Nov 04

Some tips

When I am by myself especially, I often tip quite large amounts. I don’t want to be seen as some sort of saint or for people to come groveling after me – I just know how crap service jobs are, and I just feel really fortunate that I can tip 40% on a haircut.

Another $10 is not much to me, but when you’re scraping bottom it’s a hell of a difference. I know. I remember.

And yeah, I did have a computer in my family as a kid. My dad was a mechanic, and traded labor for many things people didn’t want anymore. We ended up getting a lot of fairly decent if outdated items that way. In that, I was very lucky, even before my grandparents started to help us out and my life got much better. And it meant we almost always had transportation as my father, whatever his flaws, could fix damn near anything. I once watched him repair a lawnmower McGyver-style with a clothespin and a piece of water hose.

But I remember this being in the fridge and nothing else, for at least a week: two slices of white bread.

And I remember doing this: searching for change in the couch so that we could afford to get some gas to travel to town so that my grandmother could give us some groceries. (My mom was too proud to admit she had absolutely no money.)

And I remember my parents fighting all the time about money.

My mom was a waitress for a long time. I also remember her talking about her nice customers, the ones that gave her a big tip even though she’d a shitty day and might’ve taken it out on them a little. And how much difference that made.

I want to be that guy. I hope I am that guy. I will be that guy as long as I have more than I need.

Nov 03


Amanda Marcotte was one of the most fervent Obamacare supporters, and it’s no surprise that she’s denying something that even the most enthusiastic of ACA supporters acknowledged freely: that rates would go up for many people.

As usual, though, Digby tells it straight.

According to the hostile analyst, Obamacare will hike rates because of added regulations and mandates. According to the supporter, Obamacare will hike rates because it makes the system more fair and offers better coverage. It’s simply different interpretations of the same thing — you’ll notice that both agree that rates will be hiked.

So I went to the car dealership and I wanted to buy a Honda Civic. I really needed a car – couldn’t walk out without one. The salesperson says that they are all out of Honda Civics, but here’s this Aston Martin I can buy for the Aston Martin price.

I have no choice, so I sign on the dotted line even though I can’t afford it. That should somehow make me happy.

That’s what Marcotte’s dumbass thesis about Obamacare amounts to.

That said, I enjoy Amanda Marcotte’s writing and I read her often. However, of the commentators I read more than once a week she’s the one most beset with confirmation bias issues. But everyone has flaws. Such is life.

Nov 02


My parents and grandparents were this condescending to me. As well as my first-grade teacher.

Just the other day, Evangeline shocked me by picking up Louis Menand’s collection of essays “American Studies”—the actual book—and peering at its pages.

I was sure that this was some sort of pose, or a lark. It was impossible to imagine that she was actually reading it. But having picked it up, she then took the book outside and, as we put her brother in the car, stood with it open, in her hands, looking engrossed. She kept reading it in the car, until she finally put it down with a sigh.

I was reading National Geographic magazine in first grade. I constantly had to “prove” that I understood it to everyone, when in reality it was quite easy for me to understand. I think I typically understood more of it even then than the adults around me. Me reading “inappropriate” material in class was my first experience of getting into real trouble at school.

It was about that time that I realized school – at least for me – was a big batch of bullshit and stopped paying it any mind.

Nov 02

Also wrong

About the below, this comment is completely wrong.

Without fail, I am quicker at finding features and using software than any normal user even in software I’ve never used. And that’s because I’ve been doing it for over 30 years now and have seen just about every software context and interface there is.

At work, users often ask me about software they use every day and that I never use. Nine times out of 10, I am able to find what they need to in a few seconds in software that they’ve used for years and I have never even seen before.

My girlfriend can do the same thing, and it’s because she – like me – has been using computers since she was wee.

I really doubt whoever wrote that comment is truly experienced in IT or is a real power user. Probably one of those ersatz “power users” who thinks Windows 8 is the best thing since AOL and Microsoft Bob and who only learned to find his/her start menu a few months ago.

There’s a lot of them on sites like Ars, and many of them I suspect are paid Microsoft shills who show up whenever Windows 8 is mentioned, though that particular commenter is not actually a shill.

