Tonight’s Soporano’s is only half way through but, finally, it’s a damn good episode.

“Is he drivin’ you to drink?”
“I can drive myself.”

Late Night Time Wastin'

Now everybody that knows me
Knows just the way I feel
When my baby ain’t around
I’ve lots of time to kill

I wonder how much money and success there is in doing late-night ads for things like Elvis CD’s. The market of the viewing audience has to be so large that you can move enough re-packaged music to do all right.

The slice of business of re-packaging things and selling them seems facinating in the first place: the middle-man, though it may seem boring in a day-in-and-day-out sort of way is an endless source of “how the hell does that work?!” if you look close enough at it.

The Big Sleep:

The phone rang back in five minutes. I had finished my drink and it made me feel as if I could eat the dinner I had forgotten all about; I went out leaving the telephone ringing. It was ringing when I came back. It rang at intervals until half-past twelve. At that time I put my lights out and opened the windows up and muffled the phone bell with a piece of paper and went to bed. I had a bellyful of the Sternwood family.

Java Sets:

  • “HashSet is a good choice for representing sets if you don’t care about element ordering. But if ordering is important, then LinkedHashSet or TreeSet are better choices.”
  • “[T]he results should indicate that TreeSet takes more than twice as long as HashSet.”
  • “Note too that the cost of TreeSet relative to HashSet and LinkedHashSet varies with the size of the set.”
  • “There is one exception to the rule that LinkedHashSets are slower than HashSets: iteration over a LinkedHashSet is generally faster than iteration over a HashSet.”

FundsXpress adds Fla. bank:

Austin-based FundsXpress Financial Network Inc. has signed up a bank with $6 billion in assets as its latest customer, the company announced Monday.

And the FX site even has a press-release for it, on the day it happened (today) no less:

Over the past 18 months, FundsXpress has expanded its client base to over 515 financial institutions.

Someone must have realized a week’s lag-time for updating the online “press room” looked a bit, well, bad for an on-line company.

Thanks to Chris Marich for the link.

Texas Politics & Boots

“It’s a Texan thing. If you’re from Texas and you don’t wear boots, something’s wrong,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez. “I have a few pairs and I just change the soles and keep wearing them year after year.”


Ghost in the Machine Juxtapositions

For some reason I’ve encountered the Ghost in the Machine idea quite a lot this week. The “Ghost in the Machine idea,” to me at least, is that in a given process there’s something other than the process’s parts that create the end effect of that process.

A process, of course, is something along the lines of “all the things and events that create a cause (‘result’) or effect.” (Never mind what “cause or effect” means, that’s a never ending spiral of inquiry.)
To put it another way, there’s some un-seeable, almost unknowable thing that uses otherwise “dead” parts to get some seeable result or effect: the ghost in the machine.

From “Response and Reconciliation” by Octavio Paz. In the Nov. 2002 Harper’s:

The depths, the transparencies
where it floats or sinks: not life, its idea.
It is always on the other side and is always other,
has a thousand bodies and none,
never moves and never stops,
it is born to die, and is born at death.

From Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs ,
ch. 1

We are about to study the idea of a computational process. Computational processes are abstract beings that inhabit computers. As they evolve, processes manipulate other abstract things called data. The evolution of a process is directed by a pattern of rules called a program. People create programs to direct processes. In effect, we conjure the spirits of the computer [processes] with our spells [programs].

You think the “process” being talked about here is the program, but then we find that programs guide the process. The ghost in the machine here, then, is the thing that draws all those lines of code together into something. Its the answer to the flashing prompt that asks “now what do I do?”

From “Loving the Ghost in the Machine”:

The interesting thing is that every new medium seems to open up a new kind of outside, every new mode of perception leaving out, or even creating, something imperceptible, and on the other hand bringing out something previously out of reach.

. . .

[A]ll creative activity, whether it’s art, philosophy or science, has to approach the outside of thought. To be able to create new ways to feel the world, new percepts and affects, one has to court the chaos and worship the glitch.

This is, in essence, De Bono’s, well, “ghost in the machine” for forcing creativity: expose a “glitch” that shifts they way you think about something, and then move onto creating new things from there.

Perfection and Simplicity:

When I design, I try to make each actor within the design—each class or interface, for example—do one thing right. I also try to never couple what isn’t intrinsically coupled. This is a general design principle.

Microsoft Style Weblog, SharePoint:

The strength of SharePoint, especially in comparison to its competitors in the realm of weblog software, is a keen sense of the importance of a user’s other information. Contact information and calendar appointments that can be imported with a click into Outlook, a consistent and well-designed searchable repository for Office documents such as Word files and Excel workbooks, and great support for threaded discussions all show directions that weblog software has yet to explore. It’s unlikely that any of the competitors in this realm will be taken seriously for some installs inside the firewall until those concerns, and issues like LDAP or NDS or Active Directory authentication, are addressed.

