Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Tuesday, 2017.12.12
A professor can never better distinguish himself in his work than by encouraging
a clever pupil, for the true discoverers are among them, as comets amongst the
stars.

		Henry Adams

2008.06.28

Paper Wars

Turns out Eric Scheie and I are fighting the same battle today. My efforts are far more modest than Eric’s, involving one puny schredder and a few garbage bags. Still, there is a lot of paper I HAVE to keep, mostly related to Janet’s psychotherapy practice. Stuff I can’t distroy for a few years yet due to some rather vague legal reason. Ack. Nonetheless, I toss what I can.

What’s interesting about the battle in Eric’s trench is he apperently gets far mor junk mail than I. He quotes from these folks:

“The amount of paper junk mail sent each year in the USA is staggering — some 4 million tons, nearly half of which is never opened.”

The most staggering thing about that statistic, assuming it’s true, is that of those 4 million tons, over half of it actually is opened.

Who are these people?

2008.05.19

Road Report

This story begins where it has ended, with me in New York City cheerily, albeit weary and fighting a ugly head cold (more on that later), clicking away at the keyboard of this fine laptop provided by my employer (assuming “fine” includes the fact it doesn’t recognize the power cable half the time and looses track of the touchpad, thus requiring a reboot) at 2+ AM in the Belvedere hotel. Belvedere, by the way, is French for “Not the hotel booked by Corporate Travel for Greg”, just so you know. I’ve only been here a half hour, but so far this place is GREAT!

I had been booked to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. The week before I had been put up at the Novotel, which is a bit of a dive in a Euro sort of way, so I figured the Hilton had to be better. While the staff was friendly and helpful, the accommodations were lacking. Arriving so late, my options were for a non-smoking room with two queen sized beds or a smoking room with a king sized bed. (Sidebar: Walking this planet with a 6’5″ frame means there is no such thing as a “king” sized bed. There are either “regular” sized beds, small beds, really damn uncomfortably small beds and cribs. When I travel, my best shot at any thing resembling a decent night sleep is a “king” sized bed.) Ah, but non-smoking trumps king sized bed so I took the non-smoking room. Ready to turn in, I slipped the door key card into the slot and pushed the door open.

Wild horses will not pull out of me what I saw. Let’s just say the room wasn’t available and that it was VERY much in use. What fun to be the scary stranger in the doorway at 1:00 AM. Thanks, Hilton!

The front desk agent was very apologetic and comped me free breakfasts for my stay (I don’t eat breakfast.) That left the smoking king. Ugh. Thinking (or not thinking very well, as it turns out) this head cold would block out the smoke smell, I took the room. After all, it’s New York City and it’s pushing 1:00 AM. What are my options?

Well, the entire floor stunk. The room really stunk and when I pulled back the covers, I looked around to see who it was that was standing behind me that just lit up a cigarette. The stench of cigarette smoke permeated everything and if I didn’t get out of there fast, my clothes and my person would stink of smoke for the duration of my stay. The collection of Good Ideas generally doesn’t include reeking of smoke in business meetings involving Ogilvy in the heart of New York City. Well, at least I was thinking again.

So back down to the desk to press for better options. The desk clerk called around to a couple of hotels and sent me over to the Belvedere. Did I mention this place is GREAT? It’s 100% non-smoking. And check this out, the soap is from England! Penhaligon’s Quercus soap.

OooooOOOOooOoooo. Fancy! Novotel just had a cake of stuff in shrink wrap labeled “soap.” I kid you not.

So it’s better at the moment, but this head cold is in the Noseagra Falls stage. I packed something like 8 handkerchiefs to deal with it over the next two days. I can thank being sealed in an aluminum can for 4+ hours last Friday as I flew home from New York City. The guy across the aisle was constantly sneezing and sniffling (like me now) and had a penchant for not covering his face when aerosolizing his wretched illness. But I feel his pain now. There’s nothing quite like a head cold across altitude shifts from 5,000 feet to 36,000 feet to 200 feet to really make one ponder the science of hydraulics.

