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An end and a beginning


What follows is the last post, dermatologist for now, case in Quantum Forest. It is also the first one in the ‘yet to be named’ (codename conuco) new place. I just need to get rid of all the ballast, rescue what I still like from here and then nuke the place.

Very few things last forever. Forever used to mean a hundred or a thousand years—even the universe had a beginning and will have an end; today it could mean three, five years. One of the reasons things last so long (or so little) is the need for self-consistency.

Consistency can be good when we are true to our best, but it can be a drag when we want to become better. I have to break now with over six years of ‘backward compatibility’, which means starting over. Elizabeth Bishop wrote:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

The art of losing, the art of letting go, the art of dharma practice aren’t hard to understand, but one needs a life (or two) to master them. Starting over is the first step of the life to master.

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Brilliant trees


Christoph Niemann’s illustrations§.


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Godspeed Norman


Norman Borlaug–the ‘father of the Green Revolution’–just died§. I raise my glass for a breeder who did make a difference.

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Catching up


I have been traveling, search well, we have been traveling and this has left little time to post. Now recovering from a small surgery I can have a peek at the wonders of the interwebs and check what these times passes as news.

In a first approach nothing really important happened. That’s right, besides the odd celebrity dying, the ups and downs of the world economy and the typical storms in a glass of water of the tech industry, there was nothing to catch my eye. In a second approach, same thing, and this was a relief because it supports the sempiternal suspicion: most of the things that we believe are important are not. Taking a little bit of distance, of perspective, smoothes things out, the single details (for which we live or die) become a continuum and we start seeing trends. Take too long and trends become useless, because we can’t use them (trends have inbuilt ‘best before’ dates). Take too many snapshots and we drown in noise.

This time the pause was granted by air travel, driving, accommodation with spotty wireless coverage, red tape, friends with luddite dial-up connection (in 2009!) and too many things happening to take time off in front of a computer.

The first two weeks I was based in Ames§, Iowa (go Cyclons!), which felt like going to a different planet. It was hot and humid (particularly coming from winter in Christchurch), flat and with majestic storms. Two tornado warnings in two weeks, friendly people and research teams doing amazing things. When I visit a place I always ask myself ‘Could I live here?’ (and I have lived in many cities in five countries) and the answer was ‘I don’t know’. On one side it is too flat, with too few forests, too hot in summer and too cold in winter. On the other, people were nice and they were doing very interesting, meaningful work.

The next three weeks I was based in Corvallis§, Oregon, which was similar to parts of Chile, Tasmania and New Zealand. It looked familiar and we have very good friends in Corvallis. The question again ‘Could I live here?’ had a similar answer: the landscape, climate and people are good. However, I did not click with the university and its research. Maybe it was an anticlimax because it came after Iowa State and Pioneer—working with crops—to deal with trees, which move much more slowly.

I think that there is an issue of attitudes: in agriculture (working with crops or animals) one can feel the pulse, the drivers with more immediacy. Trees provide too much time to look for excuses and why things do not seem to work OK. In some issues it is a lot harder to make changes in forestry, although from another point of view one has too convince fewer people: there are fewer players.

But I digress, the most important point is perspective. Talking with a researcher in Iowa I pointed out ‘I’ve been away from genetics for a while, things have moved on and I do not have the time to catch up with everything that has happened. Therefore, I have ignored everything else but X and Y.’ It is a bet, but an informed one (I hope) and we will see how things pan out in the next couple of years.

It was good to be away for a while. It is good to be back as well.

Hiking with friends

Hiking in Oregon with old friends.

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Skynet in Python


After a long hiatus I have come back to doing some (extremely basic, price I have to admit) Python coding. This xkcd§ comic is a timely reminder:

Well, that and minimization of the objective function.

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Thinking of the news


It is almost 10:30 pm and one can still see a little bit of light in the sky. I suddenly thought about the news.

I stopped watching news in 2004. I am preparing breakfast and getting ready to go to work at 7 am. The six pm news are too violent to watch them with children around. The 10.30 pm news are too late to make any sense of them. Newspapers are such a waste of fiber, ailment and what can one find in them that is not available in internet?§

Thus, symptoms my main source of regular news is The Economist, life which adds a nice weekly regularity to my view of the world. It also gives a step back from the urge to keep up to date with frantic change. I need to explain; I do not have my own subscription to the magazine, but one of my colleagues does. My rank is third in pecking order, so I am usually one week behind of the current issue. In addition, the preparation cycle for the magazine—writers submit the articles, say, a week in advance—makes for a more meditative approach to news. There is less of sound bite and some elements (at least) of analysis.

