Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Back to thinking the 1% aren’t the problem

Monday, December 5th, 2016

So, after digging more into the system as it currently sits, I’m back to thinking the 1% are not the problem. Why? Because the value of a dollar is a scalable, and because the things they are doing are generally not slowing the velocity of money any. My current guess is that the american corporate model is the problem, but that’s subject to change after I research some more.

By the way: it is a big, complex system. Just the type of thing I like to sink my teeth into. I do not think this is a lifelong enthusiasm – more likely I’ll spend a year on learning about it and move on. (I’ve learned that my life has things that I’m interested in for life, and things that I’m interested in until I learn enough about them or experience enough of them to get my fill.)

One thing I would like to clarify is I’m pretty sure whatever the problem is, it’s benefiting nobody. I’m guessing it’s going to be one of those things like Tesla’s induction motor.. obvious once you see it, but it takes a special kind of bending your mind to see.

I still can’t get over my hunch that whatever the problem is, judicious use of powerful computers and fast databases might be part of the solution.


Sunday, December 4th, 2016

So, for those of you who hadn’t already guessed, there’s no way I’d try to implement any of my economic theories yet. I’m still learning about the subject. (And thanks for all of you who have suggested books, papers, and provided summaries and necessary bits of data.. special shouts out to Steve and James who have both been extra helpful.)

Most of what I’m learning is that I still don’t have the whole picture in my head. For example, one of the criticisms in my mind of the stock market was completely flawed, because I was forgetting that when someone sells stock, the buyer gets the proceeds – the money doesn’t just disappear, it changes hands. It is not true that money sunk in the stock market is not out there in the world making good things happen – because the money doesn’t stop moving when stock is purchased, it goes into the hands of the seller who then goes and does something else with it. (We hope). Even money in a savings account doesn’t necessarily stop moving, because new loans are made against it.

But the question remains – we’re working more efficiently than we ever have, many of us are working harder than ever – two incomes instead of one – and yet many of us are still broke or concave. Why? Is it the additional cost of all of us having instant network access? Is the internet itself that expensive? Is it the increased cost of health care and the fact that a somewhat more toxic world leads to more health complications? Is it the increased cost of education? Or is it the increased cost of interest, and better and more effective advertising that encourages many of us to spend beyond our means? Energy is more or less the same price it’s always been if you adjust for inflation, so it’s not that.

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this.

It’s interesting wrestling with this – I, for now, am doing just fine – but many of my friends seem to be struggling a lot.

Maximum wage

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

So, I was watching a facebook meme which had Jessie Ventura suggesting that we should have a maximum wage. I agree with him, although I think I’d use a somewhat different implementation than he would.

This goes back to my ‘keeping score’ money idea. Basically, your wage should be capped at whatever you managed to spend in the past few years, run through a moving average filter, plus a bit of a cap. There should be a process for appealing that you have some project or idea that means you need to be able to spend more – after all, we don’t want to slow down the Teslas and Elon Munsks of the world – but normally, anything you earn beyond what you spent last year plus, say, 10%, goes into ‘keeping score’ money rather than ‘spendable’ money. There’d be a minimum at which this would take effect – probably somewhere around the 2% marker for overall wealth (so only the top 2% earners would ever have to worry about this)

This is a band-aid, a workaround for the fact that there’s not enough money in the system for the real-value, tangible resources in it, and the fact that our current system has a bunch of features that lead to almost all the money ending up in the hands of 1% of the users.

Why I’m not in favor of in-person or voice status meetings

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

So, one of the things I occasionally have to put up with in my day job is status meetings. Fortunately, I don’t get sucked into too many of them, and also fortunately, I get paid by the hour. However, recently a volunteer project that I’m coding for attempted to institute regularly scheduled status meetings. I tried two, and then announced my disinterest in participating in any further ones, but I thought I might take a minute to explain why I think these types of meetings are counterproductive and better handled over a text asynchronous channel.

