Davis Aquatic Masters

I joined the Davis Aquatic Masters (DAM) about four months ago, and I’ve been swimming almost every day since then, with the only exception of a few weeks that I spent in Spain during the summer.

I think that’s been helping me a lot. I’ve gained more than 12 lb and I feel in better shape than ever. I’ve been hiking again lately and I’ve started playing soccer with Nachito in the evenings. So far I haven’t noticed any signs of back pain, which means that the herniated disk is probably healing.

Swimming during the summer was very pleasant; Davis is super hot and jumping into the water at noon was very refreshing. I also have a great tan from swimming under the sun. However, it’s getting a bit chili now (~80º F). I wonder how hard it will be to swim during the winter; hopefully they will adjust the water temperature. In any case, swimming with others is very encouraging, it’s much easier to share the workout with regular lane-mates and a coach to urge you on.

Today we had a physiotherapy assessment test and just learned that my right shoulder is fucked up. It has a much more limited range of motions than the left shoulder and it makes cracking noises when rotating on certain angles. This summer I had a minor injury while swimming at the beach that kept me away from the pool for about one week, but it slowly recovered and after two weeks the pain was gone entirely. However, it’s very likely that I’ll have more problems if I don’t get that fixed. I should be able to change medical plans pretty soon, so hopefully I’ll be able to chose a decent physiotherapist.

Camping in the Redwoods

We went camping last weekend. This was our second attempt; the first one last Autumn was a disaster. Nachito would not stay inside the sleep-bag during the night and he was going to get a cold outside, so at 1:00 am I had to pack everything and head back to arrive home three hours later. This time Nachito is almost one year older and his mom came with us, so we had more chances to success, and in fact, it went pretty well; Nachito behaved like a grown up this time.

Continue reading →

Rice with milk

When I was a kid I lived in the city, but once a week we got a large milk delivery from the farm. The milk was raw and fresh. I remember we had to boil it ourselves and remove the excess of fat. One of the greatest treats of my childhood was eating the freshly skimmed cream of the raw milk mixed with sugar.

Since we got more milk than we could actually drink ourselves in a week, my grandmother used to make deserts with it. My favorite was rice with milk. However, at some point somebody decided that the few cows in the farm were too much of a hassle to maintain, the cows were sold, and our supply of raw milk ended. We tried to keep making the same recipes with pasteurized milk, but it was not the same. So, I spent years without enjoying this desert until I came to the US.

Continue reading →

Salmorejo means food in summer

I don’t know what’s going on with me lately. Mariana and Nachito are in Brazil visiting Mariana’s family, so that leaves me with plenty of free time. I finally got an epidural injection, so physically I’m feeling great. In the past I would have taken this time to code like crazy and get lots of things done, but things are going much slower than I was hoping. Maybe it’s the heat of the summer, or that now that my body feels fine, I need some time to enjoy it and relax.

Anyhow, today it’s time for some more food blogging, and now that we are in midst of the summer there’s nothing better than Salmorejo. As soon as the tomato season starts, this is something that I have for lunch or dinner almost every day. It’s easy to cook, it’s fast, it’s refreshing, and it’s filling.

Continue reading →

Efficient Substitutes for Subdivision Surfaces

Our siggraph course has been accepted and is finally up on the siggraph website! Here’s the brief description of the course:

An overview of the most recent theoretical results and their implementations on the current and next-generation GPUs, and a demonstration of applications in the gaming and movie industry.

We will bring together participants with different backgrounds: ISV from the game and movie industry, IHVs and academia. Each one will provide their own point of view on the topic and describe their own experiences with these methods. I think that will be very valuable to understand the weaknesses and strengths of these techniques, and will hopefully encourage other developers to adopt them.

NVTT quote

I love this quote from Ivan-Assen Ivanov about the NVIDIA Texture Tools:

We switched to CUDA nvcompress in our pipeline and totally forgot
about it. Until yesterday, when an artist had to work on a 7600 for a
while, and raised hell about how slow the export has become.


