The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

This is not a test released

Posted By on May 2, 2015

That game I played at Cold Wars is now out. You can find it at the World’s End Publishing Shop

New link for photos

Posted By on May 2, 2015

So, the old gallery was getting full, and I figure people want to see the most recent pictures, and not have to scroll through a lot of old ones. So, I’ve made a “2015” gallery and moved a few pictures from the old gallery to there, as well as added a pile of new ones. Enjoy!

Max and Miles – 2015

Firing friends

Posted By on May 2, 2015

It should likely come as no surprise to anyone who knows me (though perhaps readers of this blog don’t know me outside of it) that I tend to form very few deep friendships while having many more casual friendships. In school, it was hard for me to make friends, and I was often lonely. This got better as time progressed because I accumulated like-minded individuals. On the one hand, this means that I’m very comfortable around my close friends, who I treat as family. On the other hand, it means that, for the more casual friendships, I basically take a more actuarial approach. Friendship maintenance has an overhead to it – it takes time and effort. If both parties get benefit from the relationship, then it continues. If I do not benefit, then I fire the friend. I expect the same from the other party.

On the one hand, you could argue that this makes me a horrible person, viewing things in such stark terms. I think this is especially likely if you take into account the Geek Social Fallacies.

The flip side to this, and the reason that I bring it up, is because, some months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend, who was very drained because a friend of hers was having more drama in her life. Now, my friend was not without her own tribulations – her mother was ill, there was sibling drama, all of those things. However, she was even more drained because every time she has lunch with her friend (or whatever they do) my friend ends up feeling drained because her friend unloads on her about how bad things are in her own life (which are largely situations of her own making and the result of decades of feelings of entitlement, unrealistic expectations about life and a lack of understanding about how the legal system handles divorce). My friend never gets to reciprocate and talk about her own problems. I told my friend that she can either avoid her friend, claiming that she’s too busy with her sick mother or flat out fire the friend. Either way, she gets a toxic energy draining person out of her life. I think getting rid of toxic people is important, because their toxicity spreads. It’s one thing to try and help them, but there comes a point where you need to declare people unfixable and move on.

A corollary to the toxic person is “the annoying person”. You know, the person who wouldn’t be invited to parties because no one really wants them there, except that they’d feel like jerks for not inviting them, because they’re well-intentioned. So, you invite them, and then they leave and everyone is glad they’re gone because they’re just so annoying. You can’t talk to them about it, because they’d, at best, take offense, or, at worst, blame you for being a jerk because you don’t understand something about where they’re coming from, and why they behave the way that they do. The thing is, while they may be justified in their own mind, that doesn’t change the fact that, after the party, everyone is getting into their cars and says “man, X really gets on my nerves, I’m glad we only see them once a year”. Yeah, perhaps it’s best to just not invite them period.

What do you think? Does firing friends make you a horrible person?

So, yeah, that happened…

Posted By on April 29, 2015

So, back in Rhode Island, I used to game with a group which included my mom, and we played a lot of 40k. Soon after I left, Flames of War became the new hotness, and they switched over to playing that.

Fast forward 5 years, and the group is losing some players. One guy is moving to one of the Carolinas this year, and my folks are moving to Florida next year. As a result, everyone is downsizing and reorganizing. My mom gave all of her FoW stuff to one of the guys in the group, because she was always meh on WWII. When she mentioned that she and I were going to be playing 40K again (and, as they will be doing the snowbird thing and spending summers up with my family in New York, we will continue to do so for the forseeable future), he said “well, why don’t you take all my 40K stuff, because I don’t want to play it anymore”.

Again, since my mom is leaving for Florida, she’s downsizing, so all of that stuff came to my house. He wanted the figure cases back, so I unpacked it all on to a table until I can make up more figure cases for it myself. So, I took a picture:

A lot of minis.

A lot of minis.

