4/29/2005

4-29-05 - 5

4-29-05

Pascucci in Santa Barbara is a mediocre Italian restaurant, but the highlight is the well-chosen and reasonably priced wine list. Bedford-Thompson, Curtis, and the star - Qupe Syrah for only $25/bottle , an exceptional price at a restaurant.

4-29-05 - 4

4-29-05

Rent-a-dog! Only fifty dollars a day, take a dog to the beach or the park to play; our dogs are friendly and well-trained. Pick from puppies or young adults. Never have to deal with the dog messing up your house or getting old.

4-29-05 - 3

4-29-05

I just got a root canal, so my ranting may be more incoherent and surreal than usual. Apparently my roots are exceptionally difficult to get at, so it's only half done and I have to go back in to get it finished. I'm on "vicoprofin" which is a mix of hydrocodone (opiate) and ibuprofen. Amusingly enough, there are very few bad side effects of hydrocodone (other than addiction), while the side effects of the large Ibuprofen doses I'm on are quite severe.

4-29-05 - 2

4-29-05

Last night, coming home at midnight, I noticed a lot of garbage cans near my house knocked over, and a pack of teenage boys walking in the middle of the road. While I can't say for sure that there's a connection, it seems highly likely. I stopped my car next to them and stared at them menacingly for a while (I'm sure that taught them a lesson). This morning I hear the garbage truck making its rounds, and I feel sorry for the garbage men who have to deal with the mess. I don't really have a problem with juvenile miscreants making some trouble, but they clearly are just inconsiderate or fools - all they've done is made the garbage men's lives more unpleasant. Pranksters should pay some heed to what the consequences of their actions will actually be. The classic TP job is okay, but this has the problem of taking a while and being quite obvious as you do it. A better one is spraying or leaving something really stinky on their front porch (you can grow your own stink pretty easily or buy things in hunting shops or mix some chemicals).

4-29-05 - 1

4-29-05

Modern Drunkard is cool.

4/27/2005

4-27-05 - 2

4-27-05

Nicholas Kristof says that the rise in white-black marriages is a sign that racial barriers are continuing to come down. That's certainly true, however, he ignores the fact that those same statistics point to continuing racism. White-black marriages are 2:1 more likely to be a black man and a white woman (rather than a black woman and a white man). This is almost certainly due to continuing prejudice and distorted views of the races and their sex roles. The preconception is that blacks are powerful, virile, dangerous, masculine, musky, potent, the whites are uncool, weak, compromising, responsible, chaste , and because of the continuing strong sexism in our society, these stereotypes are attractive only in one direction, with the man in the dominant role.

But is that sexism a bad thing? This is an old old argument that keeps being retread every year as one feminist calls for complete equality, and another calls for a celebration of the "female role" (vive la difference, the latest twist on this retread is to celebrate the sexism in other cultures, like continental Europe). Certainly a little sexism is the spice of a sexual relationship; it feels good for the man to be chivalrous, but also occasionally domineering, powerful. The ideal bodies in our era have almost a 2:1 weight ratio of male to female (strong 200 pound man like a basketball player or quarterback, and a 100 pound waif vixen), which means the sheer physical strength difference creates a tension of danger where the man could hurt the woman easily, even just by accident (though this is reduced somewhat by the trend towards fitter women). The best sex has a slight hint of physical danger to it, almost wrestling, flexing, the man hunting the woman and doing what he wants with his willing prey. This may be - but if this is the form of sexuality, it creates an undertone of inequality which seeps into higher forms of interaction. The "vive la difference" crowd will claim that you can have this in the bedroom, but still be equal colleagues in the conference room. They also claim that women can dress sexually and flirt at the office and still be respected. Not so, that's a fantasy. Even with the most well behaved people trying to not be sexist, as long as the dark secret life of passion is based on unequal roles, it will bubble up into ordinary life, and it will be even worse with people who's egos are not so well in control of their id.

