Development

Consumer Reports guide on which fruits and veggies to always buy organic

FeuerThoughts - Mon, 2015-04-06 10:32
First, I encourage everyone reading this (and beyond) to subscribe to Consumer Reports and make use of their unbiased, science-based reviews of products and services.

It is the best antidote to advertising you will ever find.

In their May 2015 issue, they analyze the "perils of pesticides" and offer a guide to fruits and vegetables. When you should buy organic? When might conventional be OK for you?

[or, as CR puts it, "Though we believe that organic is always the best choice because it promotes sustainable agriculture, getting plenty of fruits and vegetables - even if you can't obtain organic - takes precedence when it comes to your health.]

Here are the most important findings:

ALWAYS BUY ORGANIC

CR found that for these fruits and vegetables, you should always buy organic - the pesticide risk in conventional is too high.

Fruit

Peaches
Tangerines
Nectarines
Strawberries
Cranberries

Vegetables

Green Beans
Sweet Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Carrors
Categories: Development

Working with multiple Trees on the same APEX Page (4.2/5.0)

Dimitri Gielis - Mon, 2015-03-16 16:36
Ever tried to put multiple Trees on the same page in APEX 4.2?

Here's my example:


On the left Tree the "Selected Node Link with" is set to hidden item P1_TREE1, on the right Tree the value that sets the tree is set to P1_TREE2. At least it should do that, but by default if you're values are not unique - in this case empno is the value behind both trees - it doesn't work...
Your first tree will be highlighted twice; one time for ALLEN and one time for SCOTT and not as it should be, on the left ALLEN selected and on the right SCOTT selected.

To fix this issue in APEX 4.2, you need to adapt your select statement so you have unique values for both trees. I typically put a meaningful character in front of the value; for example you can concatenate 'N' for new values (new tree) and 'O' for old values (old tree).


So that fixes the issue of the "Selected Node Page Item" issue with non unique values.
Behind the tree implementation in APEX 4.2, jsTree is used. APEX is not using the most recent version and the way the JavaScript is coded doesn't really work that nicely. If you really like jsTree and for example want to search in it, or you have a very large dataset, check out Tom Petrus' tree plugin and explanation.

So what about APEX 5.0? The tree implementation in APEX 5.0 has the same functionalities, but is a lot better. Behind the scenes jsTree is not used anymore, instead the tree that is also used in the Page Designer is used. The issue with unique values is off the table, so no worries anymore in APEX 5.0.


Categories: Development

APEX 5.0: pimping the Login page

Dimitri Gielis - Wed, 2015-03-11 18:29
When you create a new application in APEX 5.0, the login page probably looks like this:


I love the build-in login page of APEX itself - luckily it's easy enough to build that in our own apps too. Thank you APEX Dev team!

The first step is to change the region type to be of Login Region Template:


We want to add a nice icon on top of the Login text. You can use the Icon CSS Class in the Region options - in this case I opted for fa-medkit:


Next up is making the Login button bigger and make it the complete width like the items.
In APEX 5.0 you can use the Template Options to do that:


Once we stretched the Login button it fits the entire size.

Next up is getting some icons in the username and password field.
For the username we use the "icon-login-username" css class.
Instead of the label we make that hidden and specify a placeholder, so before you start typing you see the word username and when you start typing the text disappears.


For the password field we do the same thing, but for the css class we specify "icon-login-password".


Finally your login screen looks like this:


Great? Absolutely - and so easy with APEX 5.0!

What's next? Is there anything better? Euh... yes, what about live validation?
Sure we can do that in APEX 5.0 without too much hassle :)) Thanks once again APEX Dev Team!

In the item make sure the item is set to Value Required and add in the Post Text following span:


That will give you a nice visual indication if you entered text:


Cool? Creating login pages in APEX 5.0 is ... (you fill in the word)

Interested in more? We're doing an APEX 5.0 UI Training in May.
Categories: Development

Loading CSV files with special characters in Oracle DB

Dimitri Gielis - Tue, 2015-03-10 11:08
I often need to load the data of Excel or CSV files into the Oracle Database.

Ever got those annoying question marks when you try to load the data? or instead of question marks you just get empty blanks when the file is using special characters? Here's an example:


My database characterset is UTF-8, so ideally you want to load your data UTF-8 encoded.

