The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

On Carly Fiorina, AKA “HP: Invent”

Posted By on August 29, 2015

So, this post by Larry Correia got me thinking about Carly Fiorina. I don’t know how she plays to the mainstream US, because I haven’t talked with people about it, but every nerd over 30 knows the legend of how she came to HP and layed off a ton of folks, destroyed long term R&D all the while changing the slogan to HP:Invent. Now, this may not be a totally accurate characterization of what happened, but it was the perception at the time, and likely persists to this day. Apparently, CNN money says this may be an issue as well. Heck, she leaves and the stock goes up 7% at the news…

On drunk driving

Posted By on August 29, 2015

Driving whilst drunk on beer is bad, and, even though it is very much illegal, people continue to do it.

Therefore, I’m going to propose that we ban beer.

Then, once we have banned beer, we can talk about how there are vastly fewer beer-related drunk driving incidences.

What’s that?

People will just drink other things?

Maybe so, but I’ve achieved my objective of stopping people from drinking beer!

(Replace “drunk driving” with “violence” and “beer” with “guns” and you perhaps begin to understand why banning guns is stupid. Most places that ban guns report a decrease in gun violence, but not of violence. Why? Because people who want to do you harm use something else. Meanwhile, you’ve denied the use of something to otherwise innocent people due to no crime on their part, merely because someone else did something bad with it some time.)

Windows 10

Posted By on August 29, 2015

So, I’ve upgraded to Windows 10. It’s sort of halfway between Windows 7 and Windows 8 in terms of all the Windows 8 crap they added. The multiple desktops are about the worst I’ve ever found, and dialog boxes raised to the top of the stack tend to disappear as soon as you move your mouse (the “new desktop” button does the same thing). You have to raise the dialogs by clicking their parent app on the taskbar, and you need to click and hold and then release and then click again in order to get to the new desktop button. This may be a bug related to my existing Win 7 install which I upgraded, but who knows.

Aside – Classic Shell is a decent add-on for modern versions of Windows to, most notably, bring back the old start menu. It does other things too.

So, yeah, 10 is worse than 7 as far as UI goes, but who the hell cares? If you’re using Windows to do real work, I’m sorry. It’s still only suitable for video games, and that’s mainly because you just run steam in fullscreen mode.

On the right to be free from guns

Posted By on August 21, 2015

I came across this article, in which the author states:

What’s needed is a long-term national effort to change popular attitudes toward handgun ownership. And we need to insist on protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.

The anti-freedom crowd tried that starting in the 70’s. (Remember the National Council to Control Handguns which was renamed to Handgun Control Inc. and then later the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence?). It has failed. Your last victory was the federal assault weapons ban. The problem you have is that more and more people are getting educated. Black guns are not scary anymore. People realize that guns are fun, they are useful. Research, outreach and education efforts by the NRA, SAF, GOA, etc. are changing public perceptions on firearms. They also increasingly do not trust you, the police, or the government. They realize that the right to carry weapons for defensive purposes is core to the inherent natural rights of free people, the same as the rights of speech and assembly, and anyone who wishes to suppress such rights wants to control you and make you a slave.

On Amazon

Posted By on August 20, 2015

So, there’s been a lot of discussion about this New York Times article about Amazon. Before I give my take, I should mention that there are some replies:

The interesting thing here is that I was aware of the stuff in the first article at least 10 years ago. I worked with a fellow Amazonian, and we were talking about uptimes and nighttime deployments, etc., and she said (roughly, it’s like 10 years ago):

When I was at Amazon, we’d decide to not go live until, say, next Monday, and then you’d get a call that night at 11PM because the boss is calling everyone in because Bezos said he wanted to move the deployment up to 3AM tomorrow morning.

My reply was pretty forthright – if it’s not an emergency, then I better not be getting calls. This is doubly true that there had been a decision to NOT ship and the CEO was there, and then changed his mind. In that case, I would have gone in and then handed in my notice the next day (or, now that I have kids and can be less loose cannon about this, I would have found something else and then left).

In the end, I ended up leaving that job, partially for that reason. I had to do several things that I considered to be unethical after being ordered to do so directly by the CEO (most notably, we sold insurance, and we changed references from TravelGuard to AIG when AIG bought TravelGuard. This was fine. However, then AIG got into trouble during the financial crisis, so we changed it back because we didn’t want to scare people. I was vehemently opposed to this because we can’t be perceived as a comparative insurance agency if we’re hiding the company which owns or underwrites the plans. I was told that he was the boss and I should just do it.) I left soon after. In hindsight, I should have just flat out refused and gotten fired.

Incidentally, the rest of the dev team left within two years, due to a variety of issues, most notably related to growing pains, which is hard for any shop. I mean, when you start out as one person in his basement, and grow to 50 people, and try to establish greater engineering rigor (code reviews, formal QA, real UI design, etc.) but are unwilling to accept that such things take longer, it’s basically an impasse and frustrates everyone. When you pretty consistently overrule your entire development team because you taught yourself to code and wrote the first version of the site.. well, that just makes your team leave because PHP sucks and we would have been better off refactoring the existing Perl code into something maintainable and paying down our technical debt.

