Older blog entries for harrisj (starting at number 52)

15 Nov 2000 (updated 15 Nov 2000 at 17:43 UTC) »
vab, sorry to hear about the bilirubin scare. I have Gilbert's syndrome myself, which means that I always am somewhat jaundiced. It's not too noticeable unless you look at my eyes when I'm stressed and hungry. I also have to tell doctors when I get blood tests so they don't freak out. I sincerely hope that's the problem and not anything else. I have never had jaundice that severe, so I am concerned for you. Of course, I'm not a doctor and my opinion should be taken with a boulder of salt.
Eyes Pop - Skin Explodes - Everybody Dead

Had a relatively awful weekend after a busy week. Listening to FSOL's ISDN and it is pretty cool. Broadcasting improvisational concerts at home to radio stations via ISDN was a pretty wacky idea back then (1994), but now I suppose it's relatively painless with streaming audio from a web site. Funny how technology changes.

I've been reading The Slate Diaries, a fascinating book of diary entries written by various figures for Slate magazine over the last few years. While it is interesting to see what famous people like Beck or Benazir Bhutto or the Simpsons head producer write, I find the entries by the classified ads staffer or the surgeon more interesting. And it's interesting to see all the different "voices" the text has as a result. It makes me view the diary entries here in a different light.

Otherwise, next week is Thanksgiving.

Another Monday morning. Got out of a cab downtown this morning and a homeless man shouted "Uh oh! Here comes the KGB!" about me. I know the black leather coat may seem a bit menacing, but the idea of me being an ominous agent is laughable (I don't really have the build for it). Girlfriend gets to go to an arts reception at Peter Norton's (of Utilities fame) swank New York apartment tonight. I'm a bit jealous.

rsousa, I would have to agree about "Dancer in the Dark". At first, I alternated between thinking it was brilliant and idiotic. By the end, I was left speechless. It's really like nothing else I've seen, although some people hated it. It certainly doesn't seem like it should work:

  1. Musical about a poor immigrant losing her sight
  2. Untested actor (has Bjork been in anything before?)
  3. Grainy and jerky digital film
  4. Several depressing plot twists
  5. Complete lack of ironic detachment
  6. Did I mention it's somehow a musical?
But it does work. Amazing. I also think that Bjork is the best evidence that aliens live among us.

Hmm, I made it into the stats page's undeserved master list. Fair enough, I pointed out my problems with it months ago myself. I think it's a fault with any popularity-based metric; very popular people can elevate others with a single vote. Funny this comes up around the same time as the Google scam discussion (another popularity metric). If you care, you can read my older diary entries.

Yesterday, I was out at dinner with a few friends when I was asked whether I ever meet any programmers outside of work. In all honesty, I think it's been 3 times total. I wind up talking more to writers or architecture professors or gallery owners. Of course, this was one of the reasons I moved here instead of San Francisco. I don't like talking shop much. And it's nice to be in the minority (and know it's not indirectly my fault that rents have become insane). I don't mind developers, but it seems that programmers are often a bit more narrowly focused that other people I meet. Of course, when I meet any people who could ONLY talk about abstract art or post-modern architecture, I find them boring too.

Find is such an incredibly useful command. I honestly don't know what I'd do without it sometimes. Now it's helping me to clean up several gigs of month-old files on a disk. If it weren't for MKS Utilities, NT would be completely useless. Incidentally, I have become quite peeved at how NT crawls to a halt whenever there is any serious disk I/O. At least my UNIX systems get it right.

Enough random thoughts for now...

Halloween turned out to be fun. Went with some friends visiting from Boston to watch the Village Halloween Parade. The crowds were reasonable, the weather wasn't too bad, and the parade itself is always fascinating. I think they had a good time. It apparently was broadcast on cable, and I'll see what the tape has on it. It's nice to live so close to the parade route, except that I always get to hear the horns of idiots who drive into the city and expect the traffic to somehow vanish in front of them.

Today has been a bit of a bummer though. November is just a bleak month, and I'm a bit sad that National Spooky Month is over. I suppose that listening to Bjork's "Dancer in the Dark" soundtrack doesn't help... ;)

XML is actually quite cool for similar reasons to those outlined by agntdrake. Here at the company, we needed to re-engineer our infrastructure to support computer-driven downloads of data, load balancing, and a bunch of other neat things while maintaining backwards compatibility. We managed to build a system based on XML in a few months that we have been using ever since. Basically, all of our data is encapsulated inside of Business Objects which respond to certain methods. Our clients like getting data in XML, and it even works through firewalls. It was SOAP before there was SOAP. Now we are working on metadata. Allowing people to get information about the data in our databases is interesting, but it raises all sorts of new challenges (besides understanding Schema standards).

Why the Web Needs Groves is an article that XML heads might find interesting. It identifies some serious problems with the current XML programming model (eg, DOMs) and proposes an interesting solution.

Last night, I alternated talking to tech support and playing Trivial Pursuit. I have to say that I am thoroughly disgusted with the state of Trivial Pursuit these days. Like Jeopardy, it has become consistently dumber. I am aware that I have also become smarter over the years, but I think it really has dumbed down. The History category consisted almost entirely of questions about America in the 80s and 90s. (Only in America would 1995 be considered "history"). The Arts and Entertainment section included questions about Melrose Place stars and the movie Twister. I think one question was about the owner of Cosmopolitan magazine. The winner was basically determined by lucky rolls of the die. The questions were either not challenging or totally stupid (yes, I bombed the Melrose Place question). My girlfriend and I are discussing whether we can trade it in for another version that might be more our speed. And don't get me started on those other game shows...

Everybody's talking about the subway series here. I really couldn't give two monkeys.

"Both phone calls and Post-it notes have a life cycle of their own. They are not mere servants of man, but clever parasites that use human industry to further their own growth as a species" - Will Self

17 Oct 2000 (updated 17 Oct 2000 at 14:18 UTC) »

Sometimes the little things can make a huge difference in the face of scalability. Changed a hashtable to store 64-bit checksums instead of arbitrary strings as a key value (using the first 32-bits as a hash code). It may seem a bit silly, but it makes a huge difference when there are 4 million entries of >50 chars. I feel dumb for not spotting it earlier. I know there is a chance of false collision with checksums, but it's extremely low with 64-bit ones. Especially since the data is split among 800 hash tables of <10,000 entries. Also, moving logging to different disk spindles than swap can be important, especially if your process consumes a fair amount of virtual memory. I'm sure some people are wondering what this program is.

I am now reading Extensibility's Schema Adjunct Framework. It's an interesting proposal for including extra information alongside XML schemas (which aren't very extensible) that can be used by programs. This is an intriguing concept that might prove rather useful for another project here at work.

10 Oct 2000 (updated 10 Oct 2000 at 13:55 UTC) »

Saw on Slashdot that somebody has allegedly posted a P- solution to an NP-complete problem (clique partitioning). If it really works out (I'm rather skeptical), it would also prove that P=NP. Pretty fascinating stuff regardless. Interested people can check it out at this link.

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