Alvin Alexander | Java, Scala, Unix, Perl, Mac OS X

Diary entry from January, 18, 2011, Wasilla, Alaska: While on a walk this morning I came across a large moose. It was just standing there, eating a tree. I didn‘t bother it, and it didn‘t bother me.

One thing I learned about ten years ago is that when I need to memorize things, flashcards work really well for me. More recently, because I often bounce between many technologies, I have been making flashcards as a way of bringing me back up to speed after I’ve been away from a technology for a while.

The image shows one example of this, where I created a stack of flashcards to help me remember/relearn Android, which I haven’t used in several months. In this case I also have my Android cheat sheet to fall back on, but even then I still like using the flashcards. I think the theory is that rather than reading something passively, flashcards force you to try to recall something, and that’s a much more active way of using your brain and memory.

Android flash cards

As a short “note to self,” I just used this Scala code to (a) create a list that contains random strings of different lengths, then (b) shuffle the list of strings to create a more random effect:

I was just reminded of Rubber Duck Debugging. From this Wikipedia link, “The name is a reference to a story in the book The Pragmatic Programmer in which a programmer would carry around a rubber duck and debug their code by forcing themselves to explain it, line-by-line, to the duck.” For me, my rubber duck is Albert Einstein.

Rubber Duck Debugging

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other thing.”

~ Abraham Lincoln (born in Hardin County, Kentucky)

“I’m not a great programmer; I’m just a good programmer with great habits.”

~ Kent Beck

Here’s an story about how a little shop in Palmer, Alaska “invented a machine that is cleaning the decks of aircraft carriers all over the world.”

Rick: If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?

Sam: Uh, my watch stopped.

(Part of the lead-in to one of the great lines in movie history.)

Flashback to driving to Alaska in March, 2010: “If you try to drive through Canada in the winter with those tires you’re going to end up as a statistic.”

As shown in the image, I just installed Ubuntu on my 2008 27” iMac. The UI is interesting, a combination of MacOS and Windows. From what I’ve seen, I think I’ll like the Ubuntu UI (Unity) more than Linux Mint, but I’m open. So far Ubuntu is also significantly faster than the latest versions of MacOS were on the same hardware, though that may be because MacOS had a few hundred thousand more files on it than Ubuntu has at the moment.

Ubuntu running on a 2008 27” iMac

This is the amino acids supplement chart from the excellent book by Julia Ross, The Diet Cure. With this chart you look at the first two columns to find whatever “deficiency” problems you may be having, then look for the amino acid supplement(s) that are known to help with those problems.

I originally learned about this when my thyroid was failing in 2011. L-tyrosine was a major help in living through that problem.

The Diet Cure: Amino acids supplement chart

The movie The Hidden Fortress is said to have a major impact on the Star Wars series. From Wikipedia: “George Lucas has acknowledged the heavy influence of The Hidden Fortress on Star Wars, particularly in the technique of telling the story from the perspective of the film's lowliest characters, C-3PO and R2-D2. Lucas's original plot outline for Star Wars also had a strong resemblance to the plot of The Hidden Fortress, which would be reused for The Phantom Menace.”

I live in Colorado, where cellular reception can be very hit or miss. As just one example there are only two spots in my apartment where I can make a phone call. So when I’m at home trying to view a website using Safari on my iPhone and the page is loading really slow, I find it really annoying that my iPhone is trying to use my cellular data rather than my home wireless network (WiFi).

Note: Apple implies that the cellular data is “assisting” the WiFi, but with the poor cell reception here, I can confirm that this feature just slows down my iPhone internet speed.

“Besides a mathematical inclination, an exceptionally good mastery of one’s native tongue is the most vital asset of a competent programmer.”

~ Edsger Dijkstra

A website named has a collection of images and short stories they call Daniel Kottke’s Amazing Apple Relics. If you’re interested in Apple history it’s a nice little find.

I like the quote by Pema Chodron (PC) that’s shown in this image, but personally a better one for me is, “You know what, I screwed up here, and I need to own that.”

It took me about 43 years to stop blaming other people for my problems. Then one day I finally said to myself, “The only reason I don’t live in Alaska is because of me. The only reason I don’t practice yoga more is me. The only reason I don’t meditate more is me.”

A couple of times a year I still open my mouth to start blaming other people or situations for my problems, but I try to catch myself before the words actually come out, and when I wrongfully accuse someone else for my problem of the moment, I do try to apologize.

(It’s worth noting that I think PC and I are talking about two different circumstances. I’m talking about things that are under my control, which are the 99.9% of the things that happen to me in my daily life. I have read several books by PC, and I suspect that this quote is about people who have been harmed by things out of their control, such as family violence. I absolutely agree with her quote in that context.)

Personal responsibility

While reading Carlos Santana’s autobiography I’ve been trying to explore more of his music. This video shows two of his songs — Soul Sacrifice and Evil Ways — at Woodstock in 1969.

Chapters from The Handbook of Applied Cryptography are available from the publisher and authors as PDFs at this link.

When it’s finished, this series of articles by José Manuel may be a good read on functional programming.

This image is from an article about Ubuntu named, How to make your desktop look like my desktop. has another article on customizing the Ubuntu UI with themes.

Customizing Ubuntu with themes