There are large forces of Eldar, Dark Eldar, Imperial Guard, and Orks. There are smaller forces of Chaos, Tau and Necrons. The Necrons are about 1500 points, and the IG list is going to be somewhere in the ballpark of 4500 points once I finish writing it up.

Not pictured are my Dark Angels (6000 points) and Tau (4500 points, though I’ll likely move some of my Tau to the other Tau force to balance them out), as well as my mom’s Sisters of Battle (approx 3000 points, IIRC) and a box of Blood Angels from that same player that didn’t fit in my Mom’s car.

So, yeah, I have some painting to do.

All points are 1p40K values, not GW, BTW.

On Cold Wars

Posted By on March 16, 2015

So, I went to Cold Wars last weekend (the 6-8, I mean, not the immediate last weekend), and, aside from the weather totally wrecking one of the games I wanted to play in and causing several vendors to not make it and delaying a lot of other things, but the one real standout there was Joey from World’s End Publishing and their This is Not a Test(TNT) rules. (The classes he taught were good too, but I’m not really going to talk much about them here aside from saying that he makes roads from shingles, with awesome results).

So, anyway, the game.

As most folks know, I like Post-Apocalyptic stuff, and Zed Or Alive(ZoA) was a recent find, using the Savage Worlds Showdown engine, which is basically an RPG light. They added some factions, and bolted on a campaign system, and made a skirmish campaign game for the zombie apocalypse. If you wanted a Walking Dead minis game, this is it.

Now, TNT is a skirmish campaign game, and, like most skirmish games, is also an “RPG Light” type system (your guy has different stats for shooting, fighting, strength, toughness, and then a general stat for “everything else”). In that way, the systems work kind of similarly, though ZoA uses your collection of RPG dice and TNT uses a D10. However, the initiative is a lot more streamlined and predictable than the Savage Worlds system, because the activating player picks a guy and rolls for initiative. If you pass, you get to do 2 actions (generally move and shoot) and if you fail you only get to do 1 (so move or shoot). Now, I don’t generally like “roll to activate” systems, but this one really works and doesn’t piss me off because you still get to do something. Anyway, if you succeeded in your activation, you roll to activate another guy and proceed on. If you fail, after this guy’s actions, the activation passes to your opponent. The turn ends once everyone has activated all of their models once.

The other major difference between TNT and ZoA is that where ZoA is focused on zombies TNT is more generic. Think more Fallout, Wasteland, Rage, or Deadlands: Hell on Earth. There are tribal guys, mutants, military guys, dudes in powered armor, and all your standard radiation storms, etc. The mood is whatever your table evokes – you can pull a more Mad Max aesthetic, or more of a 1950’s future, a-la fallout, which is what Joey did for the game in which I played, given the presence of all the 1950’s style cars rusting into oblivion.

TNT Game

TNT Game

In this scenario, half a dozen warbands were going after the old world lost tech McGuffin in the center of town, but the device had called the attention of a bunch of man-eating worms (but there was no sign of Kevin Bacon or Kyle McLachlan) with which we had to contend in order to seize the objective.

All in all, an excellent game, and I’m looking forward to the rules coming out. When I talked with him at Cold Wars, he was just getting the proofs back from layout, so I would expect them to be released in the next month or so. He says they’re going to be sold as PDFs via Wargame Vault, and that there is a miniatures line to follow shortly after via an online store at the main site. I’ve seen some of the miniatures he’s going to have up, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Anyway, that’s all, I have some airbrushing to do before bed. Night all.

Reflecting on my previous post….

Posted By on March 16, 2015

So, I was looking at [ raising the minimum wage] all wrong. It’s freakin’ brilliant… Think about it..

First, you get a whole lot of people to like you for raising the minimum wage. In the case of Cuomo, who is angling for the White House, this gets you some serious political capital if you want to run on a populist ticket.

