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November 12, 2005
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Posted on February 11, 2017 at 23:30

This is my third attempt at writing this blog, I've been trying for weeks now. I always begin with the same paragraph but then I go on rambling and rambling, ending with a huge and boring blog. This time I said screw it, whatever comes gets posted.

First of all, the great news is that I finally have a plane ticket to get away from this mess. Unless the airline scammed me I'll be flying from Caracas to Santiago on March 18th. I'm hoping everything goes well and I never ever return to this god forsaken land.

What finally prompted me to do this was simple. With the pay raise I was supposed to get this year I could finally afford to rent a place somewhere nice in Caracas. But it turns out that'd be an awful idea. In a country where most people can't get food a 20-something that can afford rent and live on his own sticks out like a sore thumb. With crime being as bad as it is (most violent city in the world) I decided to call it quits. I don't want to be kidnapped or murdered.

Rising criminality has been a top issue for decades now, and now I'm kicking myself for not taking it into account. Had I predicted this (and I should have) I'd have left sooner, way sooner. What use is money if some asshole can just kidnap or murder me over it? All these years complaining about pay and the economy only to run after finally conquering those. Now I'm wondering what the hell did I do with my life these past years. I should have left way earlier.

On August 2014 I went on vacation to my parent's apartment in Madeira, Portugal, right after I graduated from college in July. Had I been a little more enterprising back then I'd have applied for jobs in Spain and England as soon as I made it to Portugal, or even a week or two before leaving. I'm sure I'd have caught at least something by October. By now I'd living comfortable on my own in a first world country and with over 2 years of experience under my belt.

Cash wasn't even a problem. I barely had 4k euros to my name back then, but I still had available an extra $3k of government subsidized dollars (read: free) and worst case scenario I could have asked my parents for help, I'm sure they could have lent me $10k or even $20k.

Imagine I got a regular market-rate software engineering job in Europe starting on October 2014 and I saved an average $800 per month, which I don't think is entirely unreasonable given how frugal I am. By the end of March 2017 I'd have saved $24,000.

Compare that to Venezuela, where I managed to save exactly as much money over the same time period, except by taking a lot more risk, exploiting free rent and food from my parents and suffering a lot of emotional and physical hardship. Even then over 50% of those savings were due to currency arbitrage and bitcoin appreciation, not my job.

What a poor ROI. So much wasted time and opportunity.

And the end of it isn't near! I'm going to Santiago, Chile next month, and I have the feeling that by doing that I'm about to fuck up again.

I chose that city largely on a whim. When it came to it I narrowed down my realistic emigration choices to Spain and Chile. Both speak spanish, so no language barrier there. Pay looked similar (adjusted for cost of living and taxes) and visa policy looked easy.

I broke the tie in favor of Santiago based largely on two things:

- I have a few friends there. 5 right now and more incoming.
- Santiago is going through a property boom. You can a get a brand new downtown 2-bedroom for less than $200k.

Santiago has a lot of cons though:

- It's yet another third world latin american country. Although Chile looks good today, you never know what to expect from the future. After all Venezuela looked just as good 40 years ago.
- Consumer goods are expensive as hell. A $450 iPhone in America costs almost $700 in Chile.
- Although it looks easy to get a visa, nothing beats getting free permanent residency in the EU.
- Social safety net is scarce to non-existent.

I feel that those cons don't quite make up for the pros of already having friends there and cheap property. I think I'm falling again on the trap of following my so-called friends rather than going for the rational choice.

Thing is, I don't have all the data to know exactly which is the rational choice; I cannot have all the data unless I'm living on my own, and I cannot live on my own in Venezuela. Catch 22. I won't know if those friends are going to be worth anything or if I really care about property in Santiago until I actually go there.

Good news is, huh, I have a bunch of cash and I'm still young, so I think I can afford one more fuck up before getting on the right track.

The plan is to give Santiago a trial. I'll grab the first job offer I get, rent an apartment and then ride it out for a few months. The main objective is to prove whether or not those friends and cheap property are worth sticking to yet another third world country.

If all goes to hell, well, I have a fallback plan. This summer my parents are going to Portugal for the first time since 2014. I have a chance to go there and relive that year, but doing it right this time.

One thing is for real though, I do not intend to return to Venezuela under any circumstance.

EDIT: grammar, formatting.

Civilization VI review
Posted on November 01, 2016 at 00:29

I'm not one of those long-time fans of the series. I played an hour or two of a cracked copy of Civ IV before getting bored and dropping it, and I only started to play Civ V like a few years after its release, less than a year before the expansion Gods and Kings was released I think.

