Friday, February 02, 2018

The Internet Can Be Useful If Used Properly

This post is here because I had not added one for two-and-a-half years. In the interim, the world has not suffered from the lack of my posting. (It has suffered for other reasons, but let's not get into that. The idea here is not to be depressing, no, far from it.)

Nonetheless, I feel compelled to put something here, if only to be able to say to myself, "Good job, Pete. You have done it. Let this be a start, and soon you will add many fabulous things to your blog. It will be part of a personal Renaissance. Let many flowers bloom." Or something along those lines. Something very positive and good.

Anyway, music continues to be really good. You only need to look for it. One of the best ways is via YouTube. Being a reasonably intelligent person, I find a visit to the front page of YouTube demoralizing. I really don't want to even know what is popular. Knowing about popular things is a great way for me to get really discouraged.

However, if you search for something good on YouTube, whether a band, director, author -- something that you already know or suspect is good  -- and then start digging from there, then oh boy will you find a lot of good and interesting stuff. (You probably already know this, but why not remind you of something really good.) This also holds very true for Wikipedia and IMDb. The thing is start digging and keep digging. Also, Internet Archive Texts is amazing. You want to read a first person account about someone traveling through the Middle East in 1905? Which one of several hundred would you prefer? That's just a semi-made up example that illustrates well what they have in that archive. Also, Google Translate does its job very well. Plus, your library lets you borrow stuff for free, and they will get stuff from all over your state and have it shipped to your local branch down the street. And if you use their services, then they won't go away, leaving another possible location for a new, hastily constructed T-Mobile store or something equally dispiriting.

Here's my latest example on profitably digging, from what was five minutes ago until I started typing and editing endlessly: I looked up the main guy from the band Nada Surf because he did some nice solo stuff on KEXP, then recognized the name of another guy in that band, found out that the reason I recognized his name is that he played in the band Guided by Voices, and in the process found out about yet another project that Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices did, with that guy, then looked up one of their albums on YouTube, because of course it was there, because (almost) everything is on YouTube, then listened to it and liked it a lot. Here is a link to a playlist that includes most of the tracks from the album. If you are the sort of person who likes rock and roll made with guitars, then you will like it.

I decided to buy it, so I looked on Amazon, where I check first to see if an album is available, hopefully used, not because it pleases me to help Amazon wipe out every single other business on the planet, but because I like the convenience. However, the album is like fifty bucks used on Amazon, so I remembered to check, which is amazing, and lists approximately five zillion albums and links them to people selling them. ( is also amazing, even though it has an uninspiring corporate design and front page that you'll want to ignore, because it is like the IMDb of music, in that the majority of the bands and albums on Earth are listed and everything is highly searchable and linked to everything else, allowing for endless exploration.) On Discogs it was only seven dollars -- four for the disc and three for shipping. So I highly recommend Discogs, both for researching recordings and for buying them.

To wrap up, the main guy from Nada Surf is named Matthew Caws. This song he performed solo on KEXP is tremendous. You might even want to listen to it all over again as soon as he gets to the end. For me, it's one of those tunes. Also, the album referenced above, Mist King Urth, by Lifeguards, is definitely good enough to listen to in its entirely at least twice in a row, even or especially at moderate to high volume. I just proved it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Three Acts of the Mind

The acts of the mind, wherein it exerts its power over simple ideas, are chiefly these three:

1. Combining several simple ideas into one compound one, and thus all complex ideas are made.

2. The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or complex, together, and setting them by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them into one, by which it gets all its ideas of relations.

3. The third is separating them from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence: this is called abstraction, and thus all its general ideas are made.

-- John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

97 Things Every Programmer Should Know

This collection of short articles about programming best practices is well worth perusing. Courtesy of O'Reilly Media.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In Appreciation of Procedural Programming

I think the lack of reusability comes in object-oriented languages.... [T]he problem with object-oriented languages is they've got all this implicit environment that they carry around with them. You wanted a banana but what you got was a gorilla holding the banana and the entire jungle.