I love road warrior stories, especially when they happen to someone else.

Well, time to find a pillow. I have to wake up and be charming in six hours.

[Edit History]

2008.19.2008 – 02:35 AM

Coolness. They even have a bath robe for me here. Too bad it’s for a guy about 18 inches shorter across the shoulders than I.

2008.04.28

FedEx Road Show

Turns out, FedEx has both “tracking numbers” and “tour numbers.” Tracking numbers are those which show you where your package is as it moves from Point A to Point B, where presumably you are at Point B. For example, a recent purchase of mine was shipped from the vendor in two separate packages. Using the FedEx “tracking number”, we see the trace of Package One’s journey from Point A (the vendor) to Point B (me):

Nicely done, FedEx. “Tour numbers,” however, show your package’s progress from Point A to all points in between Point A and you. Using the FedEx “tour number” shows a different trace for Package Two:

Package Two went from Columbia, MO, through Denver (I missed the opportunity to wave as it went by), on to Salt Lake City and then back to Denver. What fun! Problem is, there’s no way to know what kind of number you have. Not so nicely done, FedEx.

Well, I hope Package Two enjoyed it’s visit to Salt Lake City.

2008.02.13

Laptops For Less Bait And Switch

Interesting bait and switch from Laptops For Less. Here’s what you see when you first hit the site:

LFL1

Note that the claim is for free shipping on orders over $30. Coolness. I need a replacement power cord for an ancient Compaq. But then notice what happens when you head on down the checkout path:

LFL2

Well how about that! My over $30 order is charged for shipping and the LFL website now shows free shipping on orders over $50. “Click for details” makes no mention of the $30 threshold, just the $50 threshold. I ordered the power cord from MobileTechPower.com which also charged me shipping but were upfront about the charge. In fact, the item was $8 less expensive overall from Mobile Tech Power.

2008.02.11

Non-Profit Transparency

Too late for Cherubim Foundation, but nonetheless good to see: Stricter IRS Form 990 to be more revealing, costly.

Among other things, the IRS wants to know more about the nonprofit’s business transactions and joint ventures, and its relationships with the directors on its board, as well as directors’ relationships with each other. Nonprofits will have to disclose more information about their officers’ compensation, political campaigning and lobbying activities; whether the organization has written policies covering conflicts of interest, whistleblowers and document destruction; and describe how it enforces some of those policies.

Funny-sad that a software engineer had a better sense of what the future had in store for how non-profits would be held accountable than a board of purported business leaders. I believe a lot of what they did, or rather didn’t do, was the result of weak accountability. When people know they will be held accountable, in some meaningful way, they tend to pay better attention to the consequence of their actions – particularly when the risks they take are done with other people’s money.

2007.11.28

And How Is Your Christmas Shoving Going?

Er…I mean Christmas shopping.

“They were having a big fight. Two ladies was jumping a lady over credit cards,” witness Sylvester Wilson said.

Nearly a dozen Wauwatosa squad cars responded to the call just before 11 a.m. Saturday.”It was a nice brawl. It came from inside to outside. If you go up there, you’ll see hair, earrings, all pulled out on the ground,” Wilson said.

Online shopping, baby. It’s the way to go.

2007.11.10

Run, Legacy Media, Run!

Glenn Raynolds’ wrap up from Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas:

It really underscored to me how big and diverse the blogosphere has become. There were lots of big bloggers I barely knew of, because they’re in areas I don’t follow. Some tech folks were telling me that they liked it because, going to the tech conferences, they saw the same people every time. I think a lot of political-blogger types felt the same way. There was plenty of cross-fertilization.

But the bottom line is that the blogging pond has gotten very big, and there are a lot of big fish in it now. I think that’s a huge success for the blogosphere.

