Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas in Lisbon 2010

This year the Lisbon city hall decided to cut on the Christmas lighting budget on the account of the financial crisis. Nevertheless, the light-show is still as pleasant as always. If you visit Lisbon at this time of the year, get out there and enjoy the Christmas spirit. A special thanks to my friend F. for providing the photos.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Searching for a job in Norway, the saga continues :)

A few days ago i went to the yearly EURES employment fair. Fortunately, Norway was the only country that brought a company with it, which was also looking for engineers ;). I approached the Norwegian representative for NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organization) and asked if she could give me some tips on job seeking in Norway and i got a few suggestions that somehow surprised me and which i am posting here in case anybody else is searching for work in the land of the midnight sun.

1. Do not put your picture in your CV. This is done in order to prevent companies from hiring people base on their gender, looks or skin colour. This information totally amazed me, not only because it is so civilized, but also it is totally anti-portuguese. In Portugal there is a general consensus on how the photo on the CV is so important, so any job seeker usually is advised on how he/she should look on the photo, what clothes to wear, etc.

2. When reading a job ad there is usually a phone number and a contact person with whom you should talk to in order to get extra information about the job (e.g. whether or not you qualify for the job, if only people with 5 years of experience should apply, etc.). In Portugal I have never tried to contact anyone before sending an application, nor have I ever talked with someone who did, so this was news to me. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The "status quo" of Education in Portugal

"They have between 25 and 30 years old, face nearly four decades of work and half of them have not even studied twelve years. Only Turkey and Mexico are worse than Portugal in the OCDE group."

Of course that we can blame the government but, as i read in a comment to this news:

"There is no government that replaces the parents."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

SOE2PDF – freeware to scan and convert documents to PDF

Over time some of us tend to accumulate a lot of books and documents which occupy too much physical space. An easy solution for this problem is of course to scan and convert everything to PDF format. Doing this process using a flatbed scanner is very time consuming and tedious, so many of us turn to scanners that have an Automatic Document Feeder (also known as ADF). Nowadays there are some of these scanners which automatically scan both sides of a page but the price of this kind of devices is somehow expensive for some of us, that is why people who have regular ADF scanners have to scan odd pages first, even pages afterwards, and then join everything together. It is likely that there is some freeware software on the Internet that already does this process, but sometimes we are bombarded with pop-up licensing windows, advertising and some annoying limitations such as scanning a limited number of pages only.

To solve all these problems I developed a simple piece of software named SOE2PDF, entirely freeware, that allows you to scan odd and even pages separately using an Automatic Document Feeder, converting everything to a single PDF document in the end of the process.

You can download it HERE.

You will also need the .NET 2.0 Framework, otherwise the program will not work. You can download it HERE.

I have only tested the software in Windows XP, so if you have any trouble or bug to report, if possible, I’ll be happy to help. There is no installer, just execute the file SOE2PDF.exe to start using the program.

The usage of SOE2PDF is quite simple, just follow the steps indicated in the program window:

  1.  Select a scanner (you can also change the picture type and resolution);
  2. Scan odd pages;
  3. Scan even pages;
  4. Generate a PDF document from the scanned pages.


Saturday, July 31, 2010


Norway scores again..

I have just found out that recycling in Norway is not only good for Nature but also for your pockets. If you write your name and phone number on a milk carton, you have the chance to win a monetary prize if your milk carton is selected from the pile of cartons in the local recycling plant. Absolutely awesome!

Here in Portugal there is no incentives whatsoever, but let's face it, avoiding extra damage to mother nature is incentive enought. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ewa, a story of courage

I saw the amazing story of Ewa in the National Geographic channel last night and i decided to share it with you.

Ewa, wherever you are, you are one tough lady! Your story is true inspiration for us all..

"A champion paraglider described yesterday how she was caught in a massive thunderstorm over Australia, hurled to a height greater than Mount Everest and encased in ice before managing to descend safely to earth. 

Ewa Wisnerska, 35, was sucked 32,000 ft into the air — so high that she lost consciousness from lack of oxygen and ice formed over her body. Hospital staff say the paraglider suffered severe frostbite from which she almost lost her ears. 

The adventurer said it was a miracle that she survived: "You can't imagine the power. You feel like nothing, like a leaf from a tree going up," she said. "I can't do anything. It's raining and hailing and I'm still climbing — I'm lost." 

"I was climbing and climbing and the air was starting to freeze my sunglasses and then it was dark." 

