Ready for 2019

This blog has not had many posts in 2018 but the “new year’s post” is almost mandatory, so here it goes.

Family

December was similar to last year, spending most of the time in Portugal with the family and coming back to Berlin right before the New Year’s eve.
After 3 years in Berlin, I think I am finally reconciled with the oddities/particularities of the city, my German is improving, and I do enjoy living in here more than last year. We do miss our friends in Geneva and other places, and of course it’s ever more and more difficult to leave our family in Portugal after seeing how much our son and our daughter enjoy being with the grandparents and cousins.

A picture of Lagos in Portugal, showing a landscape with big rocks and a cliff by the sea.

Lagos, Portugal, where I spent part of my vacation

Still on the personal side, the biggest event this year has been my daughter’s surgery. She needed a throat surgery to remove part of her tonsils, in order to breath and sleep better, among other things that would improve as a result (having more energy, eating and growing more, etc.). It was a “simple” throat surgery, but not without risks (we spent 5 days in the hospital for the post-surgery recovery and observation). I tried to explain it to her as if it were a special sleep-over at the hospital where the folks there would help her breath and sleep better, so much that she was disappointed when we had to reschedule the surgery 3 times (2 times because she was sick, 1 time because the hospital organization is not the best and they lost our appointment!). She faced the event like the brave girl she is and she was always patient too. In the end, the results were amazing and could be seen almost immediately: she now has much more energy, sleeps well, eats and speaks better… like night and day!
I hope my son doesn’t have the same condition, but judging on how much energy, strength, and overall physical agility he has, I’d say he’s fine 🙂

I cannot emphasize enough though, that even if the surgery scheduling was a mess, the surgery and post-surgery care could not have been better. From the doctors, to the nurses, and other assistants, everybody was really nice, patient, and professional. Having any surgery on your child is always something very delicate and challenging to deal with, and the staff did make me feel like my daughter was in the best hands possible. Of course, this care was the same anyone would get with a normal/public coverage in Germany, and thus it’s even more remarkable. Even though in the EU we sometimes take Universal Health Coverage for granted, it’s good to remind ourselves how precious it is.

Work

2018 also meant some changes in my daily work at Endless as I joined a new team to help deliver a new project with a different type of users. This project is called Hack, and aims to deliver a desktop computer experience that integrates elements to teach programming and computing concepts to users from age 8 and up. This also meant that I traveled twice to work with the rest of the team from the San Francisco office, and it’s always nice to hang out with my colleagues directly.
We have already shipped the first computers around Christmas in a great effort from everyone involved (in this team and others), and I am proud of what we’ve achieved! There is still a lot of work to be done, so be sure to follow the news about the project.

With this new project and being a father of two means I didn’t really have much more time/energy left for side projects but I still managed to give a presentation about ostree and Flatpak at CERN, and at the Linux Technologies Berlin meetup, which I really enjoyed and hope to have the opportunity of giving more presentations this new year too.

I guess that’s already a good enough summary for the small attention span we all have in this decade, so I will leave it here.

Have a great 2019, everyone!

I’ve built a box

This is not the typical post I use to write (which is usually about what I do at work, often related to GNOME, so if you’re not interested, just skip it…). But a couple of months ago I did something different that I still want to write about. That thing was a wooden box (sorry if you were expecting a Gavin Box) that I was asked to carve by my brother for his wedding, to be used for carrying the wedding rings.

The wedding had a Game of Thrones’s theme (there was not blood in it though, if you’re wondering), so naturally my brother wanted some of that in the box. Thus, my initial idea was to just buy a box and carve something to do with GoT and include their names. Something like this, as my brother sent me for inspiration.

However, upon ordering some box online, I noticed that not only was the box too small to carve (and the Targaryen’s dragon has a lot of details), it was also extremely poor quality: the wood was too light, the hinges were so loose they made clicking sounds just by moving the box. I also couldn’t find other boxes that seemed to fit my requirements online, so I resorted to building one myself.
When I was a kid, I loved to make stuff with wood, and I would use some spares from a local carpentry to build stuff like tiny houses, swords, crossbows, … So building a box shouldn’t be so difficult. I went and bought the wood, but the only issue actually was that I had only a handsaw… And cutting straight with a handsaw is not easy. So I had to borrow an electrical circular saw from my friend Chris, who also let me borrow a few other useful tools like clamps (thank you for that) which helped a lot when I glued the pieces together.

Block of wood covered with a print of the box's cover design, showing the Targaryen and Stark's crests + the names Nádea and Luís, with a wedding ring between them, and the date July 9 2018

The pencil drawings on the wooden lid

Close-up of carving the House Stark's wolf

Close-up of the name Nádea carved on the wooden lid

After I had the box glued together and the lid cut out, I felt it had some rough look but I liked that. So I proceeded with the carving. I put together the design I wanted on Inkscape and transferred it to the lid, then proceeded with the carving, using a nice tool set I bought online. I had never really carved anything worth before, so after a few rough beginnings I got it as I wanted. The letters were, as expected, extremely tricky, but I found the whole activity very zen. Since I work usually until a bit later in the evening, and we need to put the kids to bed, etc., on week days I’d just do a couple of letters after dinner, which would take me around one hour or so.
In the beginning I was going to carve only the design elements, but my artistic wife told me that maybe I should just carve the space between the elements too, and I am happy I listened to her. In the end, I decided to do these long carved waves all over the sides of the box too, and I am glad with the effect. The inside of the lid was also looking very flat (it was a single piece of wood), so I carved it in just for it too look more like a traditional box lid.Wooden lid with all the elements carved, but the date on it shows still an L which would be for July since I made a mistake with the date.

