Hábito y mortaja

The Cowl and the Shroud

A veces el hábito pesa más que una mortaja. Aunque ya no lo uso por comodidad desde hace mucho, salvo los domingos para la misa, aún siento su peso, no en mis hombros sino en todo el cuerpo. De día trabajo en el ambulatorio del hospital como enfermero y de noche hasta antes de la hora de queda en una radio.

At times, the cowl weights more than a shroud. Even though I haven’t used it for comfort for a long time, I save Sundays for mass, even as I feel its weight, not on my shoulders but rather over my entire body. By day, I work in a hospital clinic as a nurse, and by night until, before … , in a radio.

Cada madrugada tengo que salir con los guiones escritos la noche anterior para llevarlos al censor, sólo si este los aprueba se podrán emitir en el programa de esa noche. La impotencia de salir cada día con la mitad de los guiones anulados y con la fría firma de aprobación del censor en los guiones más flojos y las palabras más gastadas son parte del peso que el hábito me cede. Los domingos doy la misa, también bajo la mirada impertinente del censor.

At dawn I have to leave with the screenplays written the previous night to take them to the censor, only if they approve them, can they be sent out for that night’s program. The powerlessness of leaving every day with half the scripts quashed, and with the cold signature of the censor’s approval in the weakest scripts and the most worn words are part of the weight that the cowl thrust upon me. Sundays, I conduct mass, also beneath the rude gaze of the censor.

Cuando el gobierno está a cargo de un hombre de miradas y maneras de militar uno quiere llegar lo más cansado posible a casa para no pensar, pero no siempre es posible. Siempre hay una energía oculta que espera la noche para estallarte dentro del pecho con toda la rabia y evitar, con el ruido de su explosión, que duermas hasta bien entrada la madrugada.

When the government is in charge of a man of visions and military manners, one wants to return home as tired as possible so as not to think, but it’s not always possible. There’s always a hidden energy that waits for the night to burst within one’s chest with all the anger and to quit, with an explosive noise, so that one sleeps until well to the beginning of dawn.

Vivo en la parte trasera de la iglesia, un miserable departamento para una persona, de una habitación más el baño. Mi cama en el suelo está en la esquina más oscura y un sillón de espaldas a la ventana es quizás el único lugar pacífico del planeta para poder leer algo, nunca demasiado tiempo, nunca lo suficiente. Además los libros que de verdad valen la pena son imposibles de encontrar.

I live at the back of the church, a wretched apartment for one person, with one bedroom and more a bathroom. My bed on the floor is in a very dark corner, and a couch with a back and a window is maybe the only peaceful place on the planet where one can read something, never enough time, it’s never enough. Besides the books that are truly worthwhile are impossible to find.

Cuando cada noche llego después de la radio. Ema me abre la puerta, me ha estado esperando desde muy temprano con los ojos puestos en el callejón que da a mi casa, esperando ver pasar militares en furgonetas color verde oliva, o el humo de las explosiones. Ema tiene catorce años y murió aplastada cuando una bomba dirigida a una casa donde supuestamente se refugiaban enemigos del régimen explotó en la puerta de su hogar.

When each night I return after the radio, Ema opens the door for me, she has been waiting for me since early on, with eyes affixed to the alley that runs into my house, waiting to see the soldiers pass in olive-green vans, or the smoke of explosions. Ema is fourteen, and was crushed to death when a bomb, supposedly directed to a house where the regime’s enemies were taking refuge, exploded at her door.

En la cocina doña Roxana prepara un mate y recoge las cosas que yo acabo de traer para la comida. Doña Roxana está ciega porque estuvo buscando a su hijo en todas las comisarías de la ciudad hasta que se le secaron los ojos de tristeza y un militar le disparó por la espalda cuando regresaba pasado el toque de queda.

In the kitchen, Roxana prepares a mate and gathers up the things I just brought for dinner. Roxana is blind, because she had been looking for her son in all the city police stations, until her eyes were dry of tears, and a soldier shot her in the back when she was returning past the curfew hour.

Camila duerme en el suelo, a un costado de mi cama con las manos en los oídos, y en la misma pose que cuando la dejé. Un día sus padres no volvieron a su casa, nunca supo porqué, y unos hombres desesperados en busca de comida entraron a su hogar y la encontraron. Ahora Camila sigue esperando a sus padres tapándose los oídos por si nuevamente entran a la casa a robar.

