Dinero es Deuda

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Codex Manenssis

have a couple of buddies that are quite far from being what I’d call prolific email writers. We might exchange three or four (maybe five under exceptional circumstances) emails every year, and apart from the past and the memories we shared our friendship relies on scattered meet-ups that our busy schedules allow us to organize every now and then, less often that we’d like.

The good thing about this irregular email communication pattern is that when I see their names popping up in my inbox I automatically know that there’s gotta be something VERY interesting in the email.

I just got one of those emails with a link to probably the best documentary/video I have ever seen in the last months. It’s called “Money as Debt” and it explains the financial foundations of our western society. If you are wondering where the ultimate roots of this financial crisis are, how we ended up being in such a chaos, and what we could do to get out of it then you really need to check the video. It’s very basic economic stuff, things that everybody should know (and many of you do know or at least heard about) but very few people have stopped to think what they really mean. I didn’t have - and the video really opened my eyes.

It’s true that I don’t totally agree with the last 10 minutes where the author gives his solution for the problem… but nonetheless the video is worth every minute you spend watching it. Here you have the link (watch out because the entire video is split into 5 parts).  I hope you like it as much as I did.

—————————-

Codex Manenssis

engo un par de colegas que no son precisamente lo que diría unos prolíficos escribidores de emails. En el transcurso de un año a lo mejor intercambiamos tres o cuatro emails, quizá cinco bajo circumstancias excepcionales, y además de las vivencias y los recuerdos que compartimos en el pasado podríamos decir que nuestra amistad se mantiene gracias a esas pocas veces, muchas menos que nos gustaría, que nuestras apretadas agendas nos permiten compartir un par de cervezas.

Lo bueno de tener una comunicación tan irregular con ellos por email es que cuando su nombres aparecen de repente en mi inbox automaticamente sé que el mensaje contiene algo MUY interesante.

Acabo de recibir uno de esos emails con un link al que probablemente sea el mejor documental/video que he visto en meses. Se titula “El Dinero es Deuda”, y explica mediante ejemplos muy sencillos los cimientos financieros de nuestra sociedad occidental. Si te estás preguntando dónde están las raíces de la crisis financiera que nos acosa, cómo diántres acabamos en semejante situación y qué diablos podríamos hacer para salir del atolladero, entonces pincha en el link y empápate con el documental. Es teoría económica muy sencilla que todo el mundo debería saber (de hecho, muchos de vosotros lo sabréis ya o lo habréis oído en multitud de ocasiones) pero que muy pocas personas se han parado a pensar en lo que REALMENTE significa. Yo no lo había hecho, y el video me ha abierto los ojos.

Aunque no estoy totalmente de acuerdo con los últimos 10 minutos del documental donde el autor expone algunas recetas para salir de la crisis, el resto video realmente merece la pena. Y lo mejor es que está traducido al español. Aquí tenéis el link:  Espero que os guste tanto como a mí.

PA.

The Facebook Effect

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Codex Manenssis he first time I heard about the “Google effect” was 6 years ago during a lunch break in Germany. I was deep in my thoughts, wondering if the hardness of the lamb meat I was munching was due to an old age death or to the cook inability, when I overheard a conversation from the next table. Apparently a program manager in Munich wanted to hire a new engineer and after having a successful and convincing job interview with her, he just thought about finding out what Google had to show when looking up her name. And he found something very interesting indeed: some pictures of hers totally drunk in a big party. She was hired after all, and the pictures topic was dropped to a mere anecdote to laugh about. But if the program manager had been stricter, or if the interview had been less successful, those pictures would have been fatal for her job application. 

Codex Augustine, La Cité de Dieu, Paris, Orosius Master, 1400-1410I also remember that after laughing about the whole picture issue, the conversation degenerated in a virtual, dick-measuring context where instead of centimeters or inches, my lunch companions compared how many Google hits they got with their names and their professional successes when looking up themselves. “In the second hit you can see the latest article I wrote in that magazine, and in the fourth or the fifth the open source program I developed in my free time last year” “Man, that’s nothing - you gotta look at my results. In the very first hit you can see my whole professional background, and in the second conference I will be giving next semester…”. I was sort of surprise that someone could be so proud of what Google threw at him when searching for his name… until I came to the conclusion that if you were a socially handicapped computer nerd with a stiff spine and a clear inclination for work-alcoholism and egocentrism, looking at those google hits was the closest thing to an autofellatio you could come up with.