Miss Wisnerska, from Germany, was preparing for the 10th World Paragliding Championships above the town of Manilla in New South Wales when the storm struck on Wednesday.

After launching as usual from a hill, she appears to have flown under a black storm cloud and then, with terrifying speed, the wind whisked her upwards. She climbed from 2,500ft to an estimated 32,000ft in about 15 minutes. A 42-year-old Chinese para-glider, He Zhongpin, was sucked into the same storm and died, apparently from lack of oxygen and cold. His body was found nearly 50 miles from where he took off. 

Miss Wisnerska said she encountered hailstones the size of oranges as the temperature dropped to minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit. "I was shaking all the time. The last thing I remember is that it was dark. I could hear lightning all around me," she said. 

She regained consciousness mid-air about one hour later. "I wanted to fly around the clouds but I got sucked up 20 metres (67ft) per second into it and spiralled," she told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"After 40 minutes or an hour, I woke up and I was at 6,900 metres (23,000ft). I was still flying but I realised I didn't have the brakes in my hand. I saw my hands and the gloves were frozen, I didn't have the brakes, and the glider was still flying on its own.

"I was thinking 'I can't do anything so I only have to wait and hope that the clouds are bringing me out somewhere'. Then I woke up and was thinking that I was maybe unconscious for about one minute. I didn't know I was unconscious for so long."

Her ordeal was recorded by a global positioning beacon and a radio attached to her equipment. The swirling clouds released Miss Wisnerska from their grasp and she landed safely 40 miles from her launch, suffering frostbite to her face and with ice inside her lightweight flying suit — but otherwise unharmed.

Godfrey Wenness, the president of the Manilla Sky Sailors club and organiser of the Paragliding World Championship, said Miss Wisnerska's tale was unprecedented.

"It's like winning the Lotto 10 times in a row," he said, adding that the previous altitude survival record for a paraglider pilot was 24,000ft.

Mr Wenness, one of Australia's most experienced paraglider pilots, said the chances of surviving such an experience were negligible.

"There's no oxygen. She could have suffered brain damage. But she came to at a height of 6,900 metres with ice all over her body and slowly descended herself."

The German said she felt like an astronaut returning from the Moon as the ground loomed beneath her. "I could see the Earth coming — wow, like Apollo 13," she said.

Miss Wisnerska spent one hour in the local district hospital for observation and she hopes to compete in the biennial paragliding championships which begin on Feb 24."

Source here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bruce Lee life philosophy

“Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run the three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile [Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a half minutes per mile]. So this morning he said to me “We’re going to go five.” I said, “Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a helluva lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.” He said, “When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.” I said “Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.” So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I say to him, “Bruce if I run any more,” –and we’re still running-”if I run any more I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.” He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full five miles. Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, “Why did you say that?” He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

—Bruce Lee

Aliens vs Human Intelligence DNA

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sjokolademousse – Chocolate Mousse

I decided to try a classic and simple desert. Fortunately, it came right the first time. Here are the ingredients:

- 200g of chocolate with at least 70% cocoa (dark chocolate is preferable);
- 6 eggs;
- 6 table spoons of sugar (one per each egg);
- 50g of butter;
- 4 tablespoons of Whisky (optional).


1st: Separate the egg whites from the yolks. 

2nd: Whip the egg whites in a large bowl.

3rd: In another bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugar together.

4th: Break the chocolate in small pieces and put it together with the butter in the microwave for a couple of minutes at 800W (the point is that the chocolate must be melted at the end, so adjust the time as needed and be careful not to burn yourself; if possible, use one of those microwave plastic lids);

5th: Mix the melted chocolate with the eggs and whisky using a whisk.

6th: Poor the chocolate mixture into the whipped egg whites. Slowly mix everything (you can use the whisk) until you get the typical chocolate mousse look. Place the chocolate mousse in the fridge and after a couple of hours it is ready to serve. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stopping cancer with food

An educational video about fighting cancer and obesity by eating smart.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Colors of Spring

Flowers are blooming outside the house, and the sight is beautiful. Bellow are the photos i took to some of these flowers (by the way,  everything is real, no Photoshop effects or color correction).


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Searching for engineering jobs in Norway

Searching for an engineering job in Norway can be quite a challenge. At first, I thought it would be easy because I got the idea that Norway needed engineers very badly, so this could be a quick process. After 2 months of job searching and dozens of CVs sent, I have learned a little bit about Norway’s job market and its needs. One of the things that surprised me was the possibility of importing your CV from another company’s database. So, instead of filling out forms with the same information over and over again, if you already filled a CV form, depending on the company careers website, you can import this information in a very user friendly way.

