November 23, 2008

The World, It Is A-Changin’

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 9:26 am

I’m very independant. One of the most disastrous relationships of my life was with my mother before my parents’ divorce, and to a lesser extent for some time after (doped by a continent of distance). When I was a kid I wouldn’t accept the rules (what I saw as an invasive program to control my life), and would rebel. Since I’m also stupidly stubborn, even though I knew I would never win against a parent, I refused to accept defeat. All sorts of screaming resulted almost every day.

As with most things, neither of us were really in the right, and we both admit that today. For my part (in hindsight) I was a little shit and would go above and beyond the call of my character flaws to just cause trouble in protest.

This reconciliation has happened recently, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know my mom as a person and not as “the oppressor”. It’s got me thinking though.

There’s a sort of self-feeding loop with your opinions of people — after a while you mostly see what you want to see, which makes it hard to see subtle changes, which could add up to large changes. The most common one I can think of is when you find someone annoying.

The problem with thinking someone is annoying is that it will be the in forefront of your mind anytime they speak. Whether or not they are still annoying by your most impersonal standards, you have developed a much lower tolerance for them. You associate the sound of their voice with annoyance. Whenever they talk about a topic, you find yourself unable to care about it, dismissive, even if it’s something that usually interests you. It’s a defence mechanism designed to repel people you dislike. In groups this gets more complicated, especially if your other friends don’t also find this person annoying.

But people do change over time. The changes we notice most are when someone suddenly betrays or reconciles, which is easy to spot and react/adapt to, but what about when someone changes gradually? If someone once was annoying or stupid or any number of other negatives, how do you recognize when they’ve incrementally changed to a point where if you had just met them, you would accept them? How much does someone you know have to change beyond that point to get over your bias?

Is this why people “grow apart”? Is growing apart just something that happens when you can’t spot gradual changes over time, so you become out of touch with who the person really has become?


A Thought About Economic Endgames

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 3:19 am

As you all know, dear readers, the conservative ideal of a free market is where companies all compete, and the market chooses the fittest and best to be the market’s victor. But then what? Whether or not you believe time to be infinite it certainly lasts a good long while, and once you have a market victor, you don’t have any guarantee that the merits that brought them there will continue ad infinitum.[1] Surely they must fall from power when they are no longer the best for the people. At such a large scale as a monopoly, there are all sorts of practices that do not benefit the consumer that help maintain market position. This is why we have antitrust law. To make sure that the market maintains competition.

For example, Bell System won their corner of the market and were divested starting in 1974 by the government after a successful antitrust suit. Of course, one company winning the market is what every company leader wants, but there are a lot of other possible cases where you can’t use antitrust law to make the market healthy again when it’s become stagnant and even abusive.

For example, sometimes you have to share the market. A market can also reach a maximal point when the companies competing all have comparable market shares that vary very little, without trends of significant gains or losses in market share between companies. An example of this is American automakers and the Canadian banking market.[2] Now, there are channels to attack an abusive “multopoly” such as if you can prosecute them for price fixing, or a number of other things that violate consumer protection laws, but there’s no real way to peacefully orchestrate a return to a good, heavily competitive market.[3]

There’s a lot of talk about a bailout for the American automotive industry. GM indicated in their financial report last quarter that given the current market (which shows no indication of improving), they could afford to continue operation through December. All the American automakers are in similarly bad financial states. The market reached it’s stable endgame, and they got comfortable. It’s why they were taken flat-footed when cars from Japan arrived on our shores. It’s why they’re failing now, this time crushed under their own weight.

This stuff is all pretty obvious. Why did I make this post? Well, I’d never considered that we’re seeing the dissolution of a market endgame right now. We’ve never actually seen a return to a competitive market without a lot of regulation and care (see again: Bell Systems, perhaps see also: Microsoft with regards to Internet Explorer[4]).

If there is no bailout, this will be a very interesting time to study.[5]

[1](ref) Don’t get me wrong, I like the conservative ideology for the same reason I like communism and “pure democracy”: they’re really neat ideas, and if we could make them work, we’d all be pretty well-off. The problem with both of them is that we’re talking about people here. No one can actually live strictly enough to such an idealistic philosophy to make it work.

[2](ref) although, the Canadian banking market is built with this endgame on purpose, and the market is highly regulated, something that American automakers can’t take advantage of (if you want to call it that) in a free market.

[3](ref) Another interesting new possible market topology involves the interaction of open source software and traditional commercial software. As example, VMware is the corporate leader in the virtualization space, but there is also a very strong open source showing in the market as well. It’s not hard to envision a market where a company and an open source project can share a market (as far as proliferation) as a multopoly, by competing on features and (the part that really justifies charging money) support and documentation. VMware has an enormous investment in support, and works very hard to address it’s customers’ issues. This has value that people are willing to spend money on. Old World economists are going to have the same trouble understanding this new market endgame as Old World software companies are having now, having to compete on merit with a product that’s given away for free.

[4](ref) It’s worth noting that the antitrust litigation against Microsoft with regards to Internet Explorer did not cause the return to a competitive market, but rather it was one of the stars that aligned at the right moment in time, the other main player being the creation and success of the Mozilla Project.