Coffee achievers:

Loaded with useful sidebars and diagnostic quizzes, this user-friendly manual offers advice on the optimal ”dosing” that will make us smarter, calmer, safer, thinner, healthier, sexier, less bored and ”hostile.” The trick is for each user to ride the Yerkes-Dodson Biophasic Curve, which tracks that mystical point beyond which caffeine’s benefits begin to reverse themselves. Though too much caffeine can lead to jitteriness and insomnia, the authors dismiss the notion that caffeine is harmful – or even truly addictive. The only real risk is falling into ”caffeinism,” as psychiatrists have labeled compulsive and self-defeating overconsumption of the stuff.

Link found at qdbp. And some whimsy from MSNBC:

That’s when Weinberg told me about something called the Yerkes-Dodson Biphasic Curve, which, in layman’s terms, is shaped like an inverted “u.” The curve basically shows that a little caffeine gives you a little jolt, more caffeine gives you more jolt, but even more caffeine gives you less jolt. (And Jolt Cola just gives you rotten teeth.)

Mitch Kapor's Weblog:

One aspect which has to be thought through are read/write/edit permissions. The Wiki we use internally is completely open to everyone. I think some kind of moderation and/or editorial control would be appropriate, but I’m not familiar with what the Wiki (or other tools) afford.

After support for tables, and probably file uploads/attachments, the number one thing people seem to want with Wikis is permissions for users.

If the Wiki is not behind a firewall — as is the case above — then I have a feeling that desire is, well, “right” in the sense that it should be satisfied. Behind the firewall, of course, there’s not much of a need for editorial control. At the very least, if an employee does something malicious, you just restore your backups, track-down, and then wrist slap the offending employees.

Link found at

The Need for Leeway:

By bending the rules we’re not violating fairness. The equal and blind application of rules is a bureaucracy’s idea of fairness. Judiciously granting leeway is what fairness is all about. Fairness comes in dealing with the exceptions….

That’s why in the analog world we have a variety of judges, arbiters, and referees to settle issues fairly when smudgy reality outstrips clear rules….

Matters are different in the digital world. Bits are all edges. Nothing is continuous. Everything is precise. Bits are uniform so no exceptions are required, no leeway is permitted.

From the Drug News Desk:

“The absurdity of its illegality has been clear to me for some time. I learned about pot from my kids and realized it was a lot better than Scotch, and I loved the Scotch.”

JP adds, “He’s the former CEO of Progressive; he’s been described as a ‘functional-pot head.’

The McMurphy Nietzsche:

There can be little doubt of how Nietzsche would have been managed by psychiatrists of today. He would have been diagnosed with manic depressive psychosis (current terminology uses the less meaningful term bipolar disease). He would have been loaded with drugs from the armamentarium of psychotropic medications, which no doubt would have suppressed some of the more bizarre symptoms that he displayed during his fourteen months of institutionalization. If, in spite of medications, Nietzsche continued to show signs of psychosis, his diagnosis would have been changed to chronic schizophrenia, a common switch in long term manifestations of psychosis. In either case, Nietzsche’s unique creative life would have come to an end, as it did in the actual course of his illness.

Scott Adams on "Incentives":

It is always the dream of corporations to give people things that seem like money to people without giving them any actual money. In the dot-com era, we had stock options. Now we don’t have that option anymore. More and more companies are giving rocks. They are actually paperweights that say “quality” or have some other inspirational message. They are morale building mementos that by any other definition are in fact rocks. Companies are telling people they are not getting a raise and then are handing them a blunt object. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more trouble

Link found at Cafe au Lait.

Rothko…on API Design

“We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.”

Mark Rothko

Though the quote comes from an artist, it seems like good advice for coding as well., or Monthly Blog Navel Gazing Post

Though I’ve collapsed my posting activity — sparse as it’s been recently — to just this weblog, I keep finding myself wanting to use the old bookmark weblog again and again. So, why the hell not?

I don’t think any one actually looked at it, but, if you’re really starved for content, I post links, like things to read later, there pretty often. They’re usually technical, but sometimes they’re just small quotes and little things that I don’t feel are polished enough even for the low standards I try to maintain over her.

A Whiff of Isle

I think about once every 3 months, all the sudden, I just get flavor deja vu of Isle scotches, like Laphroaig, in my nose and mouth. I’m just sitting there, then all the sudden, all I can taste and smell is scotch.

Hopefully, this doesn’t mean something terrible.

Stupid Typos

while (methodsItr.hasNext()); {
    JavaMethod method = (JavaMethod);
    methodsMap.put(makeMethodSignature(method), method);

See ifin’ you can spot the “problem.”