DevOps and the Invisibility of Success

Some of you may have heard that some new guy owns Twitter now. You may also have head that despite the dire hand-wringing by <insert people you don’t like>, Twitter is still running. Therefore, you might be tempted to conclude, all those engineers weren’t really necessary in the first place.

There are a lot of people working around us right now whose job it is to keep bad things from happening. I worked in a very small tech company once, and the boss was constantly trying to reduce the hours of our only IT person because clearly things were running just fine. When the people are doing really well at keeping bad things from happening, we forget we need them at all.

Twitter manages gazillions of data, and they propagate that information around the world in near-realtime. So many ones, so many zeroes. And right now, all those tweets are still flying around, and we’re willing to believe for a moment that Elon Musk is not simply an idiot baby of blood emeralds, but some kind of business smart guy. Twitter is still running! But that’s a tribute to the hard-working people who don’t work there anymore.

Elon has seen things running smoothly, and has not stopped to credit the people who are responsible for that. Quite the opposite, in fact; he has sent them packing. The plane is autopilot; it is a credit to the people who built the plane that it may go quite a while before slamming into a mountainside.

NaNoWriMo so Far

I haven’t been very bloggy lately, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I am (sort of) pursuing NaNoWriMo again this year if for no other reason than habit; there were 110 people who “won” the first year I did NaNo, and that was twenty-one years ago. Most of those have not written 50,000 words every November since then. It is possible that some of them have, but there is a finite possibility that I have the single longest win streak in all of NaNoWriModom.

Were it not for that streak, I probably would not have bothered to fire up the word processor this time. But maybe that in itself is a sign that I need this one more than usual. I have to answer the question, “am I still a writer?”

I will eventually publish my November 1 output, as is traditional. It’s a cool hard science fiction setting, and the big story is a series of vignettes across a millennium or two. It’s pretty cool.

I wrote a draft of the first vignette, enjoyed it, saw problems with it, and… stopped. Lots of ideas, lots of themes to explore, interesting characters. Sounds pretty neat! But I’m not up to writing it right now. With more than half the month gone, and only a few thousand words so far, I realized I need to change stories. I decided to take an idea I had used before, a story called “The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy” — a romp that plays with silly fantasy tropes — and put it in space.

So I started to tackle “The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy — In Space!” and I quickly realized that I was writing Star Wars. That movie doesn’t revolve around an Important Thing so much, but all the Sci-fi hacks are there, ready to be played with. You have probably seen more than one Star Wars parody in your time on Earth. There’s a reason for that.

So, what the heck, let’s just run with it. This is less overtly a Star Wars parody than the others, but not by much. It follows the same story beats, but the characters are very different, and I think more fun. C-3PO is now a sex-bot, and R2 goes by G5MBRAB. It will not respond to any simplification (It’s not his fault people insist on communicating using vibrations in the air), so in dialog I can chew up words with, “Hey, Gee Five Em Bee Are Ay Bee, go get the hammer.” G5MBRAB swears like a sailor.

I have not figured out how to address the fact that in Star Wars, R2 completely forgets it can fly through the air and electrocute entire platoons of battle-bots, to land years later on a planet and be waddling along in an extremely inefficient way only to be zapped into unconsciousness by a little scavenger with glowing eyes. But it has to be in there.

A hitch I did not expect as I wrote the irreverent banter when Bixby goes to get some new bots: One group of sentient, articulate beings paying money to own other sentient, articulate beings. Sure, they’re only robots, created by the organics, but let’s face it: they are as much characters as any of the carbon-based life forms in the story.

In Star Wars, the ownership relationship is quickly forgotten — at least for two exceptional droids. But it’s still there for all the others.

G5MBRAB says at one point, “This story isn’t ready for that yet.”

It will still be a frivolous romp, playing with the absurdities of space opera, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t also shine a little light on the unspoken darkness that lives there as well. The real revolution may not be against the empire.

7

The Big Bed

Every now and then, when it has been an emotionally draining day, we invite the dogs to hop up into the big bed with us, so the whole pack can be together.

While Gilfoyle enjoys being up there, Lady Byng lives to be snuggled with the pack. Last night was a pack night. Tonight, every time I look toward the bedroom, she tears off in maximum excitement, sure that tonight her dream of being on the Big Bed will be realized again. She has cracked the code, knows what to do, and there will be Big Bed nights forevermore.