When it comes solely to engineering, there is a noticeable need for engineers for the oil and gas business (e.g. mining, ocean structures, hydraulics, etc.). I was surprised to see so many job ads requesting a lot of “senior engineers” and experienced workers. Portugal has the exact same kind of demands for employees (in the job ads). It is not uncommon to find ads requesting the candidate to have 5 years experience this and that, sometimes in a very long list of demands that are almost impossible to fully satisfy. Once, I found a job offering in my University where the “recently graduate candidate” should have at least 5 years of experience in a list of activities to perform that occupied the whole page. In these cases I believe it is important to remember ourselves that experience is not something that we can buy at the store by the kilo. Although it is understandable that an experienced worker has a lower learning curve that an inexperienced one, you eventually learn everything, or complement what you already know, to get the job done. So, if you see a list of required expertise in a job ad of which you have only a few, send your CV anyways because there is a chance of the target company have some realistic people working in their human resources department, and they just might like your motivation.

If possible, learn Norwegian in advance because some companies require the candidate to speak both Norwegian and English fluently. You can also respond to a job ad in Norwegian although I have seen at least a company who specifically mentioned that if the ad was not in English, than it was meant to Norwegians only.

If you are an Engineer, I will give you a list of four sites you can use to try your luck in the lands of the North:

Above all never forget, job searching sometimes may not be easy (a friend of mine spent 6 months sending CVs before she was hired to work in England) but if you keep your spirits high and have some perseverance you might just find your dream job.

As for me, I was hired as a researcher in a portuguese University where I will work while continuing to send CVs to Norway. I will take this opportunity to continue to learn Norwegian and blog some more (and perhaps post some more portuguese cuisine recipies ;) ).

Lykke til! (“Good luck”)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Engineering for dummies

The Portuguese newspaper “PÚBLICO” stated that in the early nineties, a certain “engineer” was fired from the technical department for private projects belonging to the City Hall of Guarda, after being warned several times by the lack of quality and supervision of his own projects. The projects that were signed by this “engineer” did not even had the location of the construction site. In one of the projects even the roof was badly designed and impossible to construct. Source here

This “engineer” is the current prime minister of Portugal.

How to handle nosy journalists... the portuguese government way

Emídio Rangel, a journalist and former director of RTP, the Portuguese television owned by the government, stated while answering to an inquiry commission on the subject of freedom of speech, that Almeirindo Marques, the current minister of public works, said the following words to him that I am about to translate for you:

“(…) you have to get out of RTP. There is no room for further discussion. I have two solutions: either we settle an agreement for you to get out of RTP, or, if we don’t reach an agreement, I will raise a disciplinary process on you for any lesser thing, you are put away, and we’ll solve this situation in the courts. (…)”.

Source here.

Graffiti art

More here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The difference between rich & poor countries is...

...in rich countries there is a considerable part of the population making an effort not to eat so much, while in poor countries there is a considerable part of the population making an effort not to eat so little.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Speeding on the highway

António Costa (mayor of Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal) and Paulo Portas (head of the CDS party), were caught speeding at 160Km/h. The justification was that they were in a “mission of service”, but the mission was to go to a football game.

Portugal vs. Sweden work schedule

I read this in a blog about a portuguese guy that lived in Sweden:

“In Sweden, if you don’t leave work at 5 p.m. your colleagues ask if you are working extra hours.

In Portugal, if you leave work at 5 p.m. your colleagues ask you if you are working part-time.”

Comrades, ease up on the vodka!

It appears Moscow has intentions of put out Stalin posters in the city. The man was one of the responsible people for the genocide of millions of people, either by famine or through imprisonment in the Gulags, and now they are using posters to remind people (i.e. propaganda) of the great “war heroes”. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Christmas list

There is an ongoing scandal in Portugal called “Face Oculta” about which the list of “gifts” given at Christmas by one of the defendants went public. I’m translating part of the list bellow, and let you take your own conclusions.

Now, just to provide a reference for the prices in the table above, 5€ is enough to buy you a Big Mac in Portugal.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Censorship in modern day Portugal

Recently, a renowned Portuguese journalist, Mário Crespo, saw his weekly chronicle being removed from the newspaper where it supposedly should be published. In that chronicle, he expressed his thoughts on a conversation that the prime minister had about him while having lunch at a restaurant. According to him, the prime minister expressed how some journalists had already been “put away” from their jobs because of some undesired comments and he mentioned Mário Crespo as “a problem which had to be solved”. Fortunately, Mário Crespo is an old school journalist, the kind that has the guts to fight for his rights, leading to a wide discussion about freedom of speech in the country. The prime minister is even being metaphorically referred to as “the octopuss” because of the accusations on him using his tentacles to control the Portuguese media.