[5](ref) This statement does not indicate my support or opposition to a bailout of the automotive industry. I do support waiting until the companies actually declare bankruptcy though. Until then it doesn’t really feel like they’re serious, rather than just demanding a handout.

November 21, 2008

More Support for the Correlation Between Wisdom and Age

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 9:42 am

When I was 10, it was very easy to shop for gifts for me. Clothes and LEGO.

Clothes are always a good gift for a growing kid. They’re going to need them anyways, and you might even manage to appear “cool”, or at least not “lame” if you pick something that resonates with them.

LEGO was also great. Even if I already had the set it would still make a great gift. The influx of different amounts of different bricks would set me off coming up with new designs to build with these new parts that were not previously possible.

But as I’ve grown up, my tastes have grown more expensive, and more precise. Now, instead of wanting a computer, I want a MacBook configured in some specific way. Instead of wanting a helmet, I want a medium Shoei RF-1000 (mainly because it’s the only one I could find that fit). As I’ve aged I’ve become more focused in what I want, and adult toys are more expensive than kid toys. These are things I would buy anyway, they’re hobby-related.

As for things that are inexpensive, but that I need, I’ve either already got them, or I will buy them soon. They’re not really great as gifts – I need them.

Buying good gifts for an adult (especially a geek) is hard.

Somehow though, my parents have managed to show a lot of foresight in their gift-giving. A few years ago, they gave me a set of silverware. Not the cheap stamped sheet metal stuff you steal from the dining halls, but good heavy forks, knives and spoons. The value of this stuff is not immediately clear until you use them. They’re unbendable, unbreakable. When I moved I left behind or tossed the mishmash of collected silverware from previous years. Cheap, broken, bent, awful. The gift of good silverware managed to improve my quality of life in a substantial way that you wouldn’t immediately expect.

On my birthday this year, my parents gave me two pairs of new Birkenstocks. My old ones are worn past the sole, and the insole is trashed, but I hadn’t thought of replacing them. The value here is immediately obvious in hindsight, but it’s a non-obvious gift to me. Why two pairs? Because my feet sweat. Two pairs last more than twice as long. These people are thinkers.

I don’t mean to say that someone buying me something I want makes it a bad gift (not at all, go ahead and buy me that stuff, I want it because I’ll use it), but that a truly great gift is something you never expected that managed to improve your life in a way that makes that list of crap you want look insignificant in the long term.

November 18, 2008

Old-Fashioned Fool

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 12:28 pm

Around 2004 I bought my first car while I was working for Treyarch. It was a 1994 Honda Accord, and I used it almost exclusively for visiting my then-girlfriend in Marin County, in the northern part of the San Francisco Bay area while I was living in Santa Monica (LA area) that summer, and San Diego the rest of the time. I put around 44,000 miles on that car in the year I owned it. The mileage was almost exclusively made up of these trips.

I always did them at night (for various reasons, especially traffic), and I always got very tired during the drive. After a few different flight plans, I managed to pick out the Lost Hills exit of I-5 as my one pit stop. It was in the very middle of the San Diego – Marin route (to less than a mile), and it had many gas stations and food choices to refuel myself and the car.

After a trip or few, I stopped in at the Denny’s, which was more appealing than the fast food joints in that I could sit down in a fairly nice area and eat, and it had a bar so I could chat with the staff, waking up my brain for the next leg. I ordered a Meat Lover’s Skillet. Eggs easy over, sourdough toast. As long as my water glass stayed full, I tipped handsomely.

And I repeated this a few times over the next month.

The waitstaff eventually got to recognize me, but they had a very high turnover, I don’t think I’ve ever been served by the same person more than 4 times there. The only constant seemed to be the cook that worked from 10pm – 6am on every day except days I didn’t drive (or so it seemed). She was thorough and always seemed to enjoy what she was doing, an instantly likeable sort of character. One day she came out from behind the kitchen window and had coffee at the bar, and we chatted.

She’d been recognizing me as well, and from then on, my food (Meat Lover’s Skillet, eggs easy over, sourdough toast) would be cooking before I’d finished parking, and we’d have a good chat while I ate.

A few years have happened since. I went through the Accord and a del Sol, long hair, short hair, and a mohawk, as well as the relationship that was the cause of my very frequent journeys. I went from making the trip almost every week, to only once every month or few. The food I ate eventually came off the menu, but I still got a Meat Lover’s Skillet, eggs easy over, sourdough toast every time, and whoever was waiting the bar that night would try to figure out some way to ring it up.

Of all the acquaintances I have, I think I’ve valued Chila (pronouced like Sheila) the most. There’s something fulfilling if not old fashioned about using business as a means to fill social needs rather than the other way around. I guess I’m just an old fashioned fool.

Tonight I showed up at the Denny’s, and I hadn’t been there in a spell. At least 5 months. Walking in, everything was wrong. The bar was gone, the brushed stainless wall behind the bar was replaced with trendy tile. The food surfaces and prep areas were unchanged, but partially hidden behind a wall of booths that had replaced my precious counter.