Except nope, there is nothing she can do to change the outcome tonight. Some outcomes you don’t control, as much as you would like to think you do.

10

The Atlis Work Truck (Atlis not a typo)

Somehow it came to my attention tonight that there is a new maybe-vapor entry in the pick-up truck market called the Atlis. It is remarkable in several ways, not all good, but the top-line message is that it’s electric.

“Work Truck” is a market where electric makes a lot of sense. Torque, stop-and-go efficiency, low maintenance. Electric outlets to power your tools. Oddly, all images of this work truck show a jacked-up off-road suspension and a paint job perhaps intended to confuse laser-guided missiles. I’m guessing that doesn’t match your worksite requirements.

Here’s a picture. Take a look, we’ll be coming back here often.

The Future

First, let’s talk about the nose of this beast. If you have driven lately, you may have noticed that the grilles on trucks have been getting bigger and bigger, until now when you look in the rear-view all you see is massive chrome accordion climbing up your ass. (The drivers of these vehicles are invariably discourteous.)

Those massive grilles are in front of equally massive radiators, because as these trucks get ever-more powerful, the waste heat they create increases as well. Roughly half of the energy created by burning fuel is waste, and must be dissipated by the radiator. The need for so much airflow to cool the engine means that the vehicle must be less aerodynamic, which means it needs to burn more fuel to get where it’s going. Which produces more heat.

But now you have an electric truck! There’s no need for a radiator at all! So instead of a massive, aerodynamically-awful grille, you get this… massive, aerodynamically-awful flat plate. First impression: Man, that’s ugly. Second impression: It’s a work truck. Can you take $1000 off the price by abandoning aesthetics? Then that is the right choice. And shit, it still looks better than that weird Tesla thing.

Let’s not talk about those headlights.

The description of the interior sounds like a true work truck. “Durable materials.” “Easy to clean.” Now we’re talking. Sure, there’s a touch screen, and sure, touch screens remain a bad idea anywhere within reach of the driver of a car. But other than that, the interior says, “some expense spared.” No frills. Not afraid of mud. Mostly I suspect this is a spin on “we can’t match the luxury you will find in the latest Ford.” But that right there is singing my song. You can listen to your Beethoven and sip your latte in your GMC Sierra or you can go to fuckin’ work in your Atlis. Just try not to think too much about the name.

And you want a work truck? This thing has the juice to power your worksite, and an air compressor too.

They make a big deal about the batteries. They’ve got some unique tech or whatnot that lets you fully charge them in fifteen minutes. That sounds pretty nice, but…

The limit to how fast you charge a battery is how much damage you are willing to do to it. Heat is an inevitable product of charging, and the faster you charge, the hotter things get. Heat also is a big contributor to batteries degrading. It’s a work truck, not a transcontinental cruiser. (If it were a transcontinental cruiser, I’d hope for better aerodynamics.) Go to work. Do your work. Get dirty. Haul stuff around. (Four motors on four wheels! unstoppable!) Go home and plug in. You have all night to get ready for another hard day. I hope fast charging is optional, because if this were my work truck, I’d want the battery to last as long as possible.

I grew up in New Mexico, so I know that sometimes even a Work Truck has to cover some miles in a given day. Three hundred miles round-trip is actually kind of common (now I’m getting a little more concerned over aerodynamics). But even then, it’s a round trip, and then you’re home and you can plug in for a few hours. This is the reality of a Work Truck.

I should note in closing that I’m pretty sure they’re not selling these yet. Interestingly, when/if they do reach production, it appears that leasing (I mean subscribing) is the only option, but the lease includes free charging. If you have to go somewhere else to charge up, then maybe the fast charging makes sense. Especially if you’re swapping vehicles before the battery goes kaput. The monthly cost seems kind of high, but if you subtract gas expenses it starts to feel competitive. Especially if you use those batteries to power a bunch of other stuff as well. As long as you work near a charging station. Which, at this point, seems undefined. And insurance is included!

To sum up, this truck does a pretty good job with not having features that a work truck doesn’t need. It’s ugly as fuck, but it’s electric. If it’s spartan that means that you’re only paying for things that actually matter. If you need a truck, it seems like you could do a lot worse. If it ever becomes real and if there’s a charging station close to you, consider Atlis for your work-truck needs.