-- Joe Armstrong

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Beatiful Day, Sox @ Yankees Tonight

Beautiful day today, and the Sox play their first game of the 2014 season against the Yankees tonight in the Bronx. Birds are chirping outside, and I can hear the last touches being put on a new bridge over the creek down the hill. An excellent day indeed.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Your Opinion May Not Be Helping Things

Science is not designed to support your opinion. Instead, it is designed to reveal facts derived from empirical evidence.

It is not the responsibility of facts to agree with what you might think. If you have placed yourself in a position to be bereft of them, facts do not care. They have no ability to care. They are only facts.

If facts make you uncomfortable, try to figure out why this is so.

This may not be your fault. Indeed, it is most likely that you have been misled about the illuminating qualities of facts. Perhaps your father did not embrace reason. That would be discouraging. Perhaps your mother didn't know how to show that she loved you. She did. It's okay.

You can do better. You can start to learn about the way things work in the actual universe. There is much data available. And if you can read, you need only start reading.

I wish you the best of luck.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Install the JDK Development Version on CentOS

If you want access to Java tools like jar and javac, install the development version of the JDK.

# yum install java-1.7.0-openjdk-devel

Add the bin directory to your PATH so you can run the Java programs from anywhere.

# PATH=$PATH:/usr/lib/jvm/java-1.7.0-openjdk-

View the classes in a jar file.

# jar tvf dt.jar
     0 Mon Jul 01 09:51:04 EDT 2013 META-INF/
    71 Mon Jul 01 09:51:04 EDT 2013 META-INF/MANIFEST.MF
     0 Mon Jul 01 09:51:00 EDT 2013 javax/
     0 Mon Jul 01 09:51:04 EDT 2013 javax/swing/
  4486 Mon Jul 01 09:51:04 EDT 2013 javax/swing/JSliderBeanInfo.class
  3342 Mon Jul 01 09:51:04 EDT 2013 javax/swing/JFormattedTextFieldBeanInfo.class
  3025 Mon Jul 01 09:51:04 EDT 2013 javax/swing/JMenuBarBeanInfo.class

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Climate-Gate Scientist Cleared Over and Over Again

James Fallows, who is an excellent veteran writer for The Atlantic, published a post today about "climate-gate" scientist Michael Mann being cleared of all wrongdoing yet again, this time by the National Science Foundation. As is often the case, Mr. Fallows raises a lot of good points using a small number of words, and provides some nice links. One of the points is the amazing and disturbing rejection of well-established science by nearly the entire Republican party. As I once heard Chris Matthews say to Pat Buchanan, these guys "would have been great in the Dark Ages." What would Abe Lincoln be thinking right now if he could see this?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tripoli Falls to Rebels, Earthquake in Virgina

After months of fighting to end Qaddafi's forty years of lunatic despotic rule in Libya, rebel fighters now control most of Tripoli, the capitol city, and today breached the walls of the presidential compound, where thousands celebrated and carried off booty and weapons. And on the same day, I felt my tenth floor cubicle in South Boston begin to sway at around two this afternoon, the result of a 5.8 earthquake all the way down in Virginia.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Economic Stimulus and the English Language

I just heard Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken mispronounce the word "peripheral" as "periphial" on the MLB Network. This is one of the most commonly bungled English words, in my experience.

A small way to stimulate the economy while improving English usage would be to create signs that teach proper spelling, pronunciation and usage of commonly botched words, and place them in public spaces.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grizzly Bear's "While You Wait For The Others" on KCRW

This 2008 performance of "While You Wait For The Others," by the band Grizzly Bear, is mellow and trippy, with a muddy, popping guitar sound, a pleasing melody, sweet harmonies, and a rhythm section featuring nice snare work, quiet organ, interesting bass fills, and I say that this is a doggone pretty song. Recorded live for the show Morning Becomes Eclectic in the studios of KCRW, my old beloved Santa Monica Community College radio station. I drove many a mile around Southern California soaking up the musical and spoken sounds of this fine outlet. Long live KCRW.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How Algorithms Shape Our World

Check out this video by Kevin Slavin at a recent TED talk.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Ails the Field of Economics, by Mark_BC