Camila sleeps on the ground, at the side of my bed with her hands over her ears, and in the same position in which she was left. One day, her parents didn’t return to her house, she never learned why, and some desperate men in search of food entered her house and found her. Now, Camila keeps waiting for her parents, covering her ears as if they were entering the house again to rob it.

En mi cama se acomodó don Isidoro, el fue quizás el primer muerto de la dictadura. Lo atropelló la multitud cuando la policía empezaba a dispersarlos del frente del palacio de gobierno con balas de verdad. Ahora cuando el sol se está por poner empieza a toser, con una tos ronca y sucia, y no para hasta que ya la noche está cerrada.

In my bed, also lies Isidoro. He was maybe the first death under the dictatorship. He was run over by a crowd when the police started to disperse them in front of the government palace, with real bullets. Now, when the sun is starting to rising, he starts to cough, with a dry and hoarse cough, and not until it’s night time does it stop.

Con la mirada busco a Jeremías, está sentado en mi sillón leyendo la Biblia. Se que no es religioso, ni siquiera es católico, pero siempre dice que prefiere leerla a leer cualquier porquería que ahora publica el régimen. Sus ojos son los más tristes que he visto nunca y, aunque nunca me lo dijo, se que murió mientras lo torturaban.

With the vision, I look for Jeremias, he’s seated in my chair reading the Bible. I know he’s not religious, nor even a Catholic, but he always says he prefers reading the Bible over any other crap that the regime now publishes. His eyes are the saddest I have seen ever, and, even though he didn’t say this to me, he died while being tortured.

Me hago campo entre la multitud que vive en mi casa, doña Roxana ya tiene la comida y ha empezado a llorar sin lágrimas, porque se le acabaron hace tiempo. Me topo con Julián y Mateo peleando en la alfombra. Bajo la cama Felipe juega ensimismado con un coche de juguete que se dejó en el hospital un niño herido por una bala.

I make room amongst the crowds that live in my house, Roxana already has food and has started to cry without tears, because she’s been done for a while. I run into Julian and Mateo fighting on the carpet. Beneath the bed Felipe plays dreamily with a toy car, which was left in the hospital by a child wounded by a bullet.

Anastasia se lava el cabello en el baño y en un costado de la cama Gutiérrez, un intelectual de izquierda, juega al ajedrez con Domingo, un soldado que no se atrevió a disparar contra la multitud y lo encerraron en una celda y se olvidaron de él. En el minúsculo patio trasero, Inés lava mi sotana de los domingos al tiempo que reza un rosario que comenzó hace demasiado tiempo.

Anastasia washes her head in the bathroom, and on the side of the bed, Gutierrez, a leftist intellectual, plays chess with Domingo, a soldier who didn’t dare to shoot the crowds and was locked in a cell, and was forgotten by them. On a tiny porch at the back, Ines washes my Sunday pans in time with reciting a rosary, which she started too long ago.

Tengo la casa tomada. Pareciera que todos los muertos de la dictadura viven en ella y no puedo sacármelos de encima. Tampoco deseo hacerlo hasta que la dictadura termine. Son un recuerdo palpable que me recibe cada noche y que me recuerda que a la mañana siguiente tengo que volver con la frente en alta para que el censor me quite la mitad de mis palabras, para que en el ambulatorio intente curar enfermedades y heridas que no llevan a ninguna parte y en la noche pueda ingeniármelas para sacar alguna palabra de esperanza, alguna crítica velada, a través esa capa de asfalto con que nos han pasado por encima.

I have a conquered house. It would seem that all the deaths of the dictatorship lived in this house, and I can’t remove them off of me. Nor do I want to do it, until the dictatorship ends. They are a palpable memory that comes to me every night, and that reminds me that the following morning, I have to return with my head held high so that the censor removes half my words, so that in the clinic, I could try to cure the sick and the wounded who can’t take any part, and in the night, I can figure out how to take some word of hope, some hidden criticism, through that asphalt cape that they have thrown over us.

Esta noche dormí peor que nunca, no pude consolar a Matilda que lloraba por una mascota perdida y a Rogelio que juraba que esta vez tiraría la bomba que le estalló en manos. A las cuatro de la madrugada logré cerrar los ojos a pesar del ruido de mil respiraciones, de mil ronquidos, en mi oído. Toda la noche tuve pesadillas. Pesadillas que me arrastraban, que me pisaban el cuerpo, que me destrozaban el vientre.

