The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Update on the boys and other things.

Posted By on April 8, 2014

The boys continue to grow like crazy. Max has decided he likes things that he sits in (bouncy chairs, etc.) and Miles has decided that he likes laying on his back and hitting those types of things that dangle in front of your face. Both of them are over 13 lbs, with Max at nearly 14 lbs.

Anyway, I’ve added several more pictures spanning from the end of February to the end of March to The Max and Miles gallery (scroll down, they’re in chronological order, with the most at the bottom)

On the programming front, a friend of ours introduced us to Rockabye Baby! so we picked up some CD’s off of, and I ripped them to a USB stick so I can play it in the car. Of course, this brings up the age-old problem of there not being any decent .m3u playlist generators or synchronizers (or, at least, not any that I like). So, I wrote one. You can find it on one of mygithub repos. You’re looking for manage_playlists.

On the consumption of media front, I’ve finished Monster Hunter International, very good, highly recommended.

I’ve also been playing through X-Com: Enemy Unknown, which is also highly recommended. This is a bit different than the original, more streamlined. The key with this version of the game seems to be to drag it out so that your troops can gain experience and make scientific advancements. If you research the priority items too rapidly, the game progresses too rapidly and you get overwhelmed.

Additionally, I’ve been playing a little bit of Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall, which I’ll likely be playing more of now that the manage playlist script is finished.

I also finally got to cooking up my hot sauce from the peppers for this year:

Hot sauce - peppers

Hot sauce – peppers

Hot sauce - blending

Hot sauce – blending

Hot sauce - straining

Hot sauce – straining

Hot sauce - done!

Hot sauce – done!

So, that’s about what’s been going on in my world.

Perverse incentives

Posted By on March 15, 2014

Or: Why the government is discouraging workforce participation for new parents.

I’d like to thank a good friend for helping me frame this argument. I’m not going to out him, but he knows who he is, and has my thanks.

So, you’re a couple, and you have your baby. Both parents take some time out of work to welcome the new arrival and get adjusted. Perhaps one parent stays home more than the other while the child is very young, but eventually the child becomes of infant day care age, and the family needs to decide whether both parents should work or one should stay home for an extended period of time.

For the case where the potential stay at home parent’s income won’t exceed the costs of working (which now include day care expenses), the calculation is simple – if you would lose money, don’t work.

Similarly, for the case where you can’t afford to live on one parent’s income, you have no choice – both need to work.

But, what if you have an option? What if, say, you are both professionals and have arranged your life that you can live on one income quite comfortably, and the other salary is spent on capital improvements (addition to the house, new cars), trips, and investments in the future (IRA, etc.)?

Let’s examine that case, and see what the numbers say.

For our base salaries, we can assume that our two hypothetical people make $100,000 per year. They’ve been out of school for 10 years, are successful, and the field in which they’re in pays well.

So, before their child, they both work, make $200k per year. Of this, the federal government takes $43466, and we’ll assume that the state government takes another 10% of that amount (that’s about right for NY), so $4347. They may or may not have a mortgage to deduct, but that doesn’t matter because it will be the same now and in the future, so we’ll ignore it here. So, they get to keep $152187 before kids.

Then they have a kid. Let’s look at those two scenarios.

Oh, we’ll also ignore the child deduction, because you always get to claim that, so it’s the same for both scenarios.

If one parent works, they make $100k, of which the federal government takes $16858 and the state takes $1686, so they get to keep $81456. There is also a child tax credit of $1000, so they’re at $82456 with one parent working.

If the second parent works, they start at the same $152187. They no longer get the child tax credit, because that phases out and is gone by $130k. Anyway, the difference is $69731.. or is it?

The second parent working will incur child care expenses. A nanny is in the $25k ballpark. A friend tells me that a Montessori school is in the $12k realm. You can deduct up to $3k of these expenses which, at the 28% tax bracket that income is in, will get back $840. So, let’s assume the cheaper route and do the $12k + $840 back in taxes, and that gets us down to $58571.