So, a list of the reasons I don’t think they’re the right venue:

1) Voice is not seekable. This means that you can’t ‘fast-forward’ over parts of the meeting that are not relevant to you – and in the case of this particular project, we’ve got two developers (me and A) working on two separate codebases that only touch via a defined API, so by definition anything that isn’t my description of my status isn’t relevant to me. This also means you can’t ‘rewind’ to hear something you missed – and if you’re listening to a bunch of people talk about things that are mostly irrelevant to you, you’re therefore forced to still give your entire conscious experience to listening so that you don’t miss a irretrievable chunk of audio that *is* relevant to you. With text, you can easily skim or skip ahead or look back to any bits you missed

2) Voice is expensive to decode. This is easy to demonstrate by looking at how much CPU it takes us to do even flawed voice recognition. Our minds have a lot of computing capacity, so we generally don’t think about this, but it takes a lot more mental CPU to decode voice than it does to decode text. In my case, reading a incoming text while coding often does not require a full ‘context switch’, while listening to a incoming audio/voice message does. Neural context switches are expensive – they mean wasted time and lost momentum.

3) Voice is fast to send, but slow to receive. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can talk slightly faster than I can type, but read many times faster than I type. This means that a group getting status updates via voice is wasting whatever overspeed beyond hearing their reading speed is times the number of participants in the group.

4) Scheduled meetings are to be avoided whenever possible as they present a spinlock that blocks all CPUs / are a forced synchronous event. I don’t deny that there are appropriate times to have a meeting. A decision which requires group consensus, a blocker which everyone on the group may have input that can help resolve, and a celebration of a accomplished task (major milestone) are all examples of meetings that I would think of as being a good idea to hold. However, let us not lose sight of the fact that meetings are *expensive*. They cost the time of every person in the room, plus the time to set up the meeting and agree on a scheduled time – something that presents a extra challenge in my case because I do not adhere to any type of standard sleep schedule. And status meetings do not, generally, move the ball down the field.

5) Having a scheduled meeting to discuss blockers encourages a counterproductive behavior. If you get hung up on a blocker, the best first step is to see if anyone is available to help you with it, *right now*, and to do research using google and the like to see if a solution is already out there. Beyond that, the next logical step is to document the blocker in a asynchronous communication channel like email or skype and ask the people who can potentially resolve it for help, allowing them to respond in their next available time slice. Having a scheduled time each day or week to discuss blockers discourages treating them as something to be resolved as a interrupt. If your project is experiencing enough blockers that the majority of team members have one to present at a scheduled status meeting, you have other, bigger problems that you should be spending your time resolving. You may have a lack of appropriate documentation or massive technical debt, or very poor communication methodologies.

6) Neural context switches are expensive. I touched on this in #2, but let me amplify my thoughts a little bit. Most of us can only keep a few threads visible in our conscious experience at any point in time. In order to participate meaningfully in a group meeting, we generally have to drop the context of what we’re currently working on. This means that we have to push whatever our current state is into medium-term memory, and then pull it back out at the end of the meeting. This takes considerable time and also breaks up the energy and momentum of whatever we’re currently doing.

7) Hitting exact scheduled times requires some buffer time – whenever you have a scheduled meeting with several participants, you do NOT want to be late, because that’s causing dead time for everyone else participating, but thanks to the realities of modern life, the only way to not be late is to plan to be somewhat early, in case something goes wrong. This is part of what makes meetings expensive, and why they should only be used for purposes that require them.

8) Voice has considerable switching deadtime – handing the baton / token between participants in a voice meeting often involves many seconds or minutes. This is especially a problem over the phone – in person we generally have body language that resolves who should talk next fairly quickly.

In general, as I’m on record as saying, whenever possible, I prefer using a text broadcast medium for status updates (i.e. “I finished this”) and one-on-ones for resolving technical difficulties. I participate in meetings regularly – including some ill advised ones – but you only get to drag me into ones that I think are counterproductive if you’re paying me.