Back to racism - Kristof also mentions Denzel Washington, who I've been thinking about lately after seeing a tiny bit of "Training Day" on TV. "Training Day" is just a horrendous movie, and Denzel does a really hillarious impersonation of a "street-smart thug", trying to talk like a black man from the 'hood or something. Denzel's abject failure to portray a stereotypical urban black male just drove home A) what a terrible actor he is, and B) how white-bread he is. And yet, Denzel is celebrated by all levels of society. He's doted on by women, admired by men, loved by the urban blacks and elite whites. It occurs to me that if Denzel were white, not only would he lose the acclaim of being a "black role model" or a "great black actor", he would simply be boring. That is, if you ignore his skin color, he's really just very bland, very ordinary, lacking any charisma or virility. All of his exoticism and masculinity derives from the color of his skin.

4-27-05 - 1

4-27-05

It seems to me that monogamy is a convenient fiction more than a practice of modern society. It's sort of like stealing from the office - everyone says they don't do it, but everyone does. Most men cheat, and those who don't I believe mostly don't cheat due to lack of opportunity, not some high moral standard. Most "faithful" men, if put in contact with a nubile nymphomaniacal live-in housekeeper (for instance), would cheat. The rate of women cheating seems to be much lower, which I won't begin to analyze, though it is amusing to note that this just means that the rate of women being with a cheating man is much higher. Now, I say all this from a preachy high horse since I consider myself one of the non-cheaters, but more and more I see that as not some moral high ground, but rather just a silly form of penitence or self-denial. I'm also one of the few people in the world who doesn't cheat on their taxes, which reminds me of an allegory -

A government representative meets with ten people. He puts $10,000 on the table and says "don't take that money, it's illegal, but if you do, I'll have no way of knowing who did it, and I won't investigate". He then turns his back and closes his eyes. The ten men all look at each other, and nine of them each grab $1000. One man doesn't take any money. The agent then turns around and sees only $1000 on the table. He takes it and says "well, you all took the money, I can't punish you, but since you have that money, I'm now going to charge each of you a $500 fee; everyone must pay now." The one man who didn't take the money protests - "They all the took the money, I didn't, this isn't fair, they should be punished!" The agent chides him - "Now, I can't just believe you, I don't know who took the money and I don't have time to investigate, and shame on you if you didn't take it, it was right in front of you; now everyone pay up". The honest man pays the fee and feels a fool.

I hear parents talk of their children dropping out of college, throwing huge parties and trashing their homes, drinking, sleeping around, going to jail. There's pride in their voices - they're bragging! At some point if it happens too long, the pride turns to exasperation, the kids should get over it already and do something with their lives, but initially it's pride, and perhaps envy.

4/24/2005

4-24-05 - 3

4-24-05

There's a big brouhaha locally about the "Dalidilio Marketplace". Basically, it's a developer who wants to build a Target here, and because of the building restrictions in SLO, they have to hold a general vote to get approval. The only real issue in the end for SLO voters is whether you want SLO to grow and become more like a suburb of a big city - if you answer yes, vote yes. One of the most ridiculous things that the politicians are touting to get it passed is how much money it will bring in via sales tax. It's a common argument, but completely flawed. First of all, just by having a Target, people are not going to spend more. People will spend roughly the same amount on consumer goods, they'll just buy at Target instead of other places, the total spending and thus sales tax will be exactly the same. Now, one thing that may happen is the sales tax will go this city instead of neighboring cities with other shopping options, but that's sort of a ridiculous phenomenon too (illogical boundaries of commerce at city borders). The other idea is simply the idea that sales tax is "generating money". Quite the opposite, it's actually taking money AWAY from the community. People are buying goods, which is exchanging currency for assets. Some of that is skimmed for taxes, but also some of it is skimmed for the profits of the Target, which takes that profit and sends it away from the community to its corporate overlords. The whole goal of Target's operation is to take money OUT of the local economy - that's why they're in business and how their shareholders make a profit. Of course the very worst form of this fallacy is with casinos. So many little communities bring in casinos because they will "stimulate the local economy" and provide money for services. Yes, sort of, but really what casinos do is take massive amounts of money from the people and route it to the casino owners and profiteers; the net result is a huge suction of money out of the local economy.