This night, I slept worse than ever before, I couldn’t console Matilda who was crying for a lost pet and Rogelio who swore that this time, he would shoot the bomb that had exploded in his hands. At four in the morning, I was able to close my eyes in spite of the noise of a thousand breaths, of a thousand snores, in my ear. All night, I had nightmares. Nightmares that they had dragged me, they had stepped on my body, that they had shattered my stomach.

Todavía había prisioneros y todavía había torturados, pero esas cosas no se pueden decir por radio. Cada vez que escribes eso el Censor te mira divertido y te dice “de dónde saca esas noticias, parece que viviera en otro país”, y un sello de censura cubre todos esos muertos que irán a vivir a mi casa.

There were still prisoners, and still there were those who were tortured, but those things couldn’t be said on the radio. Every time you write that, the Censor looks amusedly at you, and says to you, “Where did you get this news? Looks like you live in some other country!” And a Censor’s seal covers all the dead who will go to live in my house.

Esa mañana cuando desperté sentí el cuerpo adolorido, como si me hubieran golpeado largamente. Decidí no abrir los ojos todavía. Pero un silencio se me apoderó del alma, mi casa estaba vacía. Busqué a Ema, a doña Roxana, a Camila, a don Isidoro, a Jeremías, a Julián, a Mateo, a Felipe, a Anastasia, a Gutiérrez, a Domingo, a Inés, a Rogelio. Ni siquiera la pequeña Matilda que se durmió apoyada en mi brazo está allí. No hay nadie.

That morning, when I woke, my body felt sore, like I had been beaten for a long time. But still, I decided not to open my eyes. But a silence overpowered my soul – my house was empty. I look for Ema, Roxana, Camila, for Isidoro, and Jeremias, Julian, Mateo, Felipe, Anastasia, Gutiérrez, for Domingo, Ines and Rogelio. Not even the tiny Matilda who slept supported by my arms was there. No one was there.

Desconcertado enciendo la radio. Todas las sintonías dicen lo mismo. “El dictador a muerto, la dictadura ha terminado, viva la democracia “, discurso muchas veces repetido como rezando los milagros gozosos. “El dictador ha muerto, los militares han depuesto armas, el congreso se ha reunido, el pueblo es libre nuevamente”. Salgo a la calle y todo es vida, toda la gente se felicita los unos a los otros.

Upset, I started the radio. All the stations said the same: “The dictator is dead, the dictatorship is over, long live democracy,” the speech was repeated many times as if praying for joyful miracles. I walked out into the street, and everything was lively, all the people were congratulating each other.

Llego al Ambulatorio y en éste las mismas enfermedades se curan con los mismos remedios pero una ola de optimismo ha entrado a todas las salas. En ginecología a las niñas que nacen les ponen nombres como Libertad, Vida, Esperanza. Al único niño que nace ese día le ponen Víctor, como si la muerte del dictador, en su cama y rodeado de médicos, hubiera sido una victoria para todos.

I arrive at the clinic, and the same sick people are being cured by the same remedies, but a wave of optimism has entered all the rooms. In Gynecology, the babies being born are being given names like Liberty, Life and Hope. To the only child born that day, they named Victory, as if the death of the dictator, in his bed surrounded by doctor, had been a victory for everyone.

Esa noche hablo de la buena noticia en el programa de radio, por primera vez acuso que todavía hay desaparecidos de los que no tenemos noticias, cárceles repletas de prisioneros políticos, cuerpos que no han llegado a sus familias. Por primera vez salgo exultante de gozo por haber podido decir las verdades. En la puerta de la radio el jefe me felicita por la muerte del dictador como si fuera una fiesta nacional y me pide que el día siguiente tenga más cuidado con mis palabras, que al principal auspiciador de mi programa no le gustaron las declaraciones.

That night, I speak about the good news on the radio programme — by the first time I insinuate that there still are people lost of whom we have no news, jails full of political prisoners, body that have not been sent to their families. It’s the first time, that I leave full of joy, for having been able to tell the truth. At the entrance to the station, the boss congratulates me on the dictator’s death, as if there was a national party, and told me that the next day, we should be very careful with our words, that the main sponsor for my prgram didn’t like the announcements.