With Excel I've not found an easy way to specify the encoding to UTF-8 when saving to a CSV file.
Although in Excel (OSX) - Preferences - General - Web Options - Encoding, I specified UTF-8, it still saves the file as Western (Mac OS Roman).

I've two workarounds I use to get around the issue. Open the file in a text editor e.g. BBEdit and click the encoding option and select UTF-8.


Another way is to open Terminal and use the iconv command line tool to convert the file

iconv -t UTF8 -f MACROMAN < file.csv > file-utf8.csv

If you get a CSV file and you want to import it in Excel first, the best way I found is to create a new Workbook and import the CSV file (instead of opening directly). You can import either by using File - Import or Data - Get External Data - Import Text File. During the import you can specify the File origin and you can see which data format works for you.


After the manipulations in Excel you can save again as CSV as outlines above to make sure you resulting CSV file is UTF-8 encoded.

Finally to import the data you can use APEX, SQL Developer or SQLcl to load your CSV file into your table.
Categories: Development

Oracle Database Tools updated - check out SQLcl

Dimitri Gielis - Mon, 2015-03-09 17:31
Today Oracle released new versions of:

Also Oracle REST Data Services 3 got a new EA2 version.
You may want to check Kris Rice's blog for new features.

I already blogged about all of the tools before, but not yet about SQLcl.
This is a command line tool, I call it "SQL*Plus on steroids" (or as Jeff calls it SQL Developer meets SQL*Plus). It's particularly useful when you're on your server and quickly need to run some queries. Or if you're a command line guy/girl all the time, this tool is for you.

Here's a screenshot how to connect to your database with SQLcl from Linux.


Typing help will show you a list of quick shortcuts.

For example if you type APEX you get a list of your APEX applications


What I really like about SQLcl is that it formats the output so nicely. With SQL*Plus you had to set column widths, page sizes etc. Not with SQLcl, it's smart and formats it nicely.

Next to that you can quickly output your query in JSON format by typing "set sqlformat json":


There're many more features - a good starting point is this presentation and video by Jeff Smith.
Categories: Development

Who enjoys the feather display of a male peacock?

FeuerThoughts - Tue, 2015-02-24 08:25


Who appreciates the display of feathers by a male peacock?

Female peacocks seem to get a kick out of them. They seem to play a role in mating rituals.

Who else? Why, humans, of course!

We know that humans greatly appreciate those displays, because of the aaahing and ooohing that goes on when we see them. We like those colors. We like the irridescence. We like the shapes and patterns.

If one were to speculate on why a female peacock gets all worked up about a particular male's feather display, we would inevitably hear about instinctual responses, hard-wiring, genetic determinism, and so on.

And if one were to speculate on why a human goes into raptures, we would then experience a major shift in explanation. 

Time to talk about anything but a physiological, hard-wired sort of response.

No, for humans, the attraction has to do with our big brains, our ability to create and appreciate "art". And that is most definitely not something other animals do, right?

Oh, sure, right. Like these instinctive, hard-wired bowerbird mating nests:


That clearly has nothing to do with an aesthetic sense or "art". Just instinct.

Why? Because we humans say so. We just assert this "fact."

Most convenient, eh?

Categories: Development

Four Secrets of Success

FeuerThoughts - Thu, 2015-01-01 09:56
More than a few people think that I am pretty good at what I do, that I am successful. I respect their judgement and thought about what contributed to my success. I came up with four that form a foundation for (my) success. Since it is possible that others will find them helpful, I have decided to share my Four Secrets of Success (book in the works, film rights sold to Branjolina Films).

Follow these four recommendations, and you will be more successful in anything and everything you seek to accomplish.

1. Drink lots of water.

if you are dehydrated, nothing about you is operating optimally. By the time you realize you are thirsty, you are depleted. You are tired and listless. You think about getting another cup of coffee but your stomach complains at the thought.

No problem. Just get yourself a big glass of water, room termperature, no ice, and drink it down. You will feel the very substance of life trickle into your body and bring you back to life. Then drink another glass. 

Couldn’t hurt to try, right?

2. Work your abs.

What they say about a strong core? It’s all true. Strengthen your abdominal muscles and you will be amazed at the change in your life. I vouch for it from my own experience. 