I would agree and I believe the blogger’s effect on news and information is still defining its self. Just two years ago there were a handful of blogs I kept up with on a daily basis and of those I pretty much kept up with all the posts and comments. Of that handful, just two remain that I follow that closely: Instapundit and Tim Blair. I still tune in now and again to many of the old favorites, such as Althouse, Hot Air, Gateway Pundit, Iowahawk, The Anchoress and the Advice Goddess. But the time that had been spent keeping up with the second tier blogs has been supplanted by time spent at a variety of excellent blogs related to my business and industry. Two years ago, there wasn’t much out there in the blogosphere related to my business. At least not much beyond the posting of code samples, requests for technical support and rants against Microsoft and such. Today, there are a number of excellent blogs related to software design, development and security. Joel Spolsky and Bruce Schneier are no longer such lonely examples in the blogosphere.

The adaptability of the blogosphere, where evolutionary rules prevail more so than the revolutionary, is not its only advantage over the legacy media. The blogosphere, I believe, will host a diversity of which the politically correct congregation cannot even conceive. When an environment of diversity exists without fear of reprisal or repression by guilt, there can be true dialog and understanding.

In the blogosphere there are no suicide bombers to be fearful of, entitled, unfocused hunger strikers receive the collective yawn and laughter they deserve, lies are exposed, and justice prevails. In the legacy media, you’ll find support of terrorists tactics (bombers, snipers, use of human shields), exaggerated importance of trite stories, fabrication, lies, bias disguised as journalism and efforts to incite lynch mob frenzies among their readers. True, you may find this among bloggers. But other bloggers will expose such bloggers. Legacy media does not do this to its own.

I have great faith in the general population’s distaste for being duped like this and judging from the falling circulation and stock prices among the major US papers as well as the anti-war bombs being cranked out by Hollywood, I’d say the general population is catching on to what a shabby product the legacy media is producing. And for those that see, the blogosphere is there to catch them.

2007.11.01

Not Your Father’s IDE

That’s Integrated Development Environment to you non-software developer types. More generally, I’m referring to most of the marketing material for developer tools originating from the Great Northwest. I’m seeing more and more of this stuff with the ninja-kung-fu-martial-arts theme.

“Use our tools and be an instant black belt master of codi-fu on that next killer app!”

Much of the code I see from the younger set of developers, those that are a generation behind me and who have never known of a world without a wide web, is indeed quite killer. As in the “killed the project” kind of lethality. The IDE wrapped around the .NET languages has become a warm blanket for new developers which insulates them from the consequences of sloppy design until much too late in the development process.

I came to software development just at the end of assembler’s run and when C was it. Memory was still scarce but there was a lot more wiggle room in 640KB than there was in 64KB. A bad design still failed early and a good developer understood how design effected performance. Not only did you need to know the language, you needed to understand the hardware as well. These days, systemic knowledge is a tertiary concern if it’s considered at all.

“Black Belt Programmer” is a phrase that has always made me wince. The discipline required to achieve a black belt rank in most martial arts is considerably greater than the discipline required to become an excellent software developer. I can make this call because I actually have a real-life black belt rank in a martial art (currently, 3rd Dan in Aikido) and sustain an excellent quality of life as a software developer (so presumably I’m good at that, too. Right?)

So I’m not buying into this ninja marketing hype, yet that’s what is selling to them that’s buying. Will “evil code assassins” replace “debuggers?” Will my work day be interrupted with Kato-like tests (à la Inspector Clouseau) of my skill and attentiveness? Hiiiiiieeeeeee-YA!

Leaves me with the feeling I’m not long for this world of main stream software development.

2007.07.23

Greenie Meanies

Denver Business Journal Editor Neil Westergaard echo’s my major concern about the current deification of Al Gore and the push to make global warming a State Religion. Speaking of the response to a recent column of his, Westergaard writes:

“My purpose was not to dismiss concerns about what is apparently a well-accepted fact: The Earth seems to be getting warmer. That’s where the acceptance ends, however. What to do about global warming is far from a settled question, and anybody who believes in more than celebrity pronouncements and sound bites can easily plug into the scientific debate if they choose. Many, however, simply want to follow their favorite celebrity instead.”

Yes, those of the herd fear thinking for themselves. Rather than work to a solution based on a solid base of verified facts, they prefer to warm themselves in the hot air puffed out by bloviating stuffed shirts like Al Gore and his disciples.

