August 2007

I can’t believe this isn’t in every JVM earlier.

Gosling replies to Jonathan Schwartz’s email after SUNW changed to JAVA (from Schwartz’s blog):

Our marketing lead knew someone who was a “naming consultant” (I don’t remember his name, but he was great). We could neither afford the price nor the time of a conventional product naming process. He agreed to do something rather odd, but effective and quick: he acted as a facilitator at a meeting where about a dozen of us locked ourselves in a room for an afternoon. He started asking us questions like “How does this thing make you feel?” (Excited!) “What else makes you feel that way?” (Java!) We ended up with a board covered with essentially random words. Then he put us through a sorting process where we ended up with a ranking of the names. We ended up with a dozen name candidates and sent them off to the lawyers: they worked down the list until they hit one that cleared their search. “Java” was the fourth name on the list. The first name on the list was “Silk”, which I hated but everyone else liked. My favorite was “Lyric”, the third one on the list, but it didn’t pass the lawyers test. I don’t remember what the other candidate names where.

So, who named Java? Marketing organized the meeting, the consultant ran it, and a whole pile of us did a lot of yelling out of random words. I’m honestly not real sure who said “Java” first, but I’m pretty sure it was Mark Opperman (see notes).

The blog was posted on 8/30 11:45pm. At 8/31 9:09am someone from Herndon, VA put it on Wikipedia . What took it so long?

Mark Opperman is an extremely interesting guy, according to this bio. He’s born in Urbana (yeah), got math bachelor from Stanford and CS master from Berkeley, studied Chinese in Paris, and once taught CS in Beijing University. “He speaks fluent French, conversational Chinese and Japanese, and can understand British English, but not British humor.” — That’s British humor at its best 🙂


I read it last year and liked it very much. Some email excerpts and updates on the book and Dawkins:

It’s published almost 20 years ago so I don’t know if the scientific stuff in it still holds, but intuitively the brutal theme makes sense that human, as well as any living (as defined as reproducing) mechanism, is nothing but a survival machine built and utilized by the individual genes to duplicate themselves forever and ever. The gene is inherently selfish because the only thing it “cares” and “does” is to duplicate, all the better at the expense of other competing genes. Therefore each individual living mechanism has no choice but be selfish. To counter such pessimistic and blunt Darwinism, Dawkins effectively argues that certain form of “reciprocal altruism” can and do develop and survive among the sea of selfish individuals. To me, the only thing that would stop us from reaching a much higher level of 人品 from simple and utilitarian “reciprocal altruism” is our knowledge and will power.

I recently happened to read about Prisoners’ Dilemma in Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. I know nothing else about game theory so I have no intention to claim I know anything else. The interesting conclusion, one of the few optimistic ones in the book, that Dawkins made is that in a game of iterated PD (where the game is played for a number of times without the players knowing the end), “nicer” strategies actually win in terms of better total gain. You can read the book or simply check out Wikipedia to find that the winningest strategy is surprisingly a very simple “Tic-for-Tat”: start with cooperate, then do whatever your opponent did in the last round. It is “nice” in the sense that 1) it never deflects first, 2) it retaliates immediately but also forgives immediately, 3) it does not hold “grudge” i.e. no matter how many times the opponent has deflected before, once s/he cooperate, it will cooperate again.

Dawkins used iterated PD to illustrate viable “evolutionary stable strategies” during evolution that seem “nicer” than some alternatives, but nicety comes from millions of years of natural selection instead of individual’s conscious or conscientious effort. An individual is just too fragile and unreliable. In engineering terms, any individual can break down at any time, whether physically (dead) or mentally (brainwashed or religious or I-am-the-king- of-the-world), so in order to build a robust machine (society) you have to be fault tolerant. It doesn’t mean that you don’t start with good parts–“good” in economical cost-effective sense. But you simply can’t spend all your money to get the best parts painstakingly hand crafted and use them at all critical sections of your system and pray that they’re worth the money. It’s a Google-eat-you world. Elitism has failed and will never work. Mass produce knowledgeable, open-minded, tolerate, and loving parts to build a globally distributed system, now that may be an evolutionary stable strategy.