Then, once all these people are priced out of the market, not only do you take no blame (because you can always blame “technology” or “management” or “the one percent”), but you can ride in and save them with social programs that help them retrain or just flat out support them because, remember – they weren’t priced out of the marketplace by poor economic policies. No. they were let go because of evil bosses who replace workers with machines because, you know, they’re mean and hate people, or some other weird nutty crap.

And the hits just keep on coming

Posted By on March 4, 2015

So, the day after I post about crazy NY, the governor ups the ante and starts a program to raise the minimum wage. There’s even and handy fact sheet.

Now, because economics isn’t taught in US schools (I had to learn it from reading and podcasts in the last 5 years or so), let me explain some fundamentals that seem to be lost on our dear governor. I’ll do it as a story.

Alice and Bob work for BigBoxCorp, and they make the minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. Now, Alice is a rockstar, and generates $15 in value for the business, resulting in $6.25 in surplus. Bob is kind of average, and generates $10 in value, resulting in $1.25 in surplus. The minimum wage is raised to $10.50, which means that Alice’s surplus is now $4.50 in surplus, but Bob is now generating -$.50 in surplus. So, what happens? Bob gets laid off, and is replaced by either a better worker or a robot. So much for helping to raise folks out of poverty.

Meanwhile, the surplus Alice generates is reduced, which means that the company has less extra capital to use. One could naively assume this means “less profit”, but that would fail to realize that profit is what is left over *after* other expenses, such as (to name a couple of choice ones) research and expansion.

If a business has extra money they can expand into new markets, open up new branches, expand operations or otherwise get bigger, hiring more people and generating more jobs. Slow down their surplus, you slow down their growth.

Similarly, if they have extra money they can do more research, which means development of new products. Stuff like our computers, iPhones, etc. don’t come out of thin air, they come from research and development which is either funded by outside investment (which is surplus generated by one company which an investor takes and puts into another company) or by internal investment (surplus generated by a company’s existing products which are used to finance research in new products).

Now, if you assume that a company will not compromise their surplus (often called a “margin”), then they’ll have no choice to raise prices, which means that the extra $1.75 that Alice is now making suddenly doesn’t go as far because all of the things she’s going to by suddenly cost more!

The above is also true of people looking for jobs – if Carla and Dave are looking for jobs, and Carla is, say, a high school dropout and Dave is a high school graduate, and you have to pay them both the same, who are you going to hire? Based on the data given, most folks would pick Dave, due to his greater education. On the other hand, if Dave wants $10.50, but Carla will work for $9, then you may hire Carla, because you can pay her less and that compensates for her lesser education. Carla takes the job, goes to night school, gets her GED, and improves her lot in life. However, the minimum wage prices Carla out of the market, so now she’s unemployed and can’t improve her lot as she would have been able to do if she had the freedom to negotiate.

Going a bit big picture for a moment – prices and their cohort, wages, are a way for the market to signal what is of value – what is needed, where resources should be spent, etc. all wrapped up in this one thing. People command a low wage because their skills are generally either common (not specialized) or simply not in demand. You can be the world’s greatest performer of cartwheels, but if that is not a skill in demand, then it will not command a high wage. Similarly, you can be a great bagger of groceries, but so many people have that skill that you will also not command a high wage. Forcing companies to pay more than the market rate for these skills does not change this underlying reality, and eventually this will cause companies to investigate other options, such as automating those skills or eliminating them all together. Witness the proliferation of self checkout systems in grocery stores. Even though customers generally don’t like them, they’re still becoming more common, because grocery stores can’t afford to keep prices where they are while increasing their operating costs by $35/hour (assuming a $1.75 increase for a 10 lane supermarket with a checkout person and bagger on each lane) unless they have a corresponding increase in volume (which there’s nothing to suggest that they would). If you can eliminate 4 lanes by having them be a self checkout, with only 1 person watching over them, then you go from $70/hour ($8.75, the old minimum wage * 8 people (4 lanes, 2 people per lane)) to $10.50 an hour (the new minimum wage, for the attendant) + the additional overhead of the machines. As soon as that “additional overhead” is less than $59.25/hour, you get yourself some automated checkout machines and lay off 7 of your people.