Now, the person who suggested the meeting said one of the reasons it was important was “he didn’t even know what I was working on.”. This is healthy and normal. In general, as long as I’m completing my queue, the only person who needs or should want to know what I’m working on is me. It’s a waste of mental horsepower for more than one person to be keeping track of something that one person can do. I make exceptions for mission critical ops (things like SSL renewal, or race car prep, or whatever) where one person dropping the ball can put people or the project in actual danger. But normally, wanting to know the exact details of something another team member is doing is a sign of micromanagement, which is a very bad idea.

About credit

Friday, November 18th, 2016

With the exception of music, any ideas contained in this blog are free to a good home. I don’t need credit for them. I want the current situation fixed more than I want to be known as the person who fixed it. Feel free to claim credit for yourself if you can get something implemented that will improve the situation for all.

Ashamed of being a white male

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

So, recently I was looking at this:

I commented that it made me ashamed to be a person of the male persuasion, but it got me to thinking about all the things white men are responsible for that I have felt ashamed of over the years.

#1) It’s not a *white* man thing, but the idea put forth in the Bible that women should be quiet, should not lead, and whatnot. It’s pretty clear to me that souls have no gender – your gender is a attribute of the body you’re wearing – and it’s sad to think of how many brilliant ideas were lost or ignored and not acted on because they came from someone who happened to be wearing a female body at the time.

#2) The Trail Of Tears, Wounded Knee, and all the other times we invaders gave the local inhabitants of North America the shaft just because we had gunpowder and they didn’t. I think if we had instead befriended them, integrated their culture into ours, and learned from them, we’d be much further along. Yes, we knew things they didn’t.. but they also knew things we didn’t, and a lot of those things got lost.

#3) The cold war – fighting a proxy war over resource allocation systems and religion, getting many people hurt or killed in the process. McCarthyism is also pretty shameful.

#4) In general, the idea of imperialism.

#5) Slavery, and then after that was over segregation. Just as your gender is a attribute of the body you’re wearing, so is the color of your skin. There’s no reason to think that those with dark skin were ever “less than” or that it was ever okay to enslave them or restrict their freedoms and rights. Also, just as with the native americans, probably the africans knew things we didn’t (I gesture you to the concept of ubuntu as something we could really use to learn) and we discarded those by assuming that we were better and smarter than them and they had nothing to give but slave labor

And, a counterartument

Friday, October 21st, 2016

So, since sometimes I like to debate myself, I thought I’d post a counterargument to This is something that literally just happened. I’ve been trying to teach Remus to not bark like crazy, and so I have a bag of treats open and I’m praising him and giving him a treat every time he manages to look out the window quietly or otherwise do some behavior I’d like to positively reinforce.

While I was busy doing some paying work, he just stuck his nose in the bag of treats in order to try and steal some. I of course pulled him away and explained that he shouldn’t do that, but then I got to thinking about our little discussion here. To a certain extent, money paid out by the group is the ‘treat’ to encourage certain behaviors that the group considers to be pro-survival. Giving money for not displaying those behaviors reduces the group’s ability to influence individual members in directions that are presumed to be beneficial as far as the group can tell.

My response to this argument is that we should probably do this – for luxury items. It’s almost certainly desirable to have carrots to help encourage people to grow, especially since their growth may enable us all to be wealthier through creating more carrots for all. However, because of the reasons I discussed in my previous post, I do not think it is a good idea to do this for basic necessities like food and shelter. I also do not think it is a good idea to do this for things that benefit all of us, like education and access to communication networks. (More on that later, I expect).

Thank you

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

So, I feel like in all the talking about the things my family did wrong, I never really do enough to talk about the things they did right. There’s no way I could think of all of them right now, but a recent facebook post did make me think of a few. So here is my public thanks to my parents for outfitting me with basic survival and problem solving skills beyond that of a number of my friends. For the chores I hated doing at the time which I now understand were transfer of knowledge in how to cook, clean, and generally keep things running.

