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

In this InfoQ Java in 2019 Predictions article, this line stood out the most: Java 9 and 10 saw virtually no deployment to production. Working alone I occasionally wonder what large companies are doing, and with these Java major version number releases coming every six months I was wondering how that was playing out.

Yesterday one of my doctors was struggling to give me a little bit of bad news, fumbling a little over his words and giving me a very lengthy explanation. After a little while I told him listen, I’ve been unconscious seven times, I’ve had three fake heart attacks (allergic angina), and I was once told that I had a 10% chance of dying during an operation. What you’re telling me right now, it’s okay, it’s not that big of a deal. He calmed down a little after that.

This photo of walking through a neighborhood in Wasilla, Alaska in the winter reminds me of a few walks I took here in Colorado in the last few days after our New Years snow.

Walking in Wasilla

This image shows symptoms of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, from this article. I can personally attest to abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, difficulty digesting certain foods, muscle and bone pain, muscle weakness, nerve pain, headache, neuropathy, difficulty concentrating, reduced attention span, brain fog, itching, rashes, hives, inflammation, swelling, flushing, inflammation of the eye or conjunctivitis, trouble focusing eyes, itchy and watery eyes, a burning sensation, ulcers on the tongue or in the mouth, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sinus pain or pressure, enlarged spleen, elevated liver enzymes, high cholesterol, rapid heart rate, abnormal blood pressures (either too high or too low), fainting, anaphylaxis, chemical and environmental sensitivities (and more).

Symptoms of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)

One day during a speech Hakuin said, “They say there’s a pure land where everything is only mind, and that there’s a Buddha of light in your own body. Once that Buddha of light appears, mountains, rivers, earth, grass, trees, and forests suddenly glow with a great light. To see this, you have to look inside your own heart.”

An old innkeeper who had meditated for many years was sitting in the audience, and when she heard this, she felt a strange understanding of his words. She later told her family, “I feel that happiness is as near as my skin.” When she was awake and asleep she kept his words alive: “Inside your own heart. Trees shine with a great light.”

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.”

Meet The Teenage Girl Who Is Allergic to Almost Everything is a good story about the blood disease I have (MCAS, or Mast Cell Activation Syndrome). I’m very fortunate that I didn’t have bad symptoms until the last 7-10 years or so, and removing part of my colon recently has also helped reduced the symptoms. It would major-league suck to have this disease when you’re 15 years old.

As a quick note to self, here’s an example of how to set scalacOptions in an SBT build.sbt file:

scalacOptions ++= Seq(

As shown, scalacOptions lets you set Scala compiler options in your SBT project build.

The following is a (long) discussion of some things you might run into during deep meditation.

Fake Absolute Silence

These days in meditation I spend a lot of time in a place I call “Fake Absolute Silence.” In this state you might be fooled into thinking that you’re in the real state of Absolute Silence, but that’s part of the problem — you’re still thinking. Things are definitely quiet in this state; there aren’t many thoughts, and your concentration is focused on your breathing without distraction. However, I find that I’m still very aware of my body and outside noises. But despite that, it’s generally a mentally quiet place.

Introduction: After reading the following text in the book, The Science of Enlightenment, I decided to try meditating outside in sweatpants and a hoodie in the freezing cold in the evenings. It’s now my favorite form of meditation because you either do it right, or suffer the consequences.


Several months later, as winter approached and it was getting cold and uncomfortable, the Abbot told me that if I wanted to be trained in traditional Shingon practice he would allow it — but I would have to do with the old-fashioned way. I would have to do a solo retreat for one hundred days in winter, most of the time with no source of heat, in complete silence other than occasional instruction from him, and with no meal after noon.

My training began on December 22, the day of the winter solstice. The Abbot had warned me that part of the old-fashioned way involved certain ascetic practices derived not from Buddhism, but from the shamanic tradition of Shinto, Japan’s pre-Buddhist tribal religion. One of the most common methods that tribal cultures use to obtain visions of gods or spirits is through prolonged exposure to extreme hot or cold. In India, Hindus have the five fires practice; in North America, Native Americans have the sweat lodge and the sun dance. These involve heat. The traditional Shinto shamanic practice goes in the other direction. It involves cold — squatting under freezing waterfalls in winter, standing in cold springs, dousing your body with ice water, and so forth.

An investing company just sent me a very long email filled with hundreds of words and a dozen or more shiny pictures to show how successful they are. Not once did they mention what their return on investment (ROI) was for their investors — which is the only thing that matters.

As an investor, the only thing that matters to you is ROI after taxes; keep your eye on that ball, not the shiny pictures or fancy words.

I’m reminded of the time right before an interview for a contracting position that a tech recruiter called and told me, “Don’t appear to be too smart. Pretend that you can’t answer some of his questions if you have to. He won’t hire people he thinks are smarter than he is.” I answered every question he asked because if that’s the way he was, I didn’t want to work there.

As a manager or business owner — any kind of leader — always hire people that are smarter than you in one or more ways.

I’m still in that time period where the doctor said, “The biopsy of the tissue from your surgery shows that you have cancer, but I don’t think they’re right,” so we’re waiting on the results of a DNA test.


*taps fingers on desk*

La la la la ...

“For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

In this video Martin Odersky shares an analogy of using a stapler when you need a stapler (not a power tool). He highly recommends reading Li Haoyi’s article, Principle of Least Power.

Principle of Least Power (Scala)

I have a 19" monitor on the counter between my kitchen and living room, and it’s powered by a Raspberry Pi. I use the Linux Phosphor screen saver to show a scrolling “news and stock ticker” on the display, which I’ve programmed to show news from several different sources (Atom and Rss feeds, along with other news and data sources). An old version of the display looks like this:

My Raspberry Pi news ticker display

Today I added a new “Word of the day” feature to the display, and as with all of the other code, I wrote a Scala shell script to generate the output.

Being an older person, I find young people interesting. One night when I was in the hospital last week I was supposed to be asleep, but couldn’t sleep, and I heard a nurse’s assistant who is still in college say, “If I had a bat, I’d rage on this wall.” That’s definitely not a phrase an older person would use.

As I wrote in Functional Programming, Simplified, functional programming can lead to happiness (and sanity). The quotes in this slide from Rúnar Bjarnason’s FP talk expand on what I wrote in my book. They keys are that pure functions are very simple, and you don’t have to constantly worry about the mutable state in your application.

Functional programming leads to happiness

“I didn’t want to kiss you goodbye — that was the trouble — I wanted to kiss you good night — and there’s a lot of difference.”

I’m pleased to announce that my book, Functional Programming, Simplified, is now available in three formats:

PDF Format
$25 on
(sale price)

PDF version of Functional Programming, Simplified

Paperback Book
$39.99 on Amazon

Print version of Functional Programming, Simplified

Kindle eBook
$29.99 on Amazon

Kindle version of Functional Programming, Simplified