One guy, the most brilliant of the group, got so fed up that he went and became a postman for a couple of years, before later returning to the industry. His issue is that he needs to work at a real engineering shop with good process, review, etc.

On Post Capitalism…

Posted By on August 19, 2015

I found this article to be interesting.. Some thoughts:

1. As a general case, what he calls “post capitalist” I call “post scarcity”.

2. He says

It will need the state to create the framework – just as it created the framework for factory labour, sound currencies and free trade in the early 19th century.

Why does the state need to even be involved at all, aside from staying out of the way and letting things progress in an organic distributed fashion? If you’re talking about not locking things up as property and focusing on sharing of data, then you don’t need state institutions to facilitate this – you have existing ones to handle resolution of disputes of physical property, but if data is to be open and shared, you don’t need this for the virtual. So, what is the role of the state in this?

3. This is wrong:

They have not yet had the same impact as the Black Death – but as we saw in New Orleans in 2005, it does not take the bubonic plague to destroy social order and functional infrastructure in a financially complex and impoverished society.

Order broke down when the government swooped in and took away the guns that people were using to protect life and property. By disarming the folks keeping order, disorder followed. The government doesn’t keep order. The general citizenry, which has a respect for order and property rights, does.

Further, legislation designed to protect people (by preventing “price gouging”) caused the government to stop supplies from flowing in to the affected areas (so people wouldn’t be taken advantage of) leading to supply shortages. Just allowing the market to respond would have resulted in goods moved to where they need to be.

Updated kids picture gallery

Posted By on August 11, 2015

Max and Miles – 2015

It’s now updated through August 2015, and has pictures of the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

On the recent supreme court decisions

Posted By on July 16, 2015

So here is the list of decisions this year, and I’m commenting on those from 25 June and 26 June.

Gay marriage

To my thinking, this is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough. At the core, how people set up their domestic arrangements should not be the business of the government period, excepting perhaps the registration of the contract to be held in escrow by a neutral party in the case of dispute later on – though I note that said neutral party doesn’t necessarily need to be a governmental institution. But, you sign the contract, you have some witnesses and everyone recognizes it.

As an aside, a dear friend of mine and I were discussing this and he felt that my view was a bit too unemotional. I recall what someone said to me when I was in uni, namely that his SCA marriage meant more to him than his civil one. Why? The SCA was his tribe, his community, and his marriage was

Now, there are a pile of objections to this from the broader social perspective, and I shall attempt to briefly refute them, point by point:

  • But the above would allow people to have multiple spouses?

    • So? Not the function of government to restrict people’s private affairs.
  • But all our law (health care, property, etc.) is based around 2 person marriage?

    • I’m pretty sure the smart actuaries can figure out how to charge more based on more people in your family, or figure out how to divide your assets by a number > 2 upon dissolution of the contract.
  • But the global homosexual conspiracy will force religious institutions to perform marriages!

    • Yeah, maybe, but I would oppose that. Of course, I also oppose requirements that folks need to service all customers equally, because it violates the principle of universality. (In brief – if a white supremacist doesn’t want to patronize a black-owned business, that’s okay, but if a white supremacist doesn’t want to rent to a black tenant, that is illegal, because the landlord is providing a public accommodation. I disagree with this distinction. No one should be forced into economic transactions. As an aside, they will pay the market price for their bigotry because they will lose customers, especially if their racism comes to light and they are shunned by the community.. or, they won’t, because people agree with them (see Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
  • It shouldn’t be called “marriage”, it should be called something else.

    • You can call it whatever you like, but it needs to be the same for everyone otherwise you risk creating a double standard and violating equal protection under the law. I mean, if you want to call the filed contract your “domestic contract” and “marriage” is whatever happens in front of your community and the government doesn’t care, that’s fine, but there should be no official distinction between them. Given all that, just call it all marriage and be done with it.
  • Let’s call it ‘traditional marriage’ then.

From the court perspective, Roberts’ dissent is notable here. He states (among other things)

Stripped of its shiny rhetorical gloss, the majority’s argument is that the Due Process Clause gives same-sex couples a fundamental right to marry because it will be good for them and for society.

Last time I checked, having everyone be treated the same under the law was good for people and society, but let’s just put the above aside for now, and get on with the next one.