Over 1300 hours registered in Steam later and probably a thousand more played on a cracked copy before finally buying it on sale, Civilization V is easily my favorite game so far. That's probably more time than what I've spent combined on my other favorite games: Minecraft, Simcity 4, Pharaoh and Skyrim. I even bought a physical copy of the complete edition during my last trip to Europe (Which btw was the only way for me to buy some DLC that was region-locked for me, fuck you Steam)

When Civ VI was announced I was excited. It looked like Civ V but improved with awesome mechanics from other great strategy games I've played in the past few years. I even considered pre-ordering it. I thought, I'm going to buy it regardless right? I'm such a fan of the series, might as well spend the money now.

But boy, spending $60 for a game I haven't even seen a review of. They even offer a $70 version which is basically $10 more for a pre-order of unannounced DLC! Hell no, that money can buy me a bunch of MTG cards instead. I said I'd wait for the reviews and if they were good I'd buy.

Then came release day, then the glowing reviews. I still couldn't buy it. Paying $60 for a game you know is not complete because soon there will be a bunch of DLC and probably expansions. It sounded like such a bad deal. I decided to wait for a sale or bundle later next year.

But I couldn't resist. The reviews man, they all claimed how this civ game was the best in the series. So I compromised and torrented it. If the game was as great as they said, I'd just shut up and buy a legit copy.

So here comes the actual Civilization VI review: I hate it, I'm extremely disappointed, will not buy.

First of all, and this will sound shocking as it goes against the stereotypes of civ players, I hate long civ games. I'm not fond of saving strategy games and continuing them later, so I love that in Civ V I can fire up a game on a small map (6 players) at the fastest speed and be done in 1-2 hours. That way I can get back from work and play a full game before going to sleep, or play a quick game during the weekend. In Civ VI a similar game takes 3-4 hours! My eyes buuuurn.

Then there's the UI, it's horrendous. My complaints go from the merely irritating to the 'wtf were they thinking?'. Some of the highlights:

- It's now viable to build a lot of cities, but they removed the city production queue! Now you have to micromanage the hell out of each city. It feels like a chore.
- It's not possible to sort trade routes anymore and there's no UI, that I found of, to list all possible routes in your empire. I cannot, for example, easily determine the top most lucrative routes available.
- There are some race conditions and jumping around when selecting and moving units (I play with movement and combat animations disabled so games are faster). Often I accidentally move the wrong unit or send it to some random faraway place because of this: click a unit, move it, while it's moving, click another and try to move it, then first unit finishes moving and the game automatically selects another unit (different from the second one) a split second before you click on your second unit's destination. Bam, you now moved the wrong unit.
- The UI for interacting with the AIs is so slow. The AI prompts you very often, and that involves a multi-second animation, followed by another multi-second fade to a screen that looks exactly the same but with a 'goodbye' button. In Civ V the whole interaction would take less than a second, in Civ VI it takes like 3 or 4. It's cool the first couple of times, maybe, but then you memorize everything the AI can say and you just want to move on.
- The tech trees waste so much screen space... In Civ V I can see like 16 techs at once in my screen, whereas Civ VI shows half of that in the same space. It makes understanding how the tree works more difficult than it should.

Finally, there's the unnecessary complexity. I feel like the took simple mechanics from Civ V and cranked them to eleven for no good reason. Here are the most concerning for me:

- Spies are now unlimited AFAIK and the available mission space is astronomical, I feel overwhelmed. Also, enemy spies really fuck your stuff up. I hate wasting 3 turns constantly rebuilding my production districts. I like Civ V's system, the amount of spies was fixed and the missions space big enough to make it an impactful decision, but not large enough to make every decision equally worthless.
- Builders are limited in uses now. In theory they made it so to make each improvement an important decision. In reality I was already micromanaging my builders in the early game of Civ V, but in the mid-late game you could switch to autobuild. In Civ VI now I have to micromanage all the way. In the mid to late game they feel more like a chore than an actual decision.
- Religion is now a win condition too. I don't understand why it exists, it doesn't feel distinct enough to the other wincons. Yet it's there and you must track it to avoid the AI randomly winning.
- The AI is a pain in the ass even in low difficulties. Civ V's was more conservative and diplomatic.

And others, it's getting late, I should probably go to sleep.