4-24-05 - 2

4-24-05

One package of Trader Joe's chocolate peanut clusters is roughly 1600 calories. What does it feel like to eat them all in 15 minutes? First comes a giddy euphoria; you feel the chocolate break up in your mouth, the crunch of the peanuts, the sugar and fat tickle your brain and give you explosions of endorphin happiness. Next comes a delightful feeling of naughty indiscretion - my god, I can eat a lot of these and no one can tell me to stop. Then you start to feel the high slipping away, and you eat another to get back to normal, but it doesn't really give you the buzz like the first; the chocolate tastes kind of waxy and cheap now. Next you start to feel gross and disgusted by yourself; my god, what am I doing? I should stop, but I can't, I'm so weak? Then you start to feel a little bit good about wallowing in your depravity, like a naked fat man covered in melted cheese rolling around with hookers, you feel so indulgent, disgusting, ashamed. Now there's only a few left, and you may as well finish them; you've got a nasty stomache ache and a sort of dry buzzing in your brain.

4-24-05 - 1

4-24-05

Behind all this discussion of Social Security and outsourcing and our huge deficit and trade imbalance is a problem that no one is talking about - what if the US economy stops growing? For example, implicit in the Bush plan for SS is the assumption that the stock market will continue to grow by 5-10% per year on average. What if that stops? The entire US economy is built on being highly leveraged, as is our government and our consumers, and it's kept afloat by continuing appreciation of investments. What if the economy stops growing on average (in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars), as it has in countries like Japan for many years ?

Another question is the growth of sections of the economy. There's a general assumption by foolish people (eg. our government) which is that if the GNP increases, Americans are better off. Well, back in 1820 that may have held some water, because if the country made more money, it was from making more steel, which made Carnegie rich, but also helped his workers, and the grocers who supplied them, etc. etc. These days, all of our mass-employment industries are shrinking. Our economic growth comes from IP (intellectual property) and financial services. When our economy grows, it's likely because a US investment bank took an Indian company public and helped sell it to Saudi investors. So, Citigroup got a nice profit, but 99% of that profit went to the top executives and bankers. That money then hardly trickles down at all, especially under our new tax laws where it may be hardly taxed at all. I can easily imagine that in the future, the US economy will continue to grow, but if you sort of mentally split the US into two countries - the "Unites States of the Rich" and the "Unites States of the Masses" , the USR economy would be growing robustly, and the USM would be shrinking per-capita (partly because the USM bears the cost of supporting the increasing poor and elderly, etc.)

4/22/2005

4-22-05 - 1

4-22-05

I took one of the worst bad beats of my life recently in a WSOP satellite. I had a Ten-Ten and raised it up pre-flop; one caller. Flop comes A5T. I have the set, since he called my raise I'm pretty sure he has the pair of aces, so this is sure to be money for me; I check to trap, he bets as planned, I go all-in, he calls with the AQ. I've got him killed here. For example, if an A comes, it doesn't help him because he makes trips but I make a house. He's drawing dead to a runner-runner house. The chance of him beating me is (5/45)*(4/44) = 1.01% ; of course you know the ending - he hits an A and then a Q to make the higher house. I was still in it, and a few hands later I got all-in with the same guy where he had pair-over-pair on me. I won the pair-over-pair and everyone acted like that made us even; not at all; having the lower pair I had a 20% chance of winning; a nice bit of luck to win, but hardly remarkable.