A additional big thank you to my dad for teaching me the basics of how machines work, starting out with simple machines and basic newtonian physics, as well as for teaching me hands-on real world undoing + fixing + redoing = repair. For explaining algebra and trig to me when I was 12 instead of insisting I was ‘too young’ – and explaining them in words that made it easy for me to understand, and helped further my programming career.

And a thank you to both my dad and my sadly no longer with us Uncle Joe for teaching me a appreciation of quality, of a job done right – and especially the importance of a ‘can do’ attitude. I wish everyone I know had gotten that lesson. I wish I had better self-esteem – but I would not trade my ‘can do’ attitude for it in a million years.

Emotional literacy

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

One of the skills that I have been cultivating over the last few years is emotional literacy. This is a set of skills involving understanding what I’m feeling, what possible neural activity is driving those feelings, and whether it’s what I want to be feeling and what actions I should take if it’s not.

The most significant piece of this, for me, is just being aware of what I’m feeling throughout the day. I think a lot of the time before this I was only aware of emotions when they were extremely strong, but understanding what I’m feeling when I’m not feeling strong feelings – when I’m only feeling slight ones, or no emotions at all, also helps inform what changes I should make in my life and my ways of thinking. Since I want to have better experiences than I’m currently having, being aware of what actions are emotionally null, or emotionally negative is helpful in learning how I should shape my future life.

I wonder how many of my friends study their emotional responses during the day, and what they have learned.

One of the things I have noticed is that writing and tracking music is a highly emotional experience. Not all good – there’s the ego crashes, the frustration, the sense of the hopelessness of ever getting paid to do this.. but there’s also the highs of having that musical ‘perfect moment’ – what my friend Nicka used to call ‘music orgasms’. Comparitively, my IT job doesn’t generate a lot of emotion – in fact, emotion generally gets in the way. I always suggest to people who are angry and trying to debug computer programs that they get themselves to a more centered place first, because anger seems to be actively hostile to the logical debugging process.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that emotion often gets misdirected. I’ve observed that because of the number of subnets connected to the bus that dumps the chemicals into our bloodstreams that cause emotion, often emotions are the results of summing many inputs – and sometimes our storyteller side will tell a story about a emotion we’re feeling which isn’t completely accurate about which subnets are pushing the buttons that are resulting in us feeling that emotion. Also, because summing is involved, many emotions are the results of several components.


Sunday, September 18th, 2016

So, one of the big discussion points on the interwebz (especially facebook) right now is a football star who refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of the way some of our citizens have been treated.

There are a number of people who are roundly criticizing him, talking about how he’s dishonoring veterans, how it’s just grandstanding because he’s a has-been-football-star, etc. Personally, I think that what he’s doing is great.

Now, I understand that humans are somewhat herd animals, and that we find it alarming whenever anyone behaves differently than the herd. However, if we want to claim that we are in fact in the USA free, we should embrace people who perform acts which are different than what the rest of the herd is doing, because when we see them doing this, we are seeing that we are in fact still free.

It seems like a number of people on my friends list want us to be hypothetically free – that is, we’re free in theory, provided that we never test that freedom. And, it is true that people should be free to criticize his action – after all, that’s part of what freedom means. I just wish people didn’t feel the *need* to criticize his action. He’s acting in the greatest tradition of a patriot – he’s identified a significant problem and he’s drawing attention to it so it can be addressed. He’s fertilizing the tree of liberty.

As far as the people talking about how he’s just grandstanding – every time I read about a cop shooting a unarmed innocent, I get angry. If I were a football star I doubt I would stop with not standing for the national anthem. I do not think this is grandstanding on his part – I think he genuinely is upset about the problem and wants to do something about it. I also think that those of you who believe that his reaction is less than honest and personal are playing the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ game that I mention elsewhere in this blog. You don’t know this person personally, generally, so you don’t have a lot of data to draw on, but you’re choosing to believe that his reasons are less than honorable or that he’s less than sincere in his protest, possibly because that’s easier emotionally than accepting that America has some serious, possibly fatal flaws that need to be addressed.