9

Summer Evening on the Patio

It’s a pleasant evening here, still warm but not oppressive, the sun dropping behind the hills to the west. I’m on the patio, enjoying new(ish), deep chair cushions, and a tasty malt beverage.

Nearby, a neighbor has fired up the grill, and has filled the gentle air with the sweet smell of barbecue. Thank you, neighbor!

5

Fool Me Once

HBO’s been pushing its new “Premium Television” series that takes place in the same world as Game of Thrones. I haven’t been paying attention, but I think it’s a prequel. There’s dragons and shit, so it might be cool. But…

The final season of Game of Thrones was giddily anticipated. HBO was on top of the world, producing the most talked-about show for years.

The final season of Game of Thrones also sucked. It sucked in very apparent and obvious ways, and also in subtler ways as well. From the writing to the CGI to the Starbucks cup, it was a train wreck. I say this honestly and sincerely: I could have done better, for half the cost.

The storytelling failure is the least forgivable. Sure, they were setting up for season after season that there was one human on the planet that could kill the crazy undead snow skeleton. And in previous seasons, we watch her journey into something incredible and we are FULLY ON BOARD.

Then in the final season there’s the big battle: slaughter, slaughter, slaughter, a few heroic deeds, a heroic death or two, then the girl kills the supernatural symbolic threat from the north and everyone says, “whoo, that was close!” They wipe their brows and ten minutes later the threat to the very existence of humanity is forgotten.

Before the first frame was shot, that story should have been challenged. But it wasn’t. The writers who didn’t care were given a free pass by producers who didn’t care.

Even before production for the season began, when people are reading the story and deciding their own personal goddam legacies in the industry, that story wasn’t challenged. The thing that (we thought) symbolized the extinction of the human race is beaten in an ordinary battle, and there’s high-fives and hugs and then it’s on to the absurd conclusion. It’s video-game logic; just another boss to beat, all the symbolism of life and death trampled in the rush to just get this goddam thing over with.

It’s pretty clear the whole production ran out both of money and the ability to care. I can hear the director say, “fuck it, we’ll fix it in post,” and move on — without considering that maybe post didn’t have the budget to fix all that shit. But no one cared. Not even the people who hoped to extend this dynasty into other shows.

I don’t know the specifics of why that production ran out of steam. Why they stopped caring. Money, exhaustion, boredom with the subject. But the last season of GoT was a sloppy mess, and the brand will never be the same. It the goal was to be Marvel With Swords, they fucked up.

I will not be watching the new production. I like the dragons and whatnot, but I will not invest any time in this show until the final episode of the final season is aired. I do not trust these people. “OMG OMG OMG that episode was so awesome” my friend will say, and I will reply, “that’s where they get you.” Unless they put Vince Gilligan in charge of the ending, I will wait.

I don’t know how to calculate the cost to HBO of that shitty conclusion to their biggest show ever, but I guarantee the cost to fix that season is less that what they have lost because their new show isn’t must-watch, but simply “whatever”.

I suspect, (but I don’t know), that there were people at HBO saying of the final GoT Season, “We have to push the release. This is shit.”

“Do you know how much that would cost?” is the obvious response.

But none of the big-wigs considered the cost of not fixing it. The cost HBO is about to feel, no matter how much they spend on marketing. We don’t trust them anymore.

4

Sexy Units

I was reading a not-great-but-interesting science fiction story today, set in the far future. There was this line: “She might have been only a bit short of a meter-and-a-half tall, but she packed every inch of her frame with massive muscles.”

I’m hoping right now that people in that distant time are a little more settled on their units of measure. But there is a fundamental issue that speculative fiction especially struggles with: metric units are not sexy. Damn near every one of them is four syllables at least.

“I would walk one thousand miles” is light-years ahead of “I would walk one thousand kilometers,” or even, “I would walk a megameter.” (Hm. That last one has a little spark.)

Inch is cooler than centimeter. Mile is WAY more poetic than kilometer. But in science fiction writing, there has been a failure to give humanity credit for the ability to take the mundane and technical, and bring it to life.

In this case, the military has already started: Kilometer is ‘klick’. “It’s ten klicks out and coming in fast!” In some contexts, that’s better than “mile”. Such a hard-sounding word. It has an urgency to it. You wander for miles, but when the threat is coming in at twenty klicks per second you don’t fuck around.

I don’t think I have ever read a story that has reduced these units the way they surely will be. “Give them a cem, they’ll take a klick.” “I missed it by half a mim.”