So, now this begs the question – is an additional $58k worth the second parent working? In order to calculate this, you need to look at what the parent staying home gives you, beyond child care. The most obvious thing to me is that, if one of Liz or I were to stay home, we would do much of the cooking and cleaning and other chores which often found their way in to the weekends. Instead of doing chores on weekends now, Liz and I are spending time with the boys. How much is that worth?

The granola eating hippie inside of me says “priceless, man”, but we can do better than that.

At $100k a year, we’ve basically already said that our hypothetical parents’ time is in the ballpark of $50/hour. After all, that’s what they’re selling it for. If our weekends are now free, that’s approximately 832 hours, which gives us $41600 in value that is being lost if you’re not spending your weekends with your kids (As an aside, in economic circles, this is referred to as opportunity cost). However, *both* parents get their weekends off, so that’s actually $83200 in opportunity cost.

Is losing $83200 in value worth $58571 in income? Seems like that’s a $24629 shortfall to me – and that doesn’t even include all the squidgy stuff like the enjoyment of spending time with your children.

Now, if you value your time as less than what you’re paid for it at work, then both parents working makes sense (for the curious, the break even point in the above example is $35/hour, so, if you feel your time is worth less than that, then you make out on the deal).

Anyway, how can we solve this hypothetical situation? Well, we’ve just calculated our opportunity cost as $83200, which is really close to the $81456 that the single parent makes. In order to do this, we would have to:

  • Tax the second parent’s income at the rate of the first parents’.
  • Allow the child tax credit to be taken regardless of income level.
  • Allow the full cost of child care expenses to be deducted (at least at this income level. It could be done like the mortgage interest deduction – it can be taken up to a really high amount, which most folks won’t hit.)

Now, in the end, this *still* wouldn’t get us to the $83200 (because of the child care expenses), but it does get us slightly better than they were before they had their child ($153832 vs. $152187), so then having a child is *not* a penalty.

Another option is to do the last two things of the above, which would leave us with $144547, which means the full taxes are collected on your non-child-care expenses, so you’re essentially splitting the difference.

Now, you may ask, why does a simple discussion about whether or not one parent should stay home descend into a discussion of tax policy?

Well, our government is in the habit of trying to promote things it thinks are useful, hence why there is a mortgage interest deduction, ostensibly to promote home ownership. So, why isn’t the government promoting high income individuals having kids? Further, why isn’t the government promoting workforce participation when they do? I keep hearing how we’re facing a labor shortage in high tech industries – doesn’t people dropping out of the workforce to have kids exacerbate the problem?

Touching base

Posted By on March 15, 2014

I haven’t been posting a lot because I’ve had several other side things going on.

The boys continue to do well, growing like crazy, and I have some more pictures and video I need to post.

I’ve got a roughed-out bit of a political post, exploring the financial disincentives for people even at high wage levels to work when you have two non-school-aged children. Current tax policy discourages workforce participation in this regard, and I have the numbers to prove it.

I also have a couple more tales of player silliness in roleplaying games floating around in my back brain that I want to post.

I’ve been working on a Savage Worlds Showdown conversion for Warhammer 40k. Basically, I have a pile of different minis from different lines, and would like to group them by line and have them fight battles. Showdown seems a good way to accomplish this. Of course, I’ll post what I have once I have something to show.

Finally, I started reading Monster Hunter International. Highly recommended for gun nerds and monster movie fans. I mean, in the first chapter, the protagonist’s boss turns in to a werewolf and tries to eat him, so our hero shoots him in the face then pushes him and his desk out a 14 story window. As it turns out, there is already an RPG for it (uses HERO system rules. Not my favorite, but solid), which is likely worth picking up if only for all the fluff to use to do a SW port – this type of monster hunter game is exactly where SW shines. Heck, a Showdown scenario where you’re breaking up a den of vampires or whatnot would be awesome.

So, anyway, that’s what’s doing.

Stop the Insanity! End Daylight Savings Time

Posted By on March 11, 2014


If Daylight Savings Time ever served a purpose, that purpose has surely been passed in our 24×7 culture. It’s time to end the insanity and join many other countries — and several US states — and stop changing our clocks twice a year! Let this fall be the last time we do that.

