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

“More important than Buddhism, or Zen, or anything, is waking up. The Buddha was not a Buddhist. He was a ‘wake up’ person and what he woke up to is something everybody already has. Buddhism is not going to help you. Waking up is going to help the whole world.”

~ Zen Master Dae Kwang (from

Buddhism is not going to help you

From As if black holes weren't mysterious enough, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have found an unexpected thin disk of material furiously whirling around a supermassive black hole at the heart of the magnificent spiral galaxy NGC 3147, located 130 million light-years away.

The conundrum is that the disk shouldn't be there, based on current astronomical theories. However, the unexpected presence of a disk so close to a black hole offers a unique opportunity to test Albert Einstein's theories of relativity.

Hubble telescope uncovers black hole that shouldn’t exist

I’ve seen five rattlesnakes since I moved to Colorado, four dead and one that was quite upset with me. As I was walking yesterday I wondered, can snakes see? Here’s an answer from adds this information: “With the exception of a few species that have adapted to daytime hunting, most snakes do not see well. Generally they can see shapes but not details. Snakes called pit vipers can see well at night by an amazing trick. Their pits (one on each side of the head) sense heat (infrared light) like night vision goggles. These pits, not eyes, actually are thought to render images of prey in the snakes’ brains.”

Can snakes see?

Since I’ve been in Colorado we seem to get anywhere from five to 25 hailstorms a year. Sometimes they have markdowns on cars, other times, flowers.

Hailstorms in Colorado (and markdown sales)

While laying in the hospital bed after my recent surgery, a young nurse came into my room and asked what my pain level was, on a range from zero to ten.

I replied that it wasn’t bad at all, maybe a one or two at most, and I didn’t need any pain medicine.

She said that was great. She said that a lot of people immediately say they’re at a nine or ten.

I replied that I’d never say anything that high, I always thought a nine or ten should be saved for something really bad, like if you were just stabbed or shot.

She said, “I know, right. Or maybe broken bones ... or a heart attack.” She paused and then said, “Lately I’ve been wondering if giving birth is a 9 or 10.”

If you run into a problem where a Scala shell script won’t run on MacOS — it hangs indefinitely without doing anything — hopefully this bug report will help. The solution is to change this line at the beginning of the Scala shell script:

exec scala -savecompiled "$0" "$@"

to this:

exec scala -nocompdaemon -savecompiled "$0" "$@"

I just had this problem with Scala 2.12.x and Java 8 running on MacOS 10.14.4, and I can confirm that adding -nocompdaemon solved the problem for me.

There is some talk in this Rolling Stone article that Bruce Springsteen was on the verge of failure when the song “Born To Run” was released. Springsteen acknowledges that, but also adds, “I don’t know if it would have finished us — because what the [bleep] else were we going to do?”

I tend to look at that as perseverance: “Okay, you don’t like my work? Well, I’m not going anywhere, I’m going to keep working at it.”

When I first went to college I wasn’t a Springsteen fan at all — I barely knew who he was — but then I heard Hungry Heart, and became a fan. These days Born To Run, Hungry Heart, Badlands, Thunder Road, Pink Cadillac, Brilliant Disguise, and Secret Garden are some of my favorite songs. And Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is one of my favorite Christmas songs/performances.

According to WebMD, I may be pregnant. Fatigue, nausea, drastic changes in how things smell, food aversions, mood swings ... I've got most of the symptoms.

~ A Facebook post from July 9, 2014, after I had radiation treatment

“John Muir, the famous naturalist, wrote in his journal that you should never go to Alaska as a young man because you’ll never be satisfied with any other place as long as you live. And there’s a lot of truth to that.”

~ Tom Bodett

(sorry, i don’t remember where i saw this quote)

I just spent 45 minutes reading a new book about a programming language I was excited to learn, then slammed it shut and said, “Poorly organized, too many words, not enough code.”

That’s always such a disappointing feeling when you have that initial excitement about a programming language (or technology), and then a book is such a letdown. (I really hope people don’t view my books that way.)

Impassioned lovers
wrestle as one

Lonely man cries for love
and has none

New mother picks up
and suckles her son

Senior citizens
wish they were young

~ Nights in White Satin

“The way is not difficult. 
Only there must be no wanting, 
or not-wanting.”

~ Chao-chou (Joshu)

“A man of knowledge lives by acting,
not by thinking about acting.”

Carlos Castaneda

By now you know that I think a lot about attitude, and if there are any major secrets to my success, one of them is that at some point I learned that I was smart enough, and aggressive enough, to know when I was right about something. Once I gained confidence in myself, if I was clearly right about something and someone didn’t agree with me, I didn’t hesitate to say, or at least think, “Excuse me, you’re in my way.”

Port covers

Just a few months out of college, I was assigned to a missile project that had to do with something known as “port covers.” In short, port covers are like little doors on the sides of air-breathing rockets. If you’ve seen a little model rocket, or perhaps a firework that shoots up into the sky, you know that a rocket is basically a tube, like the cardboard tube that’s inside a roll of toilet paper. A normal solid rocket motor like this is filled with solid rocket fuel, which is something like a solid version of gasoline.

If you seem to value other people’s opinions over yours, this is another good article from How to Avoid the Empathy Trap.

How to Avoid the Empathy Trap

As a brief note today, here’s a Scala method that writes the strings in a list — more accurately, a Seq[String] — to a file:

def writeFile(filename: String, lines: Seq[String]): Unit = {
    val file = new File(filename)
    val bw = new BufferedWriter(new FileWriter(file))
    for (line <- lines) {

I saw this definition of type safety yesterday in a book named Programming TypeScript and I thought it was very simple and good:

Type Safety: Using types to prevent programs from doing invalid things.

Kent Beck has a good article on Medium titled, Programmer Test Principles.

Programmer Test Principles (Kent Beck)

One thing about meditation, it brings back some memories that are buried in the depths of your brain/mind. For example, when I was 17 or 18 years old I remember my father and “the woman he got pregnant while he was married to me my mother” having a conversation where they referred to themselves as “survivors.” I further remember thinking, “If throwing your wife and children overboard to save yourself makes you a survivor, sure, you’re a survivor.”

When I left Alaska in 2011 I didn’t have enough room in my car for all of my books, so these are the books I left behind.

Books I sold when I left Alaska in 2011