my personal blog

April 14, 2008

Remembering the D.C. Starbucks Murders

Filed under: personal,thoughts,work — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 10:34 am

With so much tragedy in the world, it’s easy to become jaded, and unless you can identify with a particular story, these tragedies are easy to ignore. The only news story that’s ever haunted me was the triple-murder at a Starbucks in D.C. that happened during the summer of 1997.

The other day, I saw an episode of Murder by the Book on Tru TV about the Georgetown murders, and it gave me chills. I’ve seen so many crime dramas, and watched so many documentaries on crimes on Discovery Channel, TLC, etc. that I never even associate with the victims—I associate with the cops and forensic investigators every time. What makes this case so different? Starbucks.


April 5, 2008

A Long View on the 2nd Bush Administration

Filed under: politics,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:12 am

When George W. Bush’s presidency began, I was young enough for my complaints to be dismissed as stemming from my being young and inexperienced in life. Back then, I worried that the United States was approaching decline; that she could no longer support her people with the jobs needed to keep growing; that without immediately changing her course, we would be lost.

Some eight years ago, we were on a precipice. We chose, by a very slim margin, to back down; and then, we were pushed off. Over the years that followed, we have fallen. We have lost our security, our rights, our jobs, our financial stability, our global standing, and only God knows how much else. And I believe that we’re not going to understand the full extent of how far we’ve been pushed until years after the 2nd Bush administration has passed.

I was thinking of this as I read about a poll wherein 61% of historians polled viewed the 2nd Bush presidency as the worst in our nation’s history. Whether or not we elect the right man for the job this time around, we’re still in for an entire generation of problems. A generation of problems which we will have traced to one moment in the year 2000, when the ship of state was hijacked.

Perhaps a decade from now we will be able to take a long, sober look at this administration. Only then, when we have (hopefully) undone most of the damage it has caused, will we truly understand exactly how bad this administration has been.

July 14, 2006

Decentralized Identity Building

Filed under: technology,thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 5:13 pm

Can you build a brand or forge an identity across many disjointed pieces of content and references across the Internet?

Anyone for whom the Internet has been a major part of life over the years surely has numerous posts and references immortalized throughout the Internet, and yet, what good is any of it if you can’t quickly refer to it? A single comment on a forum or someone’s blog might be inconsequential by itself, but after years of putting time and effort into writing good comments and posts, it develops into a body of work that could fill a book, or many books, and yet, it all disappears into the ether. Don’t you want to take that writing with you?


June 19, 2006

Earth 2.0

Filed under: technology,thoughts — Alfonso Surroca @ 3:34 pm

I said recently that I thought 2007 could be the year of location-based services. But, after reading this WIRED article on O’Reilly Media’s Where 2.0 conference, I think it might just come even sooner.

It started with numerous “mashup” websites, mixing up Google Maps with other sites’ data feeds to provide new and novel functionality, such as the ability to plot real-estate listings within a Google map, or the ability to embed the latitude/longitude or zipcode of a photograph within Flickr’s tags, and then use these to plot them on a Google map. (more…)

May 22, 2006


Filed under: thoughts — Alfonso Surroca @ 8:25 pm

The U.S. Constitution ought to be ammended to explicitly include the right to privacy.

That is all.

technorati tags: constitution, privacy, politics

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May 31, 2005

Why Bush’s 2nd Term Is A Good Thing

Filed under: politics,thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 6:39 pm

Yes, I’m a staunch liberal, and I think the Bush administration’s second term could be the best thing that ever happened to us, and the worst thing that ever happened to the Bush administration. Wipe that shocked look off your face and read on to see why.

During the 2004 presidential elections, as Democrats were divided between the hopeful “lets get out the vote” and the hopeless “Bush is going to win” camps, I thought about what a second term for George W Bush would turn out, and thought what was at the time considered blasphemy amongst my fellow Democrats: “Perhaps it would be for the best in the long-run if Bush won a second term”

My reasoning was that it takes longer than one term for people to understand and feel the full effect of an administration’s decisions. With a single term, the Bush administration could escape accountability for its mistakes, but the four years of the second term would give ample time for the effects of these decisions to set in. While the first four years might zip by with momentum, the second term tends to be difficult, even for a popular administration. The administration comes under closer scrutiny.

Take Iraq, for example. magine if Kerry had one the election last November. We would still be embroiled in post-war Iraq, because after the Bush administration set the ball rolling, we can’t just pick it up and leave. The difference being, the public would see Kerry making war decisions, and as the years roll on, it would eventually “forget” that the previous administration started the war, and become frustrated over the new administration instead.