The prime minister has a problem with people criticizing him, no news there. The public has become aware of many scandals regarding his personal and political life, from his questionable University diploma, to the teacher that was fired for saying some undesirable comments on whether or not the prime minister is really an engineer. There is an huge mistrust for politicians in Portugal, as sooner or later we hear about some irregular activity executed by them before, or during, their political careers. It is really hard to hope for a politician whom has a real interest on the well being of a people, without being corrupted for external or selfish interests.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Guessing mathematics

Today, while speaking to an university student in the area of business management, i asked her if she knew how to calculate the area of a 8x8 square. After much thinking, i got the answer from her:






-No. Are you going to keep counting? Because you are not getting anywhere closer to the correct answer.

Friday, February 12, 2010

When robbing goes wrong..

The man in the picture tried to rob a supermarket in Almancil, Portugal. Fortunately he was not able to escape. When the owner of the supermarket arrived at the scene he called the police (by the way, according to him, his supermarket was robbed over ten times).

After leaving the crime scene the thief was released and pressed charges on the owner of the store because he claimed having been beaten in the legs and butt while he was stuck in the hole, but without knowing whom was the author because he could not see whom it was. If there is a country where thieves complain about lack of robbing conditions that country is Portugal.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The tale of the shopping kart

Last December I saw myself amongst one most unusual situation. I was waiting in line for the Bus at the Bus station. Somebody, for some reason, took a shopping kart from the nearby supermarket and left it in the sidewalk. Because it was a very windy night, the shopping kart was pulled to the middle of the road by the strong wind. The road was experiencing a period of high activity, with the Buses crossing the road from both ways with the shopping kart standing in the middle of all the action. An accident was eminent. There were about 50 people in line together with me, and other tenths around the Bus station watching the scene. Calmly, i put on my gloves while I observed the apathy of the people around me. As I finished, I walked to the middle of the road, grabbed the shopping kart and took it somewhere safe, where it could not be affected by the wind or cause an accident.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Today, a person very close to me, a teacher, was attacked by a 12 year old delinquent student.

Education, or for the lack of a better word, uneducation, of Portuguese children is a serious issue in Portugal, which is already showing severe consequences. The indolent education policy of the current government has produced a wave of violence and disrespect for the once respected profession that was to be a teacher. In the past, I never dreamed of being rude to a teacher, and in the time of my parents or grandparents, disrespect would surely be answered with a strong beating, the kind you hardly forget later in your life.

But what makes these kids behave this way? Although some parents, not all, but some, like to blame teachers for their children’s behavior, following the good old nasty habit of blaming another person for one’s mistakes, it is important to remember that the parents are themselves the first teachers of their children. Education starts at home. And, in the same way that may be fair to question a teacher’s pedagogic ability, some parents parental capacity is also questionable. Juvenile delinquency has deeper roots that stretch beyond the walls of schools. There are situations where children are actually going hungry; teenage pregnancy (sometimes originated from violations from within the family itself); alcoholism; unstable/violent environment at home; divorced parents who use their offspring as weapons; sons and daughters of prostitutes (e.g. I was told of a case where the mother would put her son on the street to receive clients at home); neural disorders that cause unstable behavior. You name it. Things are not as simple as the cliché TV statements as “he is a delinquent teenager because he never received the G.I. Joe that Christmas morning ”. 

But how does the Portuguese government handles these problematic cases? Well, if you are able to contact the social services, in the worst case scenarios, the kids get to go to special correction schools, which are also known as authentic schools of crime. Mostly, these kids are put together and are handled by people with little training to handle these cases. 

