The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

President vs. Prime Minister

Posted By on January 19, 2017

I just realized something.. this whole.. disagreement about the recent election has a lot to do with how strangely we do things in this country.

In other countries, they tend to have a President (who handles the diplomatic and statesman-type stuff) and a Prime Minister (who is a policy wonk and does all the beancounter-y stuff). We smush those two together.

Obama was a president.

Hillary Clinton would have been a president.

Trump is no president – but he’d make a decent Prime Minister.

You can disagree on their views, for sure, but I think it’s clear that Clinton’s platform was very focused on the nation as a political entity, and our position on the world stage as viewed from that lens. Trump, on the other hand, is focused on the nation as an economic entity – dollars and cents and the like.

President vs. Prime Minister.

Rex Tillerson

Posted By on January 11, 2017

So, I’ve been thinking about this and, given that the Secretary of State is basically the Secretary of “initiate regime change and unrest in a country or regioin so we can take their oil” these days, maybe Tillerson is a good choice here. I mean, as an industry insider, he knows where all the best oil is, right?

MiniTrue

Posted By on January 10, 2017

So, over the holidays, the US, UK and Germany each passed their own MiniTrue acts. Old media will be regulated by the government (who can then decide what the truth is) and a lot of the new media will be treated like old media, or, possibly, just go away.

I have to wonder, though, how much of this is going to matter. I mean, folks could still get their news through the darknet or other sources. Perhaps old-school sneakernet of USB thumb drives? It definitely raises the bar, but most folks don’t really want to be plugged in anyway.

Still, it seems like the vestiges of an old regime trying to cling to power. “The more you tighten your grip.. the more systems [err, people], slip through your fingers”. I wonder if we’re seeing the death spasms of the western powers. I’d like to think they’d be replaced with something better, but I fear that won’t be the case – at least, not in short order. I mean, when Rome fell, the period that followed was called the dark ages for a reason.

Snow!

Posted By on January 4, 2017

So, it’s all yeecheyed up now because of the rain, but, on Saturday, we did have a good amount of snow and got Miles out in it and convinced him to walk around, play and go down the hill on a sled. He also asked to go back out and play on Sunday. Woot! Max was less interested, but he’s been sick and just kind of wants to stay inside and play with his toys. I get that.

Anyway, link to some snow pics (and, eventually, videos):

https://owncloud.mattcaron.net/index.php/apps/gallery/s/UNl69zxvMHLyREf#

Pics for 2016

Posted By on December 22, 2016

Finally got around to sorting through all of our pics.

Kids – 2016

Also, we went to Disney

Penzey’s spices and the election

Posted By on November 23, 2016

So, last week, Bill from Penzey’s sent out an email; at the bottom was the following:


Racism Update: At Penzeys we believe it’s not the use of tools that set us on a different path from the rest of the animal world; what has set humanity in motion is cooking. In our nearly a million years gathered together around the fire, cooking shaped our bodies and transformed our minds. Cooking unlocked our potential and gave birth to reason, to religion, and to politics and government. The kindness of tens of thousands of generations of cooks created our humanity, but racism, sexism, and homophobia can all very quickly unravel all the goodness cooking puts out into the world. As the voice of cooks, we will never sit idly by while that happens.

You may have read Tuesday Night’s email. In it I said: “The open embrace of racism by the Republican Party in this election is now unleashing a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades. The American people are taking notice. Let’s commit to giving the people a better choice. Our kindness really is our strength.”

Since I ask you to read my emails, I feel it’s only right that I read each of your replies. In sifting through those replies it was clear that, though not intended, a good number of people seemed to sincerely believe that in my statement I was calling all Republicans racists. In the emails of those Republicans who voted for someone other than the party’s nominee, I sensed genuine pain at having the strength of character to not go along with what was happening, but nonetheless be grouped in with those who were. I apologize for writing something that caused you pain; that is not the person I want to be. You are your party’s future, and you deserve my admiration and respect, and your country’s as well.

For the rest of you, you just voted for an openly racist candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. In your defense, most of you did so without thinking of the consequences of your candidate’s racism, because for most of you the heartbreaking destruction racism causes has never been anything you or your loved ones have had to experience. But the thing is elections have their consequences. This is no longer sixty years ago. Whether any of us like it or not, for the next four years the 80% of this country who did not just vote for an openly racist candidate are going to treat you like you are the kind of person who would vote for an openly racist candidate.

You can get angry at everyone else for treating you like you just did the thing you just did, or you can take responsibility for your actions and begin to make amends. If you are lucky and younger family members are still coming over for Thanksgiving, before it’s too late, take a moment and honestly think about how your actions must look through their eyes. Simply saying “I never thought he’d win” might be enough. But if you have the means, leaving a receipt from a sizable donation to the ACLU or the SPLC accidentally laying around where you carve the turkey, might go over even better.