Obamacare

First, let me be clear and state that I do not hate Obamacare for the same reason that a lot of other people do. I think that the health care system in this country is broken, and I appreciate that this was at least an attempt to fix it (at least, theoretically). A lot of things are steps in the right direction. The idea of having a health insurance marketplace is a good one, but I think it would have worked out better if it evolved from a competitive economy rather than inept central planning. However, it takes the major step of allowing for a marketplace which was previously illegal. Now, if we can only shake off the yoke of health care being supplied by employers for about half of workers (most easily accomplished by removing tax breaks), and get those folks on to exchanges (so health care isn’t tied to employment) while also allowing for broader competition across state lines, we’d be headed nicely down the road to real reform. (I’m not going to touch on what policies I’d like to see offered here).

No, the main issue I have with this decision is that it essentially justifies itself by saying that the decision was “inartfully drafted”. Or, more plainly, that congress couldn’t make their meaning clear. If that is true, then that basically comes down to a fundamental problem, namely, that they suck at their jobs. I mean, Congress’s core mission is to draft and pass legislation. If that legislation is not clear, then they are bad at what they do.

Given their abysmal approval ratings, it seems that the public may realize this as well.

I also have problems with Roberts’ decision in that it seems inconsistent with the previous. I mean, for the second time in a row, he says that it’s totally okay to say “well, even though that’s not what they wrote, it’s an oops, and they meant to do this other thing” for Obamacare, but then comes down and says that “the point of due process isn’t to let everyone consume government services (in this case, registering marriages)”. Really? Not contradictory at all? I mean, I may disagree with many of the other members of the court, but at least their positions are consistent amongst each other.

Now, I would not be surprised if it’s not inartfully drafted, but rather that they put in that “established by the States” wording to try and get the states to actually establish their own exchanges. They just were surprised by how many states punted to the federal exchange, and now need to regroup lest it all fall apart without the subsidies.

I’m also concerned that this whole scheme will fail (likely because it doesn’t take the reform far enough) and everyone will shrug and say “see, a free market doesn’t work!” (as if the health insurance market is actually free) and we’ll be saddled with government one-size-fits-all health care.

If anyone wants me to whiteboard how I’d reform the system, I’d be happy to, but I won’t do so now.

Updated kids pictures gallery

Posted By on July 15, 2015

Max and Miles – 2015

It’s now updated through mid July and includes some pictures at the Bronx zoo.

Switching gears on the bobby bench

Posted By on July 7, 2015

I’ve switched from “decals” to “building”, and am working on a few different things.

This:
20150624_214641
Is the beginnings of a TNT warband of tribals, called The Murphys. I’ll write up a greater description at some later time, but the basic gist is that they’re the descendants of a bunch of punks, skins, and hardcore youths, brought together by their love of music from a Last Americans punk band from South Boston, with some crossover into the metal scene as well. Since this music is popular with folks who work with their hands and actually know how do build, do and fix things, they’ve done pretty well after the fall. They have a Celtic/Viking/punk vibe to them, and are a pretty inclusive community and let people join the tribe. All you need is a useful skill and either some claim to a Celtic or Viking ancestry (and this can be as thin as having your beard grown in red) or profess a love of punk music.

Anyway, this is 2 Tribal Warriors (spears and shields), a Champion (with a large-bore revolver and a sword which is cut off in the picture), a Scout (the lady with the cowboy hat and bow) and a Lesser Shaman (who rolled the Levitate ability, so I gave her a sniper rifle. The idea is that she’s a hunter who uses her levitate ability to hide in trees and such when hunting deer.). I still need to make up the War Leader (who has a rifle with bayonet) and 2 Tribals (who have shotguns).

The models are all from Wargames Factory and are a mix of a couple sprues of Celts (which I got as a promo somewhere) and the Apocalypse Survivors Men and Women boxes.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Dawn of War: Winter Assault, which has inspired me to start working on putting together some Imperial Guard stuff:
20150628_215601

There are a couple of things in this picture. The main thing is a partially assembled Leman Russ Main Battle Tank, which is part of the big pile of stuff I inherited. I kind of get the impression that these were put together by several different people, because some are basically perfect and others are really rough (lots of leftover sprue bits, bad glue adhesion, etc.). This tank was one of the worst, so I took my hobby knife and carefully split it apart, and am now sanding it, cleaning it up, and putting it back together. Some gap filling will be required, but, all in all, it’s going well.

The idea behind this army, given the mix of Catachan, Cadian, and some generic or kitbashed models is that it is, at the core, a Catachan force that has been fighting its way across the galaxy. As a result, they’ve had to expand beyond their traditional jungle fighting ways, and have been reinforced with units who hail from other worlds. As such, they have swapped much of their close-ranged weaponry used for jungle fighting for other weapons with a longer range. So, their Sentinels have gone from being outfitted with flamers to having the conventional autocannons or multilasers fitted. Similarly, they take Leman Russ Main Battle Tanks and artillery (once I print them a couple) for support purposes, which normally have some issues in jungle warfare because they get bogged down going through the trees. However, as this army fought on various types of terrain, they adopted different support structures and tactics in order to adapt to the varying mission requirements. In the end, their structure ends up looking more like a standard IG army, and, hence, I’ll be using a standard IG force organization.