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

Notes from September 24, 2016:

Doctor: I’d like to collect a bone marrow sample ...

*Al runs out of the hospital in a hospital gown, screaming like a little girl*

(later, after they caught me)

Doctor: The next time you break out in a rash, hives, or blisters, I want you to have those biopsied.

Me: Is there going to be any part of our relationship that doesn’t involve a lot of pain on my part?

Doc: Yes, pee in this cup, and we’ll look at it under a fluorescent light to see if you have the same disease that King George III had.

Me: The crazy one?

Doc: Yes.

Me: Cool.

To show how far my diet has come, on May 13, 2013 I wrote this on Facebook: “Huh, the doctor was right. They do have vegetables at my grocery store.”

These days (May, 2017), 80-90% of my diet is organic vegetables.

1-800-Flowers should be renamed to 1-800-NO-Flowers, because an order I placed on the Tuesday before Mother’s Day — which I paid extra to have delivered on Friday — won’t be delivered until after Mother’s Day. Either they or FedEx screwed up the delivery, and now FedEx won’t deliver the order until next week, so with 36 hours left before Mother’s Day, 1-800-NO-Flowers-For-You! won’t do anything to correct the problem.

Back in 2013, I attempted to grow a bonsai tree. It died almost immediately. I’d like to blame it on the high altitude here in Colorado, but I’m pretty sure it was me. Some day I’ll try again.

Bonsai tree

There’s a scene in the movie, The Family Man, where Nicolas Cage is sitting in a chair and trying to stay awake, because he knows that when he falls asleep his “glimpse” will be over.

The moments just before passing out are like that. Assuming that you’re not panicking, you’re vibrantly aware of everything around you — colors, smells, etc., because you don’t know if you’re just passing out or this is Game Over.

The end of a lucid dream can also be like that. You can be in the dream, know that you’re dreaming, and then know that you’re starting to wake up. You don’t want to leave, but you don’t have a choice, so you pay great attention to the environment because you know that you may never see it again.

To the best of my knowledge, all of those are also the correct mental state for Zen and mindfulness meditation. As Shunryu Suzuki says, “The true practice of meditation is to sit as if you are drinking water when you are thirsty.”


I don't consider myself an Apple fanboy — for instance, I think whoever is designing Apple software these days is making things overly complicated (with OS X 10.7 through 10.12) — but I am a Jonathan Ive hardware design fanboy. I have a great respect for the industrial design work he and his team do. It’s safe to say that if I were in college these days I’d be studying industrial design instead of the aerospace engineering degree I got way back when.

This article contains a collection of quotes on design from Apple designer Jonathan Ive (or “Jony Ive,” as Steve Jobs called him). (Note: He prefers to refer to himself as a “builder” or “maker” as opposed to a designer.)

For those who don’t know of him, Jonathan Ive is credited with designing almost every Apple product since 1997. Given that very long string of success, I became interested in what Mr. Ive has to say, and to that end, here’s a collection of Jonathan Ive design interview quotes I’ve gathered over the last few years.

A visual image of the mathematical concept of “sets” using southern colloquialisms.

(I found this image on Twitter, but since I didn’t “like” it at the time I can’t find who created it, but I’ll link to them if/when I ever find the page again.)

Set theory explained with southern colloquialisms

This is a photo from May 10, 2011. The long bike-riding path in Palmer, Alaska was  one of my favorite things about living there. As you can see, it’s a nice, big path, separated from the road.

Bike path in Palmer, Alaska

Wow, that’s a scary coincidence. (Image from this tweet.)

People fired by Trump

Tomasita’s is a decent restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and they have a good description of the history of the margarita.

The history of the margarita
Table of Contents1 - The Teleport command2 - Teleport command help3 - For basic use, tp is just like cd4 - Basic teleporting5 - Listing your teleport history6 - Teleport by number7 - Bash completion with Teleport8 - Teleport aliases9 - Adding/creating a teleport alias10 - Using a teleport alias11 - Listing your teleport aliases12 - Removing an alias13 - Teleport command - summary14 - Teleport command - download

Summary: By keeping a history of the directories you've visited, the Teleport command is an improvement on the Unix/Linux cd command. By having a memory, Teleport lets you jump from one directory to any previously visited directory, easily.

January, 2015 Update: The Teleport command now supports Bash completion. For more details on this, see the Github file.

“If we close our eyes (during zazen), the darkness may provide us some relief from visual distraction and give us a feeling of peace and calm. But in zazen, we keep our eyes open. If we want to close our eyes because we feel distracted by what our eyes see, we need to understand that it is our minds that are distracted, not our eyes.”

As a quick note, I used this shell script to copy many files with the same name into a directory named tmpdir, giving them all new names during the copy process:

for i in `cat myfiles`
  fname=`basename $i`
  cp $i tmpdir/${count}-${fname}
  count=`expr $count + 1`

The way this works is that I have a file named myfiles that I created with a find command, and it contains a bunch of entries like this:


When the shell script runs, it reads one line at a time from that file, gets the basename (filename) from that line, prepends that name with a counter, then copies the original file to the directory named tmpdir, giving it the new name, so the new filenames will be like this:


I did this to copy all of the images I have under the Messages cache folder on my Mac. A friend accidentally deleted our text message stream, and I was able to recover 350+ images with this script.

You can also use it to copy iTunes music files, where it’s possible that many music files (MP3, M4A, etc.) will have the same filename.

My method for trying to understand this fundamental essence – the presence of “something bigger” than me – was to examine intellectually all the reasons I could think of for the universe to exist and to try to envision what had “existed” before the universe came into being.

On the one hand, if there was nothing before creation, how could the “something” of the universe come from “nothing”? On the other hand, if there was something before the creation of the world, it must have always existed, without beginning. But how could “something” have no starting point, no first moment?

I was frustrated by these questions, and by not being able to envision the timelessness that went with “no beginning.” As a boy, I was continually preoccupied by such attempts to explain the world rationally. I was unable to recognize or accept the limitation of my logical mind, its inability to understand the nature of life beyond concepts of solid objects and linear time.

(I had these same thoughts back in high school, but these words are from the book, “Zen at Work.”)

I don’t remember the original source of this photo, but it shows an early attempt at using a sled to get around in Alaska. It worked well until that one day ...

First attempt at using a sled in Alaska

Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass is the best book I know on spirituality, and this quote was posted on his Twitter page yesterday.

Who you are is more than who you think you are

I don’t know the original source of this image or quote, but I like it.

Impossible ... risky ... give it a try

It’s hard to believe it’s been this long, but ten years ago today I hopped in the car, aimed in the general direction of Alaska, and a little less than a month later I ended up in Talkeetna. Hopefully in another ten years The Squirrel and I will be sitting on the front porch again, eating popcorn, Cheerios, cherries, and PB&J sandwiches, and catching up on the last twenty years of adventures.

In daily life, each of us is a vehicle for something. Our choices of values determine the kinds of vehicles we are, the way we move in the world and relate to each other. All individuals (and organizations) are free to choose values that they feel are important, that express their vision.

(A quote from the book, Zen at Work.)

My oldest sister is five years older than I am, and when she was in high school she was involved in activities outside of school, like the foreign student exchange program. I was an extreme introvert and could never imagine myself doing those things, but she was very involved in making our community a better place, and I was proud of her.

Back then I didn’t know that I was free to choose my own vision ... the mental weight of being an extreme introvert kept me from seeing that. I may always struggle with being an introvert, but these days I understand that I can choose my own vision, and I do so consciously.