Chila was there though, and again somehow managed to immediately recognize me despite my new beard, glasses, and hair. I sat at the only table with a view of the kitchen window, and she took a break to chat, her over coffee, me with my water. They’d been closed for a week for the remodel a few months ago, and we agreed it wasn’t really an improvement at all. The Lost Hills exit is a truck stop sort of area, and bar seating made a ton of sense for hungry, lone travellers. It just wasn’t the same.

In some way, the spell was broken. I’ll be back again, but it really feels like an important chapter in my life has ended with the remodel of a Denny’s out in the middle of nowhere.

I ordered a sandwich. To go.

November 10, 2008

Quick Story: How The Past Can Haunt You

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 7:18 pm

Sometime last year I was at Lolita’s, alone, eating Carne Asada fries. For those of you not in the San Diego crew, this means that I was really hung over, I’d been awake for no more than an hour, and it was around 1:30 in the afternoon. You know, early.

As I’m eating, this huge black man walks toward my table. After a few steps, it’s pretty clear that I’m his target, so I look up from my engrossing task and see the world’s biggest smile…


So let’s not forget how hung over I am. I have no idea what he’s talking about. I totally forgot that I was wearing an Ultimate Spidey shirt from when I worked at Treyarch — it was just the top garment on my clean pile when I rolled out of bed. So naturally there were a few moments of confusion. “Pardon? Do I know you? Game?”

Once it became clear that he was talking about my shirt (“oh! of course! silly me.”), I found out that it was his favourite game on the planet, saved his marriage, all that stuff. My brain was not really ready for this so early in the morning, but I did my best to be pleasant and nod a lot.

It was totally surreal. Kinda neat though. Huge bear of a man. Gave me a hug. Very strange.

Not sure what the moral of the story is, but if he’d been closer to my size I would have given him my shirt. He was pretty cool.

Rock on, man. Now that I think about it, it was a good game. Glad it did some good out there.

November 8, 2008

Why You Should Minimize Your Program’s Memory Usage

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 7:42 pm

Because one day, one of your users will have a problem where their motherboard’s memory controller quietly corrupts their memory, but only for certain addresses.

I’m not going to be very active online for a while.

November 5, 2008

Breaking News: Church and State Hopelessly Intertwined

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 4:40 pm

some memorable quotes from last night.

nothe: California: I am FUCKING ASHAMED OF YOU. Good fucking riddance.

nothe: for what it’s worth, I’m also ashamed of Arkansas for passing a ban on gay couples adopting, florida, arizona, for banning gay marriage.

rands: Back in California, we’re putting the rights of animals ahead of the rights of people.

sanguish: Hey Sarah, I can see the end of your political career from my apt.

preed: So, to summarize across the nation: YES WE CAN… (unless you’re a dirty faggot.)

sdsasuke: proud to be an american, ashamed to be californian. as we elect a black president we further the persecution of a minority.

shawnmorel: ironic that the prop 8 wording will be in article 1 between equal protection clause and nondiscrimination in business. totally fubared!

So you already know what this is going to be about. Yay Obama won, but there were heavy downticket losses.

Prop 8 has been passed, the only counties left uncounted voted 2/3 in favour of the amendment thus far, 96% reporting. Prop 8 did much worse than previous propositions trying to accomplish the same thing (as laws which were later overturned by the supreme court as unconstitutional, not amendments), but it still managed to carry a majority vote.

What’s worse, minority voters largely voted in favour of the proposition, so what we also have is minorities discriminating against another minority.

Correlations in voting include religious ties (more religious, more in favour), educational ties (more educated, less in favour), and race (although I’m almost certain this is an artifact of the religious factor). Education measured in degrees per capita.

The institution of marriage is worth even less to me than ever before. As a government construction it’s only good for tax breaks and visitation rights in medical emergencies. As a religious construction it’s only useful for excluding minorities. As a social construction it’s a once-in-a-lifetime party. The purposeful exclusion of some of the most stable and loving couples I’ve ever met, the knowing removal of a citizen’s rights for the first time in the state’s history, marks one of the most public and galling acts of discrimination ever perpetrated by its citizens.

This initiative, amending the most important document in the state, should not be allowed by a simple majority, that’s perhaps the most astonishing part to me, that there have been so many amendments that did not belong. Astonishment only topped by following the results of last night.

Hat tip to Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas who, unsurprisingly, also voted highly discriminatory amendments/propositions into law. You guys enjoy your intolerant, hateful states. You earned it, with clear majorities in the 60%s.

What a backwards fucking country. I’m about ready to scrap my plans for marriage. If it’s not good enough for my friends, how is it good enough for me?

As a footnote, I wish this could be as simple as vocabulary. If “Marriage” was just a religious construct, then I’d say great, fuck ’em. Unfortunately a civil union is not directly equivalent. Try going through a medical emergency with your partner as a civil union. At best, it’s “separate but equal”, and we all know how that’s worked in the past. I wonder if at least 3% of the electorate voted yes because they thought it was just an issue of terminology.

Second footnote: apparently there are a few million uncounted absentee ballots, this could be good news. but I’m still very ashamed of the people that live in this state.

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