4/21/2005

4-21-05 - 2

4-21-05

Having an imagination is a horrible curse. I'm now terrified to go for a bike ride around here. For you to understand, first I have to catch you up on the water bottle story. A few weeks ago I was riding out in the country near my house. Now, I ride a fancy bike and I wear all the proper tight bike gear, so I look like a total douche, that's established. I was riding along, and a big black truck was coming down the road the opposite way, when suddenly I noticed something flying out of the truck, and it slammed into me, *hard*. It was a water bottle, Aquafina, full, and it hit me in the arm. I slammed on my brakes, quite astonished and in struggling to believe what just happened. He took off; I flipped him off and turned around and stood there for a while waiting for my adrenaline to go down. That was a few weeks ago, and ever since I've been sort of scared to ride. Not because I'm scared of another water bottle hitting me or anything like that, but rather because if I go ride out there, I might see the black truck again, and if I did, I'd have to try to get in a fight with him, and then I imagine all sorts of things. If it was just a fair fist fight, that would be great, even if I lost, it would be a physical expression of grievance, which is a beautiful thing (all physical expression of emotion is great). In my imagination, that's not what happens. He gets out of the truck and starts to walk toward me, but then another guy gets out of the passenger side, with a giant pipe wrench in his hand. I'm in my bike shoes, so I'm clomping around and can barely walk. The driver just stands there and smiles while the guy with the wrench runs at me, a long, slow loping run. I try to clomp away, but he quickly reaches me and takes a big swing. I put my arm up to block it, and the wrench hits my forearm with a crunching sound, breaking my bones. I turn and buckle and clutch my arm, and he swings again and again; I hear my ribs breaking more than I feel it.

4-21-05 - 1

4-21-05

Irish accents always turn into Scottish accents. You might start off with "top o'the morning to ya" and "stay ehway frem me lucky charms", but it always turns into "yer shite, ye fer-fooking bagpipe-playing minky basturrt"

4/20/2005

4-20-05 - 5

4-20-05

I've been playing some WSOP satellites recently. I keep getting knocked out by guys on draws, like I'll have top pair on the flop, he'll have a straight draw or something, we'll get all-in, and he'll hit it. I just can't see how to avoid this, I guess it's just bad luck. The problem is I'm only like a 65% favorite in that spot. To win the tournament, I'll have to win those situations several times, maybe 10 times. The chance of winning all 10 is only 1.3 % !! I just don't see how certain pros make it to the final table so consistently. I guess partly it must go back to an old adage - you want to get all-in only with people who have fewer chips than you *even* when you are a big favorite, because being a 65% favorite is not good enough if you're risking elimination.

4-20-05 - 4

4-20-05

I checked out the stats on my site today; the #1 traffic hit is now the rants; the #2 is the 3d index page; the #3 hit is the adaptive Huffman source code. You silly downloaders - adaptive Huffman sucks! The only reason I can see that it's so popular is that it's a common homework assignment in CS classes, and a lot of students must be cheating and downloading my source to help them. Ha, the joke's on you kids, that source code is a mess!

4-20-05 - 3

4-20-05

There's a shop near my home called "Sportscards Fantasy's". I'm flabbergasted, I can't even begin to complain about that name.

4-20-05 - 2

4-20-05

On 1-3-05 I ranted about how poor Europe is, and people sent me a flood of mails in protest, and clarifying various points. I made it more clear in my mails that I was referring to actual consumer discretionary spending (eg. excluding health care, education, etc. just looking at the average consumer's power to buy discretionary goods). Well, the study here by Timbro puts some hard numbers on it. The summarizing figure for me is that purchasing power in the US is about $36k per capita, and in the EU it's $26k. Certainly the idea of looking at GNP or average salary or any raw numbers like that to compare countries is ridiculous, you have to look at purchasing power in terms of goods.

4-20-05 - 1

4-20-05

Pop culture has made spending beyond your means "cool".

Cartoon characters : Miss Chief (the Native-American S&M mistress) & Dolly Lama (the large breasted Buddhist).

The B in subtle is very subtle.

Men who don't masturbate are a menace to society. They either wind up as womanizers, rapists, serial killers, or priests.

