Jose Sandoval Google
 Resume     Book     Software     Drawings     Home     Subscribe to RSS feed Search Web Search

Leap year, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008

Once again, it's leap day (well, tomorrow). I'm not sure who else would celebrate February 29 if didn't happen to be a birthday, but I think we should all celebrate it. BTW, it's not my birthday.

When is a year a leap year? This is how you can tell, in Java code:

public boolean isLeapYear(int year) {
// This evaluates to true, if it is a leap year; false, otherwise
return (((year % 4 == 0) && (year % 100 != 0)) || (year % 400 == 0))

For the history of the leap year, check out Wikipedia's article.

In summary, the leap day is just a convention we came up with to account for the true amount of time it takes Earth to go around the Sun, which is not exactly 365 days (of 24 hour days), it's a bit more than that (roughly, 6 hours every year). What's amazing is that every civilization for which we have records knew about this drift. This means that very sophisticated methods to record time had to have existed.

Just a thought experiment, how would you measure time with just sticks and stones?

9:55 AM | 0 comment(s) |

Medawar Theory
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We are still not quite sure why we age. Consequently, there are many theories that scientist are considering. Most important, though, is that once a theory is found to be solid, the likelihood of humans living for centuries is not so far fetched, as cell regeneration techniques will be just around the corner. We can already see the benefits of our deep understanding of the human body; for example, we know that certain things cause cancer--a fact that 100 years ago was madness.

Will we want to live forever? Or centuries?

It sounds appealing, if you have something important to do (that is a different discussion). What intrigues me, however, is what I'm calling the Medawar limit. No, this is not a scientific fact nor have I researched this so called Medawar limit. I made it up. Nonetheless, I think it can be simply deducted from Peter Medawar's work.

Medawar stipulated that as we age certain genetic defects become more prominent and things that can kill us sprout into action. It's rather simple to prove, as we look at the older population you encounter the recurrence of illnesses that are not present during youth. Of course, you get the odd young human with a rare disease; however, it can be explained with a genetic disorder.

Having this fact in mind, my thesis for the Medawar limit is quite simple: as we increase the longevity of a human life we will keep finding genetic mutations that we have never seen and, worst of all, they will become illnesses we will not know how to cure. The problem will not be with the lack of understanding of the biology and chemistry. The problem will come from the unnatural extension of genes that are not suppose to survive for centuries inside a human body.

I will have to research a bit more and see if there is such a thing as the Medawar limit, or anything related to it. Have you found anything remotely close to what I'm talking about?

1:46 PM | 0 comment(s) |

The $400 keyboard
Friday, February 22, 2008

Would you pay $460 USD for a keyboard? Yes, a keyboard, for which a substitute costs as little as $5.00 USD.

I don't think I would. I'm not in the target market for this thing, but then again what is the target market?

9:47 AM | 2 comment(s) |

The privileged few: Elton John fans vs Kitchener city councillors
Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kitchener is a small town located 1 hour west of Toronto. It is also home of the "best" Oktoberfest outside of Germany (I've heard, I've never been). I think Kitchener is more famous because of its proximity to Waterloo, home of the University of Waterloo.

Kitchener-Waterloo is a happening place: Bill Gates is in town today, for the second time in 3 years; and Elton John is giving a concert sometime this month.

Elton John's visit, however, has brought controversy to our town. City councillors get free tickets to the concert and also have access to a reserve of 57 extra tickets. This doesn't seem to be a big deal, but the problem is that the capacity to the event is limited and music lovers waited for hours to get tickets for the event, which sold out in minutes. Obviously, people are wondering why city councillors have advanced access and don't have to line up, like everyone else, to buy such tickets. Most important, why are city councillors enjoying shows on my dime? The Aud is a city corporation and our tax dollars are what keeps it going.

I'm not a fan of Elton John, but there is something underhanded in this deal. It doesn't sit right with me, for some reason; it feels too much like a favour that needs to be returned in the future. These are politicians (more or less) and the appearance of impropriety is taken seriously. Nevertheless, the mayor, Carl Zehr, is standing by this policy (?) and defends the privilege by saying, "The encouragement is for us to be there to understand how the auditorium works and functions for a variety of events." Right...People are not buying it, including me.

We have become very vocal about this. Local newspapers keep getting letters and phone calls on the subject. These are some of the links I've found:Even I have become "political" about the perceived privilege. Yesterday I wrote a letter (email) to the mayor and all the councillors. This is what I wrote:
    To: Carl Zehr
    Re: Elton John Concert...