I’m not talking about buying an Ab-Roller or going nuts with crazy crunches. Just do something every day, and see if you can do a little more every day. 

Couldn’t hurt to try, right?

3. Go outside. 

Preferably amongst trees, in a forest. 

We did not evolve to sit in front of a screen, typing. Our bodies do not like what we force them to do. Go outside and you will make your body happy. And seeing how your brain is inside your body, it will make you happy, too. Then when you get back to the screen, you will be energized, creative and ready to solve problems.

Couldn’t hurt to try, right?

How do I know these three things will make a difference? Because whenever I stop doing any of them for very long, I start to feel bad, ineffective, unfocused. 

Oh, wait a minute. I said “Four Secrets of Success”. So there’s one more. This one’s different from the others. The above three are things I suggest you do. Number Four is, in contrast, something I suggest you stop doing:

4. Turn off your TV.

By which I mean: stop looking at screens for sources of information about the world. Rely on direct experience as much as possible.

Not only is television bad for humans physically, but you essentially turn off your brain when you watch it. If, instead, you turn off the TV, you will find that you have more time (objectively and subjectively) to think about things (and go outside, and work your abs, and...).

Couldn’t hurt to try, right?

Well, actually, you might find it kind of painful to turn off your TV. It depends on how comfortable you are living inside your own mind. 

And if you are not comfortable, well, how does that make you feel?

Wishing you the best in 2015,
Steven Feuerstein
Categories: Development

The insanity that is Uber - a 100$B company?

FeuerThoughts - Tue, 2014-11-25 20:55
So we've had taxis for years and we know that generally taxi drivers work hard, long hours and make small amounts of money. The cab companies make more, of course, but I don't think there are a whole lot of billionaires in the taxi business.

And now there is Uber. An earlier round of VC $ put its value at $17B. According to Fortune, Uber is now "raising new funding at a valuation of between $35 billion and $40 billion, according to a new report from Bloomberg. This would be one of the richest “venture capital” rounds in history (Facebook still holds the crown), and likely mean that investors expect Uber to eventually go public at a valuation of at least $100 billion."

How are to make any sense of this? Where would all the money come from to make all these investors (and shareholders) rich? 

By cutting out the "middleman" (regulation to ensure safe rides, primarily)? Maybe, but I can't imagine it will generate that much revenue?

By reducing the cost of a ride, compared to a taxi? That's true, apparently, some of the time with Uber, but often it is way MORE expensive - because prices are "market-driven."

By shifting more and more of the costs and risks to the drivers? That's pretty darn likely. Just look at the poor "contractors" who have to pay for their trucks and lease their gear from FedEx. 

By shifting riders from mass transit to Uber (in other greatly expanding the "pie" of pay-per-ride)? Again, that seems unlikely.

What am I missing? How could Uber replace an existing business that brings in nowhere near that much money and suddenly be printing the stuff?

Oh, and that's if they don't self-destruct due to their cavalier, arrogant attitudes and actions of their management.
Categories: Development

Feeling trepidatious? Time to lay very low?

FeuerThoughts - Mon, 2014-11-24 12:34
Sure, "trepidatious" might not be a word, per se.

But I am confident it is something that more than one very famous male actor is feeling right now, as they watch Bill Cosby go down in flames.

As in: seriously and deeply apprehensive about what the future might bring.

There are a few things we can be sure of right now, even if Cosby never faces a judge or jury:

1. Bill Cosby is a nasty piece of work, and very likely (was) a pedophile.

The pattern of behavior, finally brought to light after years of self-censorship by victims and callous disregard by the media and judicial system, is overwhelming and seemingly never-ending. Mr. Cosby is a serial rapist, and he did it by drugging young women, some of them less than 18 years old at the time.

2. Bill Cosby is an actor. 

The roles he played were just that: roles. We are easily fooled into thinking of the people behind the roles as sharing characteristics of their characters, but that's just, well, foolish.

The whole point of being a great actor is that you can act really well. You can pretend to be someone else really convincingly. But they are still someone else and not the "real you."

3. Bill Cosby cannot be the only one.

That's where the trepidation comes in. Seriously, what's the chance that Cosby is the only famous, powerful, rich actor who has a long history of taking advantage of and raping women (and/or men, for that matter)?