I'm mighty impressed by this explanation of what ails the field of economics. It's not what you expect, whatever it is that you expect. This is very good:

So now I'm going to read this at his blog:

Do what I did and read the first thing first, though. It's well worth it.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Sox Win in Ten, Take Series Against Yanks, 2-1

Last night the Red Sox returned to first place in the standings, when they beat the Yankees on a tenth-inning walk-off single by rookie right fielder Josh Reddick, after they had tied it in the ninth against the great Mariano Rivera. That gives Rivera fourteen blown saves against the Red Sox in his career. No other team in baseball has gotten to him more than eight times.

Tonight Tim Wakefield will start the first game of a three-game set in Minnesota. This will be his third try at  career win number 200.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Growth, or the Lack Thereof

Who thinks the US will experience economic growth sufficient to lower the unemployment rate below 6% any time in the next eight to ten years in the absence of major government stimulus?

Clive Owen on S&P's Downgrade of America's Debt Rating

Clive Owen points out in the Atlantic that the S&P downgrade of the US debt rating should not have a significant market impact; that the ratings agencies have very little credibility; and that, at the same time, America deserves a downgrade, due, more than anything, to political dysfunction.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Once Every Eight Months Without Fail

In keeping with my goal to publish a blog post at least once every eight months, without fail, here goes, on the sixth of August, exactly eight months since the last entry.

Sox Pound Yanks, Tie for First

After falling out of first place for the first time in a month last night, the Red Sox beat the Yankees, 10-4, at Fenway Park this afternoon, to move back into a tie for the top spot in the AL East. Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury drove in a career-high six runs, including a three-run bomb to right, his nineteenth of the season, to cap a five-run outburst in the bottom of the fourth and give the hometown nine a 7-2 lead, after the Yanks had tied it at two in the top of the inning.

In a shining example of a reverse lock, Red Sox starter John Lackey, he of the $17 million yearly salary and the second worst ERA in the game in 2011, easily out-dueled CC Sabathia, who came into the game with a league-leading 16 wins, but fell to 0-4 against the Sox on the season, giving up seven runs on nine hits in six innings.

Lackey has pitched fairly effectively during the last four weeks, following a horrid first half, while also enjoying tremendous run support from Boston's offense, which leads the league in runs scored. The big, goofy-looking righthander improved to 10-8 with the win, lowering his ERA to 6.14.

Tomorrow night, Josh Beckett will try to earn his tenth win and help the Sox win the rubber game of the series.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Indie Rock Records as an Investment, Using Japan's Guitar Wolf as an Illustrative Example

Here's an example of how expensive obscure albums can be. I suppose if you had the ability to guess right, you could outperform any stock market index by purchasing selected indie rock albums. The supply tends to be relatively low, so if the thing goes out of print, a little demand can go a long way.

I heard a track tonight off my latest pickup (thanks to the U.S. Postal Service for another musical delivery), a 1999 Matador Records comp (Everything Is Nice), by a low-fi punk rock band from Japan called Guitar Wolf, liked it, went to Amazon to check the price and some reviews, and found that I can have a used copy for a mere $152.80. Hmmm. I think I'll wait for a re-release -- which raises the point, of course: what happens to the value of the out-of-print original when and if the re-release comes out?

Amazon link for reference:

Monday, January 03, 2011

Only One Place on Earth: 1,011 CDs and Counting

It just occurred to me that my CD collection, having reached 1,011 recordings, is not duplicated anywhere else on Earth. I have no proof of this, but it is entirely logical to assume that in no other place are these particular recordings together. There are too many of them.

Samples from today's haul, via USPS to my door:

King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black (1974, EG)
Dengue Fever: Venus on Earth (2008, M80)
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Ballad of the Broken Seas (2006, V2)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Making Our Own Enemies

In his article in Foreign Policy, Robert A. Pape discusses the results of research which shows that "occupations in the Muslim world don't make Americans any safer -- in fact, they are at the heart of the problem."