    Dear Sir,

    I rarely make a point of contacting city officials directly, as they seem to be doing an adequate job at managing city assets. However, I couldn't help to hear about the Elton John concert and the minor controversy that has risen around the number of tickets allotted for each city councilor, including yourself.

    Your explanation (given on Canada AM and reported on Sudbury concert controversy angers Elton John fans) of "The encouragement is for us to be there to understand how the auditorium works and functions for a variety of events" doesn't appease my sense of fairness. I think that one ticket per councilor is sufficient--perhaps even two, but not more.

    I don?t like Elton John, so I wasn't affected by the quick sale of tickets. But I do hope your office reconsiders returning the tickets for public, fair consumption. I don't think there is a question of impropriety, as the vendor (The Aud in this case) is the one allotting the number tickets available to your office; nevertheless, as city officials, there shouldn't be a question of privilege or difference between you and me (and the rest of Elton John fans, who are not city councilors).

    Best regards, from a concerned Canadian citizen and Kitchener resident.

    Jose Sandoval
I haven't received a reply, except for an "out of the office" auto-message from one of the councillors. If you'd like to email them, these are their email addresses: (mayor)
I don't think there is anything to be gained or lost from my email, but I find it interesting that this gets my blood flowing faster. In this case, free tickets for a concert I had no idea was taking place.

I guess the issue I have is that I could have called Mr. Zehr to get me some tickets, instead of lining up. I don't know him personally, but why use his connection to get them for his friends. The Kitchener Record reported that "Zehr also said he received a number of calls from friends and associates looking for tickets, and he placed calls on their behalf to the Aud's management. They bought their tickets from the batch controlled by the management of the city-owned facility."

What will happen here? Will they return the tickets? Will they apologize? Will they change their office policy on freebies? Will the councillors sing along "Candle on the Wind"? Will I get a reply from the mayor? It's all in the air...And the soap opera continues to the tune of Elton John...

2:46 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Nothing like settling arguments with a fight...A googlefight

This is just too stupid to pass, googlefight.

2:00 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Growing Earth Theory
Monday, February 18, 2008

I have never heard about the Expanding Earth Theory. For one, it goes against most of what we've come to accept as Earth's geological history. It also sounds crazy, but this video seems to be convincing:

At least this time Earth is still round, as opposed to flat.

1:43 AM | 0 comment(s) |

The end of an era: Ronaldo's latest (and final?) injury
Thursday, February 14, 2008

You have to see it to believe it:

It's likely that he will never be able to play professionally again. I'm not sure why he stayed in such a competitive league as Italy's Calcio. He's old by comparison to the younger stars such as Messi (20), Critiano Ronaldo (23), and Bojan (17). He could have ended his career playing and earning a very good living in the MLS--just look at Beckham. It's really too bad. I would have gone to see him play against Toronto FC.

6:39 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Jose.Sandoval == JoseSandoval
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gmail has this nifty feature where different names point to the same inbox. For example,, which is my gmail address, is also equivalent to (note the "." omission).

I don't think it matters where you live in the world, chances are you've noticed that Jose is a very common name. In fact, I'm sure Jose is the default name for boys in many Spanish speaking countries. I don't consider it a lack of imagination, but more of a trait on consistency. Hence, I'm never surprised to find other Joses around.

The Sandoval last name is not as common as my first name; however, there are a few other Jose Sandovals around. In this case, the gmail "feature" is relevant because someone in Spain gives his email address as (no "."). Needless to say that I get a lot of his email, e.g., birthday party invitations, pictures of kids, conference invitations, etc. He even registered for google's AdSense service and, of course, I received his verification email. I verified it, though I'm not sure if the other Jose is getting any money.

From time to time I reply with a polite message stating that I'm not the Jose Sandoval they are looking for. No one has replied yet, but I hope they tell this Jose to stop giving my email address as his. And if you are reading this (the other Jose Sandoval), let's settle this like rational Jose Sandovals: I'll sell you the address...

Coincidently, my son is not named Jose. I tried, but I had to settle for my father's name, Salvador. Too many Joses, the argument went. Right...As if you could have too many Joses. And so, Gabriel Salvador Sandoval it is for the little dude.

1:24 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Innovation failure? The Economist's Red Stripe Project
Monday, February 11, 2008

Last year I wrote an entry about The Economist's Red Stripe Project. The idea was to take a small group of "innovators" and create a disruptive product in 6 months.