Todavía sin reponerme por la bofetada que me dio mi jefe llego a mi casa disfrutando con antelación la casa vacía, los muertos finalmente en paz. Cuando abro la puerta un joven de unos veinte años me mira desde el sillón. Ojea la Biblia aunque no cree en ella, me dice que los otros libros son demasiado caros para comprarlos. Frente a una taza de té me cuenta su historia: Murió mientras se manifestaban frente al palacio de gobierno, pedían mayores salarios para los profesores de la universidad. Una lata de gases lacrimógenos le golpeó la cabeza. Es el primer muerto de la democracia.

Still, without recovering from the slap that my boss gave me, I get home, enjoying the anticipation of an empty house, the dead finally at peace. When I open the door, a youth of some twenty years looks at me from the chair. He glanced at the Bible even though he didn’t believe in it, and said to me that the other books were too expensive to buy. Over a cup of tea, he tells me his story: He died while prtesting in front of the government’s palace, asking for better wages for the university’s professors. A can of tear gas hit him in the head. He’s democracy’s first death.

 

So You Want To Make A Website In Rails

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately asking about how much Ruby on Rails someone needs to know, to start coding a prototype. These come from folks with a variety of skills and levels of comfort with programming, mostly with a smattering of front-end (HTML, CSS, some Javascript) exposure, or perhaps some experience in having done some coding in college or for a job many years previously. This article is an attempt to put together a list of pointers that I have been developing over the last few months to help respond to these requests.

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Where To Eat And Drink In Seattle

I lived in Seattle for three years, and get asked every once in a while where I liked to chow down and get a drink. So here’s a list of places that were my favorites while I lived there, broken down by neighborhood and cuisine, in random order. There should be a whole category of places that serve food to help you with the gray, cold, depressingly misty weekend afternoons but maybe if you’ve had a sufficient quantity of beer, it won’t matter.

I never found a satisfactory Chinese, Indian or Mexican place in Seattle. For context, my favorite places to eat these cuisines at in San Francisco are, respectively, Oakland’s Chinatown (because the parking’s a lot easier); Dosa and Aslam’s Rasoi; a bunch of places in the Mission (of course.)

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The Cultural Roots of Intolerance

The murders of Trayvon Martin and of Narendra Dabholkar are both attributable to flaws in the cultures of the countries where they were perpetrated. Martin’s death came as a result of a culture of fear that had been exacerbated by the divisive and polarized political debates in the United States. Dabholkar’s killers were emblematic of the anxieties that many in India find themselves gripped by, as that nation continues to make its stumbling way towards modernity.

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The Trainer Wheels Came Off

I signed on to my first job the Tuesday after Labor Day 2001. I quit my last one, the Friday before the same weekend of this year.

The euphoria wore off on Wednesday. On Thursday, I decided that the biggest challenge of working for yourself was not knowing if you had done a good job at the end of the day or not. For over fifteen years – including the years I was in grad school – I pretty much knew the answer to that question every single day. If I thought that my boss (“advisor,” when I was a grad student) was feeling good about me, then I could check the day off as a success. Otherwise, I knew I had to work harder.

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It’s Funny Being An Online Consumer Sometimes: A Brief Twitter Client Review

I’ve recently decided to take my social media presence a lot more seriously, for various reasons, which includes one very good one that I’m not quite ready to reveal yet. At any rate, I’ve had to consider how I’m going to consume multiple social media feeds, to which I might quite easily add more over time. Let’s just say I’m experimenting with a lot of ideas right now, and each one might merit its own marketing channel.

I was a devoted user of Tweetdeck many years ago, and have been using it on and off recently. What caused a big change in my relationship with Tweetdeck was that I divested myself of my Windows machines and have been using only a Macbook Pro now for a few days. I’m pretty sure I’m going to stick to an OSX machine for the near future, mainly because I’m coding a lot more now, and the *nix ecosystem support you get from the OSX family of devices is what clinched it for me. Well, more specifically, it was the ease of using the Ruby on Rails frameworks on OSX, compared to struggling with Windows and Cygwin.