(Respond to a friend forwarding the God vs. Science discussion between Dawkins and Francis Collins from a Times cover story.)

This Francis Collins guy is dangerous. He appears logical and tolerate and compassionate. I learned his name and book in a recent Scientific American review. Recently I talked to a friend who’s a biologist in academia. One of his current projects is human genome, so he knows Francis Collins (not personally) and also read this conversation on Times. I also asked him about Dawkins’ Selfish Gene a while ago. My friend said Collins is mostly an administrator, not a highly reputed scientist. Also none of my friend’s Christian colleagues is vocal about their religion and they keep it away from their work.

After reading The Last Temptation of Christ, I started to think that it doesn’t really matter if the person Jesus did exist; or if he did exist, how his life really was. He’s just the epitome of human spirituality, which is one essential and defining character for human being. And I’ve always thought that God’s existence is possible, but it’s just one of the many hypothesis for the ultimate Truth. That’s why I like Dawkins’ closing remarks. However I would not, nor would I tolerate other people to, resort to the all-too-familiar straw that “God works in mysterious way”. That’s lazy, cheap, and ultimately irresponsible toward oneself and the whole human race.

On a digression, tolerance is perhaps the greatest and most difficult human virtue. Should we tolerate injustice, oppression, and torture? Should we tolerate intolerance? It’s a semantic dilemma, but in reality it’s not, just like freedom isn’t absolute in the sense that you’re not free to violate and suppress others’ freedom.

I wonder why Collins didn’t mention Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, though, because that’s actually the most direct and convincing argument to why God may (not must) exist, since Gödel proved that there exist unprovable truth in an axiomatic system, so God’s existence may just as well be one of those pieces of unprovable truth–or falsity, but again unprovable.

I got to know someone in UIUC who’s from Tsinghua. We lived pretty close and our two couples became very good friends. He finished his Ph.D one semester later than my graduation, and I referred him into my previous company and we worked together for 4.5 years. He is very creative and inquisitive, but sometimes his logic and argument are kind of odd and a bit absurd. He and his wife converted to Christianity while in Champaign, and once he half jokingly said that the reason he believes God is very pragmatic: If God doesn’t exist, there won’t be much lost, if any, that his false belief would incur. If God does exist, he would gain a huge deal. So why not? (Note: I later learned from Dilbert Blog that it’s a form of Pascal’s Wager.) He loves to ask “why” to everything, and after a party a friend gave him the nickname 十万个为什么. In a sense it’s understandable or even natural for such an inquisitive person to convert to religion, because it’s actually the only available answer to some ultimate questions.

But is it a real “answer”? Science tries to answer everything, but it doesn’t, and probably will never by its nature, claim to have The Answer. I’d rather knowing that I do not know, instead of believing that I do.

I just read about the Traveler’s Dilemma from Scientific American. The article quotes experiments where most people do not choose the selfish/rational Nash Equilibrium. Instead they pick the potential high payoff (when the other player cooperates) and high loss (when s/he doesn’t), out of random choice, irrationality, rationalization of irrationality, or, hopefully, “reciprocal altruism”.

I saw it first on the Dilbert Blog and couldn’t believe it.

The quoted MSNBC story is pretty plain.

You gotta see the real thing full in its original glory.