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Boston is #19 in Foreign Policy's 2010 Global Cities Index

In a very nice photo essay on the Foreign Policy web site titled the "2010 Global Cities Index," Boston ranks 19th.

New York, London, and Tokyo comprise the top three cities.

Pictured here is Los Angeles, ranked #7.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Configure Apache with PHP

First of all, change the permissions of the htdocs folder so users can write to it. That way you can edit files there.

Also, when using Apache 2.2, in httpd.conf, paste this in at the bottom of the file:

LoadModule php5_module "c:/php/php5apache2_2.dll"
AddType application/x-httpd-php .php
PHPIniDir "C:/php"

Notice that it's php5apache2_2.dll, not php5apache2.dll.

php5apache2.dll will make Apache fail to start.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Learning to Type

It's time to learn how to type, so I'm doing that with the help of these lessons by Dave Bartlett.

He points out something interesting that I never knew on the second lesson page:

The keys of early typewriters were, sensibly enough, laid out in alphabetical order. The impetus for change was not exactly the yearning for blistering speed that has brought us together here today, but rather necessity. Early typewriters were mechanical and prone to jamming. The QWERTY layout solved that problem by spreading the popular keys across the board, inadvertently creating an ideal layout for distributing the effort of typing to all ten fingers rather than the traditional hunt and peck method.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cat: Food?!

My cat, Elwood, one of four who roam around this house, just came into the office to visit. I had the door closed, so he sat outside it and explained, repeatedly, that he'd like to come in and join me. When he got in he jumped up on the desk and found a small pile of pistachios. Elwood wondered, with a great amount of excitement, initially, whether or not he could derive any pleasure or nutritional value from these strange items. He decided against the concept, after various sniffs and licks, and has settled for making it hard for me to type by lying across a forearm and purring contentedly.

Good boy!

Ellison on Best-of-Breed Integration

Here's a nice quote by Larry Ellison from the book Softwar (2003), in which he's referring to Oracle's attempts to win market share in the applications market in the mid 1990s by putting together best-of-breed systems. He says the guys at Oracle running this process "had all these wonderful names for the new integration technologies that they were developing: the message backbone, integration glue, and all this other stuff. I tried to get a detailed technical explanation as to how it all worked, but nobody was able to explain it to me. I just couldn't understand what they were saying. One of two possibilities here: I'm too stupid to understand, or they don't understand it either. Even though they couldn't describe how this stuff worked, they just knew it would solve all their product integration problems.... It was like, wouldn't it be nice to have flying cars..."

This reminds me of a lot of situations in life, when you're not sure if you're the one who's too slow to understand, or if the person doing the explaining doesn't know what he's talking about.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Firefox 3.6

I just installed the latest version of Firefox, 3.6, released two weeks ago. You can get it here. It has many handy features, some of which are:

  • Personas, a way to apply a new browser theme with a single click, which I have already found is fun.
  • Full screen native video support. After you've installed version 3.6, you can test the feature out by right clicking on the video here and choosing 'Full Screen'.
  • Support for new HTML5 specs such as Drag & Drop.
  • Support for CSS gradients.
Here are more details.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Can the Internets Be Any Slower?

Tonight my internet connection is doing its best impression of a 14K modem. Remember those? This is unbelievable. I want my fast connection back! I don't know if it's Charter Communications dropping the ball (as usual. Thanks, Charter. Thanks again for the great value you bring me for only $200 every month), the Chinese hammering away at our national telecommunications grid, a squirrel frying on the line outside, or what, but it is decidedly not loads of fun. My cat, Bill, doesn't mind. Completely oblivious to current connection speed and leaning on my left arm. Hi, Bill.

I notice that when I google myself these days, there are links to various sites where I've posted stuff. None of it is going to win me any prizes, but still I find it pleasing. Understandable, yes?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stop Flickering Pointer in Vista's Windows Explorer

Here's how I stopped the flickering pointer in Windows Explorer on my Vista PC with a Radeon HD 4850 video card: Right click on the Computer icon on the desktop, choose Properties > Device Manager > Sound, video and game controllers. Right click on ATI HDMI Audio and choose Disable. Restart the computer, and the flickering is gone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not a Total Meltdown

I appreciate the fact that when I was reading an article in the New York Times and listening to Pandora radio just now, the Google Chrome browser didn't totally melt down when Flash blew up in the Pandora window. Instead, Chrome let me know that Flash had crashed, and I was able to close the Pandora window and keep reading the Times. It's just like Google told me it would be.

