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

“He who lives to see two or three generations is like a man who sits some time in the conjurer’s booth at a fair, and witnesses the performance twice or thrice in succession. The tricks were meant to be seen only once, and when they are no longer a novelty and cease to deceive, their effect is gone.”

~ A quote from Arthur Schopenhauer,
read by Steve Jobs,
as found in the book, How Google Works

Due to a potential security issue I’ve disabled new comments on this website. Hopefully they’ll be re-enabled next week.

In terms of being a nice person, Steve Jobs may have been the worst Buddhist in the history of the world, but he captures the Zen/Buddhist essence in this quote:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Photo from forbes.com, words from Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs - remembering that i will be dead soon

“Oh, my goodness. You know sometimes I think that God gave you such a big heart that he just left no room for plain sense.”

~ a favorite quote from a favorite tv show

“Go out there and have huge dreams, then show up to work the next morning and relentlessly incrementally achieve them.”

~ from the book, How Google Works

Way back in 2013 — before my first fake heart attack followed by learning that I had thyroid cancer — I thought I was about to go “back to work”, and I decided to try to write another visual demo of Akka Actors before I went back to work. I gave myself 10 hours to write something, and at first I decided to just create some bubbles that would move about randomly on screen. But I got that working so fast that I decided to do something else.

Eventually I came up with the idea of a little “kill the bubbles” game, which turned into a “kill the characters” game. This video shows how it works:

I just found some notes from when I first began working with Scala, and I was working with the yield keyword in for loops. If you haven't worked with something like yield before, it will be helpful to know how it works. Here's a statement of how the yield keyword works in for loops, based on the documentation in the book, Programming in Scala:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought,
the shame,
the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ The Guest House, by Rumi

My personal motivational speaker. I disccovered him on a trip to Los Alamos. (Sadly, the bookstore in Los Alamos where I found him is no longer in business.)

Albert Einstein doll

I went to the library and asked for a book on Pavlov’s dog and Schrodinger’s cat. The librarian said it rang a bell but she didn’t know if it was there or not.

I’m only about fifty pages into the book, How Google Works, but I can already say that if you think of yourself as an entrepreneur, it’s a valuable read. At first I thought the authors were patting themselves on the back a lot (which admittedly they deserve), but as I continued reading they clearly say things like “We’re not that smart,” “We screwed up,” and “Learning from our mistakes, this is why we created Alphabet.”

Some of their ideas, such as building businesses around their smartest people and greatest assets are things that I did in the past, but couldn’t articulate. Maybe it had to do with being in Kentucky at the time, but I always thought of it as “Get out of the way and let the thoroughbreds run.”

The Verge has two stories about Google, Android, and hardware. First, Google sold 3.9 million phones in 2017, increasing their market share from 1.8 to 2.8%. Second, they have a good interview with Rick Osterloh about Google’s hardware plans.

I wrote the Scala Cookbook for programmers looking for solutions to common Scala problems, and then wrote Functional Programming, Simplified for programmers looking for a simple way to learn functional programming. A few months ago I decided to finish my Scala trilogy and write a book for programmers who don’t know Scala and want a quick introduction to it. With that, Hello, Scala was born:

Hello, Scala

The book Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street is one of the most highly recommended books by Warren Buffett. He told Bill Gates about it in 1991, and Mr. Gates calls it “the best business book he’s ever read.”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m tired of politicians saying after yet another shooting that they’ll pray for the victims and their families. Those words are hollow, and the United States needs gun reform. This tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson echoes my feelings about politicians hollow words.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Power of prayer isn't stopping the bullets

I’m told that this is a famous poster for designers that I just applied a lot of whiteout to. (The missing words seem to have been inspired by Samuel L. Jackson.) I like “Believe in yourself” and “Trust your gut.”

Design poster

Every March I feel like moving back to Talkeetna, Alaska, and this year the feeling has started early. This is a photo of Denali from the rivers in Talkeetna. If I remember correctly, Denali is 90 miles away in this photo. (Denali is kind of a big deal.)

Denali, from the rivers in Talkeetna

In this photo I’m taking a photo of other people taking photos of Denali from the top of the hill in Talkeetna, Alaska. Having lived in Talkeetna, I was fortunate to see Denali many times, but for other people it was rare. The top of Denali can usually only be seen once every eight days, on average.

The road on the right leads into town, and you can’t really see Denali until you come to this point, so it was common to see people suddenly stop on the road, and then turn into this parking area.

(Click on the photo to see a much larger image of Denali.)

The view of Denali from the hill in Talkeetna, Alaska

“If we think we want to get joy for ourselves, we realize that it’s very shortsighted, short-lived. Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way.”

“You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another.”

~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in The Book of Joy