Or, just do what you do best and volunteer. Through our customers’ support, we’ve given away a lot of our Penzeys Pepper, the Pepper with heart. More often than not, those we meet cooking and serving food to feed those in need are Republicans. You really are a good bunch, but you just committed the biggest act of racism in American history since Wallace stood in the schoolhouse doorway 53 years ago. Make this right. Take ownership for what you have done and begin the pathway forward.

Thanks for reading,

Bill bill@penzeys.com


Here is my reply:


Hello Bill,

Well, there’s just a pile of stuff in your most recent newsletter, isn’t there?

First, if you think Trump is a racist, I encourage you to read the following article, which pretty thoroughly debunks that charge:

http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/11/16/you-are-still-crying-wolf/

Second, your “guilt by association” logic is flawed. Essentially, it boils down to:

  1. Trump is racist.
  2. By voting for Trump, you are voting for racism.
  3. You therefore deserve to be treated as someone who voted for racism, even if that was not your motivation.

Were I to subscribe to that logic, the following also holds true:

  1. Obama and Clinton supported drone strikes which murdered children.
  2. By voting for either Obama or Clinton, you are voting for murdering children.
  3. You therefore deserve to be treated as voting for the murdering of children.

Third, you stated:

“Whether any of us like it or not, for the next four years the 80% of this country who did not just vote for an openly racist candidate are going to treat you like you are the kind of person who would vote for an openly racist candidate.”

This is not a plea for tolerance, or for the healing of wounds; it is a passive-aggressive approval that Trump supporters “get what they deserve”. Let me share with you something that someone else said:

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. … We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

  • Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A

Now, Mr. Cathy has used his business as a platform to make a statement supporting prejudicial treatment and abuse of about 9% of the US population[1]. As a result, I refuse to do business with Chick-fil-A.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_demographics_of_the_United_States

You, in turn, have made a statement that supports prejudicial treatment and abuse of about 20% of the population. How do you expect me to be intellectually honest and still do business with your company if I’m willing to boycott Chick-fil-A over something that affects half the number of people?

By this point, you’ve likely written me off as a upset Trump supporter. Nothing could be further from the truth. His trade policies are foolish mercantilist fallacy, and his immigration policies are, for the most part, largely unworkable. He is a pro-surveillance, pro-police state, crony capitalist, big government president-elect. I always vote for the candidate who is the best choice for peace and freedom. This election, I voted for Gary Johnson.

In closing, you should have kept politics out of your newsletters. Barring a reversal of your position and subsequent public apology, I will be taking my business elsewhere.


He didn’t reply to me directly (nor would I expect him to), but, some hours later, he sent out a followup letter to his customer list.


Yesterday’s email made history for us as the most shared and most commented on email we ever sent. If you have not already read it, please do. And if you would like to share it, our Facebook page seems the best place to do it from. Liking our page helps, too.

And we understand some of you will need to opt out of receiving emails from us. Please do it here, rather than as a reply to this email or as an email to me, as we might not get through all of your emails quickly enough for you. I will read every email you send to me, but at an hour or two a day these emails might still be my light summer reading. And remember, we will always be happy for your return!

Bill

To unsubscribe, don’t respond to this email. Rather, hit the button below, then “Confirm opt out now” on the follow-up page.


So, it looks like I’ll be ordering from The Spice House. I’ve emailed them, they believe in keeping their political ideas out of their business speical emails.

Planning for the coming trade war

Posted By on November 9, 2016

So, now that the die is cast, it’s time to execute on contingency plan T (as opposed to plan C, which was “prepare for war with Russia”).

In the short term, I have some computer hardware that I’m going to buy that, ideally, I was going to wait until after tax time (in case I needed the liquidity), but now I want to make sure to grab it before Trump assumes office and places tariffs on those foreign goods. I think the right play here is to wait until the post-Christmas tech goods price drop, so the time to buy is early January.

I also am replacing my cell phone, but that will be a used one (I am not spending $700 on a phone. $200 is about where I’m comfortable, so a Galaxy S5 from swappa is in my future), so the lifecycle timeframe doesn’t matter, and I will therefore be getting it as soon as I get my VW money.

The only long term CapEx that we wanted to do was a new family hauler in 2018, but the front runner for that is a VW Atlas which is being built in Chattanooga, and is therefore likely to be minimally impacted by tariffs. As such, that remains on plan.

There were some optional things to be done (pave the driveway, add a fireplace to the living room), which may or may not happen depending on wage and market volatility. We’ve put those off for about 5 years due to having kids, and, we can easily put them off for the forseeable future.

I think everything else is just absorbing price increases, minimizing expenditures, and trying to keep ahead of increases in parts I might need (German cars, Japanese tractor, etc.) for service and repairs. But, the savings is likely not worth the cash outlay now.