Nov 02

Power user abuser

Microsoft, Canonical and Gnome are not alone in removing features that power users need to work from their OSes and interfaces. Apple is doing it, too.

It really has me worried about what people who actually know how to do things with their computers are going to manage in a few years. What will be left for them? I do a great deal of work on my computers, most of which simply cannot be done in a playtoy interface with all useful features relegated to the dust heap.

What sort of damn sense does it make to remove a feature from your desktop OS so that it can be like your tablet OS? That’s like tossing out your living room couch because it can’t fit in your car. It just makes no sense at all.

Nearly all content is created by people who actually know how to use their machines quite well and 100% need a powerful, configurable environment.

What are we supposed to do when everything of any use is taken away?

Nov 02


So many things that people do I just don’t understand. Things I can’t even imagine caring about, or even noticing. I read advice columns to try to understand humans because they are full of things like that.

So much of my life is me spent looking around with Marge Gunderson’s great closing bit from Fargo going through my head:

So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.

Except for me replace “money” with “nearly everything people do.”

Nov 02


The better you are at reasoning numerically, the more likely you are to let your political bias skew your quantitative reasoning.

I’m absolutely terrible at numerical reasoning — worse than many five-year-olds — so that must mean I am a frickin’ genius!

This might be part of the way to explaining or at least examining what I call engineeritis.

I don’t really appreciate how the article conflates numerical reasoning with intelligence, but that’s very common.

If you give me a numerical or strictly logic-based IQ test, I will score in the mildly mentally-retarded range, no matter how hard I try. If you give me a more word-based such test, I will score off the charts.

That’s why when I say that no amount or method of teaching me operational (rather than conceptual) math is likely to work.

And yet the quant types are always amazed when I can look at a huge mound of data, spend much less time doing anything with it, and get something out of it they never saw or ever could see.

Nov 01


This is a completely wrong explanation for why college education is so expensive now.

It speaks to the symptoms, not the causes.

The actual, real cause (at least the primary one) is that student loans became more widely available, sparking inflation and with it competition among schools. There are other factors, but that is by far the primary one.

Inflation in specific markets or in general is caused by an abundance of money. More money chasing roughly the same product (an education) means prices go up. Some of that money —  perhaps even most of it – gets channeled into less-than-useful avenues, just as McMansions did during the influx of easy loan money in the housing boom.

Those who don’t understand basic economics are doomed often to not understand much else.

Oct 31


Tonight the coyotes are howling in response to nearby sirens.

One sounds like it’s about 50 feet from the back door. Since wolves and mountain lions are gone in these parts – and most parts – they have taken over as the top predator.

Well, kind of. Alligators here in Florida are the top predator, but those mostly stick near water. Everywhere else, it’s the coyotes.

Oct 31


I just don’t think human relationships can be made as sterile and antiseptic as many people seem to wish they could be.

Using one’s authority in improper ways is obviously bad, but lately it seems that any showing of human emotion in even intimate relationships (and if you think a mentor/mentee relationship isn’t intimate, well, you’re wrong) is absolutely verboten.

If I notice this, being fairly emotionless about most things, then it must be really bad out there. I understand, though, that it is a reaction to past and present very real abuses.

Yes, it is bad for male or female professors to harass their students. Etc.

I think where I differ or at least where I lack fear is I don’t much care about my so-called “career.”

I would burn it to the fucking ground for someone I truly cared about in an instant. If I loved someone, or even to help them if they needed it, I would not give a single shit about what anyone else thought or any rules in place.

The difference is, I wouldn’t do it to get my jollies as some vile scumbags seem to do, but denying that human emotions exist (gasp!) even at work is fucking daft, in my opinion.

That’s why I am dangerous, I guess. My principles are non-negotiable, irrational, and I’m not easily cajoled, threatened or bought out. That is a privilege I have for various reasons, but even when I didn’t have jack shit it was still true.

It’s why I got in so very many fights when I was a kid.

In other words, I will go along to get along, but I’d rather die than violate my core principles