Axiom of Infinity

by Pedro Lopes

Dad, Computer Science PhD, Software Developer at Coimbra Genomics

Read this first

Fear

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In parenthood, everything is fear. I live in constant fear. Maybe this is also true for life in general, but I’ve never been as fearful as I am now. And what does this cause? Ongoing stress.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a small hospital room. Unfortunately, my son is here (again) because of some pulmonary issues. Winter sucks. It’s not his fault but he’s definitely the one suffering more with all these problems. Nevertheless, being here is just a terrible reminder of how we let fear control our lives. Maybe not completely, but in some way or the other, fear is always there.

 Ignorance is bliss

I envy my 8 months son. I do. For multiple reasons. But at the moment, the most important one is that he’s innocent and completely fearless. He can stand on top of a ledge in the tallest skyscraper without thinking about any consequences. Living (growing!) brings knowledge about everything

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On fatherhood

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I’ve been planning to write this text for so long. I really want it to be perfect, which probably reflects my atittude towards parenting. Maybe this is due to my own personal history or to my paradigmatic ideas about life or maybe something else. It doesn’t matter, the feeling is the same: I was born to do this, I was born to be a father.

Alas, the perfect writing opportunity and the perfect text will never come, and I’ll never mangle all the ideas I have in any coherent form. In a sense, this is a great metaphor for the latest year: trying to cope with everything in a sane daily life within the insanity of being a first-time parent. So, I decided to forget about copy and structure: I’ll just dump everything as it comes along.

The always upbeat soundtrack of your life.

In the first few months it’s like there’s an upbeat soundtrack playing constantly every day all days. Like in a

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Driving to the Future

Road

Before reading, checkout Google’s self driving car promo.

Fully autonomous driving has always been the goal of our project, because we think this could improve road safety and help lots of people who can’t drive.

I believe that in a couple generations (perhaps my grandkids?) we will have cities where all traffic is autonomous. We can do this today, technically at least. As Google cleverly shown, we can build self-driving cars today. They work, they are safe and they use technologies that have been available for the past decade. Alas, the decision to allow these cars in our cities is still a couple decades away. The underlying problem is not the technology, is how to perform a smooth transition to this new reality. This is the real challenge for the wide adoption of self driving cars.

Although we have the technology to build self driving cars today, we cannot let them roam freely

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Hero/Villain

You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

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I know that citation is not an actual literature reference, but it fits so many scenarios that it’s perfect to start this rant. Unfortunately, in several areas of our lives — work, friends, relationships, family, hobbies, etc — it is way too easy to go from hero to villain.

Everyone has friendships that peaked. There’s moments when it’s all great, going out, common vacation, shared dinners… Yet, it’s easy to reach a saturation point. When we start seeing the small personal features that we dislike. At this stage, it’s better to keep the distances. We don’t have to be together all the time, all the days. Or else, we’ll just be villains to each other’s eyes.

With families it’s the same. We all know the stories of brothers that do not speak with each other or entire families

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Patterns

We, as human beings, are animals of habit. We easily fall into routines, and even more easily fall into spirals of motivation, depression, angst or cheer.

Understanding the way our body and our mind process these habits, our patterns, is vital to get the best out of our day, our week or, in the end, our life.

I’m expecting my first son in about 10 weeks. This gets me thinking again and again about how I will organize my time to accommodate everything I want to accomplish. From spending the maximum possible quality time with my kid and my family, to maintaining a good productivity at work, up to keeping up with some ongoing side projects.

Hence, I’m trying to find my current productivity pattern. My goal is to uncover the best places to put everything I want to do during a regular week. Weekends are off-limits as they can be insanely productive or spent binge watching some TV show

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The thin line of Trust

Do you trust people? Or do you simply not care about the results of their actions?

Dealing with people, wether in your job or in your social life, always implies managing trust at various levels. However, once in a while, things can go sideways and trust can simply be (seen as), not caring. It is a very blurry line.

When you’re with friends or family, you can confide in them, trusting their advice. You can trust them with your kids, with reminding you of something, with being at a given place at a given time… The question is, how do you measure, as a “truster” (the one who trusts) or as a “trustee” (the one who is trusted), the degree of confidence and caring in the relationship?

For example, to trust some acquaintance with your son, maximizes the caring about the subject being trusted. On the other end of the spectrum, trusting someone to be at a dinner with more than 20 people

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Vroom with a View.

30 years ago the original Macintosh was unleashed. Despite the ensuing chaos at Apple, we cannot ignore the revolution it brought to the idea of a “personal computer”. Without the original Mac and all its children, we would probably still be dragging black suitcases to work or typing on beige IBM boxes.

I got my first Mac in March 2007. It was one of the first models after the transition to Intel, and it was an entire revolution for my workflow. Previously, I owned a 15" Compaq, one of the first with integrated Wi-Fi. I was using both Windows and Linux at the time, mostly Kubuntu for university projects. I got some advice from friends and I had tested the previous model for a couple of hours (borrowed from a roommate), but nothing had me prepared for the dramatic changes ahead.

In a heartbeat, I got an OS that was much better looking and much more usable than both Windows and Linux

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On Writing

Sharing my writing workflow

After last week’s blogging hiatus I started planning this week’s post and quickly realized I didn’t really know what to write about… I thought about some ideas I had stashed before but they weren’t that interesting. And as I was thinking about what to write, it became clear: why not write about writing?

Over the last few years I’ve written quite a few things, blog posts (I had a “humour” blog once, it wasn’t funny), scientific articles, interviews, press releases, project grant applications & deliverables and a (big) thesis. During this, I developed my own writing process. I know it doesn’t suit everyone, but sharing is good!

My iterative writing workflow is comprised of three steps:

  1. Plan & outline

  2. Write freely

  3. Refine

I’m big proponent of the “plan ahead” mentality. Always have everything well mapped before starting the actual work is an essential step

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The Motivation for doing Science

I find your lack of faith disturbing.Darth Vader, Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope

For better and for worse, I consider myself to be some kind of scientist. Not a lab scientist of course, but someone who tries to apply computer innovations to the biomedical field. There’s nothing wrong with this (obviously!). However, sometimes, finding the right motivation for doing science can be quite challenging.


It was very easy to find the right motivation for starting a PhD instead of going to a private company. Luckily, I had the opportunity to join a bioinformatics group that was growing steadily every year and where I was able to make my own research path on new interesting subjects (service composition, semantic web, data integration…). More importantly (at least for the control freak in me), I was in charge of the entire development cycle of new products. Requirements analysis

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Filling the Void

Exactly one year ago I had the public defense for my PhD dissertation. This was the finish line after 4 intense years of hard work. For me, a PhD is more than the combination of a publication record with a heavy dissertation. A PhD is the path, the journey from your first algorithm to the final thesis.

And once you reach the end of this path, there are plenty of options to chose from. One of those, the main one I would say, is to stay in academia and keep on doing research. Obviously tempting. You can continue working on your own projects. You’ll probably get a couple undergrad students to pursuit some particular research domains for you. And you get the chance to finally finish writing that long-gestating paper you’ve been working on for the last months… However, this is seldom a good thing.

The problems arise when you finally land with your feet on the ground, when the work you

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