Finally, as far as investments go, if your employer matches your 401(k), then that’s still the best deal going. Even if it loses 25% of its value, if your employer matches 100%, then you’re still up 50% over your contribution. Plus, as I am only 36, my horizon for collecting off of it is pretty long, and I can handle the world markets hammering it for the next 8 years (just as they have for the past 8 years). I have other investments, mainly in municipal bonds (because they’ve been doing well) and I’ll be meeting with my financial guy in Q2’17 to reevaluate. With any luck, the markets will have sorted themselves out by then, but, I expect they’ll freak out again when Trump starts poking at Obamacare. After all, when Obamacare was being debated, they went nuts, so it’s reasonable to assume they’ll do the same if it starts getting revised.

Eventually, however, the uncertainty (which is really what markets don’t like) will resolve and stabilize. The real question will be how much wealth will be destroyed in the process.

In summary, I expect I’ll just batten down the hatches, paint a bunch of miniatures, and wait for the storm to pass, just like I always do.

World War II

Posted By on October 19, 2016

I’ve often wondered how the Germans in WWII could have done what they did. I mean, sure, the Nazis were behind it but how, as a society, do you get on board with genocide? In the US, at least, we generally just kind of shrug and say they fell under Hitler’s “spell”; into his cult of personality, as it were.

Then I came across The Origins of War in Child Abuse, by Lloyd Demause. (As HTML, As Audiobook, read by Stefan Molyneux).

This book, as its title suggests, attributes the cause of war to child abuse. How does this figure in to WWII? Well, according to the book, in that era in general, and, in Germany in specific:

  1. Corporeal punishment was common and encouraged.
  2. In that time, this was particularly brutal, well surpassing modern discussions of spanking (which, data suggests, is pretty harmful). We’re talking beating with implements, breaking bones, and loss of consciousness.
  3. Neglect was common. Again, specifically:
    1. Doctors of the time recommended not feeding babies more than three times per day, lest they become “petty tyrants”.
    2. Tight swaddling for long periods of time, to the point of immobility, was the norm, lest they “crawl about like beasts”.
    3. When not being fed, the swaddled babies were placed in a bag or carrier, which was often hung on a hook or placed on a table or floor while the caregiver went about her business.
    4. Note that I said “caregiver”, because, especially amongst the wealthier classes, sending the child to a wet nurse for the first several years of life was common.
  4. This was before widespread contraception. The pill had not been invented, and condoms were available, but it was only in 1936 that the AMA had reversed their position against contraception. So, how was family planning accomplished?
    1. Infanticide. Largely supported by out of current norms sex ratios (up to 60% male), the theory is that unwanted children were either strangled or left somewhere (“exposed”).
    2. Some of the wet nurses mentioned above were known as “killing nurses”. You send the children you want to keep to one nurse, and the ones you don’t to a different nurse, with an intentionally poor survival rate.
  5. Sexual abuse. When Freud was seeing patients, he basically uncovered widespread instances of molestation and repeated sexual abuse and trauma. He later revised these theories, calling them fantasies. There is speculation, however, that this was due to fear of reprisals..

So if all of the above is true, taking into account what we now know about how to mess up children, the above reads like a virtual checklist on how to make a messed up kid – one who is nervous, violent, desperately seeking approval, and therefore easily manipulated.

Now, multiply that by a whole generation, and things start to make a lot more sense.

And people wonder why I don’t trust the government…

Posted By on October 14, 2016

Worth a watch. Bring tissues. Or alcohol. Or both.

Anonymous – The Story of Aaron Swartz Full Documentary

3 day work week

Posted By on October 13, 2016

Apologies for the old article, but I’m catching up on stuff I wanted to write about, and I’ve just been busy.

As some of you know, I have recently been working a 4 day work week (that is, 32 hours). I’ve been enjoying it because it allows us to do more family things on the weekend, and I can do a bunch of “keeping up the house” on the third day. Thinking about doing this “writ large”, it occurred to me that the standard “work week” could become 3 days, with 2 adjacent shifts working in the same space. So, one group works Monday – Wednesday, and the other group works Thursday – Saturday.

In order for this to work, we’d have to divorce health insurance from work (as in, everyone buys it on the open market) so then you don’t have any impediments like “you need to work 30 hours per week to be eligible for our company-sponsored health insurance”. If you want to work more, you can work “double” and work 6 days. Otherwise, you’d just work your 3 days, and then someone else would work the other 3. As a result, you have more free time, and there is less unemployment with similar (if not more) output due to the extra day. That said, the tradeoff is money. You’d have less of it, because you’d only get 3/5 of what you make now. But, you’d have more time.

Apparently, I’m not the only one with this idea.