Interesting quiz

Posted By on February 28, 2014

It can determine where in the US you are from because of how you pronounce words:

My results

More on Bronies

Posted By on February 25, 2014

Somewhat related to my previous post, Liz pointed me at the documentary Bronies, which was quite good (we both watched it and thought so), and is available on demand on Netflix.

Update on the boys

Posted By on February 21, 2014

The boys are doing great. They hit 10lbs this week and had their first round of vaccines. The pediatrician is ecstatic with their progress, and they’re starting to be awake enough that we can play with them.

Anyway, lots of new pics, mostly of boys, but some of cats.

Video of the snow we got Feb 5

Video of Liz reading to the boys. (It’s even more awesome when you realize what she’s reading.)

The worst of player excess

Posted By on February 14, 2014

In contrast to my previous post, this is on when you let players go too far, and it gets out of hand.

David is what one would call a munchkin. He figures out how to make a character that maxes out some aspects of it, and then skimps on other things, not exactly creating “well rounded” characters. This is not really an issue per-se, unless he makes a character that everyone hates.

Anyway, David comes up with this idea of wanting to be an escaped lab experiment, the most prominent feature of which was an Orichalcum cybernetic arm. Now, the issue with this is that, in the world of Shadowrun, Orichalcum is used for magical items (weapons, tools, and the like), and magic doesn’t play well with technology. Plus, it’s tremendously expensive to make. So, you’ve got a guy walking around with cybernetics worth more than most folks make in a lifetime, which stands out like a beacon to anyone magically active (and anyone not magically active can still see it for what is).

So, in order to get this fancy bit of kit. which is not obtainable on the open market, David needed to take a stupid number of character flaws and get GM permission. I gave the GM permission, figuring that the character flaws would make up for it.

Well, they did – in spades.

The flaws were, in short:

  • He was hunted by the people from the lab from which he escaped.
  • He was making side money by recording their capers on his implanted Simsense rig. The more interesting the video, the more he got paid.

Him being hunted was a nice GM hook. The Simsense was where it really went sideways.

For the first adventure, I ran the standard “Food Fight” mission, where they end up going for a late run to a local Stuffer Shack. Their snack run is, of course, interrupted by some inconsiderate gangers trying to hold up the joint.

As one would expect, they dispatched the gangers, and then the manager comes out and is very appreciative, and tells them to take whatever they want. No problems – until David’s character grabs the manager and makes like he’s going to cut the manager’s throat. This led to a chorus of “Dude, WTF?”

A couple of other missions like this, and one of the other characters, played by Ross, decided to put a hit out on David’s character.

The thing that you have to realize about Shadowrun is that you don’t necessarily play a “team”, you often play a group of independent contractors held together by a common job or set of contacts. This is not a problem if you decide to not work with someone anymore, because “we’re all professionals here”, etc. This works – right up until one of your team is a vindictive psycho. Hence, the hit.

The hit goes down in the form of a sniper with a rifle shooting at him while he’s sitting in the runners’ local dive bar. They are at a table, playing cards or something. He is at the bar, because he’s a loner.

Now, at the time, I thought it unfair to just do a lethal damage headshot. To be honest, I still do. I perhaps should have made the other player aware that I wasn’t going to GM fiat lightningbolt kill a character – that’s just lame. But, I didn’t.

The bullet comes through the window, shattering it, busts the beer David’s character is drinking, and thuds in to the bar. Combat ensues. David’s guy goes over the bar, everyone else’s characters flip over a table and take cover behind it. Ross’s character goes invisible and draws his katana.

A few rounds go through the table, high, missing people. They’re all taking cover, wondering what to do. Ross’s character vaults the bar – and then cuts David’s character’s head off with his katana.

At this point, David stands up, says thank you very much, and walks out of the game, taking his girlfriend, Lois, with him.

He refused to play as long as Ross was in the the game.