Standing Desk 2

So, I finally bought the Ikea standing desk and I’ve been using it full time during this week.

As many predicted my feet hurt, and at the end of the day I feel extremely tired, almost as if I had been hiking, which is actually quite a nice feeling. For once I now get to sleep before midnight and wake up early in the mornings. I’ve realized I have to do stretching exercises to prevent cramps during the night. I suppose my body will end up getting used to it.

My doctor has finally prescribed me some stronger drugs. I’m now taking Prednisone for the inflammation and Vicodin for the pain. During the first few days the Vicadin eliminated the pain entirely; after weeks of constant pain with some acute episodes that was quite a relief. I felt energized and euphoric, suddenly I could walk normally, I could even run, jump, speed up my bike, and get some adrenaline flowing!

Unfortunately the body creates tolerance fairly quickly, so I had to reduce the dose. However, I think the inflammation is finally receding, the pain is still there, but it’s just a mere discomfort. I think the results of the physiotherapy are also starting to show. The S shape of my column has been corrected, it feels much more straight now. My abs are stronger than ever. I’m not sure it has been of any help for the pain, but at least it will hopefully prevent more damage in the future.

NVIDIA Texture Tools 2.0.6

Yesterday I released another revision of the stable branch of the NVIDIA Texture Tools. I recommend everybody to upgrade, since it fixes some bugs and artifacts, and improves compatibility with current and future CUDA drivers. Starting with this release I’m planning to provide a verbose description of the changes in each release. So, here it goes:

In a multi-GPU environment NVTT will now use the fastest GPU available. This is quite useful on systems that have an embedded and a discrete GPU. You certainly don’t want to use the embedded one while the discrete GPU is idle.

Using recent CUDA runtimes with older CUDA drivers usually causes problems. To avoid that, NVTT now determines the version of the available CUDA driver and makes sure it’s compatible with the CUDA runtime that was used to compile it.

The NVTT shutdown code did not destroy the CUDA context properly, which caused problems the second time you tried to create a context in the same thread. The behavior on 2.0 drivers was to reuse the context already created, but CUDA 2.1 produces an error instead. This is fixed now.

Note however, that you are not allowed to create multiple compressors in the same thread simultaneously. This is a limitation in the CUDA runtime API that transparently creates a CUDA context per thread. In the future I’m planning to use the driver API directly, which should remove this restriction.

There have been issues reported with the CUDA compressor not producing correct output when processing 1×1 mipmaps. I was able to reproduce the problem on old drivers, but it seems to be fixed now. In any case, I realized that using the entire GPU to compress a 1×1 mipmap did not make any sense, so now I’m compressing small mipmaps in the CPU instead. That is slightly faster and avoids the aforementioned problem.

Per request of the Wolfire guys, NVTT now scales images with alpha by weighting the color channels by the alpha component. While a simple workaround to obtain the right results was to use premultiplied alpha, there was no reason not to do the right thing in all cases.

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve updated the single color compression tables to take into account the possible hardware decoding errors.

There was also a bug in the decompression of some RGB DDS files that is now fixed.

Progress on the 2.1 release is slow, but steady. The target features are almost complete, but I’ve been cleaning things up, removing a lot of cruft, and simplifying the code, in order to make it more accessible and encourage more contributions. I’m also working in a lower level API that should be more flexible and easier to maintain. More on that in a future post.

GPU DXT Decompression

Even thought the DXT compression format is widely adopted, most of the hardware implementations use a slightly different decompression algorithm.

The problem is that there never was a specification that described the preferred implementation. The DXT format was first documented by S3 in US patent 5956431. However, in order to cover all possible implementations the description in the patent is very generic. It does not specify when or whether the colors are bit expanded, or how the palette entries are interpolated. In one of the proposed embodiments they approximate the 1/3 and 2/3 terms as 3/8 and 5/8, which would have been a good idea, if everybody had chosen the same approximation. However, different implementations approximated the expensive division in different ways.

