RIP Robert Anton Wilson.  Link.

I read his Illuminatus! trilogy when I was in college.  Funny, thought-provoking fnord stuff.

Never made it through Schrodinger’s Cat, however I have a story about it.  A friend of mine (who did finish it) pointed out a conversation one character has with another, about powers of observation.  The character remarks about reading a book in which you notice that the word “Primate” appears on each and every one of the first one hundred pages of the book.

Sure enough, “Primate” appears on all of the pages (at least to 100) of _SC_.  RAW loved to play with peoples’ heads.


Old time editors

I was doing a nostalgia bit on the various editors I’ve used over the years (yup, yet another classic “what I had for lunch” post which I’ll probably never publish unless I can say something new about the vi versus Emacs wars).  One of the many Emacs clones that I’ve used, one of the first ones, was MINCE, by Mark of the Unicorn software.  (It ran in 64K on CP/M, and was pretty nice for its time).

Turns out they’re still around, doing pretty well after over 25 years, doing music stuff.  Link.  No sign of MINCE or Scribble on their products page, though.  You’d think they’d be a free download or something by now.


Cartoon Physics

Sigh.  Cartoon depiction of space travel.

Shows the Space Shuttle going to Mars (it can barely get into low earth orbit).

  • Space Shuttle Main Engines are blasting away, with no sign of the external tank to fuel them.
  • Ability to travel to another planet in less than a day.
  • Wheels-down landing on unprepared surface (raw Martian landscape).
  • Real-time conversations with Earth (which is light-minutes away).
  • Landing within ten feet of something interesting.
  • Meteor shower is a hail of rocks.
  • Taking helmets off on the surface of Mars.
  • Liquid water (in a cave formed by water) where the atmospheric pressure is in the low millibars.

Things they got right:

  • Mission control characters with white shirts, ties and nerd packs.
  • Kids love stories about space-ships, especially if they’re not realistic (while I enjoyed 2001: A Space Oddysey when it came out, my sister fell asleep.  And to be frank, Star Wars was a lot more fun than 2001).



Huh.  JSON.

Wayfarfarians probably recognize this.  (Strictly speaking, I don’t know if there’s a standard binary stream rep, or if seemingly odd but actually quite important objects such as timestamps are supported, but this sure looks familiar).

Stored Insanity

I seem to be on a database roll these days.  I’ll keep this post short.

Problem: Horribly complex database (the schema diagram that Rational Rose reverse-engineers for us looks like an octopus tripping over a plate of spaghetti) has a stored procedure that runs for 18 hours straight.  It is supposed to generate an important report every 24 hours.  Printed out, the procedure is about four pages of convoluted selects, joins, temporary tables and whatnot, and just to make it a challenge, no comments.  Written by some consultant who vanished in a puff of smoke when the check cleared.  Whenever the thing is kicked off, people bite their nails until it completes.  Who knows if the answers it generates are correct?  Who knows if the report is even all that important?  Everyone connected with the damned thing has quit.

Solution: Quit.

Well, before that:

Solution: Notice how much data the stupid stored procedure is really processing (maybe ten thousand records in toto) and get pragmatic.  Um, how much memory does this $10,000 server have?  Why not use some of it?  So: Drag the records into memory, march through them with some Java (hey, it’s got a debugger that mostly works, unlike those stupid Oracle stored procedures).  Time to process the data now can be measured in seconds.  (Chance that we’re going to run out of memory to run the report is zero, by the way).

Then quit.

I’ll talk about the Database Tuner Consultant at some point.  That was an eye-opener.

falcon database engine

A nice talk about the Falcon database engine by someone who knows what the heck he’s doing.  Link.  Starts getting interesting (if you’re a database engine weenie) around 45 minutes in.

My favorite bit is about his realization that VARCHAR declarations were driven by punchcard technology.  No shit.  Nice to see the back-end of those.

Falcon has a straight-forward implementation of BLOBs-in-transactions (reminiscent of How We Did It In Newton, which had garbage collected transactional blobs backed by the virtual memory system.  Damned whizzy).

Also the bit around 1:10 where he razzes on the SQL community for static schemas.  Like strings, there are no fixed-size numbers, just a “number” type.  Lots of nice secret agendas against the “three, no four pig-head-nesses of database people.  The SQL security model is stupid.”