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

Famed programmer Joe Armstrong passed away this weekend. He created the Erlang programming language, based on the actor model, and without using Google, I’m pretty darned sure that Erlang had an impact on Akka, the very cool actor library for Scala. Here’s an article Mr. Armstrong wrote some years ago, titled, Why OO Sucks (OO as in OOP).

Because functional programming is like algebra, there are no null values or exceptions. But of course you can still have exceptions when you try to access servers that are down or files that are missing, so what can you do? This lesson demonstrates the techniques of functional error handling in Scala.

“We should think and feel over and over: ‘May the suffering that this being and many others are experiencing cease, along with its causes. I will do everything I can to free them from this pain.’”

That’s from this tweet by Tulku Thondup.

I have to be honest, I can’t feel this for my loud downstairs neighbor here at the Terracina apartments. The only nice thing I can currently pray for is for him to move. I’m trying to work on that, but when someone plays their music so loud that your floor vibrates and your kitchen range rattles, it’s hard to think about his suffering and pain. (Just being honest about how I feel today.)

April 20, 2015: In sad news, the Motherlode Lodge burned down in Hatcher Pass, Alaska. I used to drive past it 5-10 times each summer, and I always thought that if I had enough money I would have liked to re-open it, and I even discussed that possibility with several people. A little story and video is here on adn.com.

Motherlode Lodge burns down in Hatcher Pass, Alaska

My favorite garbage dumpster in Seward, Alaska. "Look for moose".

I just started watching A Little Bit of Heaven, and of course the correct answer for Wish #3 is that you want to feel love.

I edited Chapter 6 of my new book whilst listening to Moon Baby by Godsmack. I’m not sure I can be held responsible for whatever ended up in that chapter. :)

A couple of things happened recently that make me feel like a piece of meat in the organ grinder of life. First, I was in talks with a publisher about publishing a book with them, and their contract began, “You grant to Us ... the exclusive right to ... sell and otherwise commercially exploit your Work.” I thought, “Well, I guess that’s what work is about, organizations exploiting your work for their commercial profit,” but their writing felt dirty and sleazy, like it was totally controlled by a scumbag lawyer or CEO.

Next, I live in the Terracina apartments in Broomfield, Colorado, and they were recently bought by a new company. With the old company everything here felt like a family, but when the new company bought the place they fired the previous staff, and with most of the new staff it feels like I’m just a number. When I walk in the office the reception feels like, “Number 232 ... you always complain that your kitchen range is vibrating because your downstair’s music is so loud, what do you want? We’re trying to make a lot of money here and you’re a troublemaker.” Twice the office manager has barely looked away from her computer monitor while talking to me.

Both situations remind me of the Bon Seger song, Feel Like a Number.

[This is a chapter from a currently-unpublished book I’m writing on meditation and mindfulness.]

As a spiritual being, one possible way to think of life here on Earth is as a “game” that serves as a training ground for the soul. It’s a game like other games, so it has many levels, and they get harder and harder as you progress. So in this case, the better you become at the game of spirituality — the Soul Game — the harder the levels become.

To help set some rules for the game, let’s say that it has fifty levels. The first time you play the game you’re born here on Earth in Level 1. Hopefully you score some points and move up, so maybe by the time it’s “game over” for your first lifetime, you’ve passed Level 9 and you’re playing on Level 10. Maybe you get a brief break in between lifetimes, but the next time you’re born you start right where you left off, at Level 10.

This brings me to a very important rule: Once you start playing the Soul Game, you’re strapped in for eternity. (That was clearly mentioned on page 52 of the End User License Agreement.) Once you’re in the game there are only two ways out:

A cool thing about the Unix/Linux grep command is that you can show lines before and after a pattern match with the -B and -A options. As an example, I just used this combination of find and grep to search for all Scala files under the current directory that contain the string null. This command prints five lines before and after each null line in each file:

$ find . -type f -name "*.scala" -exec grep -B5 -A5 null {} \;

That’s good stuff, but it prints a really long list of lines, and I can’t tell the output of one file from another. To fix this, I put the following code in a file named helper.sh, and made it executable:

As seen in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2017.