There have got to be others, and they've got to be terrified that soon their victims will say "Enough!" and then the next deluge will begin.

So my advice to all those A-listers who are also serial rapists:

Lay low, lay really low. Do not provoke your victims. Do not laugh in their faces.

And then maybe you will be able to retire and fade into the sunset, so that your obituary will not be some variation of:

Funny Guy, Sure, But Also a Rapist
Categories: Development

Interstellar Madness

FeuerThoughts - Sun, 2014-11-16 09:19
Saw Interstellar last night. Only had to wait through TWENTY MINUTES of trailers. Had to put fingers in my ears for much of it. So loud, so invasive, so manipulative. Anyway....

I don't watch TV anymore, rarely watch a movie or read a novel. So when I do subject myself to high-resolution artificial input to my brain, it is a jarring experience.

And enjoyable. I haven't stopped watching TV because I don't like it. I have stopped watching TV because I can't help but "like" it, be drawn to it. I am a product of millions of years of evolution, and both Madison Ave (marketeers) and Hollywood know it, and take advantage of it.

Anyway....

I enjoyed watching Interstellar, with its time-traveling plot ridiculousnesses and plenty of engaging human drama. 

But one line really ticked me off. The movie is, to a large extent, a propaganda campaign to get Americans excited about being "explorers and pioneers" again. 

Cooper (McConaughey) complains that "Now we're a generation of caretakers." and asserts that:

"Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here."

That is the worst sort of human species-ism. It is a statement of incredible arrogance. And it is an encouragement to humans to continue to despoil this planet, because don't worry! 

Science and technology can and will save us! Right? 'Cause it sure has done the trick so far. We are feeding more people, clothing more people, putting more people in cars and inside homes with air conditioners, getting iPhones in the hands of more and more humans. 

Go, science, go!

And if we can't figure out how to grow food for 10 billion and then 20 billion people, if we totally exhaust this planet trying to keep every human alive and healthy into old age, not to worry! There are lots of other planets out there and, statistically, lots and lots of them should be able to support human life. Just have to find them and, oh, right, get there.

But there's no way to get there without a drastic acceleration of consumption of resources of our own planet. Traveling to space is, shall we say, resource-intensive.

Where and how did we (the self-aware sliver of human organisms) go so wrong? 

I think it goes back to the development of recorded knowledge (writing, essentially or, more broadly, culture). As long as humans were constrained by the ability to transmit information only orally, the damage we could do was relatively limited, though still quite destructive.

Once, however, we could write down what we knew, then we could build upon that knowledge, generation after generation, never losing anything but a sense of responsibility about how best to use that knowledge.

That sense of responsibility might also be termed "wisdom", and unfortunately wisdom is something that humans acquire through experience in the world, not by reading a book or a webpage. 

Mankind was born on earth and there is no reason at all to think that we - the entire species - shouldn't live and die right here on earth. Especially if we recognize that the price to be paid for leaving earth is the destruction of large swaths of earth and our co-inhabitants and....

Being the moral creatures that we like to think we are, we decide that this price is unacceptable.


Categories: Development

Science needs to explain this?

FeuerThoughts - Sun, 2014-11-02 08:57
Christopher Nolan of Dark Knight fame releasing new sci-fi movie: Interstellar.

In a Chicago Tribune interview, he says:

I could be wrong, but science needs to cross a threshold and explain why a monkey typing infinitely would never type the works of Shakespeare.

Well, I could be wrong, but maybe Nolan is a bit of an idiot when it comes to science.

Please, Mr. Nolan, tell me which scientists make this claim?

I guess he read somewhere about infinity and how incredibly awesome and big and never-ending it is, and so eventually anything would be done by anybody or anything and so even monkeys would "eventually" write Shakespeare and and and....

Produce a movie called Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey. 

In fact, maybe Chris Nolan is actually a monkey who crossed over from that obelisk in 2001, and got super smart and so a monkey already has produced a movie called Interstellar.

Damn, that is just so cool and so weird and it's like, that's never going to happen, man, no way.

So scientists had better figure out WHY that is not going to happen when they obviously really believe that it WILL happen (go, monkey, go!).