4/19/2005

4-19-05 - 3

4-19-05

The response I'm getting to requests on 4-17 is awesome; people coming together to help each other is a beautiful thing. I wish everyone could help each other in a similar way; of course the reason we don't is you say, "who is this douche, why should I take time to help him?". It reminds me of an old idea I had - there needs to be an international "cool person's club". Basically this is just a collective of people who want to be nice to each other and have indirect approval of each other. So, when you're travelling you could look up the club and see other "cool" members in whatever town. People could rate each other, so if someone in the club visits you and trashes your house, you just go put a bad review on him on the site and people won't like him any more. Ideally this would be a rating using the "Network of Trust", so each person doesn't have an absolute rating at all, but rather a rating *for me* through my taste & trust network. So, for example, if I trust person B, and he likes person C, then C is rated well for me. You might trust person D, who hates person C, so then C is rated poorly for you. If someone else trusts both of us, then they'll see that person C is rated mediocre on average, with a huge spread (very low confidence in the rating). In my original conception I thought the club would have to vote people in & ban people who are bastards, but that makes it like an exclusive clique, I don't like that idea. Rather, let anyone join, they just have no rating. Also, anyone who's a bastard would get rated way down. It would be interesting if the club could become a social mini game, where people start being nice to each other in real life in order to get points in the game. That could actually be easily encouraged by giving prizes semi-randomly to people who are well rated (like subsidized parties for club members).

4-19-05 - 2

4-19-05

Ignacio wants me to convert my site to a proper blog that can take comments, do RSS feeds, etc. I suppose I should move into the 90's some day, but I sort of like the way my site is "emo", like sort of ghetto, it's the blog you buy in a thrift store which you drove too in your daddy's BMW.

4-19-05 - 1

4-19-05

I got one of those automatic cat feeders that uses gravity to let food out as it's eaten. This allows me to leave for a few days; my cats are wild outdoor cats that take care of themselves just fine (recently they caught a big Blue Jay! I didn't think they could manage that). This freedom is nice, but I'm finding that I miss the ritual and connection of feeding them. They don't need me for anything other than food, and now they don't really need me for that; they used to meow and find me at feeding time, and we'd go get the food together, them weaving around my legs making it hard for me to walk without treading on them. Surprisingly, I find that the cats miss this connection too; they don't like to go eat from the feeder without me, they want me to walk in there and bless eating time.

4/17/2005

4-17-05 - 9

4-17-05

The truth about Social Security. The real truth is that if the SS trust fund was properly funded, and it appreciated at a conservative rate and everything continued roughly as is, then SS would be solvent until 2040 or later. Furthermore, event a small increase in the SS tax on the rich and a small decrease in the SS payouts to the middle-upper class would make SS solvent for the forseeable future (to 2100). The real problem that no one is talking about is that the government has been stealing from the SS trust fund since it was created. Administrations like the current one have decreased taxes and increased spending, and funded the difference in part by stealing from the SS trust fund. I believe that part of the secret agenda behind this administration pushing for "Social Security sabotage" is to wipe that balance sheet. Currently we owe 1.5 trillion to the SS trust fund, and roughly 3 trillion total to all the government trusts. The government has spent this money as if it were general tax money. What that means is that we are secretly being taxed with a non-progressive tax (it's roughly a 12% flat tax), which is going to general expenditure. The proposed Social Security sabotage will wipe this out and mean that all of this non-progressive tax which has been paid over many years will have just been a subsidy for the rich, by allowing us to cut taxes for the rich and make up the balance from SS.

4-17-05 - 8

4-17-05

A very fair tax that we will likely never see would be a tax on assets, not income. Completely eliminate all income & sales & other taxes. Simply look at the total value of each person's assets, counting cash, property, etc. and take 1% each year. This would be a far more progressive tax - the super rich would pay the vast majority of taxes. The very poor would pay almost nothing because their assets are close to zero. The political problem with this tax would be that it creates very bad-for-television moments, like taking away old peoples' homes because their only asset is their very valuable home. The great thing about this tax is that 1) you can't hide assets anywhere 2) it doesn't stop taxing the super rich just because they stop making profit, 3) it really is proportional to the ability to pay, 4) it's a simple flat percent, 5) it encourages spending, so it stimulates the economy, there is absolutely no government fee on transactions (income, sales, etc.) so it encourage the economy to be far more fluid.

