Archive for May, 2012

One D Too Many

Friday, May 25th, 2012

I was reading this week about a new view of the universe that some physicists are, oh, I don’t know, exploring? Debating? Imagining? Or maybe just using as a masturbation fantasy. But let me not be the first to cast stones here, lest God take me to task for any of my own private thoughts.

So this view comes from thinking too much about black holes and about the laws of the universe. One of those laws, and one that the physicists take very seriously, is that information can’t be destroyed. I’m not sure they mean the same thing by information that normal people do, but I’m not sure they don’t either. One of the other fundamentals of the universe is that nothing can come out of a black hole; after all, the inability of even light to come out is what gives black holes their name. So the thought then comes that if a thing falls into a black hole and can never come back out, is that not the same as that thing being destroyed? Thus a thing that falls into a black hole is truly destroyed, made to cease to exist, as opposed to being merely destroyed, where “mere” destruction really just changes the thing’s description. But that thing that was destroyed can be considered to consist in part of the information that describes it, but we “know” that information can’t be destroyed, so there must be some way that the thing can be destroyed but not its information, and that “way” is that some physicists now theorize that while the physical thing is destroyed, its information, its description, gets spread out upon the surface of the black hole.

And here again, let me caution that I’m not sure all of these terms are being used by the physicists in the usual way, and based on God’s pitiful efforts to try and help me understand this, I’m not sure that even he really knows what the terms mean to the physicists. So by “surface of the black hole” I think they mean the infinitely thin space just beyond the event horizon, the breaking point between what can be considered “inside” the event horizon and what can be considered “outside.” When they say “information” or “description” I think they mean “everything that is the thing except the thing itself,” but that’s far too close to the sound of one hand clapping for my tastes. Also let me caution that they didn’t actually use the term “infinitely thin” to describe this “surface,” that’s my somewhat poetic interpretation of what they did say; what they did say was that the surface is two dimensional.

At this point they’ve come up with the notion that anything in our three-dimensional reality can be described by two-dimensional information. Some of them then claim that from there it’s really not much of a leap to suggest that maybe the whole universe is really a hologram, by which they mean a three-dimensional projection of two-dimensional information. I think some of them are claiming only that it’s not that big of a leap to think that we’re living in a hologram, and that some of them are actually claiming that we really are living in a hologram.

At this point, even God agreed with me that serious recreational drugs were probably in order. I’m just not sure if the drugs are to help understand what the physicists are thinking or if they’re meant to help me forget the whole thing.

Trust in Case

Friday, May 18th, 2012

God says I have trust issues. She has a point, but I contend that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

I was talking to her about some of my tribulations at work this week. I was working on a computer program that relies on an external program and on an internal library that manages communication with that external program. Everything worked great in the test environment but when I moved it out to the production environment, not so great. It was not only taking too long, it was intermittently returning the wrong results. Neither of these were things I could live with.

It’s been a common theme in my career that using other people’s code causes me more trouble than it’s worth. In this case for one function I’m relying on two completely different sets of other people’s code. And at least one of them is failing me, which kind of makes me look bad. And I’ve got enough of my ego wrapped up in my skill as a coder that I think, first, I shouldn’t ever look bad, and second, that I really don’t like it when it’s somebody else making me look bad.

So I don’t like to use other people’s code. Mind you, in modern programming you have to, you just can’t write everything yourself down to the bare metal any more than you can build your own toaster from raw ore, but for some things, you have to figure out if it will take more time to learn somebody’s library, and work your way around whatever it does wrong and whatever it does in a way that isn’t exactly what you need, than it will take you to write your own version that’s expressly tailored to the problem at hand, rather than some generalized case. I find that surprisingly often, writing my own is the quicker route.

Does that mean I don’t trust other coders? Well, yeah, but it’s like the old saying, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

Wheels and Meals

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Somewhat reluctantly, I’ve joined the food truck revolution.

I don’t know how much it’s going on in the rest of the world, or even the rest of the country, but here in California, well in at least San Francisco and Los Angeles, the revolution is happening. The catering trucks of old, bringing convenience store wares and greasy spoon grills to businesses that are too far from the non-mobile versions for their workers to make it there and back during their measly meal breaks, have been supplanted or at least supplemented by designer foods on wheels. These new trucks, rather than cover the basics and show up at the same businesses everyday, specialize and shift. They’ll do one kind of food and concentrate on doing it well. They’ll have regular locations but they’ll be on a rotating schedule, waiting usually a week or more before returning to the same spot. It’s a different business model and one that seems to be working for them.

Okay, maybe revolution is a bit strong of a word, but it’ll do. Besides it goes good with the whole “wheels” thing that trucks have going for them.

Mind you, I’ve eaten off these trucks before. I’ve also eaten plenty off the old “roach coaches” of yore (a moniker that no one applies to this new breed of rollicking, rolling, restaurants). So what did I do different today? Well first let me tell you why. I mostly eat lunch alone. It’s my habit to break up the day, to not get stuck at my desk doing essentially the same thing for eight hours at a stretch. And God respects that. He respects that to the point that he almost never comes around at lunch time. So if I have an urge for curry-over-criss-cut-sweet-potatoes, like I did today, I can’t just ask God if the truck is nearby.

So I used the web to find out where the truck was.

I’m still tentative in this revolution, though. A real foot soldier would be subscribed to their Twitter feed, that’s how the real rebels do it. But I did bookmark the site. Sigh.

Are You Buying What I’m Buying

Friday, May 4th, 2012

I’ve been doing some online shopping lately, and more often than you’d think, while I’m browsing the virtual aisles, God nudges me and points to the screen. Sometimes it’s good for a chuckle, sometimes it’s a little scary, but most of the time it’s just, “huh?”

What she’s pointing at is that most famous of online shopping tools, “customers who bought this also bought…”

I don’t have any really good examples to share with you, but if you ever want to see how widely tastes vary while still managing some overlap, just spend some time looking at that section of the page. Sure there’s plenty of common sense examples, if you buy a slow cooker it makes sense to buy a book of recipes, for instance. What surprises me most is how often the direct competition shows up on the list. I mean, does someone buying a beard trimmer really buy two different brands? Or is that just marketing masquerading as mass consumption?

But the fun ones are when products that don’t even come from the same family tree show up; then you get to make up little stories. Perhaps the buyers of toenail clippers also buy plastic freezer bags because they save their clippings and need to keep them fresh. Maybe the people that bought both Russian and Israeli gas masks think that each country tunes their masks for different mixes of chemical agents. Or maybe they’re like trading cards, and they just want to get the whole set.

It’s like having an everchanging set of those, “which of these things is not like the others” tests. Fun for the whole family.