Showing posts from 2009

The midsummer report

While midsummer eve was as cold and foggy as any I can remember, these following days have been beautiful. The winds are still a bit chilly, which can be deceptive since it makes you forget how much sun you're actually exposing your poor skin to. I spent most of a day mowing the grass around the house, and got myself a really superb redneck tan. An hour or two ago, a White-tailed eagle circled a few times over our house, as usual supremely unimpressed by the gang of annoyed seagulls that tried to chase it away. A cuckoo is, well, cuckooing, in the distance, and the water is glittering. In fact, it's bloody hard to get any real work done in a place like this. Over and out.


When I planned my trip to California for the Erlang Factory conference, I followed a friend's advice and set aside a couple of days to go and see Yosemite Valley . I don't regret it - it was absolutely fantastic. Yosemite is about 4 hours drive east from San Francisco, up in the high Sierra Nevadas, and it's one of the most stunning landscapes you can imagine. Nothing I had read about it beforehand had prepared me for the feeling of actually being there and seeing this amazing valley in real life; not even Google Earth (although I recommend trying that for yourself - the 3D detail is really good). Of course I took a lot of photos , but it's not until now that I'm done going through the lot of them (discarding more than half), so I've waited with writing about the trip. I stayed two nights in Curry Village, a camp site of permanent tent-cabins (complete with beds, but no heat) that are the cheapest option if you don't bring your own camping equipment and wan

SF and Alcatraz

A couple of weeks ago, I went to San Francisco for the Bay Area Erlang Factory . The conference was great, but I also took a few days off to be able to do some touristy things on my own first (not to mention working off the 9 hour jet lag). I had a lazy sunday in SF and took the opportunity to visit Alcatraz for the first time. I was really lucky with the weather and took a whole bunch of photos .

News for nerds

" The Implementation of Functional Programming Languages ", the classic book by Simon Peyton-Jones (et al.) has been out of print for years, but has now been released as a free book in several juicy formats. Just follow the link.

Erlang Text Elite

This last weekend, I somehow came to think about the wonderful old space trading game Elite, and the way it managed to cram a vast universe of planets with names, stats, and fun descriptions (along with the 3D space flight simulation, which was an amazing feat in itself) into the tiny 8-bit home computers of old. Only minutes later, I had found Ian Bell's Text Elite web page, where Ian, one of the two original authors of the game, has published a reconstruction in C of the main universe-generating algorithm, along with a simple text interface to actually let you "play", i.e., buy, sell, and jump between planets. Great! So I rewrote it in Erlang . And had a lot of fun doing it. Apart from the nostalgic kick, there were two points with the exercise: First of all, I just wanted to see the main algorithm as cleanly implemented as possible. But second, I wanted to see what it would be like to rewrite a piece of classic game code that was very clearly not written with functio


Lately (well, for almost a year now), I've been watching a whole lot of the British TV series " Time Team ". If you've never heard about it, it's a show about archaeology. Before you fall asleep, let me assure you that it is as far removed as possible from any boring documentaries you have may watched (you know, the ones with a voice that drones on and on about some kings and battles with a slideshow of still pictures for illustration). No, this is a show about digging. Also, the fact that it's been running since 1994 should tell you something of its popularity. The idea of the show is to follow a "crack team" of professional archaeologists over three days, as they attack a particular site of interest. The sites are chosen based on various sources, from previously known places where some finds have been made before (but no proper investigation has been done), to the back garden of some family who found something strange when they were buring their c

The times they are a-changin'

Recently I got a call from my dad, who was having some problems with his computer, along the lines of "there's something wrong with the damn internet again". Since I was the one who set it up for him, I don't mind fixing problems when they occur, but I find that the hardest thing with these debugging sessions over the phone is to get him to quote the exact messages he is seeing. It's kind of interesting, as if the words and concepts are so alien to him that he zones out after only a second, and is actually unable to read them aloud. A typical exchange goes like this: -So, dad, what does the error message say? -Oh, something about the Internet. -OK, but what does the text say, precisely? -I dunno, Microsoft and Internet something. -Dad, can you please tell me exactly what the text says? -I just told you, it says it can't find the Internet. -Where is the message, I mean, what program does it come from? -Well, dammit, it's right here, on the screen! And so o

Spring break: the bad kind

Our car is just 5 years old, and has had no problems at all so far, but two weeks ago something weird suddenly happened. When you made a sharp turn, upwards of 90 degrees right or left, there was a sound as if a coil was being stretched, until it abrubtly went "goioinggg!" so loud that bystanders would dive for cover. Apart from this "cosmetic problem", nothing seemed to be obviously malfunctioning apart from the steering wheel pulling to the right. It didn't match any kind of car problem that I had heard about before, and nobody I talked to had any idea (apart from the usual helpful but wrong random guesses). Yesterday, I got it back from the mechanic. The reason for the ruckus: a snapped suspension spring. (I didn't know this could happen.) Total cost: about $500 - they had to change on both sides. Sigh.

The final vinyl

As I wrote in a previous post , I did some extensive audio restoration of an old live recording by Brainbombs, that eventually got published as an LP by the small American punk label Richie Records, in a limited run of 500 copies. Well, in the end, one of those copies made its way back to me as a thanks for my efforts, and I'm very glad for it. It is actually quite a strange feeling, to hold in my hand a vinyl disc that holds the same recording that I mailed to the States on a couple of master CD:s over a year ago. The main thing, I think, is that this is so obviously a finished artefact, while mostly everything else that I create tends to be of a very fluid and nonphysical nature: digital representations that one can always pick up later and resume working on. This one, however, is very much "done". (Yes, you could remaster it and cut new vinyls, but the point is that this particular record isn't going anywhere. And no, burning a CD does not give you the same feelin


While reading yet another book that presents one or more acronyms as an aid to remembering important points (this time, in "Pragmatic Unit Testing in C#"), I came up with my own acronym to express my thoughts about this. I call it Richard's CRAP rule of didactics : C an't R emember A cronyms P something... oh crap, where did I put that book... My point is, that if you are able to remember not only what each letter stands for, exactly (is the I in ACID 1 for Independence or Isolation...), but you can also give a detailed explanation of what each short bullet point really means (e.g., how is Atomicity different from Consistency and why are both needed), it means that you already have a very firm grasp of the subject. So while acronyms may be a useful device for not forgetting things once you understand them, they are fairly useless for the beginner. However, it's worse than that; if they were only useless, they could simply be ignored. But the fact is that acronym

...the devil in Helsinki

My goal was to process all my pictures taken this year before the year ended, and I almost made it, but not quite: yesterday I uploaded the last pictures from our little excursion to Finland in June. An old friend of mine who lives in Japan these days was going back to Sweden with his wife for the midsummer celebrations, and had booked their flight to make a stop in Helsinki for a couple of days. We decided to meet up with them there, so we got rooms at the same hotel, Helka (warmly recommended), and brought our car on the ferry from Stockholm. That way we could both walk around Helsinki on our own for a day, and after our friends showed up, we made a day trip by car to see some sights outside the city, in particular Hvitträsk , west of Helsinki, and the sleepy town of Borgå to the east, with its old wooden buildings. The next day we said our goodbyes and drove westwards to spend midsummer on Åland, stopping in Åbo on the way to do some more sightseeing. This was a great opportunity