Philosophy Story

An Example of Things Working Out

Have you ever had plans to meet someone and got there really early. Not like
10 or 30 minutes early, but an hour or two. Does not matter why, maybe you got
the time wrong, or vastly over estimated how long it would take to get there.
What would you do while you waited? Would you get a snack, try and find
something to read, sit around aimlessly? Me, I like to walk around wherever I
am. Maybe it is a big building with a lot of corridors. Perhaps it is a school
ground with some forest paths. Regardless, it is time for an unplanned
constitutional. Maybe I go left, maybe I go right. Perhaps I take this path,
perhaps I take the other. I will not quote Frost at you, but you get the idea.
Sometimes I see people, sometimes I do not, depends where I am. Not the point
of the exercise. I am just burning time waiting. And yet, something else is at
play here. The walk is time limited. You have an end time at which your
wanderings must stop. What if that were not true, what if you just kept walking
and saw everything you could? What would change? Maybe you would see something
unexpected or maybe, low odds that it might be, you would change? This is a
little story of how little things changed me.

Back in University (sometimes it is fun to be pretentious) a few days before
my first undergraduate class there was a club fair. A kind of menagerie where
people convince you to join their clique. The school had a pretty clever play
of only serving lunch that day next to the club fair. So I found myself eating
some Aramark ‘food’ and poking around the tables. Nothing much of interest to
me. I got hit up to join the Society of Black Engineers. Which got the academic
intent right, but maybe missed some other clues. We live in a color blind
society though so I cannot fault them. Things were pretty much a dud so I
started to work my way back to my dorm. Oddly though, while I was making my
exit, I spotted a friend from high school poking around a club table. This was
surprising for two reasons:

1. This friend was a year older than I, yet remembered me.

2. I had no idea he went to this school.

It was a pleasant surprise, serendipitous for those of you studying for
. There was some minor talking had. It was a hot day. He was
actually there to promote a club, The Society of Physics Students (presumably
all college clubs are societies). Not that he was a major player in the
organization. I suspect, like me, he was there for lunch and wanted to eat near
some people he knew. Regardless, it was fun, speaking of things past and
present. The club was running some simple experiments, playing with a spinning
wheel to show angular momentum, physic things. They gave me the first meeting
date, whatever, I did not really care.

A week goes by, turns out I do care. New school, new Paul. One of those
points turned out to be true. So I am looking for the room, a little before the
meeting time, and the thing about Umass Lowell is they named these two building
next to each other Olsen and Olney. Incredibly easy to get missed up. So,
expectedly, I go to the wrong room first. The tip off was it was an office, and
the second clue was it was empty. I go to the other building and try the same
room number over there. I give the door a tentative push, it is locked, key
card reader outside. How could it be this room? Why would it be locked? At
least the other one was open. So that was an anticlimax, but I know know the
building names a little better. I am walking away with my back to the door when
it opens which I was not expecting to happen.

“You looking for SPS?”



That is not the exact conversation, but it is the intent. I became an SPS
member a handful of minutes later even though I was not studying physics nor
taking a physics class. Then I made some new friends who would be one of the
few constants for my next four years. The name of the club was SPS, but it was
more of a social than academic organization. Very useful to know people who
were more experienced than I in many fields. They kept me in the loop for
things to do and kept me sane. I remember the dinners we would have. Hour long
affairs, people coming and going. Leaving far after closing time. I never ate
and talked so much in a cafeteria before. Six years on the contact has lessened
with distance, but we still drop notes on occasion.

Now consider one point in this story. The locked door. What if I had not
pushed it? No one would have know I was there, I would not have been in SPS,
and my life would be lesser for it. Now how often does that ‘what if’ happen? I
got lucky this time, but I am sure I missed the connection more often than

Just got to keep walking I guess.


Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne 2014

OpenWorld is
Oracle’s giant yearly business expo in San Francisco. It is a week of Oracle
trashing the competition and talking up its own product line. Oracle DB will
save you money, double performance, cure cancer, fix your marriage, etc. The
conference was flashy and large and not interesting to me. What was interesting
was JavaOne. A hold
over developer centric conference from when Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems
(the creator of Java). Being an Oracle employee I got permission to go which is
why I was awake at 5AM last Sunday.

The deal here is, Oracle will try very hard to keep its own developers from
actually going because they make bank on the registration fees from other
companies. A single JavaOne pass costs $2,050, which is pretty absurd. But, if
you actually do get permission to go, Oracle will bankroll the whole trip.
Which is why they paid for a car to come pick me up at that borderline absurd a
hour. I am used to always taking the train into Boston (then presumably a bus),
but the trains do not run that early, so sweet Oracle car it was. I was in full
business garb: army jacket, t-shirt, and jeans. It was pretty exciting to have
someone open a car do for me, made me feel like a real hot shot. The ride was
very pleasant too, classical musical and everything. Pulling up to the airport,
seeing everyone else in their taxis and minivans, I really was a business man.
The illusion suffered when I checked in and was told Chicago
was having trouble
. I might have made it a bit further, but then I had to
do the security dance so whatever respect for myself I had left I lost to the
TSA agents. Still Oracle paid flight, Oracle paid hotel, cannot be too bad.
Wait why am I flying to Oakland? Must be for the fancy accommodations and sweet
view since I will be right near the bay.