And to do that, they are going to have a cross a threshold, 'cause clearly science has hit its limit here. Just like with souls. Science can't explain souls, so I guess scientists had better cross over - maybe into a parallel universe -

Because really what could be cooler than parallel universes?




Categories: Development

What I like best about myself

FeuerThoughts - Sun, 2014-10-05 09:23
What could be more self-centered?

Why should anyone else in the world care what I like best about myself?

I have no idea. That is for sure. But, hey, what can I say? This is the world we live in (I mean: the artificial environment humans have created, mainly to avoid actually living in and on our amazing world).

It is an age of, ahem, sharing. And, ahem, advertising. Actually, first and foremost, advertising.

Anyway, screw all that. Here's what I like best about myself:

I love to be with kids. And I am, to put it stupidly but perhaps clearly, a kid whisperer.

Given the choice between spending time with an adult or spending time with a child, there is no contest. None at all. It's a bit of a compulsion, I suppose, but....

If there is a child in the room, I pay them all of my attention, I cannot stop myself from doing this. It just happens. Adults, for the most part, disappear. I engage with a child as a peer, another whole human. And usually children respond to me instantly and with great enthusiasm. 

Chances are, if your child is between, say, three months old to five years, we will be fast friends within minutes. Your cranky baby might fall asleep in my arms, as I sing Moonshadow to her or whisper nonsense words in her ear. Your shy three-year old son might find himself talking excitedly about a snake he saw on a trail that day (he hadn't mentioned it to you). Your teenage daughter might be telling me about playing games on her phone and how she doesn't think her dad realizes how much she is doing it.

I have the most amazing discussions with children. And though I bet this will sound strange to you: some of my favorite and memorable conversations have been with five month old babies. How is this possible, you might wonder. They can't even talk. Well, you can find ouit. Just try this at home with your baby:

Hold her about a foot away from your face, cradled in your arms. Look deeply and fully into her eyes. Smile deeply. And then say something along these lines, moving your mouth slowly: "Ooooh. Aaaaah. Maaaaa. Paaaaa." And then she will (sometimes) answer back, eyes never leaving yours....and you have a conversation. Your very first game of verbal Ping Pong. 

I suppose I could try to explain the feeling of pure happiness I experience at moments like this. I don't think, though, that written language is good for stuff like that. It's better for recording knowledge needed to destroy more and more of our planet to make humans comfortable.

And with my granddaughter, oh, don't even get me started. Sometimes I will be talking to her, our heads close together, and realize her face has gone into this kind of open, relaxed state in which she is rapt, almost in a trance, absorbing everything I am saying, the sound of my voice, my mouth moving. Just taking it all in. You'd better believe that I put some thought into what I am saying to this incredibly smart and observant "big girl." (who turns three in three weeks)

Here's another "try this at home" with your three year old (or two or four): talk about shadows. Where do they come from/ How do they relate to your body? Why does their shape change as the day goes on? Loey and I have had fun with shadows several times.

I have always been this way. I have no idea why. I have this funny feeling that it might actually be at least in some small way the result of a genetic mutation. I have a nephew who resembles me in several different, seemingly unconnected ways, including this love of and deep affinity for children.

I don't think that many people understand what I am doing when I spend time with children. I am called a "doting" grandfather. It offends me, though I certainly understand that no offense was intended.

I don't dote on Loey. Instead,I  seek out every opportunity to share my wonder of our world and life with her, help her understand and live in the world as effectively as possible. What this has meant lately is that I talk with her a lot about trees, how much I love them, how amazing they are. 

One day at the park, as we walked past the entrance to the playground, I noticed a very small oak sapling - in essence, a baby oak tree.

When we got inside the park, there was a mature oak towering over our stroller. I asked Loey if she wanted to see a baby tree. She said yes, so I picked her up to get close to the mature oak's leaf. I showed her the shape of the leaf, and the big tree to which it was attached.

Then I took her outside and we looked at the sapling. I showed her how the leaves on this tiny baby tree were the same, shape and size, as those on the big tree. That's how we knew it was a baby of that big tree. And it certainly was interesting that the leaves would be the same size on the tiny sapling. Held her attention throughout. That was deeply satisfying.

