Thursday, September 30, 2004

Philippe Maquet

PhilippePhillipe Maquet was a moderator at JavaRanch. Philippe died suddenly, apparently from an aneurysm.

Sometimes, we get to know people or even make friends with people on the internet without ever actually meeting them face to face. Sometimes we even get to know people on the internet better than we know our own neighbors. Philippe was a person who I was glad to have had the opportunity to know, even if we only met through the internet. He was the kind of person who had only good things to say about everyone. I can honestly say that I can't recall ever having a single negative thought about Philippe. He was an enthusiastic supporter of JavaRanch and worked hard to make JavaRanch a better place. I am glad that I got to know Philippe even if it was for only a brief moment. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones.

There is a wonderful tribute to Phil on Javaranch.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Get Out Of London

My basement had become the place where everything (and I mean everything) ended up being stored. There had been a lot of stuff in the attic, but when we dormered the house it all ended up in the basement. Anyway, over the last few months I have been slowly cleaning out the basement, throwing away or reorganizing everything that was down there. At least some of the inspiration for all this clearing out comes from this.

Anyway, Friday, I had cleared out enough of the basement that I could take the challenge and set up the old stereo equipment that hadn't been used since we moved into the house, 14 years ago. It had all been down in the basement collecting dust along with our collection of vinyl records. So I took out the receiver and the speakers and hooked them up. Fortunately, I had saved all the old speaker wire so this was easy enough. Then I plugged in the receiver, fully expecting smoke and flames to come shooting out of it but all was quiet. I turned on the receiver and the appropriate lights came on and all looked good but there was no sound. Played with the FM tuner, the volume, and the speaker select button but still nothing. Just as panic started to set in, I noticed that I had hooked up the speakers to the surround sound inputs. Moved them to the correct spot and suddenly the sound of static filled the air.

I couldn't remember how to tune to a radio station (and I didn't have the FM antenna hooked up anyway) so I went and got my turntable and hooked it up to the receiver. Amazingly, the turntable was still balanced correctly and the speed was still synched. The EP, Love Cats by The Cure was still on the turntable so that must have been the last thing I listened to 15 years ago. I took that off, and put on Get Out Of London by Interferon which is a song I hadn't heard since my club days in the mid-80's. I think this was the only song Interferon ever released. Anyway, the song played perfectly without a pop or hiss even after having been stored in the basement for 15 years. (Note for the youngsters: pops and hisses are the noises that LP's used to make when playing if you didn't treat them as if they were made of the finest Ming china.)

So now if you drop by and I'm down in the basement you can expect to find me listening to The Alarm or Heaven 17 or The Suburbs or any of the other great groups that I haven't heard in years. Sometimes, life is good.

I should add that I found the manuals for all the stereo equipment and the remote control for the receiver which still works perfectly. Too cool!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Review - Pro Jakarta Commons

Pro Jakarta CommonsPro Jakarta Commons
by Harshad Oak

4 out of 5 stars

Jakarta Commons is a collection of generally unrelated but useful classes that can be incorporated into any Java project. In general, the documentation available is limited at best and in some cases is limited to little more than the Javadoc from the API. This lack of good documentation has helped to prevent the widespread acceptance of the Commons classes. This book will help to address that major shortcoming of the Jakarta Commons.

This book is an introduction to the most commonly used classes found in Jakarta Commons. Not all the components are covered. For example, Betwixt, Jelly, Jexl, and Codec are barely mentioned. However, the components that the author discusses are the most useful and are generally well covered. The book starts off slowly with an introduction to Jakarta Commons and then a brief and incomplete look at the Lang component. This chapter will give you no more than a flavor of what is available. The Logging component is well covered although I would probably never use it and the coverage of the Validator component should have concentrated solely on implementation outside of Struts and left Struts explanations to books on Struts. The remaining chapters cover the more useful components including Digester, Pooling, BeanUtils, and FileUpload and do a great job of explaining the components and providing realistic examples of usage.

Anyone who is writing Java code should be interested in the Jakarta Commons and anyone who is interested in Jakarta Commons should have a copy of this book. It will serve both as a good introduction to Commons components and a reference to using those components.

This earned 4 stars on Amazon. The book is published by Apress.

The review can be seen on Amazon on My Amazon Reviews page.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Review - Prime Obsession

Prime ObsessionPrime Obsession
by John Derbyshire

5 out of 5 stars

In 1859, Bernhard Riemann, one of the greatest mathematicians of his day, wrote a paper about the distribution of prime numbers. In that paper as an incidental remark he wrote, "All non-trivial zeros of the zeta function have real part one-half." Riemann had no proof that this was true but he suspected that it was true based on his intuition and his understanding of prime numbers. For nearly 150 years, mathematicians have been trying to either prove or disprove Riemann's hypothesis.

Writing a book about something as obscure as the zeta function for the non-mathematician is a daunting proposition but John Derbyshire is up to the challenge. In a book on a topic like this, you expect the author to not be afraid to discuss complicated mathematics. By starting off slowly and holding our hands as he moves through the math, Derbyshire makes complex mathematical functions understandable even to someone who hasn't looked at calculus in more than twenty years. So even if non-trivial zeros, natural logs, and prime number distribution theories sound over your head, Derbyshire will explain it in a way that will make it clear and interesting. Derbyshire breaks the book up so that the odd-numbered chapters cover mathematical details and the even-numbered chapters cover historical background of the story. So even if you do get lost in the math, you still can still follow the story which is fascinating in itself.

At the time of writing this review, a possible solution proving the Riemann hypothesis to be true has been produced by Louis de Branges of Purdue University. That makes "Prime Obsession" both fascinating and timely.

This earned 5 stars on Amazon. The book is published by Joseph Henry Press.

The review can be seen on Amazon on My Amazon Reviews page.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Life Sucks - Part 6

Michel went to the doctor last week and the result was that he doesn't want her going back to work until October. She is still in a lot of pain. And the worker's comp people are giving Michel a hard time because they claim that Michel should be able to do other, lighter work. If they think it's a good idea for a nurse to load up on pain killers and then do charts or discharge planning then they aren't very bright. Michel is supposed to start school next week. She is studying to be a Nurse Practicioner. We still aren't sure if she is going to be able to do the work with this injury.

Anyway, just to add to the fun, we found out that Mikey needs a load of dental work. And by "load" I mean several thousand dollars worth. He will have to be put under anesthesia for the dentist to do the work and that is always a bit scary.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Being a Parent

Map wrote a very tender blog entry dealing with her parents in which she mentions part of a post I wrote on JavaRanch. The specific line from my post that she said almost made her cry was:

100 pounds was about what my daughter weighed when I stopped carrying her upstairs to bed when she fell asleep in the living room.

These are the kinds of things parents do for their kids. I remember when Beth was little and would wake up frightened in the middle of the night, I would let her sleep with Michel and I would go sleep in her little bed. Struggling up the stairs carrying your little girl to bed is just what you do as a parent. It comes from love and a desire to make life a joy for your child. I don't think it is easy to describe to someone who isn't a parent but I never met a parent who didn't understand it immediately.