Ok, maybe not. Turns
out hotels in the city are for the real big shots and/or people who register
early. Which means, I became very familiar with Bay Area Rapid Transit. The
subway system here is pretty unique. Not only do you get charged when you get
off (hope you have enough money), but the trains are the loudest I have ever
been on. Frighteningly banshee-esque screams every time it takes a turn. So
loud, I am sure the driver has to wear ear protection for fear of an OSHA sound
violation. The best part of commuting out by train was watching all these
suited business types waiting for the hotel shuttle in this incredibly awful
Oakland neighborhood which the hotel driver described to us as “not great”.

None of that is actually important though because the actual conference was

Being the dirty, unwashed, Oracle employee, I could not actually register
for sessions to attend, so I had to hope they did not fill up before I could
get in (five minutes before it started). Generally this was not a problem and I
got into some real cool sessions. Some of the stuff in JDK 8 is going to be
very helpful. Lambdas
and Streams
in particular are going to help out a lot. Some of the stuff scheduled for JDK
9 like value types and primitives in collections are going to be real useful
too. There was also a number of sessions that deepened my knowledge of the JVM
such as how the volatile keyword is implemented on the byte code level and the
different types of garbage collection strategies available to Java. A couple
dud sessions in there too, but what can you do. Of course no convention is
complete without an expo hall (both at Java One and OpenWorld), but it was
mostly a waste of time. I am in no position to actually buy any of the products
they were selling, but it was fun to watch how quickly the sale rep tried to
disengage once they found that out. Apparently the product I work on was demoed
somewhere on the floor so hopefully something good came out that.

All this work did lead to long days. I got up, went to the convention, sat
in as many sessions as I could, then rode the subway home to sleep. Some of the
sessions ran pretty late for a 9-5 guy with the latest being 9PM on some days.
In between I got the chance to enjoy some San Francisco food. Weirdly regular
convention goers get served lunch, but not Oracle employees. Presumably Oracle
would prefer I expense a meal that cost more than what they are serving? The
best was, oddly enough, the Korean barbeque I had near the mall at the Moscone
Center. I got way too much rice though.

We also got a chance to visit mother Oracle at nearby Redwood Shores and see
the sweet Oracle boat.

Turns out there are some perks to having a slightly eccentric CEO. At the
convention I got to see him speak for the first time at the key note and I was
greatly impressed. He was funny and engaging. Calling out the competition,
poking fun at himself, he really has a flair for speech and clearly loves being
the big shot. The gift shop at HQ was pretty disappointing though so he is not
perfect. After that it was two quick flights back, and a midnight car ride to
Franklin. Business managed.

The big takeaway from all this is two fold. One, this convention is not for
Oracle employees. Two, find all the Oracle employees you can so they can tell
you who to talk to in the company to actually get stuff done.


Am I Making Any Sense?

I am nearing 50 posts on this little blog so an important question naturally
arises after having written so much. Does anything I write or say make sense?
Do people just nod along with it and then when I finally stop and leave think,
“man that guy is crazy, what is he talking about?” I like to think I am
Brain, but do
others just hear Pinky?

An example for context. I am talking about acting to some friends, and how I
am rubbish at it. So bad people would be asking “why did the filmmakers use
actors from Home Depot?”. That is not the exact line I said, but it is close
enough. I thought it was clear enough, but all I could see were confused faces.
The thing is, this is my humor. Anyone can make a joke about a person acting
wooden. You have to go to that next level, where you understand everyone knows
that. You build on that knowledge and layer a joke on top. A person is acting
wooden, wood comes from Home Depot. Simple right? Blank stares, no laughing,
failure to communicate.

It is not just jokes though. Jokes can be excused. The issue at play here is
I might think I am being clear, but actually not being so. Imagine a carpenter
made chairs in a sealed room. Wood comes in one side, the carpenter sends the
finished chair out the other. She does this for many years and things, “I make
so many chairs, I am a skilled carpenter.” Meanwhile, outside the sealed room,
the chair inspector keeps rejecting them and burning them for firewood. Without
feedback how can any of us know if we are making a worthwhile product? I just
happen to be making collections of words here though so we are even further
removed from my example. Not everyone is a carpenter, but, as the internet
teaches us, everyone can write.

So what is to be done? How can I know if I am clear or not? It helps if I
write without error in spelling or grammar. I think I am doing that well, I
have no proofreader, but myself to confirm. I study logical fallacies so that
should help with my arguments, but it is so easy to fall prey to them.
Discussing issues with others seems to help. Easy to establish a feedback loop.
See what is working, adjust, see if it works better. If anything I am going to
blame others for being too polite and not calling me out when I say something
dumb or make no sense.

I hope, dear reader, you are not expecting a sudden insight with a solution
to this problem because I have none. Which is why this is tagged ‘Musings’ and
not ‘Philosophy’. Just thoughts on a continuing process.