Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Thursday, 2021.09.23
Everything I am today I owe to people, whom it is now to late to punish.

2008.07.01

The Bungee Email Safety Feature

I proposed this idea in various conversations something like 10 years ago, before there were blogs and such. Perhaps it’s time to voice it again in this forum where any techno-entrepreneur can stumble upon it and, if we’re all lucky, run with it to some success.

Today, for the third time in as many weeks, I was the recipient of an email regretfully sent just nanoseconds after the “Send” button had been clicked. (Today’s blunder, it must be stated, was exacerbated by the “Reply All” button, but I don’t have a solution to that problem.) None rose above the level of “Major Oooops”, but we’ve all heard stories where such events have ended careers, relationships and governments to small countries. (Just kidding about that last one.)

For people caught up in the anger of the moment, too drunk to practice self restraint in front of a keyboard or those who just can’t get the hang of thinking about consequences, I propose The Bungee Email Safety Feature.

It’s simple. If you’re one of those people who feel a strong, irresistible urge to defiantly, compulsively, decidedly or with malice of forethought click the “Send” button regardless (you know who you are), then this safety feature is for you. The way it works is the email client would have a setting whereby a user could specify a number of minutes/hours/days (depending on a particular users safety threshold) that have to pass before any and all email messages they “send” are actually released into the wild. After clicking the “Send” button, their messages would sit safely in the send queue until such time the wait period had passed.

With this feature, once the sender has cooled off, found wisdom or sobered up, he can easily open up his send queue and disarm the ticking time bomb placed there prior to having attained enlightenment. And, of course, if he decides to send that message anyway, he can always cut the bungee chord. Sometimes, there’s satisfaction in that as well.

2008.06.27

Mythological Facts In Dispute

I’m not a believer in astrology, in the sense that I find it at all useful for solving problems. But it is entertaining and kinda fun. Stumbled upon this entry in Wikipedia this morning, actually captures the essence:

It’s the “factual accuracy” that is disputed. I’ve been wanting to ask an astrologist what happened to the art when Pluto was downgraded? Or what about the other planets that were discovered in the galaxy. And arn’t they neglecting the influence of other large objects moving about in vacuums like astroids and Michael Moore?

I’m just askin’…

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.

2008.04.27

Mattress In The Mail

Would you send a mattress to someone via the U. S. Postal Service? Doubtful. Mostly because it’s just too darn inconvenient, on the front end, to stuff it into an envelop and attach all that postage. So, nobody does this. And think of the effect on the back end with the recipient? Their mailbox would effectively be locked. No place to put any of the other mail the postal carrier may need to deliver for you.

Yet, people send mattress via email all the time. This is so because the front end effort is negligible, but the back end effect could be just as unpleasant as attempting to wrestle a mattress out of your snail mailbox.

I had a problem brewing with my mail server for the past six weeks. It went unnoticed until the server started sending notices the vendor’s bandwidth limits were close to being exceeded. Since early March and up until April 23rd, there had been a message with an attachments exceeding 10 Mb sitting in my primary mail server’s queue. Fetchmail attempted, every 5 minutes, to retrieve the message to a secondary mail server running postfix. Fetchmail would pull the 10+ Mb message down to the secondary mail server and pass it on to postfix at which point postfix would reject the message because it’s 10 Mb attachment per message limit had been reached. And on this went every 5 minutes. The kicker came on April 23rd when an email newsletter I had, until now, subscribed to sent a 30 Mb video as an attachment!

Now things were getting ugly. For a brief period, the primary mail server was down (This was the first sign I had there was trouble.)

The total monthly traffic for this server normally runs about 200 Mb, far below the allotted 75 Gb set by the vendor. With these two stuck emails, the total bandwidth consumed by April 24th had reach 65 Gb. All this due to fetchmail retrieving these two messages with a combined size of 40 Mb every 5 minutes. After FTP’ing these messages off the mail server, the storm abated.

And sanity returned to email land.

Two lessons here.

Lesson one was for me. The two mail servers have been reconfigured to handle this situation more gracefully as this is likely to happen again. Why? Because lesson two isn’t likely to catch on: If you have a funny/interesting/whatever video for your friends to see, consider sending an email with a link to the file and not the file as an attachment. Unless you know the recipient has an email server that works like this:

Otherwise, nobody likes pulling a mattress out of their mailbox.

2008.03.19

From The Just-A-Little-More-Umph Department

This could just as well come from the Get-Out-And-Push Department: Satellite misfire to hurt HDTV expansion.

“Reports indicated that a rocket carrying the AMC-14 satellite did not reach high enough orbit.”

Apparently, the problem has been traced back to the early moments of the launch…

Rocket Launch

Tragically, rocket scientists designed the satellite assuming metric child dimensions whereas launch control assumed English child dimensions. The stomping power of a 24 year old male was needed rather than that of an 8 year old male.

2007.10.30

Project Valour-IT – 2007

It’s time again to contribute to Project Valour-IT (Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops). Like last year, I’ve kicked in $100 and joined the Marines (gotta support the boots on the ground) lead by Soldiers’ Angel – Holly Aho.

This is a good use of technology. The voice recognition software is quite impressive and continues to improve.

Please note:

Division among military teams is purely for the purpose of friendly competition. Any blogger may join any team and all money raised supports the wounded as needed, regardless of branch of service.

2007.06.11

Cool On Top

As in Cool Roofs:

Over 90% of the roofs in the United States are dark-colored. These low-reflectance surfaces reach temperatures of 150 to 190°F (66 to 88°C) and contribute to:

  • Increased cooling energy use and higher utility bills;
  • Higher peak electricity demand, raised electricity production costs, and a potentially overburdened power grid;
  • Reduced indoor comfort;
  • Increased air pollution due to the intensification of the “heat island effect”; and
  • Accelerated deterioration of roofing materials, increased roof maintenance costs, and high levels of roofing waste sent to landfills.


In contrast, cool roof systems with high reflectance and emittance stay up to 70°F (39°C) cooler than traditional materials during peak summer weather. Benefits of cool roofs include reduced building heat-gain and saving on summertime air conditioning expenditures. By minimizing energy use, cool roofs do more than save money – they reduce the demand for electric power and resulting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of Home Owner Association fiefdoms in the way of making something like this happen. There really are many, many simple solutions to the problem, but how do you whip up a fearful frenzy about white roofs? It’s much more satisfying to smack down a Hummer driver or gloat over that shiny new Prius in the driveway.

2007.04.29

The Truth Never Changes

Except when it does. The Truth defined by Claudius Ptolemy stood for some 1,400 years before the Truth defined by Nicolaus Copernicus ground Ptolemy’s cosmological Truth to dust. The Truth had changed. When one Truth, however, stands as long and has as deep a roots as Ptolemy’s, it can take a great deal of time to be eroded by the new Truth. Such was the case with Copernicus’ Truth. When so many of a society’s beliefs have been built upon a particular Truth, society is loath to relinquish the old Truth in favor of the new.

It is the same for personal beliefs and what each of us perceive as the “Truth.” An attorney friend of mine leverages this inertia when questioning witnesses in court. He begins with “Would you agree the Truth never changes?” The answer to this question is usually “Yes.” The one exception I know of was when this question was asked of a research MD expert witness. Science types, if they learned the idea of science at all, know the Truth changes. But the average bear believes the Truth, as they understand it, is as solid as a block of stone. My attorney friend then skillfully guides the witness into acknowledging the Truth of the case he is presenting. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

When the battle is between one who knows the Truth changes and one who believe it does not, my money is on the one who knows they are dancing on quicksand.

There are, of course, areas of human experience where the unacknowledged absurdity of immutable Truth make the experience what it is. Take this for example…

The Bean

It’s “The Bean”, as the locals call it, in Chicago. I took this picture last week while there on business. Is it art? Does it reveal a Truth to you?

Most of the visual arts are lost on me. I know what I like. Asian calligraphy and the works of David Lee and Frances Ku are particular favorites. But “The Bean” wasn’t revealing any Truths for me that day. That is, not until I looked no further than my own feet. There it was. The Truth revealed just as clearly as if it had been, well, chiseled in stone.

AT&T Plaza

It’s a commercial. (I did say most of the visual arts are lost on me. That’s probably why I play piano and cello rather than muck about with paint or clay.) But what about this…

Wacker 1

Found this after wandering East on Wacker to Lake Michigan. Again, no Truths were revealed, not even chiseled in stone. But I do know it had puppies…

Wacker 2

I shall leave the subject of Truth from Art alone and instead focus on the Truth that drives, reassures and comforts most of us. It’s the Truth of “reality.” But here again, there is an often unacknowledged contamination of subjectivity. There is the Truth of facts and the Truth derived from those facts, the interpreted Truth.

Just West of where I live can be found baked into the stone footprints from some long dead giant lizard. Virtually everyone agrees to this fact. The footprints are there. The creature, and any such creatures like it, have long since vanished from the planet. Where the Truth of these footprints becomes schizophrenic is in how the fact of those footprints are interpreted. My interpretation, and the resulting Truth I carry around, says those footprints were left there millions of years ago. Others interpret those prints has being no older than a few thousands years, what with the Earth not being older than some particular reference claims. A single Truth of fact with two associated, yet incompatible interpreted Truths.

A popular and politically correct Truth to hang your hat on these days has to do with global warming and whether or not it’s an established fact. My read is that it isn’t. Man’s experience with the weather is just too small a window from which to claim having any kind of clear view of what the global climate is doing. One hundred years ago, some scientists and much of the press was all abuzz with claims that the next ice age had begun.

I believe it is a good thing to reduce the amount of pollution we, as a species, spew into the atmosphere. I’ve believed that since high school when the high pollution alerts in Denver, compounded by the city’s infamous temperature inversions, left the air smelling like a sewer for weeks. Today, even with the population having growing significantly, the air is much cleaner. The global warming hysteria has not deepened my conviction in this regard.

So Al Gore is burning tons of jet fuel to haul is ass around the globe in order to set up circus tents and parade his “An Inconvenient Truth” dog and pony show. (Sidebar: When was it the Academy created a slide show category for it’s award?) I’m left with several questions. Who’s Truth is Gore selling? Inconvenient for whom? How can such a complex issue contain just one Truth? Frankly, I don’t think the Earth gives a damn about us. 4 billion years ago it was a sea of molten rock with no atmosphere. Life has been wiped clean from the surface and recreated anew probably more times than we know. The hysteria about global warming is a self-serving one and those on Gore’s band wagon are more interested about their own skin that saving the planet. The planet will save its self and will do so with the same indifferent cruelty and violence from which it began.

Listening to Gore and his evangelists leaves me with the creepy feeling that the solution to the “problem” of global warming is for others to solve (usually through some sort of sacrifice) so that they can continue living the life to which they have become accustom. (Man, are they going to be pissed if some killer asteroid is discovered for which they can’t buy impact offsets.) Setting the problem to rights, assuming it exists, will take something Al Gore and the eco-elites are apparently incapable of: An Inconvenient Effort.

[Edit History]

2007.05.01

Interesting article from ScienceDaily (“Earth’s Climate Is Seesawing, According To Climate Researchers“) illustrates my point about our window to the nature of Earth’s climate being rather small. For all their credentials, the scientists really don’t know for sure what is happening with the climate. Those that claim to be sure, probably aren’t honest scientists. (H/T Bryan at Hot Air)

2007.05.02

Added link to David Lee’s work at Lahaina Galleries.

2007.03.25

WhaaaaaaaaaaHOOOOOOOO!

The Sammy Flyer has arrived!

Sammy Flyer 1

Here she is just before her first test ride. The bike arrived a couple of weeks ago, sans one key part which had to be sent separately. While waiting for the part, I assembled the pieces and tuned as best I could. I recognized all the parts, the the sum is rather alien, however.

Cool. But what the heck is that thing?

It’s a Linear Recumbent 3.0 bicycle custom built to fit my frame. In fact, it’s the second 3.0 Linear Recumbent built.

After Janet died, sitting amidst the wreckage of what had been our life together, I made a promise to myself that I would no longer accept, in so far as it was possible, living as a 6′ 5″ man in a world built for 5′ 6″ people. I began by replacing my wardrobe with clothes designed to look good on a frame my size. That’s expensive enough, but it wouldn’t stop there. When I decided to find a bike that fit, I was willing to go custom there, too. But there was more.

When the quest for a bike began, I had been studying cello for all of one month. This made the traditional bike design out of the question. After even relatively short rides, my neck would hurt from having to essentially tilt my head back as far as it would go just to look straight ahead, my lower back would hurt from compensating for the odd angle of my neck, my hands and wrists would be close to numb and my ass would hurt from the crappy seat design (all the seat designs were crappy for a guy my size.) All of these things are very bad for the emerging cellist.

I had seen a recumbent bike in an REI store sometime in the mid 1990’s. By then Janet was already fighting breast cancer and a $750 bike was just beyond reach. Didn’t matter anyway. The thing was waaaaaaay to small for my frame. I don’t remember the model, but it really was designed for someone around 5 feet tall. But it left an impression. “Someone must make one for my size frame,” I thought.

I don’t remember when or how I found Linear. But when I did, the recognition was instantaneous. “That’s it! That’s the bike for me!” When I met the opportunity to act on the dream, I made the call. That was 18 months ago. The original Linear company had been bought out by the folks at The Bicycle Man in Alford Station, New York, and they took it upon themselves to improve the design. And that pretty much explains the past 18 months. At least once a month I would call Peter Stull to find out how his re-engineering was progressing. Almost to a fault, Peter would explain what he was doing, how the testing was going, what the design, engineering or production problems were. But I say “almost.” A few times I called just for a quick update as I was between meetings or some such, but he always managed to keep me on the line for 15-20 minutes. Truly, I enjoyed these conversations.

First Test Ride

Simply put, the most fun I’ve had on two wheels since the gurney races in the long gone “catacombs” between Craig and Swedish Hospitals in the early 1980’s (That turn into the ramp just before the boiler room was tricky!) WhaaaaaaaaaaHOOOOOOOO!

Here she is, post ride – a 12 mile ride along the Highline Canal Trail.

Sammy Flyer 2

There are a few new things to learn about riding a recumbent, particularly if the bike has below the set steering. Your balance is different because the center of gravity isn’t what you are used to with a regular bike. The mere act of peddling seems to throw the rider in a constant state of imbalance. That is, until you get the hang of it. I found I was making constant micro adjustments to the steering as I rode just to keep in balance. I suppose that happens with a regular bike, but not in the same way. No big deal, and this may change as my body gets more familiar with what it feels like to ride this bike and how to keep my balance.

There are a few design changes I would like to make to the bike, perhaps in concert with Peter. There is great potential to make this a long distance buggy par excellence. This is not a bike for racing. It’s designed and built for comfort, not for speed. It’s built to carry the rider great distances in relative comfort.

And so it did. Following my 12 mile maiden ride, the only thing that hurt were my thighs. And that’s what I expected. No neck pain. No wrist and hand pain. No lower back pain. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeet!

The Sammy Flyer?

The Christmas before last, my brother-in-law, Roy, and his stellar wife, Amy, sent along some cash to help me in my quest for The Bike. I told them this secured for them the naming rights for The Bike. And so it is named after my charming niece, Samantha, or “Sammy.”

I’m working on a more thorough review to be posted. But I just had to get this sneak preview out.

WhaaaaaaaaaaHOOOOOOOO!

2007.02.01

It’s My Blog And I’ll Cry When I Want To

Althouse is having problems with the new Blogger. The “new and improved”, post-upgrade software seems to be as palatable as New Coke. She describes the issues from the blogger’s perspective and I can attest her site is taking a while to load. Haven’t tried to post any comments yet. I noticed similar problems with Gateway Pundit’s site a month or so ago when he was upgrading to the new Blogger. Gateway Pundit’s site always took longer to load, but for several weeks it took a really long time. Seems to be back to normal slow speed now so perhaps the Althouse issues, at least for the visitors, will resolve over time.

I had looked at Blogger several years ago and didn’t much care for the interface and functional layout from a blogger’s perspective. The steps for posting comments still strikes me as rather tedious. I have some doubts about how Blogger tracks web traffic, too. Over the past several months I’ve been working to sort out the JZ:TOL traffic patterns and the trends have been rather interesting. SPAM has been the biggest issue. As I identify IP addresses associated with SPAM, I ban them and they drop out of my traffic statistics. Bots are another big issue. In most cases, I want the bots because I want my blog to show up in search engines and such. But I don’t include bot traffic in my stats. Does Blogger count SPAM hits, even ones that are successfully filtered? Does Blogger count bot scans as if they were visitors? Same questions could be asked of the various third party site meter services.

Eventually, I settled on WordPress and have used it ever since. But there was a deeper criteria for me when looking for a content management system. I had to have complete control over the system. I wanted unfettered access to the web logs, the database, the code and the system. This means it had to be hosted on a machine I owned. This greatly expanded the options for software, backup and recovery strategies, and upgrades.

Granted, the capability to manage such a system is extra work and not something that is desirable for the vast majority of bloggers. It’s a question of trade-offs and accumulated experience. System administration tasks are for me what handling a saw is for a woodworker – not much effort because of the many years practice in handling the tools. Upgrades to JZ:TOL always occur on a non-public mirror site so I can see the effect and assess the impact of any upgrades or code changes. The upside is near transparent upgrades to the public blog. And in the unlikely event of a water landing after an upgrade to the public blog, I have a rollback strategy in place that can restore the previous site in a matter of minutes. Apparently, Blogger doesn’t have such capabilities. Having such a system in place also makes the blog more secure as patches and upgrades can be tested and pushed within hours of the announced patch or upgrade.

Like I said, it’s a question of trade-offs and accumulated experience. When I have a legal problem, even a relatively small one, I hire an attorney. With Althouse, probably not the case.

[Edit History]

2007.02.02

Didn’t mean to imply JZ:TOL is hosted on WordPress. Rather, I use the WordPress software application on my own javazen.com server. Ambiguity fixed.

2006.08.18

In-Flight Internet Abandoned

I’m not surprised by this:

Boeing is scrapping its in-flight high speed broadband service because of lack of interest from leading airlines.

The discontinuation of its Connexion service will cost the plane maker $320m (£169m) in one-off charges.

There are probably any number of reasons, vaguely encapsulated by Boeing’s reason of “Regrettably, the market for this service has not materialized as had been expected.” Specifically, I’d venture the following:

  • It’s yet another thing the airline has to support, which adds to their cost.

  • Focusing on a computer screen for the duration of a flight is tiring on the eyes, even for the few times I have attempted to do this. There are enough headache causing things about air travel. No need to add another.

  • Airplanes are just not good places to focus on work. Anything from turbulence to interruptions by flight attendants passing peanuts and beverages to row mates getting up to go to the bathroom make it near impossible to keep a decent train of thought going if you want to write an article or work on software code.
  • Security rules have made the prospect of pulling out a laptop during a flight increasingly inconvenient. I can foresee a day where laptops in the cabin will be forbidden.

  • For a lot of people, there just isn’t enough space to open a laptop. If you are my size (6′ 5″) it is flat out impossible. The few times I’ve been able to open a laptop and do some work for an hour or more it has been because the seat next to me was open allowing me to use that seat’s drop down tray.

These, and I’m sure other things I’m not thinking of at the moment, push “Internet Access” down on the list of desired amenities during an airline flight. Criminy, these days I’m just delighted, as I’m sure are others, to keep the clothes on my body without security confiscating them.

2006.07.25

RFID In Medicine

This is a good idea and an excellent use of technology:

Technology that helps airlines keep track of baggage and sounds an alarm when a shoplifter tries to leave the store may be able to stop surgeons from losing a sponge inside a patient, a study said on Monday.

Doctors at Stanford University School of Medicine who tested sponges embedded with radio frequency identification tags said the system accurately alerted surgeons when they deliberately left a sponge inside a temporarily closed surgical site and waved a detector wand over it.

And they could go further. Its been widely reported that close to 100,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors. And its been suggested this number is too low. I believe there are many ways computer technology can be leveraged to make the practice of medicine much safer. Mind you, not as a replacement to current practices, but as an enhancement.

I had voiced a related suggestion more than a year ago whereby medication containers (bubble packages, bottles, syringes, etc.) would contain a RFID coded with the drug and dose. The patient’s chart and wrist band would contain data about what they are allergic to, which medications had been prescribed and the dose prescribed. Coordinated with a central knowledge base about all known drug interactions an additional level of checking (assuming the medical staff continues to check medications as is done today) can be done by computers to ensure the patient is getting what was prescribed, the dose and interval is correct and contraindications/side effects are taken into account.

A thread on the use of RFID for surgical sponges can be found at Schneier on Security.

2004.10.20

Farewell to Quicken

I’ve been a Quicken user for a long, long time. The oldest version for which I could find disks was MS-DOS version 5.0. Although I have an earlier manual, the accompanying disk has long since been buried in a long forgotten box.

Prior to Quicken, I used a program called Pacioli 2000 (this was 1990, before marketing types hijacked versioning.) Named after the monk who invented double entry bookkeeping, Pacioli 2000 was also an excellent program. It was straightforward to use, the documentation was excellent (it contained one of the more concise MS-DOS tutorials I’ve every found and came with a cheesy video on accounting) and reporting was robust. But Pacioli 2000 was geared more for business and accounting principles confused the heck out of me.

Back then, Quicken was also straightforward and easy to use. Like your grandfathers roll top desk, everything had a place, organization was easy and reporting was concise. Everything in the package was yours. Customization was limited to screen colors and the like.

It’s different today. Everything isn’t yours and you don’t have access to all the cubby holes. Some of the drawers are locked and you don’t own the key. Tickers for mortgage loans scroll across the status bar and you cannot turn them off. Features you might find useful are displayed, billboard style, but only available via subscription. Grandfather’s roll top desk has become cluttered and stuffed with junk mail. Finding what’s yours consumes half the time spent floundering around in the program. (more…)

2001.07.20

From The Objects-Are-Closer-Than-They-Appear Department

You might be aware that our Sun will be a red giant in about 15 billion years, and its size will increase dramatically beyond the Mercury orbit and we will enter the “crispy critters” phase of our evolution. But do you know that the Andromeda Galaxy will collide with our Milky Way in about 3 billion years? Then another time after 1 billion years to merge themselves. What a mess! I thought there would be some laws against this happening or at the lease some sort of EPA ruling but no such luck. There are some pretty nice simulations in MPEG, and a lot of pictures with some explanation on the web sites listed below.

So the message for today: Party like it’s 2,999,999,999! WooHoo!

https://www.npaci.edu/online/v4.9/galaxies2.html
https://www.cita.utoronto.ca/~dubinski/tflops/


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