Summer Azure

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Small blue and white spotted butterfly

Summer Azure, Celastrina neglecta
Ridgewood Reservoir, 2007-06-30
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ZipCar First Impressions

Friday, June 29th, 2007

I haven’t owned a car since I moved out of New Jersey about 15 years ago. Lately I’ve been considering buying one, mostly for birding since public transit just doesn’t make the grade for getting to a lot of the places I want to go to. On the other hand, owning a car in New York City is a royal pain, and most of the time just not worth the hassle.

I’d first looked at Zipcar, a subscription based car rental agency that rents by the hour, a couple of years ago. I decided against it then. I shop online or around the corner. For short trips in the neighborhood, a cab is cheaper and avoids parking. Usually I just walk or take the bus anyway. However, paying by the hour I’d actually pay more for a day long birding trip than if I rented from a traditional rental car agency. Recently, however, Zipcar added daily rates that are much more competitive so I took a second look.
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SQLAlchemy for Java

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Anyone know of an equivalent of the SQLAlchemy Python data binding library for Java? SQLAlchemy maps Python classes to the records in a table. What distinguishes it from Java-based ORM tools that I’ve seen such as Hibernate is that in SQLAlchemy you can map any table, not just ones that actually exists in the database.

SQLAlchemy doesn’t view databases as just collections of tables; it sees them as relational algebra engines. Its object relational mapper enables classes to be mapped against the database in more than one way. SQL constructs don’t just select from just tables—you can also select from joins, subqueries, and unions. Thus database relationships and domain object models can be cleanly decoupled from the beginning, allowing both sides to develop to their full potential.

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Rebuild and Reprovision

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Sometime last night my Speakeasy ADSL line went down. I could probably check this server’s logs and figure out exactly when that happened. I’m not sure what happened and neither is Speakeasy. I tried the usual tricks: rebooting the computer, rebooting the router, rebooting the DSL modem, plugging a computer directly into the DSL modem without a router in between, verifying router and IP addresses, and so forth; and none of that helped.

What eventually fixed the problem was Speakeasy rebuilding and reprovisioning the circuit. This was something only they could do, and it immediately fixed the problem. Thus the problem seems to have been on their end in their part of the network, not on my end in my LAN. However all their tests from their end showed that the circuit was up and running and the DSL modem was responding properly, so the tech wasn’t sure why that worked.
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#379: Grasshopper Sparrow

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Last Sunday, 2007-06-17, Peter Dorosh led a small contingent from the Brooklyn Bird Club to explore Somerset County in New Jersey. The first stop was the Negri-Nepote-Leni Preserve, a grasslands area surrounded by farms. We got there about 7:45 A.M., and almost immediately Sandi Paci heard a Prairie Warbler, which we soon located:

small yellow bird

There were numerous other birds in the area: Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwing, Brown-headed Cowbird, Eastern Towhee, House Wren, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Chickadee (probably Black-capped), Eastern Kingbird, and so many Indigo Buntings that we eventually stopped looking at each individual. There were quite a few Chipping Sparrows in the tree line, and numerous sparrows in the tall grass, which we kept hoping would turn into Grasshopper Sparrows, but persisted in remaining Field Sparrows. :-)
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The Myth of the Rational Consumer

Monday, June 25th, 2007

At the heart of modern economics, even apparently contrarian economics such as Freakonomics, is the idea the consumer is rational; that the consumer can be relied on to act in their own best interests. If that’s not true, much of economic theory comes tumbling down. In fact, economists are so incredibly convinced of this dictate that when they observe apparently irrational behavior, they expend volumes attempting to justify and rationalize it, and prove that consumers are indeed acting in their own best interests. Indeed, that’s what Freakonomics is largely about.

The fact is people often aren’t rational. While we sometimes are, we often act directly counter to our own interests for no good reason. We have sensory and reasoning apparatuses evolved to help us find food in the jungle and avoid being eaten by tigers. Our reasoning abilities, as impressive as they are, can be actively counterproductive when applied to the complex, food-plentiful, tiger-free environment we live in today. Bruce Schneier explains this very well in his recent article on Rare Risk and Overreactions. Here’s one relevant portion:
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