4-17-05 - 7

4-17-05

What's the EV of buying a radar detector? Let's say you have two choices - detector A costs $100 and will prevent 50% of tickets. Detector B costs $500 and will prevent 80% of tickets. Now consider the first case. Say you drive 80 mph in the 65 mph zones. With no detector, you will get an average of 1 ticket a year. The total cost of a ticket is $500 when you count how it affects your insurance rate. If you have no detector, your cost is $500/year. Lets say you buy a detector every 5 years. With detector A, your cost is $100/5+.5*$500 = $270 ; with detector B your cost is $500/5+.2*$500 = $200. The more expensive better detector is your best bet. What about not speeding? Let's say you just drive 65 mph instead and don't need a detector. If you drive 20,000 miles a year, you are spending 308 hours in the car instead of 250 hours, 58 more hours. At a life hour value of $100/hour, that costs you $5800 dollars, clearly a far worse choice. To do a proper analysis we need to include the chance of death or injury and how you value that. It's hard for me to find good numbers on that, but roughly at 65 mph your chance of death per year is 0.000147 ; at 80 mph it seems the chance of death increases greatly, perhaps by 1.5X. If you value your life at $10 million, the fatality cost at 65 mph is $1466 , and at 80 mph is $2199, so the slower choice is still not a good one.

4-17-05 - 6

4-17-05

All of the casual/indie game sites are terrible. They're full of way too many games, they blast the visitor with choices, but don't make it easy to pick. The target audience is someone who's not web-savvy, so by having thousands of links on your main page, you just confuse them and make them less likely to wind up at the right page. There are a few ways to do it more reasonably. One way would be to just have the top few games at the top of the page with no side bars or top bars or any nonsense like that. The other would be to have a sort of tree-view selection thing, where the first page is "do you want an Action or Strategy game?" you pick one, then descend down the tree to try to get them to the game they want.

4-17-05 - 5

4-17-05

The societal taboo against "sluts" (and not against men who sleep around a lot) can be traced to evolutionary behavior. Much of behavior is designed around the goal of continuing your blood line; in an evolutionary sense, any behavior or genes that increase your progeny will domate behaviors that make you reproduce less. In that way, men who sleep around a lot are likely to breed more. At the same time, men want to couple with women who do not sleep around, because you want your sperm to be the one that impregnates her; if she sleeps with everyone, it decreases the chance of you being the father. The worst disaster in an evolutionary sense if you spend a lot of your time and energy supporting a woman (like your wife), but she gets pregnant from another man and thereby promotes his genes, which is why female cheating and sleeping around is so much more stygmatized. We can see that modern morals are based in these old codes and haven't adapted to the new era of non-evolutionary reproduction (where people of lesser evolutionary fitness actually tend to reproduce more).

4-17-05 - 4

4-17-05

My own version of the dilemma in "The Fall". Walking along the banks of the Seine at night, I see a girl leaning over the railing. I walk past, and just a moment later I hear a scream and a splash. My impulses flash through my mind - 1) Don't look, and pretend I don't realize the connection and walk past; if someone sees me walk past and later accosts me, I can deny knowing she jumped in. 2) Be a hero, jump in and rescue her, it will make me feel good about myself for days. 3) Just walk way, stupid bitch, she did it to herself, let her get what she wanted, why should I always inconvenience myself to get people out of messes they make for themselves? 4) If I save her, maybe she'll have sex with me; was she cute? Certainly I'm more likely to jump in and save her if she was young and beautiful.

4-17-05 - 3

4-17-05

There's a neighborhood in the old part of Los Angeles where the air is still and heavy, thick with the smells of lilac and oleander. The streets are empty, and the old spanish-style mansions seem to sit watch, silently. If you look up, you'll see a hill covered in glass houses, built on stilts to climb to better views. That hill appears on no map, but there's no blank spot, it's simply as if the hill was cut out and the hole was sewn up. There the streets are winding and confusing, and when ever you try to drive towards the hill, you find yourself twisted and lost and turned around, unexpectedly going the other way.