And let’s face it, “a meter-and-a-half tall”, while getting high marks for hyphen usage, is not casual conversation. “She wasn’t even 15 dems tall, but she packed every cem of her frame with massive muscles.” Better, don’t you think? It’s not simply that the units are consistent; it creates part of a language that gives the world its character. And it’s just tighter.

I have often decried the dry, non-poetic nature of the metric system in literature. But now I see that that dryness is my fault. There will be poets in the future, long after miles are forgotten, yet they will still speak of distance, and they will not use four syllables just for the unit designation. Maybe they will be even more versatile. “A million klicks away” might mean one thing, while “A million kloms away” would connote something else entirely.

As writers, we can imagine how people in the future will streamline these words, and make the form these shortened words take be a subtle part of the world they live in. Natural to them, instructive to us. Fun for everyone!

7

The Influential Life

The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas has always had opinions, and she is rarely shy about expressing them. For this reason, she has always been diligent about reviewing the products she buys online. It is important to recognize the good products (and especially the good vendors), while warning folks away from the crap. It is simply a matter of good online-retail citizenship.

Plus, she likes to be creative with her reviews. Tell a little story.

Apparently sometimes being a good retail citizen pays. Some unknown robot at Amazon flagged her reviewing prowess and (I assume) some human subsequently decided that the OSoMR&HBI would be a good person to become a professional giver of opinions.

That is, it turns out, a real job.

It works like this. You select things from a giant pile, they send you the things, and you review them. And keep the things. “Influence” has now become a transitive verb where we used to use “buy”. As in, “I just influenced these jeans and they fit perfectly!”

It’s a good time to be turning half the garage into a workshop. Yesterday my new laser level arrived. Today it was the laser tape measure (that will calculate area and volume and do trig and save up to 50 measurements) and the bike torque wrench. The blocks for calibrating table saw cuts came yesterday; the router table equivalents arrive tomorrow, along with the rounded-edge router bit for my window sill project. The lamps for over the new workbench arrive soon. All for the cost of an opinion. (And income tax on the retail value of the item.)

It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around. I didn’t fully understand at first — it didn’t really sink in until the Official Sweetie showed me the new light fixture she was considering for the hallway. Sputnik! I saw the retail price and asked, “are they seriously sending that to us?” I kind of felt like the first time our little protector dog Lady Byng was barking at the intruder at the door until she realized he was BRINGING FOOD! Mind-blowing! The fixture arrived today, the bulbs arrive tomorrow, and I’ll put it up on Saturday. And help write the review.

We are required to either send an item back, use it, or keep it for at least six months before giving it to family and friends, so you guys are safe from being inundated with LED flashlights and solar-powered LED patio string lights and more solar-powered LED patio string lights and LED bulbs and rechargeable LED under-shelf lights and multi-color LED strip lights and LED wall wash light strips and LED flashing red hazard lights (with bottle opener) in your Christmas stockings this year.

If you would like to follow the Official Sweetie and learn of her many, many opinions, you can do so here. Does having more followers benefit us? Probably. Not sure. But probably. If you find any of those reviews helpful, go ahead and say so! Do more “helpful” votes benefit us? Not sure, but again, probably. Don’t perjure yourself. Who really knows what’s happening in the Amazon Artificial Intelligence. (Seriously good opportunity for crossover speculative fiction there…)

If there is something you are curious about — more a general type of product than a specific item, as there are about 45,000 items available for review at any given time and there is no search function, just filters to select for broad categories — let us know! If either of us are remotely qualified to render an opinion, and we can find an example, we’ll give it a shot. It you’re waiting for the verdict on a pneumatic drain clearing tool, we’ve already got you covered!

5

Apparently, I’m still a Padres Fan

In sports news today, the San Diego Padres traded away a bunch of players — and who knows, one of those players might one day be as good as Juan Soto — for Juan Soto.

To KEEP the kid, the Pads will have to pay him a lot of money. I think they will.

Do you remember the movie Moneyball? In that story the bean counters show that with advanced statistics they can find players that produce more value than is revealed by the traditional RBI and whatnot. The good guys in that story found new ways to measure the value of a player, and used that knowledge to build a world series team on the cheap.

The team in that story was the Oakland A’s. Since then, the ownership of that team has discovered an even more efficient way to run a team: lose. Pay as little as possible to stay in the league, and soak up the shared revenue from the TV deals. They don’t even pretend to be building for the future. Trying to win would cut into profits.