The NY twilight zone

Posted By on February 27, 2015

So, not to be outdone by California, the Governor Cuomo has announced a SUNY policy to combat sexual assault, which includes “a statewide definition of affirmative consent”. So, colleges are apparently different than all the rest of the state – not that this is a surprise, really. I mean, colleges have different gun and free speech laws, why not coital consent?

Then, I get this one about New York’s failing schools. Now, there are some schools that are doing poorly; I have no problem addressing this. However, this is how they’re going to address it: “To address this problem, we’re proposing a model that worked in Massachusetts, where when a school fails for 3 years, a nonprofit, another school district, or a turnaround expert must take over the school.” So, yeah, a private option isn’t even on the table. Allowing a private school option, or a for-profit school option, isn’t an option.

And, finally, there was this story. Now, if we assume this isn’t just a cover-up, there are a variety of things wrong with it.

  1. Why the HELL did the state outsource email to MS’s cloud? I mean, I can see not really worrying about data confidentiality, as it’s all public anyway, but do you really want your email held for ransom on MS’s servers?
  2. 90 day email deletion policy? Really? Are you really that space constrained? I mean, I’ve got my personal emails going back 15 years, and it only uses 6.1G. With a 3TB hard drive being $80, that means 6.1G costs a whopping.. 16 cents. Heck, it looks like NY state has about 300,000 employees. So, the average busy person gets about 140 emails per day, and if we assume these are hugely quoted threads heavily HTML-ed and all that, we’ll say they’re maybe 100KB per, this means that the average person is getting 12MB per day, which is about 4GB per year, which, for all the employees, is 1171TB of storage per year (across all servers), which is 390 3TB hard drives @ $80 each, which gives us $31,226 in email storage per year. MY SOFTWARE ENGINEERING GROUP PAID MORE THAN THAT IN TAXES and I think it’s fair to suggest that we’d feel that keeping these emails basically forever is a very effective use of that money.

But, you know, then we might learn something about the festering cesspool of corruption that is Albany. I mean, I’m not surprised, I just wish they wouldn’t insult everyone’s intelligence by being so blatant about it.

And why the HELL are there 300,000 state employees? That’s about as many as GE, and it doesn’t include our local Sheriff (that’s county) or county highway, etc.,

From the back of the miniatures shelves….

Posted By on February 26, 2015

So, back in college and immediately after, I used to play Warhammer 40k (3rd Edition). I had Marines and Tau armies. Then I stopped, because I moved, and the minis sat, and sat, and sat. My mother also played, running a Sisters of Battle army. She stopped shortly after 4th edition came out because her gaming group got burned out on 40k and started playing Flames of War.

I’d been looking for some rules to run 40k, and not finding any, and had started writing my own, but the going was, of course, slow. Then I came across [ One Page Rules], which has rules for 40K and Fantasy in both battle and skirmish scales, as well as fantasy football and full contact racing cars. The rules are tight, simple to understand, supported by the heroic efforts of an author who simply goes by OnePage Anon, with lots of helpful folks on [ their forums].

It took me about half an hour to read and grok the rules. In another hour or so, I’d done up a basic Tau list. My mom visited and it took us about 2 hours to do up a list for her (mainly because she was being a super power gamer who had to obsessively tweak her list to optimized for exactly 1500 points).

I had planned to take pictures as the turns progressed, but totally forgot, so this is a picture of the end of Turn 2 from different angles. Those, and a play-by-play, are below the more…

Now, readers will know that Liz will play Warmachine, but Warhammer was just too boring for her. We’ll see how she likes these rules, but she didn’t recoil in horror watching Mom and I play…


Updated pics again…

Posted By on February 26, 2015

Only added about half a dozen, but they are now up to date through mid February and include some pictures of them playing in the snow.

Gallery link.