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

Northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska, they recorded -52 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. Brrr...

(Image from this Twitter page)

-52 degrees in Alaska

Ender’s Game isn’t a “feel good” movie, but for what it is — a science fiction war movie — it’s one of the smartest movies of the last five years, with terrific special effects.

Ender's Game

“The power of karma is strong in everyone, stupid or clever. When that force is broken, it becomes possible to understand Zen.”

From the book, The Way of True Zen, by Taisen Deshimaru (pictured).

(A lot of Buddhist quotes remind me of Star Wars, and vice-versa.)

The power of karma is strong in everyone

Here’s a photo of three ravens surrounding a car in the snow in Wasilla, Alaska, on December 7, 2010. As I’ve written before, in many places they don’t plow the snow too hard in Alaska.

Ravens in the snow, Wasilla, Alaska

Kroger clerk: Can I help you sir? You look lost.

Me: Good morning. Yes, my aunt has terminal cancer and would like some marijuana. I was wondering where you keep it?

Clerk: Um ...

Me: I thought the raw product might be in Produce, but I didn’t see it there. I’d prefer organic if you have it.

Clerk: Um ...

Me: Then I didn’t know if the edibles would be in the Candy aisle, or maybe by the ibuprofen.

Clerk: Um, sir, we don’t sell marijuana here.

Me: OMG, why not? You could put it on the same aisle as the munchies, and revenue would go up immediately! Do you have a suggestion box? Or maybe I should talk to the store manager ...

(Note: The Kroger stores in Colorado are called King Soopers, but I figure that most people know the Kroger franchise, so I used that name here.)

An article titled The Best Way to Learn Anything: The Feynman Technique shares these steps about how to learn a topic really well. (Where Feynman refers to Richard Feynman.)

The Feynman Technique

When I saw this quote posted on Twitter by Jonas Bonér (originally from Isaac Asimov), it made me wonder if Meritocracy wouldn’t be a better form of government than Democracy. What I mean is that if you are actively involved in government or your local community you are allowed to vote, but if you aren’t you don’t get to vote. Something like that.

IMHO, what we have in the U.S. right now is a popularity contest. I have no doubt that if Arnold Schwarzenegger could run for President in the U.S., he would have easily beaten Trump or Clinton this year. (I mention him specifically because of his interest in politics.)

Meritocracy vs Democracy

“Okay, well, here’s my story, here’s what you need to know. I’m just divorced and I had my heart broken badly by a woman that I really loved. But I think your heart grows back bigger. You know? Once you get the shit beat out of you, and the universe lets your heart expand that way. And I think that’s the function of all this pain and heartache that we all go through, you know, you gotta go through that to come out to a better place and that’s how I see it, anyway.”

One of the many great quotes from my favorite movie of the now, Must Love Dogs.

Personal note, star date December 5, 2016: Apparently I strayed too far off the diet yesterday and broke out in a couple of hives last night.

If you live in Colorado, you’re doing laundry at someone's house in Kentucky, and you lose a sock in the dryer, where does it go?

A brief message from Cloud Atlas:

Everything is connected (Cloud Atlas)

About five years ago, when my thyroid was first failing, I went through something known as Hashimoto’s disease. What happened was that at some times I would become hyperthyroid (and therefore hyperactive), but most of the time I was hypothyroid, meaning that my brain and body were slow and sluggish.

Nine times out of ten I was sluggish, so one day when I had a job interview I decided to drink some Red Bull. I had one drink an hour before the interview, and drank the second one just before the interview.

Sadly, on this occasion my body decided to have that “1 out of 10” day and be hyperactive. Combined with the two Red Bull drinks I couldn’t sit still or think. I’m sure the people conducting the interview thought I was on speed, and more than once they told me I could relax. I wanted to tell them, “No, I can’t. I really can’t.” By the end of that miserable interview I was just glad my heart didn’t explode.

At the time this seemed like a really bad event in my life. I didn’t know what to do about my thyroid, and I felt miserable. I was at a real low point, especially in my professional life.

Fortunately one of the next things I did was to send an email to the O’Reilly folks asking if they needed someone to write the Scala Cookbook. They said yes, and the rest is history.

Looking back on that interview, I now think that if I had done well that day I might have been forced to work with Java for the next few years. Instead, I’ve been able to work with Scala ever since that day. I got to write the Scala Cookbook, and now I’m working on a book about Scala and functional programming. With the mast cell disease stuff I just went through I would have never been able to work at a “normal” job, so all of this turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Moral: One some days things in your life can look bad, really bad. But if you keep your chin up and keep working hard, good things can still happen, and in the end that bad day can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

In case you need a gift for the mom that has everything, here you go. :)

Dear mom

(From time to time I write little stories that have nothing to do with programming or technology; this is one of those stories. So, if you’re only here for the technology stuff, you’ll want to skip this one.)

I’m standing in the kitchen of a friend’s house at a Christmas party, making myself a drink while talking to a friend named Angie. This was nothing unusual; she and I were always talking about something. We became friends during our last year in high school, and we’ve been talking every since.

In retrospect it’s obvious that I have feelings for her, but I guess you could say that I didn’t appreciate her back then. After high school my ambition took me away to college, and then to a series of jobs in different states. By the time I decided to move back home, she was married and had two young children.

While we talked all the time, this kitchen conversation was unusual. I don’t remember how it started, but Angie did ask me about something I rarely talk about: my parents getting divorced in high school.

Here’s a link to the latest holiday “gifts for geeks” from ThinkGeek:

They also have these geek gift ideas for under $20:

Gifts Under $20

“Years ago I knew little, but was comfortable using things I didn’t understand. Now I’m experienced, I fear things unless I understand them.”

~ A good quote from Jon Pretty

“You and me together, right?”

This is most of a story from a book called, “Turning the Mind Into an Ally.” When Zeus was sick and I’d stop petting him, he’d turn and look at me like this.

I don't know much about rap/hip-hop, but thanks to Ghost Dog I do know about RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan.

From Ghost Dog:

“Our bodies are given life
from the midst of nothingness.

Existing where there is nothing
is the meaning of the phrase,
Form is emptiness.

That all things are provided for
by nothingness
is the meaning of the phrase,
Emptiness is form.

One should not think that
these are two separate things.”

This is the front of one of the postcards I designed for my Zen Foundation business back in 2012. I liked it, but not enough other people liked it, so I closed that business for the time being.

Zen Foundation postcard (What is your original face?)

Had an unexpected reorganization at the company today.

Moved the desk around, re-positioned some lamps. (I work from home.)