Plus, I keep switching over to Chrome lately because it doesn't insist on soaking up more and more memory over time like Firefox does. I love Firefox, but jeez, does it have to keep grabbing 350 megs just to run four of five windows? You'd think they could fix this, but the problem persists for years.

By the way, another example that Obama is a genius: he appoints a Nobel Prize winning scientist to head the Department of Energy, Steven Chu. This is probably a better idea than picking people who you happen to know from around the neighborhood or something.

Lastly, Pandora is genius at draining money away from your bank account and into the coffers of Amazon Marketplace sellers, since you'll hear so much great music there that you were previously unaware of, and you'll think, Yes, this too, belongs in my CD collection. Tonight I happily succumbed to the pull of Mt Egypt and Damien Jurado

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cyber Security

Another excellent On Point episode from WBUR in Boston. This one is about the danger to US national security of cyber attacks.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Library Book

On the way home from work I stopped by the library to pick up a book I ordered last week, The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the World's Smartest Person in the World, by A. J. Jacobs. It's about the author's quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

First, I feel compelled to say that if you're not taking advantage of the fact that you get to use your library membership to order books online and have them dropped off at your local branch, do it! Start doing it right away. I contend that this is the second most crucial use of my tax dollars, after paying firemen.

A blurb by P. J. O'Rourke, found on the back of the book:

"The Know-It-All is a terrific book. It's a lot shorter than the encyclopedia, and funnier, and you'll remember more of it. Plus, if it falls off the shelf onto your head, you'll live."

[Hours later, about fifty-nine minutes of which I spent replying to my grandmother's email, the rest, I'm not quite sure -- it's the Internet I'm on here, after all.] Here's a short excerpt from the book that says so much about Russia:

"The world's largest bell was built in 1733 in Moscow, and weighed in at more than four hundred thousand pounds. It never rang -- it was broken by fire before it could ever be struck. What a sad little story. All that work, all that planning, all those expectations -- then nothing. Now it just sits there in Russia, a big metallic symbol of failure."

Economics for Homeless Women

Here's an article in The Economist about an economist giving volunteer financial literacy training to homeless women in New York City. I don't know if that sounds very entertaining to read, but it was.

Also, I notice that the name of my blog is The World According to PTK, and yet all I'm doing is linking to things I'm reading, without doing much in the way of summarizing or commenting. I have an excuse ready: the more I read, especially these days, the less I know what to think.

Here's something else to check out in The Economist, from last week, one of the best overviews I have seen of the actions taken by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury to ward off financial market meltdown.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Renewing American Leadership

In Barack Obama's essay, "Renewing American Leadership," published in the July/August 2007 edition of Foreign Affairs, he lays out in detail his goals for US foreign policy. He believes (and so do I) that the world needs strong, enlightened American leadership. These are words written by a highly educated, intelligent, rational and forward-looking man, and reading them will likely make you thankful that America had the good sense to elect him as our next president.


I'm reading Colossus: The Price of America's Empire, by Niall Ferguson. It's a good overview of US foreign policy from the late 19th century forward, and takes the view that the world needs an empire for stability, and though the US is the only candidate to fulfill this role, it embraces the position reluctantly.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oil, Employment

The AP reports today:

"Benchmark crude fell as low as $49.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, levels last seen on May 18, 2005, when oil hit $46.80 a barrel."

Oil for less than $50. That happened fast. Four months ago it was $147, so it's fallen by about two-thirds in a very short amount of time.

Also, unemployment hit a 16-year high last month, and the four-week average is at a 25-year high.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Various Things

I recommend the public radio show On Point, and public radio in general.

Check out these world energy consumption statistics from the Energy Information Administration -- Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government.