“I will never know how long we wept with her”

I made the mistake of reading this post in the beginning of a work day. I couldn’t think after having read it. I couldn’t even feel right away. I was just stunned. I spent the next few minutes just paralyzed without knowing what to think or do.

I was “awakened” from that state by the sound of the door of my office opening with the arrival of my colleague, so I had to brush what I’ve just read from my mind and try to act normal. A busy day was ahead of me, so I really had to start forcing my brain to enter  programming mode.

Thankfully, in this case, I had a very busy and stressful day, which allowed my brain to shun that story into oblivion. It was only later that day, as I was stuck in traffic, that the story came back to me. There I was, complaining that I was sick and tired of being stuck in traffic, when the story promptly comes back into my head. And I don’t know if it was the stress of the day or the simple fact that I simply haven’t been able to sleep well for over a week and was really, really tired, or (probably more to the point) that the story had touched me so profoundly, but I too wept the whole journey back home.

What affected me so much about this story was not only the fact that a little girl was going to die of a brain tumor. Was the way this little girl was confronting the situation. This was not one of those movie-like scenes where you see the child embracing the parents and saying beautiful things only kids, that still don’t understand death, say. This is the harsh truth of powerless parents that have to say to their little child that she is going to die and the child shows the most humane and heartbroken of reactions: she’s afraid to die.

And as a parent, this is the most awful moment in life: when you see your kids suffering and you feel powerless to help your kids. What do you do then? You just embrace them and weep with them.

Two movie recomendations

I’ve recently watched two movies that are quite different but equally great. I just feel I should share them with you:

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About Time

This a time-travel movie that is not actually about time travel. So if you’re thinking about discussing how this would be possible from a physics point of view, forget it.

It’s a simple movie about the choices of a time traveler and how those affect him and the ones around him.

It’s quite beautiful and endearing and the last 15 minutes or so are surprising and will make you want to hug your family. It’s lame, I know, but sometimes this is just what you need.

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Enough Said

This is not a romantic comedy (although it is filled with amusing moments). This is a movie about real people and real relationships and you can definitely feel like this could happen with you or with someone you know.

What caught me by surprise and made me like the movie so much was not the plot (as that is more less revealed in the trailer). It was the amazing acting and chemistry between the two main actors. James Gandolfini (now deceased) has always been great in almost everything he starred in, but you couldn’t shake that Soprano’s shadow always lurking around. In this movie, he was definitely able to leave that behind and present a completely different and fragile person.

But Julia Louis-Deyfus definitely steals the show and is able to go quite beyond her comedy background and reveal a very powerful dramatic actress. Just superb.

If you find yourself in need of comfort feel-good movies with great stories and actors, these are the ones you should be looking for.

Controlling a toy car in a race track using an Arduino and a sonar

I thought about creating different ways to control a toy car in a race track, instead of the typical handheld joystick-like device. One of those ideas was based on the use of a sonar (that measures distance to an object) as the controller for the car – the closer the hand to the sonar, the highest the acceleration.

arduino_sonar_race_track

However, considering that the sonar works through eco-location and that the track makes an infernal sound, the sonar accuracy is affected by the sound of the track, thus rendering this approach useless.

Any alternative ideas? I will try the best one (as long as it is not cost-prohibitive) :)

Spinning paintings

When I was a kid, I used to do these spinning paintings using a small motor (salvaged from a broken toy car) connected a 9V battery with a piece of paper on top. The effect was mesmerizing and I had fun for hours.

Last week, given the amount of hardware I gutted for parts (for a digital fabrication workshop), I ended up with a bunch of different motors and that brought back those memories. So, I decided to do the same setup again, this time using an arduino (to easily control the speed given to the motor) to see if my son would find it as amusing as I did.

Check the video for a demo:

My son loved it … and so did I :) Here’s the setup:

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And an interesting result:

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R.I.P. Google Reader

And so an era ends.

RIP Google Reader

I’ve been using Feedly as an alternative because the mobile apps are quite good and the website is a “prettier” google reader. And they actually listen to the users and implement requested features. Also, it seems my Mac RSS app of choice, Reeder, will soon have support for it, so I probably won’t miss Google Reader that much.

The only winning move is not to play

What happens when you leave 16 autonomous AI bots alone to play Quake 3 Arena against each other for 4 years? Apparently, they play the ultimate Cold War game and achieve “world peace”.

I don’t know if this story is true or not, but it actually makes sense from a purely logical self-preservation point of view. The bots were programmed to study which strategies were more efficient in guaranteeing their survival. After a few years, they probably realized that the best strategy is actually to not engage each other and they all win.

Check the story thread’s screenshot here.

(Seen here via @sh4na)