To finish this off I wanted to list things I did like, but it was it hard to come up with good things. Let's list a few:

- The tech boost system is nice.
- The districts idea is interesting, although I'm not entirely convinced yet.
- The separate tech trees for science and culture is nice, but I hate the UI. I'd prefer if it was presented in one single view instead of two.
- The unit promotion tree is great. I also like that units heal after getting a promotion, at the cost of movement/attacking that turn. Makes for interesting comebacks.
- Roads building automatically along trade routes is nice, but I miss being able to strategically build a road to an enemy's border minimizing the penalties of traversing costly terrain.
- I like wonders being their own districts, and hence limiting how many you can build per city. Now the decision to build one is a lot more strategic, you cannot just spam wonders in a high production city anymore.
- The governments and policies slots system is interesting, although I'm not entirely convinced yet either. I kept feeling between overwhelmed and 'all these policies suck, why bother'.

So those are my first impressions of the new civ game, coming from a guy that has spent the better part of the past two years playing Civ V. I think I understand now all the hate Civ IV fans had towards Civ V when it was released. Hopefully in a couple of years they'll fix the annoying parts and turn it into a great game.

Beginning of the (their) end?
Posted on December 08, 2015 at 22:17

No, I'm not gonna talk about 64digits if that's what you're thinking. However, I will talk about my country again. Yeah yeah, it's getting boring, I know, but for once I have good news to deliver, and I will not miss the opportunity.

Last Sunday we held elections for Congress, and the opposition (aka me), won a whopping 67% of the seats. Yes, sixty-seven percent, the government's socialist party was absolutely steamrolled. It's truly an unprecedented and decisive victory.

I've always written a short summary blog after each important election here, the last time I reported something positive was in 2007, when the terribly communist constitutional reform failed to pass very narrowly (less than a percent of votes)

That blog, ugh, what was I thinking? Anyway, it is a shame that nothing I said back then actually happened. The government, being in full control of congress, eventually passed most of those reforms as individual laws. No political dynamics changed after those elections, so everything carried on as was usual back then.

The venezuelan middle-class has been screaming out loud for over 15 years that the socialists' policies would destroy our country. What kind of country can hold itself together by destroying all its industries while filling the gap by importing stuff using oil income (which is entirely government-owned)? It doesn't take a bright mind to see that that model wasn't sustainable. But obviously poor people don't, or can't, think about that, so they kept choosing the guys that kept promoting the system that ensured they'd stay poor forever. It is a shame.

Now here we are, 8 years later. Chavez died just before he could see the result of his braindead policies. Even worse, there was nobody left in his own party with enough leadership to carry on undisputed. What we got was some sort of de-facto junta that just sat there seeing the country crash and burn, unable (or unwilling) to do anything about it, while blaming everything else, real or not, but themselves.

A little background first. Our congress election system is almost as screwed up as the US. Each state elects a number of seats according to population. Most of them are assigned using first-past-the-post, the rest using party lists. It is not proportional at all, meaning some party will always be over-represented and another under-represented. Also it was obviously handcrafted by the government to amplify this effect in their favor.

This time their unfair system backfired completely. The opposition garnered enough votes everywhere to turn this system against them spectacularly, and now it is the opposition that is overrepresented in Congress. Do I really have to explain how big of deal this is? There's no democracy on the planet where controlling 67% of congress doesn't give you a fabulous amount of power.

What now then? It's hard to tell. The opposition won't be able to fix everything by themselves, even less so with an executive branch that has pretty much sworn war to them. However, there are now a bunch of options at hand that were previously unavailable, which finally gives us a glimmer of hope.

I think we've finally entered a new phase of the transition started by Chavez' death. Chavismo is on the decline, quite possibly in the way to extinction. I only see two scenarios from now on: they sit down and negotiate with the opposition so they can fix together this mess, or they carry on being insurmountable douchebags that'd rather drive off the cliff than hand over the control to anybody else. If they do the first, they will remain relevant for possibly decades to come; if they do the later, chavismo will be utterly extinct by 2020.

This, however, changes nothing about my future. This place was a mess last Saturday, it is still a mess today, and it is just logical to assume that it will remain so for years to come. Perhaps this victory will help to contain the exponential decline we've been experiencing so far, but I have zero hopes on it rebounding before the next decade.

So I'm still here, saving money, learning valuable skills, and plotting my scape.

64Digits backup tool
Posted on March 08, 2015 at 21:33

I asked for a blog backup button years (?) ago, but nobody ever implemented it, so I made my own in Python. It's on my github,

Given your username and password, the script will download all your blog posts. It basically saves into a file the HTML 64Digits returns when querying the post's url, so it works for saving comments too, just make sure you configure your account to show all comments.

It also backs up your file manager. It even preserves the timestamps!

Additionally it parses the blogs and writes a single JSON file with all of them. The result is an array of blogs with keys for the title, date, id and content. I was planning to parse the blog contents and convert them to markdown before writing to the JSON file, but then I decided the HTML was enough for me.

I think the README has everything you need to run it.

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