Now, Bush has four more years of the public’s increasingly negative view of his handing of Iraq. The Bush administration has four more years for the public to become increasingly frustrated with things like the economy, unemployment, gas prices, and so fort. And during this term, 9/11 will no longer cut it as an excuse.

I thought about this as I read an article from today’s Washington Post, Bush’s Political Capital Spent, Voices in Both Parties Suggest (By Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post Staff Writers). It’s not terribly long, and I suggest you read it. The article describes how it appears that just six months into his second term, Bush’s “mandate” has already disappeared. Apparently, its gotten to where even Republican politicians are growing frustrated with this administration. Its support is waning, and the poll numbers show this. A Gallup poll puts Bush’s approval rating at a rock-bottom 45% approval of his handling of Social Security is around 30%

The most interesting piece of information to slip out in the second term so far, however, has got to be the Downing Street Memo, which has gotten members of Congress asking the question, “Did the Bush administration deliberately mislead America into going to war with Iraq?” The administration has thus far skirted the topic entirely, and the most disturbing thing is, so has the mainstream media.

I mention this today as an article by Ralph Nader, The ‘I’ word is published in The Boston Globe, detailing exactly why, if the answer to the previous question is “yes”, then it is time to start impeachment proceedings.

To sum it up, I believe I was right last November, and I reaffirm that I am glad that Bush won a second term. With support dwindling, at best he’s likely to sit out the rest of the term as a “lame duck”, while more damning evidence continues to trickle out to the public. They asked for “four more years”, and now they’ve got it, but as the saying goes, “careful what you wish for… you just might get it”.

May 29, 2005

Windshield Washer Nozzles

Filed under: business,humor,thoughts — Tags: , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:30 pm

If you look closely at the hood of almost any car on the road, you will notice two small, black protuberances spaced a few inches away from the windshield.

These are spigots which spray a soapy water mixture to clean the grime off your windshield, and in conjunction with the windshield wipers, ensure maximum visibility during inclement weather, and its apparently an important safety feature which you must properly maintain. This system is also required to continue working after having wiped the equivalent surface area of 200 football fields.

Well, one tends to think about these things during long car trips, and what I noticed while sitting in the passenger seat of my father’s Passat on the back from Orlando was the lack of any black bumps on the hood. I then thought to my own Volkswagen, and realized that it, too, was free from these spigots. All modern VWs have these unsightly spigots hidden neatly away underneath the hood. The same goes for a few Fords and some older vehicles, but, the same can not be said for almost every other car on the road.

Perhaps the peak of existence for these black spigots was during the Fast and the Furious-era street-racing craze, when every ricer stuck LEDs on these bumps, though I can’t see why anyone would want to emphasize these blemishes on an otherwise clean hood. You’d think it’s more of an econobox thing, especially as these nozzles are made of cheap, unpainted plastic befitting of such a car, but you’d be wrong. Take a look at new BMW M3. Two little windshield wiper nozzles. Any Lexus. The same.

In my quest to find why only some car manufacturers employ the aesthetically superior method of hiding these spigots, I found a lot of trivial information about windshield washing systems, but never got a clear answer to my question. I did find out that apparently two people working for General Motors invented and patented this system as we now know it in 1979.

I found that apparently, the wipers in the Nissan Quest minivans suck, and that it took 1.5 years of customers’ bickering for Nissan to fix this problem.

I found that a division of a multi-billion dollar group called the Tata Group, Tata Autocomp Systems, Ltd., makes some kind of dual-pump water atomizing windshield-washer system, but what stood out was the group refers to itself as the TACO group. I’m sure that goes well in conversation:

“Yes, I work for a multi-billion dollar conglomerate which engineers automotive components for some of the largest companies in the world”

“What’s it called?”

{uncomfortable pause}



“TACO. It stands for Tata Autocomp Systems Limited.”


I discovered that the aircooled Beetle had an air compressor-driven windshield washer system which used air from the spare tire in the trunk. Which, according to the site I referenced, is a great idea “until you need the spare on a stormy night when you’ve had to use the windshield washer a lot.”

April 15, 2005

The Who?

Filed under: music,thoughts — Tags: , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 5:50 pm

Did you know that all three CSI shows use music from The Who as their theme songs? A friend of mine recently alerted me to this obvious little bit of information. I listened to each theme song in my head for a moment, and realized it was indeed true.

Apparently, somebody involved in the production of the CSI franchise has a soft spot for The Who. Perhaps Jerry Bruckheimer is a big fan? I did a quick search on the connection between CSI And The Who, and apparently I’m not the only one (obviously) who’s noticed this. I even came across an old article sneering at the team behind the CSI franchise for apparently making CSI: Miami a carbon copy of the original, right down to using a track from The Who for a theme song.

