Monday, February 26, 2007

What I've Learned

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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Shape of Data

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.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Meta Math!

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.

Ecclesiastes 1

I always felt I understood Solomon and wanted to pattern my life after his. Here, at this point, I understand Ecclesiastes and continue to follow in the Teacher's wake.

Vanity of vanities," says the Teacher,
"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."

What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?

A generation goes and a generation comes,
But the earth remains forever.

Also, the sun rises and the sun sets;
And hastening to its place it rises there again.

Blowing toward the south,
Then turning toward the north,
The wind continues swirling along;
And on its circular courses the wind returns.

All the rivers flow into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full.
To the place where the rivers flow,
There they flow again.

All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.

That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one might say,
"See this, it is new"?
Already it has existed for ages
Which were before us.

There is no remembrance of earlier things;
And also of the later things which will occur,
There will be for them no remembrance
Among those who will come later still.

I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.

And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.

I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.

What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.

I said to myself, "Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge."

And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.

Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


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.

Life sucks and then you die.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


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,
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.
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.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I hate dreaming

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.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dr Jim Gray is missing

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.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Why I hate working from home

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.