Mostly what I do is look children directly in the eyes, give them my full attention, smile with great joy at seeing them. Babies are deeply hard-wired to read faces. They can see in the wrinkles around my widened eyes and the smile that is stretching across my face that I love them, accept them fully. And with that more or less physical connection established, they seem to relax, melt, soften with trust. They know they can trust me, and they are absolutely correct. 

In that moment, I would do anything for them.

This wisdom (that's how I see it) to accept the primacy of our young, my willingness to appear to adults as absolutely foolish, but to a child appear as a bright light, making them glow right back at me:

That is what I like best about me. 
Categories: Development

What I felt sad about last night

FeuerThoughts - Mon, 2014-09-22 07:16
A few weeks ago, I moved my office into the basement. That was a big change. That room upstairs, with big windows looking out onto Pratt Ave was where I'd spent almost all of my professional career (we moved to the house in 1992, three months before leaving Oracle for a consulting gig), wrote my books (including the first, Oracle PL/SQL Programming, that changed the course of my life), built the software (Xray Vision for SQL Forms 3, QNXO, Qute, PL/Vision, Code Tester for Oracle, Quest CodeGen Utility, etc.), did the webinars, wrote 1000+ quizzes for the PL/SQL Challenge.

But you know what? Bye, bye, no big deal. Change is good (like this change: Veva and I are taking ballroom dancing classes. I will learn what to do with my feet when I dance!).

I like my cave, I mean, office. It's spacious, and I can make as much noise as I want. Which is very important, since I will be churning out lots of really noisy videos about PL/SQL and my latest dance moves. 

I'm getting my artwork up on the walls:


My father did the painting on the bottom left. It has a lot of power and feeling. My dry cleaner created the beautiful painting on top.

I re-established my sand table with beautiful pieces by Terry Hogan, and many other shells and coral from the sea:


And I put some of my awards and other mementos up on shelves that used to hold a small library of science fiction/fantasy books:


So, yes, settling in to my new office. And last night I started nailing up corkboard tiles to the thick wood paneling, so I could pin up photos of my granddaughter, Loey. Oh, I suppose other people, too. But Loey mainly, because she is the light of my life, and oh my she is a bright light.


In any case, as I hammered the tiny nails needed to hold up the corkboard, I became aware that I felt kind of down, as if the day had not gone well. Why would I be feeling that way? It had been a good day. And then I (the conscious part of me) realized that the non-conscious part of me was feeling bad about having broken a branch in the woods earlier in the day.

That sounds kind of weird, right? I mean, seriously, how bad are humans supposed to feel about breaking the branch of a tree? It's not like they'd notice, right?

But it made perfect sense to me, so I decided to share with you why a broken branch would set my brain to brooding, thereby giving you a sense of how I see the world these days.

As to why anyone should care what I think of the world, well, I leave that entirely up to the reader. No readers, then no one cares. :-) 

As soon as the thought (brooding about broken branch) broke into my consciousness, I immediately knew it was true (that happens to you, too, right? You can instantly sense that a thought is correct. Now try thinking about what is going on in your brain for this to happen and how much of your brain is the "I" that is you). 

You see, I had earlier been thinking back over to when I was in the woods this morning cutting down buckthorn. At one point a rather large tree came down hard against a nearby native tree I was working to rescue. 

To my great dismay, one of its branches was caught by the twisty, grabby buckthorn. It snapped and hung loosely. I did that. That was probably two years' new growth, hard work against buckthorn. And I killed it. 

That bummed me out (and still does), but I reminded myself that I have to accept that even when I move carefully and always safely, I cannot always control where a large tree will fall. I will make mistakes and there will be setbacks. But I just have to keep going.

"Going where?" you might ask. I have developed a new, very strong compulsion: to rescue trees. To do what I can with my own hands, with my own time, with, in other words, a solid chunk of my life, to heal some of the damage we humans inflict on our co-inhabitants and the planet itself.

I think about it as direct and positive action, a principle I attempt to follow in all aspects of my life these days.

Here in Chicago, buckthorn - an invasive import from northern Europe - grows aggressively, crowding out the native trees. In particular, they don't allow young trees, the saplings, the next generation of the natives, to survive. And as the buckthorn grows taller,  it also kills off the lower branches of the mature trees. 