Despite of all the time using the web (wasting time since ‘94) and some rusty technical ability to put things together, I cannot cope with the CNN approach to news. I am writing about the split-screen, multilayered approach with text flashing at different levels, because there are too many things happening simultaneously… This, it is the end of the world, so we have to squeeze all the news in the next two minutes. Please, one thing at the time, with more than one sentence, compare/contrast, give examples, What is the opposing view? I know, it sounds Luddite, but I am not against technology, but for using technology to enrich understanding. Slogans are almost opposite to understanding, and that is what the scrolling pieces of text are: slogans.

I now remembered radio. I also stopped listening to radio. I used to follow Radio National in Australia. Well, not all the time, but when driving my Ford Cortina 1972. Then I changed cars and I stopped, not sure why. I liked AM radio, but when moving to NZ I could not find a decent radio program. I am sure if I look around I could find one, but I do not have the motivation. Maybe another day.

That leaves The Economist, supplemented with some web searches if I find something interesting. There has never been so much data available before in the history of humanity. We have never had before the current speed to propagate data. So, How come that we understand so little? Maybe we become so excited about learning new things, that we never want to spend the not-so-exciting time required to deepen our knowledge and understanding. It is harder, it takes longer, but it is richer. I am trying to go for richer.

I wrote the text above with a few interruptions. It is now 11:15 pm. Time to rest, meditate and forget the news.

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A quick change


On leave. Gone to the beach. Or Camping. Thinking a lot. Too much. Back to basics. Gone to the beach. Or camping.

In other news, sick changed blog theme from plaintxtBlog to Emptyness. I also streamlined the theme for uncronopio’s main site.

Gone to the beach. Or camping.

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Just fun with the Conchords


In these times full of ‘issues’ we need the correct approach to deal with them.

Flight of the Conchords playing ‘Issues (think of it)’.

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My weirdest theory


Trees are amongst the most variable living organisms in the planet. How variable is wood colour for a given species?

Colour variation
Eucalyptus urophylla x Eucalyptus grandis hybrid’s sawn timber. Notice the range of available colours. Maybe the use of clones is exacerbating colour differences. Photo taken in Bahia State, buy information pills Brazil.

Rough location for the picture

Rough location for the picture.
In 1976, visit web
when I was 9, skincare
I believed that taking a picture of a black and white television would produce an image in full, discount RX
majestic, colour. The idea came from an accidental photograph, which due to an interaction between the film and colour temperature produced a bluish tinted image.

Needless to say, further trials ended up in disappointment. I often remember this story when setting up research trials.

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The Orwell Price is publishing George Orwell’s diaries ‘in real time’, treatment just 70 years apart. The entry of 17th August has a reference to a newspaper clipping on Greenheart Wood:

Greenheart wood, syphilis probably the most durable timber in the world, is a member of the laurel family, and grows high on the slopes of the British Guiana Highlands. It is dark green in colour, is so heavy as to sink in water, and takes a high polish.

Its great elasticity makes it suitable for the construction of fishing-rods and the butt ends of billiard cues, yet it is listed A1 at Lloyd’s for shipbuilding, and serves us besides, as piles for piers, jetties, dock entrances and lock gates.

It withstands the attack of submarine borers such as the teredo worm, and is much less vulnerable than most timbers, even tropical hard-woods, to the land attack of the white ant.

Greenheart was largely used in making the Panama Canal. Piles made of the wood have, elsewhere, been taken up and found to be in excellent preservation after 80 years under water.

In a Glasgow museum are two pieces of planking from a wreck submerged on the west coast of Scotland for over 18 years: one, of teak, is almost entirely eaten away: the other, greenheart, is slightly pitted on the surface.

A log of greenheart measuring 45 feet by two feet by two feet weighs six tons. A.B.

Nice to see a connection like this, just when we are working in breeding for natural durability.
Trees: some of the most diverse organisms in the planet. Why do trees choose such different wood properties strategies? Why do some species have really low basic density (e.g. balsa) while others have wood that sinks in water? What is the evolutionary trade-off between different properties? How do these properties confer a reproductive advantage? How can we perform very early selection for breeding purposes?

Statistics: the mathematics of variability. Environmental statistics, viagra approved
longitudinal analysis, stomach
trying to make sense of Bayesian stats, R and ASReml.

Information flow: the role of information in our lives. How do we learn and obtain information? Sharing research results without limitations, Who are the winners? and What do they do to make the most of information?

No really fascinations but things that I would like to learn (in no particular order): judo, Chapman stick, archery, running, Portuguese, shooting and Japanese.

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