Some more surreal quotes:

  • 活佛转世应当…维护宗教和睦与社会和谐…不受境外任何组织、个人的干涉和支配
  • 申请活佛转世的寺庙…具备培养和供养转世活佛的能力
  • 申请转世活佛有下列情形之一的,不得转世…(二)设区的市级以上人民政府明令不得转世的。
  • 活佛转世应当履行申请报批手续。申请报批程序是:由拟转世活佛僧籍所在寺庙管理组织或者所在地佛教协会向所在地县级人民政府宗教事务部门提出转世申请,由县级人民政府提出意见后,人民政府宗教事务部门逐级上报,由省、自治区人民政府宗教事务部门审批。其中,在佛教界有较大影响的,报省、自治区人民政府批准;有重大影响的,报国家宗教事务局批准;有特别重大影响的,报国务院批准。
  • 活佛转世灵童认定后,报省、自治区人民政府宗教事务部门批准。在佛教界有较大影响的,报省、自治区人民政府批准;有重大影响的,报国家宗教事务局批准;有特别重大影响的,报国务院批准。
  • 转世活佛继位时…由相应的佛教协会颁发活佛证书。活佛证书的式样由中国佛教协会统一制作

How many pieces of ridiculosity and hilariosity can you find?



I hope you can spot me in there. (Hint: I’m not the one reading Macbeast.)

Roger has 3 to go.

Tiger has 5.

Alex-er 255.

Let’s hope that all of them can stay healthy and hungry for at least 10 more years.


The title and intro are cunningly misleading: at most 20% of the book is about Feynman. The rest is about the author’s own struggle to get through life and find his true calling. Of course you can argue it’s “inspired by” Feynman, but that’s an entertainment industry term with which Mlodinow must be quite familiar as the scriptwriter of some TV shows, including Star Trek. He’s also the co-author of Hawking’s sequel A Briefer History of Time, another notorious Hollywood tradition. At least Mlodinow is honest about the twisted-truth nature of the book upfront: “I have combined and altered events, and … have altered names and personalities in order to best portray my experience”.

The one story that I hope is true is about his garbage man friend Ray, who is said to move to Bellevue, WA to be with his girlfriend in a micro software company around 1981. He hoped to find a programming job there since he’s good at math. Wonder if he can calculate his net worth by now.

Anyway the book is still not a bad read about Feynman’s last years. Most of Feynman’s words from Mlodinow’s transcription is quite predictable: do what you love, follow your instinct, use your imagination, and admire nature’s intrinsic beauty–that’s where the title came from.

The contrast between Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann is the most interesting part of the book. Gell-Mann has been working on complexity theory (he coined a word “plectics” for it) in the last 20 years and more, and maybe he and Stephen Wolfram, two of the most brilliant people ever lived, have been secretly collaborating. I guess now he understands why he and Feynman couldn’t keep Wolfram at Caltech or in the field of particle physics–they’re both after the real Theory of Everything.

What would Feynman say to them? “Just look at the rainbow, you pompous big heads…”

All of my iTunes library is on the machine (Dell) in the living room, but I want to view/search the library on my main desktop machine (Silent). Using the “iTunes Library.itl” or importing the XML file doesn’t work, since Silent doesn’t see any music file.

My plan is to move the library to a different drive letter on Dell other than what Silent already has: C, D, E, F. Then I can mount it on Silent using the same drive letter, then Silent’s iTunes should work.

Turns out it’s not as easy as I thought. The web has pretty clear instructions for relocating the library, but it’s usually for moving it to a different HD. What I need to do on Dell is to change the drive letter, and let iTunes know it. Here are the steps:

  1. Do the regular things to consolidate library: check “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” and “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” options, then do Consolidate Library. Afterwards, all music files are under D:\music\iTunes.
  2. Change the drive letter to M, and set iTunes music folder to M:\music\iTunes. Now iTunes can NOT find any file, because its database still shows all files at D:\music\iTunes.
  3. Open “iTunes Music Library.xml”, replace all d: by m:. Delete iTunes Library.itl, and import the XML file.
  4. iTunes keeps the library files and album artwork in My Music, so I used Tweak UI to change My Music from the usual place within My Documents to M:\Music.
  5. For whatever reason iTunes failed to find some of the artworks, so I did a “Get Album Artwork”.

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