That conversation had an impact on me, though. I had never thought about all the information, good or bad, unintended or deliberated that the Internet could provide about a given person. For some time I became a paranoid web user and started using cookies trackers, web anonymizers and all kind of weird stuff to stop the Internet from knowing about me. Then, with time, and as it usual happens with this sort of things, I started finding it annoying and got back to my normal web-browsing behavior.

Until last month, when I was told from different people that, under certain circumstances, you can get someone’s Facebook albums’ pictures as Google hits when looking up his/her name -even if his/her security settings are correctly configured. All the information you have inside Facebook is so perfectly well linked, and so highly interconnected with your friends’ accounts, that all that it takes to expose the entire information chain is just one account with wrong security settings. I was even told about special Facebooks applications that are able to look for security leaks to recompose someone’s profil without having direct access to it. Not only your pictures, but your affiliations, political views, religious beliefs, hobbies, likes, dislikes… anything you thought it was safe to share with your friends might be publicly accessible to someone with the right skills.

Now, who might be interested in that, anyway? Lots of people. Some of them are not worth worrying about, such as marketing companies trying to ascertain consuming or behavioral patterns to launch more successful marketing campaigns. They’ve been doing or trying to do that for a long time, so what? But some others could be really worrisome.

Your future employer, for example. There are already a bunch of companies in the US and some other countries like Germany whose only goal is to gather information about people. Those companies are contracted by major employers before hiring someone in order to get as much information as possible about the future employee. Totally legal. And the social networks like Facebook, Tuenti and the like are virtual paradises for them. Just think about all the information that you, personally, have already shared. Think about all the information about you that your friends and contacts have, deliberate or unwillingly, shared with more people. Now try to come up with some prejudices, ideas, images, gut feelings and conceptions about your person, right and/or false, that someone might come up with when having access to all that information… Really scary.

Codex Die pelgrimage van der menscheliker creaturen, Southern Netherlands, Guillaume de Deguileville, 1440-1460We all have heard about the tracking cookies and how some entities in the Internet try to keep track of your surfing habits and the pages you visit in order to know more about you. That is peanuts in comparison to the Facebook effect. People are loading the Internet with personal information and not all of them are aware of the consequences that might have. And I am not trying to be apocalyptic here, but Facebook might not be the “close circle” you are taking it for - just think twice next time you upload a picture or write a comment in it.

Of course this new social trend is far from stop: Google just came out with the so-called “google profiles”. According to Google, ”a Google profile is simply how you present yourself on Google products to other Google users. It allows you to control how you appear on Google and tell others a bit more about who you are. With a Google profile, you can easily share your web content on one central location. You can include, for example, links to your blog, online photos, and other profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You have control over what others see. Your profile won’t display any private information unless you’ve explicitely added it. Needless to say, your google profile will come up as the first hit if someone looks for your name. The perfect lure for big egos with stiff spines…

PA

What kind of shitty and hypocritical society are we living in?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Codex Manenssisccording to Unicef close to 20.000 people die EVERY DAY because of the lack of any food.

One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year - are caused by poverty.

An estimated 600m children live in absolute poverty. Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases.

Over 1 billion people live on less than 70 cents a day with nearly half the world’s population - 3 billion - surviving on less than twice that amount.

More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year - one death a minute.

Of the around six billion people in the world, at least 1.2 billion do not have access to safe drinking water

More than 2.4 billion people do not have proper sanitation facilities, and more than 2,2 million people die each year from diseases caused by polluted water and filthy sanitation conditions

The annual dairy subsidy in the EU amounts to $913 per cow per year; EU’s aid to Africa is $8 per African per year 

The top 1% of the world’s richest people earn as much as the poorest 57%

(…)

And our western society is suddenly all worried because there is a slight possibility for a new virus-related pandemia.  Seriously… WTF?.

PA