I should also inform you that I can’t stop singing “who are you, who, who, who who” in my head, though I think “Baba O’Reilly’ is the best song of the trio. Thanks Mr. Bruckheimer and company, for getting these three songs stuck in my head, I think.

April 9, 2005

A Blog From Work

Filed under: technology,thoughts,work — Tags: , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 6:27 pm

Blogging has become such a hit, posting an entry alone isn’t enough–where you write the entry matters. When you’ve got people blogging events like SXSW in realtime and GM boss Bob Lutz blogging from his Blackberry, you need something else to stand out.

I’m writing this entry from work. I’m sure lots of people do this. But I doubt that they do it at a register job. I’m jotting my thoughts between making lattes and serving yuppies. Unlike other work bloggers, I work standing up. Thank my iPAQ and its integrated Wi-Fi.

Oh, things are really beginning to converge. The online world and the real world are becoming less and less separate. You used to have to sit bug-eyed, pasty-faced, and all alone in front of a desktop computer. Now, we’re communicating online while interacting in the real world.

In my case, blogging from my pocket PC while serving customers is a little like hanging out in the Matrix. The online world overlays the real world in that manner. Except, all it takes to jack in is a computer and a wireless access point.

April 8, 2005


Filed under: personal,thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 6:46 pm

At a friend’s request, I took a personality type test this afternoon in unison with that said friend. It turned out to be one of the Myers-Briggs-esque tests based on the Carl Jung personality type model. This was familiar because I had taken one of these tests as an assignment for an business class a few semesters back. In a nutshell, here’s what these tests are all about:

Psychiatrist Carl Jung created a model wherein one could categorize personality types by three criteria: extrovert-introvert, sensing-intuition, and thinking-feeling. Later in the 20th century, Isabel Briggs-Myers refined the model with a fourth criterion, judging-perceiving, and throughout the century, various personality tests have evolved from this Jung model. They’re typically found in career centers at school, or in some relation to the workplace or job placement.

The first criterion generally describes where a person’s method of expression lies, externally, or internally. The second defines the way in which a person perceives information. A sensing person relies mainly on information gathered from the external world via the senses, and an intuitive person relies on information gathered internally. The third criterion defines how a person processes this information. A thinking person uses logic to make a decision, and a feeling person uses emotion. And the fourth criterion defines how a person uses the information he has processed. A judging person organizes this information into plans and acts according to those plans, and a perceiving person instead tends to improvise.

There are a possible sixteen combinations of these four criteria, each of which determines a specific type. Various types of tests based on the Jung model are floating around, and like the usual psychiatrist-written inventory, it consists of several questions about how you work in certain situations, your habits, and the like. Ahh, those predictable psychiatrists—if you’re quick, you can almost figure out what result you’re going to get by the time you’ve read the questions.

I got INTJ, or the mastermind

This means Introvert iNtuitive Thinking Judging, or in a nutshell, that I have the unusual capability of doing everything from creating a theory to actually implementing it in the real world. This is one of the more rare personality types (it describes less than one percent of the population), and seems filled with contradictions. This is because we INTJ/mastermind personalities tend to have a manner of thinking and point of view that is different from everyone else’s.

According to one analysis I read on this personality type, my mind is constantly crawling the external world, combing for information, and associating and ranking bits and sources of information, not unlike Google. As such, I’ve got a hard-wired knack for understanding concepts. Furthermore, I can compile this information into a plan of attack such that my ideas may lead to actual results instead of wishy-washy theories. Because of this ability to form internal vagaries into external orders, and keen ability to strategize and see the big picture, I’m a natural leader. In spite of that, since I prefer the internal world, I remain in the background unless I absolutely must take over command.

On the downside, if you must call it a downside, masterminds, so focused on their own internal world that all those social mores like falling in love tend to be forgotten. This page explains that for us masterminds, “love means including someone in their vision of the world.” That’s a pretty tough criterion! Obviously, as has been my experience, masterminds aren’t prolific lovers. Masterminds also tend to have a romantic archetype of a relationship in their mind, and “withhold their deep feelings and affections from the public and sometimes even from the object of their affections.” And when scorned, we tend to retreat back to our own world, and “lash out with criticisms of their former loved ones.” That cycle from falling for someone to hating them is probably descriptive of every girl I’ve met since middle school.

Now, about that friend I mentioned at the outset. I’ve taken this test before, but she’s the one who had me thinking about this whole Jungian model. She took the test, posted the results on her blog, and to my surprise, she also fell into the mastermind category. Now, if the lot of us add up to somewhere below one percent of the population, then the odds against us both being INTJ personalities are pretty numerous. All the articles I read about this personality type said nothing of what happens when two INTJs put their heads together. Look out!

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