4-17-05 - 2

4-17-05

I love the wizards in Lords of the Rings (the books, not the movies). They have supreme magical power, but we don't really know what it is. Gandalf doesn't fly or shoot fire balls, he uses fire works, he fights with his sword, he rides horses and eagles; sure, he's wise and great and powerful, but there's no feats of amazing magic. It's sort of like the wizards in the White Wolf game Mage where the wizards can exert great power, but only if it's not obvious that they're doing so.

4-17-05 - 10

4-17-05

Request for advice :

1) I'm going to San Francisco on April 30th - anyone know a good, cool, cheap hotel, somewhere near the city?

2) I'd like to travel somewhere exotic and cheap soon, like Vietnam or India or something like that; if any of you have done that recently and can share some tips, that would be lovely.

3) I'm thinking of driving across the country soon; if you live in any of the middle areas between the coasts (other than Texas) and I can show up with minimal announcement and sleep on your couch, let me know, it would be much appreciated. (unfortunately, it costs a small fortune in gas to get across the country these days)

4-17-05 - 1

4-17-05

Old link for the record - check out how well Sin City matches the comic

4/16/2005

4-16-05 - 5

4-16-05

It's interesting to watch customer service in various cultures. In America we expect people to run up to you when you walk in, and be overly nice, "my name is Sandra, what can I do for you?" , but if you actually need something unusual quickly, it's likely to just piss them off - you're breaking the rules of the formal interaction, asking too much, stepping out of your part. In France, servers are expected to be very considerate of your space and privacy, not walk up to you if you're just browsing, you have to request their presence, but unusual requests are usually okay, and a bit of yelling may be part of a normal transaction. In Mexico, servers sort of lounge around and may come up to you and be polite; if you ask for anything unusual they'll say "yes, no problem", to any request, and then either not do it, or go off for half an hour to their cousin's neighbor's house to find what you asked for.

4-16-05 - 4

4-16-05

I move into my new home and call up the local water, power and sewer company Exploiton. The rep on the phone says - "To secure the account, we'll need your bank account #, your social security #, your credit card #'s and credit history" ; "Wait a minute, I don't want to give you that, isn't it illegal for you to require that?" ; "Well, if you don't want to provide it, of course you don't have to, we'd be happy to set up your account without it, we'll just require a $10,000 deposit to secure the account". Arg, okay, I'll do it your way. Next month, a $100 charge appears on my bill for "courtesy services". I call again, and wait for an hour on hold listening to the elevator music version of gangster rap songs. "What is this charge for?" "That's a courtesy charge for handling of your account." "But, isn't that just standard in my account?" "No, of course we'll be happy to waive the charge; all you have to do is mail in a request for the waiver forms each month, we'll mail them to you, then you have to fill out all ten pages and send them back before the billing cycle is processed each month." Arg, okay, I'll pay the fee.

4-16-05 - 3

4-16-05

I hate all places with a "policy", all places with rules where the service person can't do what's totally reasonable to help me because "the system can't do that" or "that's not our policy". I want real, independent, thinking people.

4-16-05 - 2

4-16-05

Social activity and going out in America has become so formalized, put in a box. You are free to go out and "get wild" as long as it's just self-destruction, anasthesia, mental numbing, in the rules - go to the bar and choose from a wide selection of corporate brews all made by the same holding corporation, pay way too much to feed the bar owner, dance and scream, but only in the specified places at the specified times, talk to strangers, but not about anything that matters, like religion or politics.

4-16-05 - 1

4-16-05

The medical profession is one of the few where they can completely botch a job, and then you have to pay to fix it, and pay out the nose. A doctor doesn't prescribe you the right medecine, your body gets all fucked up, you go to the hospital - you now owe tens of thousands of dollars, and of course all the huge unpleasantness of going through that and perhaps permanent damage to your body. It's quite fucked up. America has lost respect for its doctors, and rightly so - they're horribly under-informed, manipulated by the pharma corps, and seek personal profit rather than helping others.