Continue reading →

Ham and Beans

I’ve been thinking about writing about cooking in this blog for a while. Not just to share what I’ve learned, because, well, I don’t have much to share, but to get other people’s ideas and suggestions. While I may cook better than the average American and may be able to impress my wife and friends, I’m not really such a good cook. I know how to follow recipes, and I’m starting to get some sense of what works and what does not, but I have a lot to learn, which is actually fascinating; there’s a whole world of flavors out there and exploring it is a very rewarding experience.

It took me a while to get used to cook in the US. Spanish cooking is not very sophisticated, but it’s based on seasonal dishes and the use of high quality ingredients available locally. Not the kind of thing you find in the US at your nearest supermarket.

This is all changing very quickly, but many of the traditions still remain. I for one grew up without paying to much attention to food. I just thought it was fuel for my body. It was only when I moved to the US that I started to appreciate what I used to have and now missed.

The Mediterranean diet is mostly composed of olive oil, bread, fresh fruits, fish and vegetables. However, I grew up in a family that runs a pork farm and a small meat production and distribution business. So, I had a larger share of meat than the average. Despite of that, meat was most often used as a condiment or in small dishes, except on special occasions.

[missing image – Iberian pigs in the Dehesa]

Our pork is unlike any other. Most of it is free-range and acorn-fed, which gives its meat a very distinct flavor. It is generally destined to the production of the finest quality deli meats: cured ham, loins, and sausages.

As far as I know it’s not possible to find anything like that in the US. Exports of Iberian ham are legal now, but the FDA requires installations to be periodically inspected and approved. Small farmers cannot really afford to comply with all the requirements of the FDA, so the only ham that you can usually find in the US is from larger and lower quality producers.

To add more insult to injury, the low quality ham that is available here is sold at outrageous prices, as if it were a high quality product! If you are not discouraged yet, you can find some of it at the Spanish Table, or at online retailers such as La Tienda.

I would not recommend any of those options. Instead, what I do is to bring some of our ham with us every time we travel to Spain. This is actually illegal, but is usually safe. However, once we tried to bring an entire leg and, much to our dismay, it was confiscated by the border officers. Since then, I only bring small quantities that are hardly noticeable on the scanner.

Rather than eating all of it right away, I generally save it for months, waiting for the right opportunity to enjoy it. Last weekend that opportunity presented itself in the form of fresh fava beans:

Fava beans are delicious eaten raw, or simply sautéed in olive oil with red onions. However, a little bit of Iberian Ham turns that delicious dish into a delicacy.

The preparation is trivial:

  • Remove the beans from their pods. It’s possible to also remove the beans from the shells by cooking them in boiling water for a short period of time and cooling them quickly in cold water. I personally don’t bother with that and leave the beans in their shells.
  • Pour a small amount of olive oil on a sauté pan on high heat. Chop the onions and the ham, and cook until flagrant.
  • Then add the beans, season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, and cook lightly for a few minutes while stirring often.

Let me know if you like posts like this, and if so, in future posts I’ll continue rambling about my quest to adapt the traditional Spanish recipes to the resources available in the US.


Posted 18/5/2009 at 4:04 am | Permalink
Habas con jamón…. Yummy!

Did I tell you I bought a bread machine? I plan to make sourdough bread as soon as I’m able to grow the culture.

Posted 18/5/2009 at 8:07 am | Permalink
Yeah, fantastic post, more!

Posted 18/5/2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
¡Habas con jamón! ¡Rico, rico!
Well done! I have the same problem finding cured ham in England, and I also follow the same procedure to bring some here, although I haven’t tried yet to bring a whole leg :D

Chad Austin
Posted 18/5/2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
I love all food, so more!

Posted 18/5/2009 at 7:02 pm | Permalink
Thanks for all the feedback! I think that next I’ll share my technique to make a basic pâté.

Posted 19/5/2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink
Great post, thanks! BTW, I like your typo “cook until flagrant”, it makes the meal seem much more exotic :) If you ever find a source for good quality hams please post it!