My Indian name is 'Runs With Beer'

I woke up at 4:30am on Friday with the idea for a story that I’ve currently titled, The Soul Game, which I hope to release next week. Lucid dreams being what they are, I came up with the first draft while I was sleeping, and then put it down on paper after I woke up. Working on that story leads me to write the following today:

Sometimes in life you meet another person, and as you get to know them you find that they’re incredibly awesome, but ... they’re also married. This has happened a couple of times in my life, to differing degrees. I always find that I don’t want to do anything to interfere with that person’s marriage, but part of me wants to say, “In case you didn’t know it, I think you’re pretty awesome, one of a kind.”

As a practical matter saying things like that tends to create problems, so I haven’t said it to anyone in a long time. (The last time I said it to anyone we ended up making out in a parking lot.) Instead, I hope that other people know that I think they’re awesome because I choose to spend my time with them. In this way the sad part is that things go unsaid, but I hope the other person knows what I think because I laugh and enjoy myself when I’m with them, and we have great conversations.

All of which today makes me think of the Gloria Estefan song, Words Get In The Way, and the Olivia Newton-John song, I Honestly Love You.

The Human Route, by Zen Master Seung Sahn, on a card from the people at DharmaCrafts.com.

The Human Route

“I just want something beautiful, Mo.”

“We all want something beautiful, Willie.”

[Dateline: The evening of May 5, 2007, On The Border restaurant, Louisville, Kentucky, after several pitchers of margaritas and beer, and three days before I would leave for Alaska.]

Brother-in-Law: Seriously man, I want to thank you.

Me: For what?

Brother-in-Law: You inspired me to start my business.

Me: That’s great, how did I do that? (Now I’m all geared up to hear a motivational story of how I inspired him.)

Brother-in-Law: I figured if you can start a business, anyone can.

In one of the stranger things to happen in dreamland, I’ve had several dreams with my brother-in-law in them in the last few weeks. He passed away last summer, and each time he appears, he’s a translucent white color, and as I observe him, he keeps helping people within the dreams. Last night a man passed away in a bed, and then my brother-in-law appeared and picked the man up and carried him away.

Though I have lucid dreams all the time, these are particularly unusual because I haven’t had a translucent person in a dream since I was less than eight years old. Back then we lived in Chicago and right after I’d go to bed, a translucent man would come out of the closet and try to play with my toys, in particular a large model Boeing 727 aircraft. (Which is probably more than you want to know about my dreams, lol.)

This land today, shall draw its last breath
And take into its ancient depths
This frail reminder of its giant, dreaming self
While I, with human-hindered eyes
Unequal to the sweeping curve of life
Stand on this single print of time.

This land, today, my tears shall taste
And take into its dark embrace
This love, who in my beating heart endures
Assured, by every sun that burns
The dust to which this flesh shall return
It is the ancient, dreaming dust of God.

When working from home, my preferred writing environment is to use a huge fixed-width font on a large monitor with a matte finish, and nothing else on the screen. I write my text using either Markdown or LaTeX, depending on what the output format is going to be. And Yoda and Meditating Guy make me feel a little less crazy when I’m talking to myself. ;)

My preferred writing environment

And in the category of “Strangest Things I Never Knew About Java,” I give you ... CAFEBABE.

CAFEBABE and Java class files

If you want to create a shell script so you can change between MacOS dark mode and light mode from the Terminal (Unix) command line, put this source code in a file and name it something like dark:

osascript -e \
'tell application "System Events" to tell appearance preferences to set dark mode to not dark mode'

Then make that file executable, and make sure it’s on your PATH. Now you can type dark to toggle back and forth between dark mode and the regular light mode: