Wow, Google has done it again! I opened up my Google homepage to notice that you can set the theme for your homepage. I picked the seasonal theme, because I like the whimsy. The really cool thing is that it changes based on the time of day, season, etc...
Google has a brilliant strategy. They are slowly making you productive and happy on the web. It's not a huge shift, just small steps, each one increasing your happiness. Eventually, you won't even consider using a desktop app, because you'll be completely comfortable with the web based ones. The content can be updated constantly, you take it with you wherever you go, you can share it easily with others, etc...
I learned a number of things over the last week, so I thought I'd share
1) I could never be an academic, I don't own a suit 2) I really like playing the piano, even though I suck at it 3) The good thing is, I suck at everything, so there's not much incentive not to do it 4) I am an idiot (Actually, I already knew that, I just keep learning that I'm more of an idiot than I previously thought.) 5) RFID tags will be the next big thing. There's going to be some cool stuff done with those. 6) Ecclesiastes is the coolest book :-) 7) I like the term psychological gymnastics. I tend to perform them often. It's a constant struggle between seeing what you want to see and seeing what is really there.
The first time I heard anyone talk about the shape of data, it was Anders Hejlsberg. He was discussing C# and LINQ. I distinctly remember him discussing the shape of arrays as being rectangular. He contrasted this with the more jagged shape of XML data. Not only that, but one can change the shape of the XML by choosing to use attributes instead of tags. I tended to think this was fascinating and worth further thought. The ability to view data structures geometrically could lead to some amazing insights. Of course, after the initial flash, I gave it no more thought. However, the folks at Microsoft Research did, and they've produced this paper. I hope it is as interesting as Anders' initial insights were.
I've been reading Chaitin's book Meta Math! about Chaitin's Constant. I can't really say I enjoy his writing, but his ideas are very interesting. If he were less of an arrogant, self-centered prat, the book would be more enjoyable.
The section that was most interesting to me was the one in which he argues that trancendental numbers aren't really numbers. This reflects some of my earlier blog posts where I also say those numbers don't exist. Instead, I believe they are functions which generate the numbers to a specified precision.
Anyway, the book is interesting, though poorly written. Maybe some of his other books are better. Probably not. I'm sure they are also full of self-gloating and self-adoration.
I've been in a dark mood lately for various reasons. Today, I went to visit random blogs, I thought it might cheer me up. Boy, was I wrong. People write the most mundane, idiotic things. I don't care about your shopping list. I don't care about what you got for Valentine's day. Write something with some substance, try to make a freaking difference! Don't depress me further.
I once wrote a poem in high school for a class. I always liked the poem. I don't have it anymore, but I remember the last verse. I thought I would create a new poem that was similar and used the last verse. Here goes.
Shadows lurk on closed windows. The moon's luster provides a fitting nursery.
Monsters spring forth depriving me of slumber, laughing at my countenance.
I turn away, horrified. They persist; they encircle me.
I board up the window with long nails, and time-worn planks.
The monsters vanish, but their tendrils remain. They prod me, tease me, remind me.
The warmth on my back is shocking. I turn. A new window has opened.
Its light is brilliant. There are no shadows here, but the sun will set; they will come.
For a moment, I bask in the warmth; I feed off the glow.
But shadows lurk on closed windows. Cold, Dark, Lonely, I will never forget.
It needs some work, but I'll try and edit it from time to time. Stop back by to check on its progress.
I hate dreaming. I absolutely hate it. Most of my dreams are awful. When I was a child, I had night terrors. Like most cases, they went away as I grew up. Unfortunately, mine returned after my father died. It is said that they can return after a stressful or traumatic event, and they did. What's worse is that I've always been able to recall them. Most people just wake up screaming with no idea why. Me? I have full recollection of the terrors. Luckily, my wife is used to it, she just ignores me when I wake up screaming; although I'm sure it annoys her.
Other dreams are just as bad. They usually represent something I've repressed and don't want to think about. So now, I've done a good job of not thinking about certain topics and my dreams just drag them up and force me to confront them. I can't win. The whole point of repressing things is so that I don't have to deal with them. What good does it do if my subconcious is plotting against me! Arrrrggggg!
Anyway, the whole point of this post is to say that I hate dreaming. It sucks. Anybody have any good dream experiences and maybe some advice on how to get those instead of the ones I have? It would be most appreciated.
It is a very sad day. Dr. Jim Gray, brilliant database researcher (two phase commits, anyone?) has gone missing. Apparently, he was on a boat trip to scatter his mother's ashes and no one has heard from him since. Amazon has set up a number of satellite images that you can manually inspect to see if you can help find his boat. You can read more about it here.
My prayers go out to Dr. Gray and his family.
And, if you don't have a copy of his book, Transaction Processing, you should. It is a must read, especially in the coming world of multi-core processors.
I work from home for a living. I go into the office, on average, once a week. At the present, I don't really work closely with a team of people, so I really don't have a need to go into the office. However, I have to say that I absolutely hate working from home. The main thing I miss is the people. I like working with people. I like to run my ideas past people and get their opinions. I like to help other people with their problems. Right now, I live my life behind a mask of email and text messages. It is so boring. I don't get to hear another adult's voice until my wife comes home at night, and you can only listen to the TV or radio for so long before it affects your concentration. Furthermore, working from home severely limits your career movement. That's not something I'm overly concerned about, but it certainly doesn't add anything.
So, why do I work from home? For my kids. My wife works an hour from where we live; she's a nurse in a children's hospital and she loves her job. I wouldn't ask her to change that for anything. However, with two children, someone has to be available to pick them up in the afternoons from school and watch them. This is the job that I have chosen to do. When my wife was in nursing school, I worked for a company that was an hour away. I really did enjoy it. The company and the people were great and I loved being in an office atmosphere. When my wife graduated, we moved away and we both worked near the home. However, this meant that the kids were in day care until 5:30 or 6:00 every day. That was not how I wanted my kids to be raised. So, we moved back home and I took a job working out of my home again. It was a hard thing for me to do; those closest to me know it was a real struggle. Nevertheless, it was the right choice. The kids are the most important thing and one day they will be old enough such that they won't need me here. Until then, I'll chat away online and thinking to myself that working from home sucks.
Don't get me wrong, if you work in an office for a living, then working from home occasionally is a nice change of pace. On the other hand, working from home permanently is like being locked away in solitary confinement. You end up stir crazy talking to the dog or yourself, typically both. I often wonder what other people do in this situation. Does one of them not work? I can't imagine asking my wife to not work, she loves what she does. Do people leave their kids with other family members? Perhaps they go the day care route, or maybe something else that I'm not considering? I know my solution to the problem, but I'd be curious to know others' solutions and why.
I've always been hung up on the notion of countable vs uncountable infinity. It seemed a rather silly thing to say, that you could have more than infinity. I understand the argument for it, but from an intuitive level, it felt wrong. Now, I feel that it is completely wrong. There are only two kinds of numbers, those whose digits can be represented and those whose digits can't. 7, 13, 10000000 all belong to the first category as well as .015, .139, and .00000000000000000000000000000000001. PI, 1/3, and e all belong to the second. The second category of numbers are not really numbers but ideas. They are, in essence, equations. Given a precision, they can produce a number of the first category, but they are not numbers in and of themselves. Another example would be the summation of the reciprocals of all integers, given a precision, we can produce the number, but the summation itself is just an abstract notion. With that we can understand that what we consider to be countable infinity doesn't really exist. It is in the second category and is therefore part of the larger infinity. If you give the countable numbers a precision (limit), then you can discuss those numbers; however, without a limit, the countable numbers are just an idea, much like PI, or the zeta function. In fact, you could think of the countable numbers as a function that, given a number, produces a new number one higher. However, there is a difference between the "idea" of the function and the numbers that the function produces. The idea of the function can go into the infinite, the actual numbers cannot. The same holds true with PI. The idea of PI can go into the infinite, the actual number can't. The problem with the proof of uncountable infinity is that the natural numbers are limited to the finite whereas the irrational numbers are allowed to go to the infinite. When one realizes that the irrational numbers cannot go to the infinite, then the proof becomes nonsense.
Last Sunday I went to the AFC Championship Game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. It was a blast. The game was amazing and the RCA Dome is an excellent environment. The one thing I noticed is how loud it is there, well, at least when the other team is on the field. You don't get a true idea of the volume through TV or radio. The other thing I noticed were how great the fans were. We were sitting beside a number of Colts fans and they were extremely classy and fun to be around. I have to say that I was surprised at how much fun I had watching the game. I had begun to think that football had become a television sport, but I can safely say that is not the case. It was soooo much better watching it live and in-person. It didn't feel productionalized. It felt raw and real. I had a truly amazing time and I can't wait for next year's game!
Google has been slowly developing tools and technologies to support its unique requirements. I'd like to use this post to catalog information about them.
BigTable is google's answer to the database. Wikipedia has a good article on it here. MapReduce is google's answer to workflow. The article is here. Sawzall is google's high level distributed language. The paper is here. GFS is google's file system. The article is here.
I would like to have seen more information about what a P300 response is. Is it possible that some people are "malformed" and have this response even when presented with an unfamiliar image? What if it is your living room and, while the blood is unfamiliar, the rest of the information is. There are too many variables for me to enjoy this.
As for going to jail because you thought about committing a crime, that is ludicrous. The difference between humanity and animals is that we can control our actions. I'm not sure we can control our thoughts. Regardless, as humans, we must be judged on what we can control.
I have a series of boolean equations. Only one of these equations can be true at any one time. I need to find an efficient way of determining which of these equations is true. I would also like to know more about these equations, like is it true that only one of the equations can be true and what new equations are needed to make that true.
Here's an example. Let's say that half of the equations deal with the condition where variable A issw equal to the value 'M'. 25% of the equations deal with the condition where variable A is 'm', 25% of the equations deal with the condition where variable A is 'n', 15% where the variable A is '?' and 10% where the variable A is 'N'. The variable B has a situation where 75% of the equations deal with the condition where it is 'M' and the other 25% of the equations are divided among the other choices. There are also variables C, D, E, F, and G. Which of these variables do I evaluate first? What factors should I consider? Are there algorithms that will help me in determining this?
The previous year was a year of changes. I worked for three different companies, in three different cities, one of which required me to move 800 miles away. Now, I'm back where I began and I've learned an awful lot and met some truly amazing people.
One of the first things I learned is that there is nothing more important than your family. I missed being able to pick my kids up from school and taking care of them in the afternoons. I also missed the good friends I had made here. I didn't realize how much I had missed them until I moved back.
Second, I learned that going to church is an important part of your spiritual development. Seems obvious, right? Well, I've recently been going to the First United Methodist Church of Wynne and have really enjoyed both the service and the Sunday School. I've been going there with friends, which really helps.
Third, I have learned a lot, technically. I've learned the value of having business people drive functionality and I've learned the value of architecture that is planned over architecture that evolves. I've learned about J2EE, CORBA, networking, TIBCO, and a whole host of other things. I enjoy learning, so that was fantastic.
Fourth, I learned that to be a good team leader, you've got to be able to stand up for those who are working for you. I've had leaders that I really enjoyed at all the companies -- they were all really positive experiences. Each one had a different style, but when it came time to go to bat, they were there to stand up for me.
Fifth, I learned that if you want to stay challenged in a traditionally business IT shop, you need to challenge yourself. It seems the expectations of those places are low and you can easily "just get by." In fact, you can easily descend into madness. But, to truly excel, you have to challenge yourself to come up with innovative ideas to make their software cost less and be more stable. I think more and more the key to good programming is focusing on stability.
Sixth, I learned that I have to make tradeoffs and I'm thankful for the past year because it helped me understand what those tradeoffs are. Right now, I work from home. It allows me to pick up the kids and help out my wife, who drives an hour to work three days a week. However, it also isolates me from communication with others. I really like the office setting where I can talk to an adult when I run into a roadblock, instead of being isolated from everyone. Therefore, I have to realize the need exists and try to assuage it in a different manner. Eventually, I'll go into the office more (at least 2 days per week) and hope that helps. However, right now I'm not working with a team, so going into the office doesn't really help. Nevertheless, spending the last year in two different office environments helped remind me that it can be a lot of fun and that I need to remember to go into the office more when I feel isolated.
Finally, as I head back to my old job, I realize that the reasons I left it are still there. However, after spending a year studying myself and other companies, I'm am in a much better position to adapt so that those things will no longer bother me. Right now I just want to be appreciative of the great gifts that God has given me. I'll worry about the other things later :-)