4/06/2005

4-6-05 - 1

4-6-05

"Dune" is a book you have to read as a teenage boy. It's chords and melodies are atuned to the immature megalomaniacal surges of a young male mind. In that state, it's a great book, for any other reader, it's mediocre at best. These days, thoughts of Dune fill my head -

"A person needs new experiences. Without change, something inside us sleeps and seldom awakens. The sleeper MUST awaken."

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

4/04/2005

4-4-05 - 1

4-4-05

I'm off to camp in at Big Basin near Santa Cruz for the next few days.

4/02/2005

4-3-05 - 2

4-3-05

It's been about a week now since Oddworld shut it's doors, and I've already put the lie to my post-work life. When I was working I thought there were all these things that I'd love to do if I only had the time, that work was keeping me from - group sports, yoga, dancing, cooking, music, art, friends, etc. etc. - and here I am without work, and I'm not doing those things anyway. Work is a great refuge and excuse for avoiding life.

4-3-05 - 1

4-3-05

I've been on just about every back road in San Luis Obispo County. I love driving the back roads, blazing around corners though I live in fear of big patches of sand & gravel, and those big damn country trucks - the locals complain about outsider joyriders like me, but they're the ones who speed like crazy on the back roads and just go all over the road - stay in your damn lane, buddy! You've never really see the back roads until you've bicycled on them. The slower pace and the open air get you in touch with the road, and what's more, you can actually feel the road with your body - the bumps, the texture of the pavement, the smells in the air, the temperatures and microclimates, the up-hills that make your legs burn and the down-hills that whip the wind past your face. Recently I've been out Vineyard Canyon, from the dilapidated authentic mission in San Miguel (defaced with fences and boards) to the small ranch town of Parkfield on the San Andreas fault, which was once the center of U.S. seismic activity. Before that I was out on Parkhill and Huer Huero, where carpets of yellow flowers explode around each corner and you have to slow down to cross the river that flows over the roads.

When you're riding a loop, you may think it doesn't matter which direction you go on it, that it's the same ride either way. That's far from correct. Consider a simple loop ride with some elevation change. There are two inflection points - the lowest point and the highest point. You can ride it clockwise or counterclockwise. First of all there are differences of what side of the road you are on - the inside or the outside of the loop, and which scenery is on your left or right. Let's ignore those small details. Also, let's assume that the two inflection points are equidistant in either path, and that the slope is roughly the same either way, to remove those differences. So, you can either climb A and descend B, or climb B and descend A. These are drastically different rides because climbing and descending are totally different. In the A-B ride, you spend 90% of your time in the A section, because climbing is so much slower than descending. You will see more of the micro scenery in the A section. On one ride that I like, the Pozo-Las Pilitas ride, it's important to descend through Las Pilitas because it's full of loose dogs that will attack you; if you climb up Las Pilitas you're moving too slow and the dogs will get you (as Iain and I found out a while ago).

A lot of people confuse the feeling of exhausting their blood sugar with getting a good workout. If you do a hard ride and just drink water and don't eat at all, you will feel totally wasted by the end because you've burned all your easily available sugar (you get light headed, dizzy, can't think straight, can hardly walk). Most people think "whoa, great workout". Not so. If you do the same ride and drink a sugar solution and eat some snacks, you'll feel tired but functional at the end. That's a much better workout.

4/01/2005

4-2-05 - 1

4-2-05

Game companies should have independent analysts come in and review their pipeline and process and productivity. Having anyone in house do it will only give you a biased view. Game companies all get into these quagmires where they're doing things in very stupid ways, but won't change because of internal power wars (one group doesn't want to give into another, or some people are just stuck in their ways and don't want to try new things). The independent analyst can look at real production and see how the schedules match with actual work done. This is also the clearly right way to do post-mortems. Having internal opinions on post-mortem are ok, but what you really want is the independent analyst to come in and do a full review of what exactly took so long, why you missed this milestone, etc.

old rants