Things to learn as a GM:

  • Be explicit, up front, of PvP is allowed. I was new to this, so I had never assumed that it wasn’t. David was shocked that such a thing was allowed.
  • Don’t execute someone as a GM. It’s lame. I stand by this decision.
  • Don’t let your players play sadistic nutjobs, unless they’re all playing sadistic nutjobs. I should have warned David that this meant that everyone was going to hate him (but, I think he would have done it anyway).

Oh, and the final bombshell? They didn’t find out about the Simsense until after all this. It was the catalyst for it because it was a driver of his extreme behavior, but the rest of the group was really not sure what to make of Ross, wondering if they were next – right up until they found that out (I made sure to work it in as a bit of expose later in the plot arc). After that, they agreed that Ross’s character’s actions were totally justified.

Michael the Brony

Posted By on February 5, 2014

Fair warning – I don’t recommend reading this any place where you don’t want to risk losing your composure, and you may want tissues.

Liz pointed me at this EPBOT posting, which links to the full story here. Both are worth reading. I pass it along for anyone who may be able to help.

The very abbreviated version is that Michael is a Brony and a particular fan of Pinkie Pie. He was made fun of for this, and attempted suicide as a result. He is 11.

Now, regardless of whether you like My Little Pony or not, or how you feel about the Brony phenomenon, I think that everyone who is a fan of something who reads this blog, and has been made fun of for that fandom can relate. If you have anything you can offer to help, please do.

For anyone who is reading this, who is being made fun of, and thinking of doing something drastic, please do not. School can be horrible, but it will end. Further, it is imperative that you remember, and I cannot stress this enough:


Geeks, nerds, freaks, fans and weirdos are everywhere, just look around – a Cylon figure on someone’s desk at work, a TARDIS on someone’s keychain, Star Wars Family car decals, even a Little Ass Kicker Onesie. Heck, one of the biggest shows on TV is The Big Bang Theory, and those guys are all mega fans.

Got OwnCloud video working… mostly.

Posted By on February 5, 2014

This little project has turned into a bit of a crash course of the state of video on the web, and I uncovered a couple of bugs with ownCloud along the way.

The first thing you may notice is that I’m not embedding them in to this page. The reason is that, due to a latent bug in ownCloud, were I to do so, it wouldn’t work.

I also fixed an issue where it would make the videos appear too large on small screens, and submitted a patch to fix that. It is already live on my instance of ownCloud, so you should notice no such issue.

Now, all that said, I’m not using any funny players (at least, not intentionally – there may be other players on ownCloud of which I’m not aware), just straight HTML5 video tags. The video format I’m using is Ogg Theora, which is Well Supported. So, if it doesn’t work for you, then you’re likely either using a very old browser or IE. In both cases, the solution is to upgrade your browser, I think. Further, I found an HTML5 compatibility tests to see how your browser fares.

Anyway, having sat through all of that, now you get videos of cats.

Mikey reacts to Liz’s alarm

Mikey on the prowl in the woods

Heidi coming out to meet me

Edit: Despite the browser support claiming that it is supported, apparently that does not include on Android. Further, apparently Ogg Theora is not supported on Android at all. So, I did go back and check to see how well h.264 works and the answer is.. not well. The above are all full HD (1920×1080) lossy encoded video, which basically doesn’t work on my Android tablet (ASUS TF101 running 4.2.2.). I can get them to work, but only at really low resolution, and for really small samples. I’m not willing to force such a low quality to support mobile devices, especially since video on those devices is (in my experience) pretty hit or miss without a custom app like YouTube and Netflix have). I realize that this tablet is a few years old at this point, so it may be that more modern machines have the horsepower to decode HD h.264 videos, All that said, I’m going to switch to h.264, as it seems about as compatible as Ogg Theora on the desktop, and is more compatible on mobile and embedded devices. However, I’m not going to compromise on the quality settings, so the videos still may not work if your device isn’t powerful enough. I have updated the above according to this logic.

If anyone has suggestions as to settings which would make my h.264 .m4v’s more compatible, I’d love to hear them.