17 April 2014

Stephen Wolfram's Introduction to the Wolfram Language

Although I've dabbled in a number of programming languages over the years, I've never seen anything as impressive as the new Wolfram Language promises to be. I'm no futurist and much less a prophet, but this looks like the way my 11-old-son will be coding when he goes to college.

16 April 2014

Haiti: The Graveyard of Good Intentions

"Haiti has practically become a trash can where everything people in other countries don't need comes here." - Ketcia Pierre-Louis, Haitian Businesswoman

Bertrhude Albert and Priscilla Zelaya, co-founders of Projects for Haiti, share in the talk below about unsustainable aid provided to Haiti. This is a topic I've blogged about previously with regard to secondhand clothing, also known as "pepe" in Haiti. Why, after decades of governmental and NGO aid, Haitians continue to suffer from grinding poverty? It isn't for lack of good intentions on the part of foreigners. 

See Also:
Projects for Haiti (Official Website)
Haiti's Second-Hand Clothing Market
Haiti's History of Poverty Continues
Book Review: Because We Are
Ticket to Paradise: A Short Documentary About Haitian Immigrants in Brazil

15 April 2014

Brazil's Failed Projects

Brazil must be an incredibly difficult place to be a project manager for public infrastructure projects. Byzantine layers of government bureaucracy, political conniving, negotiations with labor unions, delays in project funding and so forth have to make it a nightmarish scenario. Most Brazilians I know are profoundly pessimistic, even to the point of fatalism, about their country's prospects with regard to the upcoming World Cup and then the Olympics. The more optimistic say that things will come together at the last minute and be fine, but by far the majority say that although the games will happen, it will be a mess.

This country has a history of incomplete and failed projects, as Simon Romero and Nadia Sussman reported this past weekend for The New York Times. Click here for the story, and also be sure to watch the accompanying report below.

See Also:
Brazil's Mega Projects

14 April 2014

Is Voice Communication Becoming Cool Again?

For a few years now, with the advent of smartphones like the iPhone and various Android devices, I've joked that we use our phones for everything except making calls. Both when I lived in the United States and now in Brazil, the telephone functionality of my phone is what I use least. I spend most of my time on email, sms, Twitter and Facebook. There is a handful of other apps I also access, but those are the primary ones. The "phone app" comes into play only perhaps once every two or three days any more. Lately I've started to notice behavior in my teenage daughter and her friends that seems to go a little against this trend.

Although they don't really make phone calls, my daughter and her friends use the audio message functionality of WhatsApp fairly frequently. I've seen her sending voice messages back and forth with classmates from high school as well as old friends from the United States. In the case of the latter it makes sense, since they live so far apart now. As for local acquaintances...that isn't as easy to explain.

Now, obviously, they still sent text messages via various apps and rarely use the actually phone functionality. At the same time, this seemingly new trend towards voice communication interests me. It's certainly not as fraught with possible misunderstandings, as is the case with typed texting (emoticons due little to help at times). In a voice message we can communicate and hear tone of voice, conveying more accurately the emotion involved.

In any event, this is just a tendency I've observed. It might be something, or it might be nothing. Could be worth someone following up on in some way. Just a thought.