Slap a label of “green” on something and the herd members will nod approvingly. Inconvenient truths about some “green” efforts which actually cause more harm than good are to be ignored. Just look at the obscene amount of energy burned on the recent Live Earth event which has had virtually no effect on changing people’s attitudes. I predict Gore and his minions will be remembered for having caused much more harm than good, for having deflected concentration away from finding a viable solution to the actual problems underlying global warming.

I’ve said before, environmentally congruent lifestyles are a good thing just on principal and I’ve worked to implement such a lifestyle. But the switch isn’t digital like the Goracle seems to insist it is. The hypocritical proselytizing from the ministers of the Church of Global Warming insist everyone else should change so that they can continue living the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. And they want that compliance from the Great Unwashed to happen at the snap of their fingers. Is Al Gore even capable of leading by example? I think not. As Westergaard notes:

“And be wary of celebrities on bandwagons. They often fall off.”

Indeed.

[Edit History]

2007.07.24

Grammar fixes.

2007.06.06

Cherubim Foundation Update V

The 2005 990 filed by the Cherubim Foundation Board has the numbers behind the organization’s last year in business. The document is public and is available from sites like GuideStar. For 2004, Cherubim Foundation showed $72,000 raised for the entire year. The Unfounding Board of Directors had $86,000 to work with, most of that on hand around May 2005, and yet they managed to fly the organization into the ground by year’s end.

The numbers don’t look right to me. They claim $57,000 “provided as aid and education to 56 participants” ($1,018/participant). Yet the 990 for 2004 claims $35,000 “provided aid and education to 42 patients” ($833/participant). 14 more participants consumed $22,000? Their own Board meeting notes indicate they moved to cut participant benefits. And I don’t know what happened to all of Cherubim Foundation’s material assets (office equipment, furniture, sound equipment, etc.).

What the Board didn’t know is someone on the Board, or close to it, was dropping notes at my door. I don’t know who and would rather they hadn’t. I prefer whistle blowers who actually blow the whistle. Regardless, the Note Elf(s) seemed pretty accurate and corroborating the important stuff was easy enough. A good look at the books would have been most enlightening, but would have served little more than to confirm what I’ve been saying all along. The Board members listed in the 2005 990 lacked the skill and the steel to do a decent job. They and they alone own Cherubim Foundation’s failure. It’s success belongs to the rest of us.

2007.05.02

An Inconvenient Effort

[This post dovetails nicely as an example to my The Truth Never Changes post. – GPE]

After the fourth email with the subject “Fw: FW: FW: FW: No Gas On May 15th …” showed up, it was time for a blog post. Apologies to the senders, some of them are family and friends and they mean well. But thresholds are thresholds and to paraphrase Rodney King, “People, I just want to say, you know, can’t we all just get beyond the bumper stickers?”

The subject line is irritating enough. Nothing says “I’ve thought this through and it’s good stuff” like successive “FW” tags, stacked up like so many cheep slaps to the face from some cheesy interrogation scene staring James Cagney. Besides, scientists have proven that clicking on the “Forward Message” button contributes to global warming.

So here is the message:

NO GAS…On May 15Th 2007

Don’t pump gas on MAY 15Th

In April 1997, there was a “gas out” conducted nationwide in protest of
gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On May 15Th 2007, all Internet users are to not go to a gas station in
protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $3.00 a gallon in most
places.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currently on the Internet
network, and the average car takes about 30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15Th, it would take
$2,292,000,000.00 (that’s almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companies
pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on May
15Th and lets try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for
at least one day.

If you agree (which I cant see why you wouldn’t) resend this to all your
contact list. With it saying, ”Don’t pump gas on May 15Th”

Now let’s dissect it. And I’m so hopping, eye rolly mad, I’m not even going to use anesthesia.

In April 1997, there was a “gas out” conducted nationwide in protest of
gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

I can’t find any evidence of this. What’s the source of this data? Did the price fall 30¢ over night nation wide or just at Earl’s Corner Gas N’ Go? In fact, I can’t find where it has fallen this much over night ever. It’s a big drop and likely to have been noticed.