Buckthorn is really an impressive, powerful, successful species. I admire it greatly - and I cut down on the order of 200 buckthorn trees a week (many of them quite small, but not all). Contradiction? Not at all. A necessary corrective action to human abuse of our world. We travel about, carrying with us the seeds (and ballast and larvae) of destruction for many ecosystems.

I do not want to lose our native trees (and even the non-invasive imports). I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy forests. I want to respect trees, since we could never have evolved to what we are today without trees. And even today the forests of the world are absolutely critical to the functioning of the global ecosystem(s).

I want to treat trees with respect and do penance for our cutting down 95% of the trees in the continental US. So I go out and rescue trees. It is now my only form of exercise and it keeps me in great shape - especially for picking up, carrying and playing with Loey. She loves for me to hang her upside down by her ankles and swing her like a pendulum. She trusts me implicitly. I love that.

Sorry, you must be wondering: what is the point of all this? 

To give me an opportunity to marvel at the current state of my life, in which I have quite an intimate relationship with trees. I study them, I read them. Really, it's quite amazing. I can go into the woods now, look at how a native tree's branch has withered, identify the buckthorn that is doing the damage, and actually play it out in my mind's eye: years of slow growth, of slow-motion battle, and of losing it to the buckthorn. Everywhere I look, I find the trees telling their stories.

My greatest joy is to uncover a small sapling that was so completely surrounded and covered by buckthorn I didn't even see it there when I started cutting. Then I open it to the sun and the wind. I did this with a lovely 15 foot tall maple sapling last week. I will be visiting it (and hundreds of other trees) each year now, making sure the buckthorn (and grapevine) leaves it alone, allowing it to grow to a big, thick, incredibly strong and life-giving tree.

There, right there, that's what I marvel at: I know that the 10+ hours I spend each week in the woods rescuing trees will mean that 20 years from now there will be trees with a diameter of a foot or more that simply would not be there if it hadn't been for my effort and my attention paid to something other than human stuff.

That makes me feel happy and less guilty about my consumption (and indirect killing of many, many trees). It gives me a purpose in life, besides family and work.

I plan to rescue trees for as long as my body is able to do the work.

Anyone care to join me?





Categories: Development

3 film non-meme

Greg Pavlik - Sun, 2014-09-21 16:09
Riffing off previous post - was discussing with my wife last evening what we thought the three best "recent" films we had seen were. Here's my list:

1) Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin.

Reason: this is a powerful, powerful film that explores the effects of radical individualism, and economic inequality and of the overturning of normal, local, rooted communities. Banned by the Chinese government, it is as much a critique of the values of neoliberalism globally as it is of the current Chinese economic experiment.

2) Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful.

Reason: a moving exploration of responsibility and ethics in the face of poverty, hopelessness and impending death. What do we make of the human spirit and our obligations to each other - and our obligations in the face of The Other?  Javier Bardem was birthed for this role - fantastic acting.

3) Pavel Lungin's The Island.

Reason: who is guilty before whom and for what? Take a director of Jewish background, give him a story that is loosely inspired by a hagiography of the fool-for-Christ Feofil of the Kieven Caves, and cast a retired-rock-star-current-recluse (Pyotr Mamonov) as a Orthodox monastic in the far north of Russia, and I would have quite low expectations for the outcome. What Lungin produced is instead not only his best film but I think one of the best films of the last 20 years.

This is not my kingdom

FeuerThoughts - Sun, 2014-09-21 15:27
I don't know most people in Chicago on an individual basis, but of all the people I don't know, my favorite Chicagoans are scavengers. They roam the alleys in beat up pickup trucks, with various kinds of makeshift walls extended above the bed.

They grab anything made of metal and anything with the possibility of value. They reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills and I thank them very much for doing this.

Driving the other day, passed one such truck with a hand-lettered sign nailed to the wooden side wall. It said:

This is not my kingdom.
Just passing through.


Categories: Development

Top 10 Book Meme

Greg Pavlik - Tue, 2014-09-16 11:48
What books have most impacted me? I picked books I have returned to over and over. Yes, I know this is solipsistic to publish, but its a fascinating thing to think through. I'm sure the list will not look right in a few months anyway. But here I go...

