Friday, February 26, 2010

Jackson, compliments du jour, en francaise

I wish my french skills were little bit more refined (6 months of suggestopedic teaching, 2 hours per week apparently is not enough to get more than general idea of text :) ). But from what I gather, Android pour l’entreprise – 6 – Oubliez Gson, Jackson rocks my world! seems to have generally positive outlook on Jackson for JSON processing on Android platform (oubliez meaning "forget"... it's good that cognac ratings help my language skills here!). And apparently much of this is due to Android VM (Dalvik) being somewhat sensitive to GC-induced stress; so Jackson's focus on efficiency (not just speed, but focus on simplicity of code, trying to avoid extraneous intermediate storage and code) really pays off.

It is great that a library can be versatile enough to perform well on wide set of platforms; and it is absolutely marvellous that there are users who put Jackson to good use, and let others know what works and what doesn't.

Anyway, thought I'll share this; Android developers in practicular might find this interesting. Also: author of the article has suggested couple of good improvements to Jackson, too, to make things work even better in future.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fool's Gold, Standard(s)

Here's something new: some good reading ("Ron Paul's money plan is far from golden") at CNN (sic!): this time about nostalgic folly of returning to the "gold standard". It is surprising that someone whose intellectual aspirations are bit above those of his supporters (ok, granted, that's a low bar), one would be so mistaken about realities of tying national currency into amount of precious metal(s) central bank physically has. Maybe this is why central banks are generally lead by people with economic education and experience, and not physicians.

I mean, yes, from laymanperspective, it would seem nice if that green paper that gets printed on would actually have collateral. But impracticality of full collateralization should be obvious: you don't need much of a thought-exercise to see how and why it would fail; and from that point on, to backtrack and see why this realization (when shared by people who control flow of money) means that attempt would be a self-fulfilling failure. And if we were unlucky, slowly cooking but colossal-cluster-magnitude failure.

In addition to the great depression that is obviusly mentioned in the articles, proponents of "strong currency" managed to starve millions of people to death during late 1800s. I am most familiar with a somewhat starvations in Finland (there were 2 instances): globally speaking these were just blimps on radar (sice the whole country population was barely in millions), but death rate from starvation actually exceeded that of world wars... and all that so that central bank could protect value of currency, by not loaning money (or subsidize seeds), managing to keep central bank in black, and peasants hungry or dead. Famine was orginally triggered by weather, of course, but the catastrophe could have been averted by government action. And in similar vain, in more recent memory, depression of early 90s (in Finland) was also deepened by later crop of strong currency proponents, who tried (ultimately in vain) to keep the currency strong by trying to avoid devaluation. In the end they had to let it float anyway (causing run-off devaluation by something like 30% in a week), but so late that much of damage was already done. Fortunately no one starved to death on account of this failure, although unemployment rate tripled closer to 20%.

I am sure there are many more examples; and some EU countries are currently experiencing related challenges (now that they are forced to exercise certain discipline after screwing up their finances before realizing it must be done).

These examples are closely related to "gold standard" part, in that there is simplistic view of nations having to balance their check books on very short term. This is neither practical nor beneficial. And trying to force it to be done does not make it any more practical, beneficial or wise.

And yet -- it seems that principled fools never let facts get in a way of intuitive theories. So I am just waiting for a grand unified theory that binds together ideas of tax-cut for riches, return to the gold standard, and the idea that poor people caused depression (due to welfare costs allegedly being a major contributor to this whole meltdown -- don't ask me how the mechanism is supposed to play; apparently this claim is getting some consideration in tea bagger circles).

Monday, February 15, 2010

NatGeo & Places of Amazing Beauty, well beyond what you could imagine: Hebrides

Ok, it would probably be time to actually write about something technical -- like, say, ultra-modern Polymorphic Type Handling system thatJackson 1.5 will have ("Lexus of Java Data Binders!") -- but after cranking out three-digit number of entries last year (at least 50% of them technical), I will cut me some slack here. Still, without typing some prose I am worried that my fingers might evolve away, so let's consider something beyond realm of technical stuff.

As usual my inspiration comes from a high-quality affordable US magazine called National Geographic. That's hardly news. But after reading about all these exotic remote locations like Madagascar, or that magical forest/mountain area in China of which name now escapes me, I was somewhat surprised to find that Hebrides (that set of islands on one side of Scotland) not only produces heavenly malt whiskies, but also sports sceneries more celestial than Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. And it's not just that I am getting old: beauty may lie in eye of beholder, but there are certain things that are beautiful regardless of their age (or observer's age). Some landscapes of nature are like that, with or without curvature.

So if you get a chance, have a look at article "Edge of the World", and especially the slide show of photos that accompany it. And picture yourself in one of settings, perhaps sipping a warm glass of Talisker or Laphroaig (latter when visiting, say, Fingal's Cave; former at around those abandoned stone buildings at Hirta, St. Kilda?).

If it wasn't for the fact that kids would probably bore to death in 10 minutes flat, I would be ready to migrate to Hebrides. At least until getting there, and sun sets down & wind sets in and all those little practical details. But in my imagination I am already packing!

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