On May 15Th 2007, all Internet users are to not go to a gas station in
protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $3.00 a gallon in most
places.

The negative command is painful enough, but…my bumper sticker cerebral lobe logic tells me high prices should be a good thing as it means people will drive less, produce less greenhouse gases, reduce global warming and bring about world peace and the long promised utopia. Why the protest? Bring it on! All things connected to fuel prices be damned.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currently on the Internet
network, and the average car takes about 30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

“Member”, eh? Gee, didn’t know I was part of a club. The various research data I was able to google indicated that roughly 40% of these members are children or young adults below the legal driving age. That leaves us with 43 million “members” in a position to fill ‘er up. But, how is it the average cost to fill up a tank of gas is between 30 to 50 dollars? An average would be one number because, well, it’s an average and not a range. So, using the members of the Internet of driving age figure and the average of $30 and $50 ($40) we get a total potential hit to the oil companies of $1,720,000,000. What’s more, the assumption is that this is pure profit for the oil company. There are taxes and costs incurred between the pump in the field and the pump at the gas station – R&D, labor, refining, transportation, etc. All those intervening steps are jobs for regular people with families, needs and dreams. And we all benefit from the taxes.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15Th, it would take
$2,292,000,000.00 (that’s almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companies
pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on May
15Th and lets try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for
at least one day.

$2.3 billion is almost $3 billion like Danny DeVito is almost 6 feet tall. Anyway, the potential dent is $1.7 billion assuming 100% pure profit and 100% participation by all those driving Internet members. It’s a lucky election day if 50% from such a large pool of potential “customers” can be troubled to vote. The likelihood of 43 million people remembering to not do something is, in my opinion, negligible. And it is highly unlikely they will forego filling up their gas tanks ever again. They will simply fill up on May 16th. Presto! Zappo! the $1.7 billion is right back in the dreaded oil company’s pocket. Somehow, I don’t think the oil companies will mind, much less notice, they waited a day for the $1.7 billion.

If you really care to put a dent in the ol’ evil doing oil company’s revenues, you’ll need more of an effort. And that effort is likely to inconvenience you or otherwise crimp your lifestyle. For example, don’t drive on May 15th but still go to work and run a few errands. It will mean walking, using public transportation, car pooling or riding one of these (highly recommended!) But hey, don’t stop there. Start swapping out those regular incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. And while you’re at it, join the team and track the dent you’re making in the lower left panel of this blog.

I fill up my truck about once every two weeks. So I might accidentally participate in this protest if I happen to not gas up the truck on May 15th. But if I don’t participate, know that I protested for the 7 days before and will likely protest for the 7 days after May 15th. The rest of you slackers will have protested on one day whereas I will have protested on 14 days! Ha! Me feel green.

[Edit History]

2007.05.02

Added some thoughts on how to make a difference that really is a difference.

2007.05.17

Here are some numbers via George Will:

While oil companies make about 13 cents on a gallon of gasoline, the federal government makes 18.4 cents (the federal tax) and California’s various governments make 40.2 cents (the nation’s third-highest gasoline tax). [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s San Francisco collects a local sales tax of 8.5 percent — higher than the state’s average for local sales taxes.

There you have it. The biggest gouger at the pump? Government.

2007.04.25

Flying Pig From Seattle, WA

Looks like Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments “found” my $2,000 deposit. Apparently, “posted no later than March 31st” means “April 16th” on the Jensen business calendar. I’ll find out tomorrow if the bank is impressed. Assuming it’s good, it means a modification to the Jensen Musical Instruments web site. Until Mr. Jensen compensates me for lost interest and the cost of the Jensen Musical Instruments web site, it will stand as a warning to others who may be considering doing business with Mr. Jensen. I have heard privately from several people similarly burned by Mr. Jensen that my efforts to shine light on his business practices have yielded positive results for them as well. To that end, I am satisfied and consider it a small miracle my $2,000 deposit was ever returned.