I believe the key is: each case is a case. The Portuguese educational system currently lacks the aptitude of focusing a lot more effort into saving these kids, like by using teams of psychiatrists, psychologists and highly skilled social workers to help them. And as important as focusing on the kids, sometimes the parents also need education. Children should not be used as toys or tools to get more money from social services. Any civilized society should have the education of its children as its highest priority. And who knows, perhaps some of these children may become some of the people who mostly contribute to society.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Portuguese journalism

"Mr. X, you have lost your home, property, your entire life's work is gone because of this awful fire. Please, tell us, how do you feel?"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mathematics of an office

smart boss + smart employee = profit

smart boss + dumb employee = production

dumb boss + smart employee = promotion

dumb boss + dumb employee = extra hours

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Nº2

Today, I was told about the story of the Nº2 manager working at the factory. A few years ago, a newspaper add was published asking for engineers, but it did not refer to the field of work, neither to the name of the company. Mr. Z was an electricity technician, and after seeing the add, and despite he was not an engineer, he decided to send the CV anyways. Because no one else had tried to answer the job add, he got the position as Nº2 manager of the factory. The person to whom I am referring is a good hearted one, but he is emotionally unstable, as he handles things in a very stressful way (this is important to better visualize the temper of this guy). In the last eight years, he was sick and went on vacation two times for psychological reasons (i.e. he was losing his mind). Anyways, a few years ago, he ordered one of the technicians (let us name him Mr. T) to build a support structure near the cooling towers of the factory. So, Mr. Z arrived at the work site and yelled at Mr. T “you have to use a breathing mask to continue that job”. Mr. T, seeing some chemical engineers performing some tests with the water of the cooling towers, found the request a little bit odd, and decided to confront Mr. Z to find out the reason for having to wear the mask. So, Mr. T asked:
- Why do I have to wear the mask?
- Because I said so.
- Because you said so? That is the answer the Nº2 manager has to provide? I’m going to speak to manager Nº1!
After reaching the office and asking the same question, manager Nº1 answered:
- Because wearing a mask is a part of the procedure.
- Because it is a part of the procedure? That is the answer the senior engineer/manager has to give me? What kind of an engineer answer is that?
- OK. We have found bacteria in the water of the cooling tower. That is why you have to wear the mask.
Mr. T was really f*cked up because he was putting his life on the line and was not informed of the risks he was taking. Then, he went to speak to the chemical engineers and tried to get some answers. They told him there was no danger because the bacteria in question were not harmful, and that manager Nº1 had been misinformed.
A little bit later, Mr. Z arrived at the work site, screaming:
And after these words.. he opened up a valve, and started drinking the water directly from the cooling towers while saying:
Well… the water of a cooling water... is not exactly of the drinking type. It is full of other microorganisms, bacteria, seaweed, chemical products to prevent corrosion, etc. Conclusion of this story: Mr. Z had to stay one week at home with heavy diarrhea.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Welcome to Portugal

This video shows the aftermath of a court ruling of a murder case. The scenes are happening in front of the court.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How the Portuguese judicial system works

Case 1: A man runs over a woman with a car and tries to escape the scene; he realizes the body got stuck in the car. He drives 2 Km with the body of the victim stuck to the car while driving to get rid of it. When the man is caught by the police, he is taken to the police station, identified, and released again (source).
Case 2: A man makes living by selling jewelry in is jewelry store. He gets robbed by four young men with guns pointed to his head. He goes after the robbers and gets involved in a shooting with one of the robbers, whom gets hit and dies. Finally, the owner of the jewelry store is sentenced with murder (source).

Sleeping on the job

During my time in company X, sometimes i find people sleeping in the workplace. Although it is better not to judge the reasons why people sleep during their work hours, some of these situations are funny.
The first situation i can recall was when I was entering a room where the ventilation system is located. Suddenly, I am surprised with a security guard sleeping while sitting on an improvised box. Immediately, he rose up, greeted me, and said something like “I was just resting my eyes, the fumes from the garage make a burn sensation in my eyes”. 
But the funniest case yet was today. I was getting out of a service elevator when I noticed this castle-like structure made of goods waiting to be transported. Then, a face rose up from a little spot hidden in the middle of the goods, he looked at us, mumbled something, and then fell asleep again. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On the Nobel Peace Prize of 2009

Obama will send an extra 30000 troops to Afghanistan! Way to go Mr. Nobel Peace Prize!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

Many people in Portugal like to celebrate the new year either in the streets watching fireworks, or at discos, or at home. Having my fair share of the first two i have become a more homely person, and prefer to celebrate the new year at home with family and friends. We spend the evening cooking sea food, where i am usually requested as a "saucier". At midnight, we went to the top of the building to get a view of our surroundings. We were able to get a glimpse at the fireworks in Lisbon, in the Vasco da Gama bridge. I hope you all have a Happy New year, and also, i am hopping the next year will bring us less wars, because frankly, i am getting very tired of this war crap. Godt nytt år!