That’s a different story, though – this one is about being an online consumer, rather than a member of the developer community. My problem with Tweetdeck was that the scroll function seemed to have mysteriously disappeared. Now I know this is probably operator error – not only does the helpful help screen on the Tweetdeck client tell me that my arrow keys should allow me to scroll through … well, through something, it wasn’t clear what … but I couldn’t find any obvious complaints online about this functionality being unavailable on Tweetdeck’s Mac client.

What I did find though were articles making oblique comments about how the client isn’t what it used to be. A search on the Internet for the phrase “tweetdeck scroll down” revealed titles like “9 reasons why the new Tweetdeck is a step backwards,” and “How I learned to stop worrying and love new Tweetdeck.” A review that echoes Kubrick’s satire of the Cold War is hardly something to inspire confidence. This was a perfectly serviceable client, that did its job nicely. Why did Twitter break it?

Of course, I know why they did – because someone at Twitter figured they had to justify their new ownership of the product, and the only way someone can leave their mark on what they own is to change it, even if it’s a violation of the adage that what isn’t broke, don’t need to be fixed. I have been an Internet product manager too long to not recognize this urge. It hurts to be on the other side of the fence, though, to be the consumer who’s been affected by someone’s grandiose attempt at misplaced creativity.

Reading reviews of other clients only led me further into the jungle of mediocrity that Internet consumers have to face. As such reviews have to be, they were all subjective – none of them even tried to compare the clients on a somewhat-equal footing. Some of the points noted were barely passable beyond being table stakes features – Digital Trends’ reviewer notes for example that “Tweetings … offers an admirable set of features including filters, a tweet scheduler, and the ability to tweet more than 140 characters.” Really? I can tweet more than 140 characters? How groundbreaking!

The icing on the cake after I had picked my final choice – to buy a copy of the Twitterific app. $4.99 later, I realized that it didn’t have a way to line up the streams in a single window.

I then switched to Hootsuite, which at least this far appears to be free – I know there’s a premium version but my basic usage needs appear not to require that level of service. But of course, it doesn’t come as a native app and I have to load it in my browser. That wouldn’t be a big deal, really, except that now that I’m a Mac user, I can’t tab through each window of the same application. Thankfully, there are at least three browsers that run on an OSX machine, at least two of which support the Hootsuite client, so if I just designate one browser application as my Hootsuite client, I can still get to my Twitter streams with easy keyboard strokes.

I don’t know if there’s a single service/company to blame here for my travails, though I’m sorely tempted to blame Apple and Steve Jobs – not only does the Apple App Store not allow me to try apps out for a brief while and get refunded (you can do that with the Google Play Store), it’s the Tab key behavior that really kills things. And it could be that the scroll problems that started off my journey are in fact unique to the design of the Apple GUI.

But there is suffering for the typical Internet consumer beyond the confines of the Apple Inc walled garden. Products are reviewed poorly, if at all, and the freemium, tiered, pricing model makes it almost a virtue to not tell consumers what they’re getting for their money. There might always be a new pricing level lurking around the corner as you get more hooked into a product. Would consumers tolerate auto manufacturers who wouldn’t tell them clearly that, say, once they start driving past 65 mph, they have to send in an extra $2,000 to the dealership? Yet, that’s exactly what we all willingly sign up for with many online products.

For the moment, I have no solutions, other than to stay away from being a consumer as much as possible. But there’s a good lesson to be learned here in my future as a product manager and service provider!

 

The Dark Side Of The Personalized Web

There has been a consumer revolution in the last decade, along the lines of what happened in the fifties during the “Mad Men” hey-day, but not all is good when there is so much consumer choice. Nothing exemplifies this better than how consumption of media has shifted from the traditional pull model to the socialized push model of Facebook and Twitter.

Some of these changes have happened even within this decade, so rapid has been the evolution of the consumer Internet in the last few years. One example of how the pull model was supported by what is now the “old” technology is RSS, and the story of how it has been supplanted by social media.

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Standing Up A Basic User-Based Site On Rails 3

I put together a basic recipe for a Rails 3 site to get Devise and CanCan working to enable authentication and authorization on a minimal site. I also threw in a small tweak to get it to work “out of the box” on Heroku – which basically means a change to use SQLite3 only in development and to use Postgres in production instead.

There are two sets of steps you have to run to get this basic functionality working: Continue reading “Standing Up A Basic User-Based Site On Rails 3”