Refund Check

[Edit History]

2007.04.26

Several grammar changes.

2007.04.03

Worthless Words

As was easy to predict, the promise from Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments to return my $2,000 deposit by March 31 has proven to be just as vacuous as his promise to build an electric cello. Here it is, April 3 and not so much as a penny has been returned.

Lying leech.

I’m amending my demand to say I want my deposit and expenses in the form of a cashiers check. I have zero confidence in the ability of Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments to act in an ethical manner. Someone suggested he could potentially send another bell and whistle laden package which would be empty and he could then claim he sent cash. Regardless, any future correspondence with Mr. Jensen will be opened before witnesses and on video tape.

Lying, unethical leech.

2007.03.03

The Paper It’s Printed On

That’s what this is worth…maybe…

Letter From Jensen - 20070303

The letter was sent priority mail, certified and return receipt. Not sure what that was about. Mr. Jensen gains nothing with some sort of paper trail. Is he trying to demonstrate the sincerity of his intent to refund my deposit? I won’t be holding my breath until March 31st. From my perspective (That would be the one of the customer who is out $2,000.), nothing of substance has changed. In this deal, talk has been cheap and promises empty. I’ve been put off before by such chatter and promises from Mr. Jensen.

Neither will I be altering in the slightest the plans I’ve put in motion. Eight bucks of postal pomp and circumstance hasn’t inspired me to call off the dogs. If Mr. Jensen wants to impress me, he can send my money back, plus interest, and cover the expenses I incurred while trying to get his attention. And remember: the terms are cash. It will save the burden of having to spell my name correctly.

Previously:

Ripped Off By Eric Jensen And Jensen Musical Instruments

[Edit History]

2007.03.03

Something about this letter bugged me even after accounting for the postal pageantry and name misspelling (after first spelling it correctly.) It’s dated February 29th, 2007. Typed on a date that doesn’t exist. Perhaps that’s to match his promise? What calendar is Mr. Jensen looking at? I’m thinking the same one he uses to schedule his delivery commitments. Grateful, I am, there is a March 31st. Although, Mr. Jensen doesn’t specify a year.

2007.02.13

Marcotte, McEwan, Darwin And The Blogosphere

Since the Marcotte-McEwan-Edwards ménage à trois, there has been a lot of comment from both the left and the right in favor of Edwards retaining his two miscreant bloggers. The argument generally went along the lines of how firing them would make it difficult for bloggers in the future to find similar work. Somehow, the entire pool of bloggers would be discredited. There is merit to the argument. But I believe it takes the short view.

To be sure, placing such inept writers in such a prominent position has splashed a measure of slime on all bloggers. But taking the long view, I believe the disgraced departure of Marcotte and McEwan from the Edwards campaign will be a good thing. Blogging is a relatively young medium for expression and has yet to be exposed to the kind of fire which can temper it into a quality medium of expression. The flames fed by the manure cakes packed by the likes of Marcotte and McEwan can help the rest of us forge blogs of substance. The offensive wet noodles with which Marcotte and McEwan charge into battle serve to accentuate the power inherent in well crafted and persuasive argument. The wreckage they leave is our call to craft such arguments which hold an edge in battle.

Marcotte and McEwan swam in relatively small and protected pools. By jumping into the much larger pool of a presidential campaign, they exposed themselves to an entirely different set of rules, a different set of dangers and fish much bigger and hungrier then they are. In short, they became subject to the Darwinian rules of survival applied to a political context.

Humorously, they attempted to adapt, to change their stripes, by offering non-apology apologies and changing the character of their usual writing style. They made a pathetic attempt to become hyenas in lamb’s clothing. Fortunately, they failed.

Marcotte, McEwan and, particularly, Edwards, have made it more difficult for bloggers to establish credibility. But I believe that is a good thing. They have helped set the stage for the fittest bloggers to survive, and even thrive, while the bottom feeding bloggers will be forced to recede further into the blogosphere muck.

Previously:

Amanda Marcotte: Near-Earth Object From Deep Left Space


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