Like any decent software engineer, this project couldn’t go bug free. Turns out I made a mistake in the date, printing JUL instead of JUN… And I only noticed it after I had carved the L letter and realized that July would be after our flight back from Portugal (and moving the wedding to accommodate my error was inconvenient). So I had to fix it by making the L disappear and changing the date style (since there was no more space left).

Lid with all the elements and space in-between carved

Inside part of the lid, showing a carved-in  wave-like pattern

Bottom part of the box

The inside of the lid already with the closing magnet and painted.

The final steps were to add a closing mechanism (a hole to insert a small round magnet, to hold the lid and the bottom of the box together), paint it with a wood-special paint, and add the hinges (which was a bit challenging since I did it only using the carving tools and sandpaper).

Final box viewed from above and back, showing the silver color hinges.

Final box viewed from the front.

Since the purpose was for it to carry the wedding rings, I bought some wine color fabric, stuffed it with whatever-the-stuffing-material-is-called, and added a couple of strings for tying the rings (unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of it). The interior was not glued to the box, as I wanted it to be used after the wedding for whatever they want.

And that was it! It took me more than a month in total, but I am quite happy with the result and enjoyed the process a lot. Working with a computer all day, there’s something very relaxing about doing something more physical with one’s hands. So if your work and free time usually involve staring at a screen, and you feel like you could use an artistic hobby, I hope this post inspires you to do some wood carving.

Have a great 2018!

I have spent most of December with my family in Portugal and, as it’s becoming tradition, Helena and I (and the kids) are spending the New Year’s eve alone at our place. It gets more and more difficult to say good bye to our family every time we need to come back, especially now that Olivia really enjoys being there and spending time with the grandparents. But I come back with my batteries charged, ready for the coming year.

This year, similar to 2014, will be one that we will never forget because of the birth of our second child, Gil. Gil is a force of Nature! So different from the quiet baby that Olivia was; he always has energy and is (almost) always smiling. But even though we are usually very tired, it’s also much more interesting that they are different like that.
Life is certainly more challenging with two babies than with one, it’s not a linear relation of “2 Ă— kid = 2 Ă— work”, but having a flexible schedule, an understanding manager, and an awesome wife, allows me to manage.

To add more challenges to our personal life, we have also moved to a new place (still in Berlin) this year. The move was already going to be tricky since we did it ourselves instead of hiring a company, but it became boss-like when I got injured in my leg (tore muscle) while playing squash 4 days before we rented a truck and were supposed to carry all big items in it. But that’s gone, and we love our new place!

Even if it was a good year for me personally, in terms of global events, 2017 seemed pretty much the continuation of the shitty ending of 2016. That feeling of “end of the world” was still present all over the news and general day to day talk. In Portugal, the 3rd safest country in the world, more than 100 people were killed by wildfires, and the year has had a dangerous drought, to the point of having to distribute water by train/trucks to some cities… But sure, it’s chilly in some places so global warming must be just a hoax
Luckily the 2017’s big elections in Europe (France, the Netherlands, and Germany), which could set the Union on fire, proved that people can still choose the better route for their lives, despite all the attempts of scaring them off. The current situation in the EU is still alarming but at least it held better than I thought it would.

Workwise, it’s been another very busy year at Endless. I am still in charge of the App Center (our GNOME Software fork) and doing what I can to tame this beast. Endless’ mission has always been a noble one, but with the current direction of the world it’s even more significant and needed; so I will continue to give my best and hope we can keep making a difference in less fortunate regions. If you want to help, check out our job openings.

I really hope 2018 is a great year, with more hope than the past few years. So everybody reading this, have a great 2018!

Hello World, from Gil!

Last week another major milestone in my life happened: our son was born!

This time it was much less stressful than with Olivia’s but still, the feeling of hearing your newborn cry for the first time, even before you can see them, it’s just too amazing to describe.

With 4150 g and 53 cm, Gil (pronounced with a soft G) classifies as a big baby and, like his sister, he’s quite peaceful and has very beautiful black hair.

We feel extremely lucky and thankful for our children, and I am very curious to see how the experience of being a parent of two kids will be. But for now I am taking some time off, helping Helena recover, and enjoying the first days of our family of 4.

Hope for a good 2017

As Berlin’s fireworks roar outside (for hours now!), I want to write my typical end of year post with some thoughts of 2016 and what’s coming.

We are leaving behind a year that many (most?) of us will not miss. I hope 2017 will be a better one but the global events that took place throughout 2016 do not make me very confident about that. With unusual political events affecting the lives of millions of people, an apparently acceptance of indecency, bigotry, and hate, together with the ongoing humanitarian crisis and senseless violence, this is surely not the world I had pictured for my children.
Still, I want to be positive and hope that by seeing what’s happening in some places, people can make good choices in 2017 (I am talking in broad terms but we got some important elections coming soon in Europe).

On a more positive note — because personally 2016 was actually a very good year –, this past year I also started working for Endless and moved from SwitzerFrance to Berlin, Germany. I love my job and I have been working very hard to do my share of Endless’ mission. The current direction of the world only validates our mission more, and motivates me to work harder. It’s difficult however to make time for everything, and again my pet projects took the hit, so no big updates in that subject this year.

The other big news is that Helena and I will be parents again soon! The joy of raising a child is something so special that it is hard for me to put into words so I can just say that we are of course extremely happy and curious (and scared too) about how life will be with two kids.

Happy 2017 everyone!