I concluded my entry with the following paragraph:
    I'll keep an eye on this project, as I've become interested in the exploration of innovations in any setting, but I don't expect anything beyond a combination of RSS feeds from the current content. The time is too short to really create a disruptive product and the incentives are not aligned with the corporate strategy.
I remember this project today and I found the conclusion. Essentially, it reads as follows: how to spend £100,000 (yes, that's Stirling Pounds), appear busy for 6 entire months (for 6 people nonetheless), and deliver nothing.

The cost, of course, is much greater than just monetary. For example, these 6 employees spent their time fraternizing over beers to the envy for their peers, I'm sure, and costing the organization departmental disruptions. Furthermore, I believe there will be some resentment from the community that helped the group along, for their efforts vanished (if you recall, the idea was to get the "crowd" to help them generate ideas--very Web 2.0).

True enough, the value generated by these employees goes beyond just a salary, as they are likely to remain loyal to The Economist (I think it was more of a 6 months paid vacation), but I can't help to think that something really valuable should have come out from this expensive experiment--other than a free PDF with 7 obvious recommendations: Project Red Stripe, A Story of Innovation.

Failure is a big part of Innovation Management, as risk averse organization are unlikely to reap the real rewards from a large gamble; however, accountability also plays a big part. In this case, I hope they didn't ruin it for the rest of the innovators in the organization. More important, I hope they can justify the "nothing" part to the board of directors and shareholders.

Typical shareholders are iffy about spending money in things that return nothing on investment.

If you indulge me in a bit of humor here, I can visualize the typical managerial meeting:

"So, when we can launch the new product the young go-getters came up with last year."

"Well, we don't have a product, but we gained great experience."

"So, what's our ROI?"

"Well, it's 0%, but these are internet times and innovation experience can't really be measured."

I think it's OK to be critical of this project, and, at the same time, thankful for making the process public: we rarely get a chance to see these type of projects failing. In most cases, we only see and hear the stories of the products that made it big.

5:35 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Are we the ghost or the machine?
Thursday, February 07, 2008

We are conscious beings. We are at a point in history where the secrets of the universe and life itself are within our reach. So rethinking our place in geo-history is part of the curious few.

To put humanity in a new perspective (new, if you are unfamiliar with Richard Dawkins works), read the following paragraph and think of what is in control of what (Dawkins, 1986, pp. 126-127):
    ...DNA molecules are at the center of a spectacular information technology. They are capable of packing an immense amount of precise, digital information into a very small space...with astonishingly few errors...for a very long time, measured in millions of years.


    The lifetimes of DNA messages (give or take a few mutations) are measured in units ranging from millions of years to hundreds of millions of years...Each individual organism should be seen as a temporary vehicle, in which DNA messages spend a tiny fraction of their geological lifetimes.
I ask again, are we the ghost or the shell?

I find little comfort in the concept of humanity being a virus-carrier, where the payload is this DNA thing that seems to be indestructible thus far; so it seems that we study 2000 years of written history to make ourselves the center of the whole Universe.

It's humbling to think of Homo sapiens as the culmination of millions of years of evolution, when in fact we share a large portion of our DNA with your local swamp mosquito. Sure we have the internets and all, but the purpose of both species seems to be the same--at least from DNA's perspective. Or is it?

Dawkins, R. (1986). The Blind Watchmaker. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd.

9:36 PM | 0 comment(s) |

False advertising
Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I finally decided to get a smart phone. The hardware is fine, and I was able to get a month to month service plan. I'm adversed to long term cell phone contracts, specially with companies that are not always straight with their dealings.

Marketers know that consumers are louder with their complaints than their praise. I'm no different than the average buyer, and I get really frustrated when I'm being scammed.

In Canada, the bait and switch practice is illegal. The Canadian Consumer Protection Act states, "It is an unfair practice for a person to make a false, misleading or deceptive representation." Even when it's clearly stated by the law, companies still use it.

In my monthly saga with my cell phone service provider, I switched from my $6.00/month voice mail service to the $6.00/month call display service. And I know it's $6.00 because it's stated clearly in their website:

To my surprise, while making the switch, I was informed that the price for the monthly service is no longer $6.00 but $7.00. I was told that the price has increased. I accepted my faith and made the service switch. However, something was not right: I felt a gut feel that what the company had just done wasn't legal.

I called back and pointed out that their website says the service is $6.00/month. The sales person on the phone called it "a mistake on the website, but the real price was $7.00/month." Nonetheless, I was refunded one dollar, but only for this month--I will be sure to check their site next month.

It's only a dollar, but it's the principle of it all. They promise the price to be $6.00/month, yet they charge $7.00/month. Those dollars sure add up, and as stated by Canadian law, illegal dollars.

10:47 PM | 2 comment(s) |

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

© Jose Sandoval 2004-2009