1 The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Reason: the best book ever written about the human condition.

2 Iob, LXX
Reason: bad things happen to good people, quite often.

3 I Am a Cat, Natsume Soseki
Reason: comedy is good for the soul. This is the funniest book I've ever read. Cheating here, but I'd probably add Gogol as a next choice.

4 The Symposium, Plato
Reason: love. And I'm an only partially reconstructed platonist.

5 Demons, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Reason: explains a big part of the 20th century. Makes 1984 look like crude propaganda.

6 Also Spracht Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche
Reason: Nietszche saw the enormity of the modern project clearly.

7 Life of Moses, Gregory of Nyssa
Reason: before structuralism, post structuralism, semiotics, and deconstruction, there was Gregory of Nyssa. And apokatastasis.

8 For the Time Being, WH Auden
Reason: aside from the fact that Auden is the best English language poet, this is a deeply moving meditation on Christmas in the anglophone experience. Read it several times each winter.

9 The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
Reason: great art meets allegory meets beauty in the search for meaning. Honestly, stuck with only one book this might be it.

10 Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Reason: we are all compromised to one degree or another.

Eli and the Runaway Diaper now available!

FeuerThoughts - Sun, 2014-09-14 10:12

In 2013, the big sensation in (my) children's publishing was the release of Vivian Vulture and the Cleanup Culture.

In 2014, the honor goes to Eli and the Runaway Diaper.

It's a book about a diaper that gets tired of the day in day out grind of covering Eli's bottom (the names have been changed to protect the innocent). It decides that it's time to look around for a new and hopefully better (more appreciative) bottom.

Eli is initially dismayed, but happy to join the diaper on its quest, so off they go on a grand adventure!

Illustrated by Robert Melegari, it's a fun, light-hearted journey to self-discovery and self-improvement.

You can order it on Amazon,  Createspace, and so on. But if you order it from me, I will sign it and ship it off to you, all for the list price of $12.99.
Categories: Development

Flipping Herman Millers

FeuerThoughts - Mon, 2014-08-25 13:44
I was one of those dot.com boom excitables who decided that he must own a Herman Miller Aeron chair in order to be super cool and incredibly productive while I blogged and tweeted (well, I don't think there was Twitter back then) and so forth.

Soon after I got the chair, I realized that I really didn't like it very much at all. It didn't seem to provide support in the right places, didn't make it easy to avoid slouching....it wasn't the desk chair for me.

[My chair of choice, for years now, is the Swopper.]

Tried to get my son interested. Nope.

Tried to get my wife interested. Nope.

Moved it to the garage. 

Finally decided to offer it up on Craigslist nice and cheap to make it go away. Posted the ad for $200 and within minutes had someone lined up. He lived in St. Louis, but his dad lived nearby, and he told me when picking up the chair:

His son has built up a business "flipping" Aeron chairs. Buy them cheap, buy lots of parts, fix 'em up, and spin 'em back out into the market. 

Who knew?

What a remarkable system is capitalism. Sure, it's not nice. It's not fair. It's played a key role in the destruction of our planet as humans suck out the "natural resources" to make all the stuff that consumers want to buy. 

But capitalism is a very organic way of organizing an economy. 

Oh and this same chair-flipping fellow also does a wholesale business in ugly Christmas sweaters.

Finger on the pulse of a nation.
Categories: Development

Test your WebLogic 12.1.3 enviroment with Robot

Edwin Biemond - Sun, 2014-08-10 12:42
Robot Framework is a generic test automation framework which has an easy-to-use tabular test data syntax and it utilizes the keyword-driven testing approach. This means we can write our tests in readable and understandable text. If we combine this with the REST Management interface of WebLogic 12.1.3 we are able to test every detail of a WebLogic domain configuration and when we combine this

Create with WLST a SOA Suite, Service Bus 12.1.3 Domain

Edwin Biemond - Thu, 2014-08-07 14:14
When you want to create a 12.1.3 SOA Suite, Service Bus Domain, you have to use the WebLogic config.sh utility.  The 12.1.3 config utility is a big improvement when you compare this to WebLogic 11g. With this I can create some complex cluster configuration without any after configuration. But if you want to automate the domain creation and use it in your own (provisioning) tool/script then you

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