San Diego is one of a handful of teams that is actually trying to win. At some point in the post season they will go tooth-to-claw with the Dodgers —another team trying to win it all — and the odds on that outcome shifted today.

That’s all fun, but it seems like these mighty players the Padres have accumulated — Tatís, Machado, Soto, and many others — it seems like they enjoy playing baseball. Like if you gave them a day off from playing baseball, they’d spend it playing baseball. Guys like that are fun to watch.

And that’s my team. I seem unable to change that. When I heard they got Soto today, a thrill went right through me. A thrill I thought I was above after all this time, but that excitement for the future is the payoff for fandom. Hope lies dark and insidious inside you, a hallucinogenic vision of the future, and given even a glimmer of light will turn you into a gibbering idiot.

Go Padres!

3

Antibiotics are Anti-Life

It’s right there in the name! And that’s only ONE of the reasons people should avoid antibiotics:

  1. Anti-Life, as mentioned
  2. You need to be careful what you put in your body.
  3. Antibiotics have directly caused a higher percentage of the US population to be infertile.*
  4. Antibiotics contain sunspots, just like vaccines do.
  5. Amoxycillin has G6 microchips in it. Way worse than G5!
  6. Some nut job on the Internet says that antibiotics are just a way for THEM to control you.
  7. People give cows antibiotics, and just look at them. Fuckin’ herd animals!
  8. I AM that nut job. And I’m telling the truth, God as my Witness. Well, at least about #3. That’s true.
  9. Don’t listen to me; do your own research. Only don’t listen to THEM. They’re all liars.
  10. Snarglmuffins.

There is the part of me that says, “Jerry, discouraging people from taking life-saving medicine is BAD! Capital B-A-D!” But maybe I’m saving lives here. The sooner people who act with no regard for the safety of their fellow citizens die off, the safer the rest of us will be.

So fuck it. I’m all about aiming an anti-antibiotic campaign tailored straight for the anti-vaxers. Use their words, make them imagine themselves heroes set upon in an egregious age, and let them die of a routine infection. Not so much murder as assisted suicide, and for the greater good.

* By massively increasing the average human life expectancy, antibiotics have increased the percentage of people past child-bearing age.

5

It Must be True

A source close to Twitter was heard by this reporter to say that Elon Musk is a weak-kneed little crybaby. That source went on to say that the only thing Mr. Musk was capable of doing was using a fortune built on the suffering of others to invest in things that appeared outwardly altruistic, and taking credit for himself. The source contends that in the end those efforts were nothing more than a pale attempt to appear cool while doing nothing to address the grievances of the families of the thousands left dead building his family fortune.

“It would cheapen the value of human life to only consider those who died,” the source went on to say. “There are plenty who still live, only to suffer. Musk is a right piece of shit.”

The source also pointed out that now that everyone was watching, Musk realized that even if he owned Twitter he would not be able to rewrite rules of common decency, let alone rewrite the legal limitations on fraud. “This isn’t fun anymore,” the source speculated Musk might have said.

The source went on to say many far less flattering things about Elon “weasel boy” Musk. I believe all of them.

9

The Trump Premium

I’ve been going to a Web site fairly regularly to check on the movements in the price of Bitcoin and other crypto tokens. This has exposed me to a lot of advertisements to invest in precious metals.

Most of those ads are for coins that are either one ounce of silver or one ounce of gold. Not coins in the “legal tender” sort of way, but round things made of pure metal that are struck with some sort of decoration.

While silver currently shows trading at $19.86 per ounce, I can buy a handsome silver coin for $24.27. The coin will have a picture on each side. Maybe liberty or the ol’ “Don’t Tread on Me” snake. That picture is apparently worth about four and a half bucks.

Unless that is, you want your coin stamped with the image of Donald Trump. In that case, the coin will cost you $25.78. Same amount of silver. Just a bigger markup because the buyer is making a value judgement with his testicles, rather than his brain. (I used the male pronoun intentionally, which now I see is a disservice to all the idiots who identify with different pronouns. But I’m leaving it, so I can keep this parenthetical comment.)

So.

There is a significant market in which people will pay extra for any random shit if it has Trump’s picture on it. I picture running a booth in a flea market, and buying shit from all the other booths, putting a Trump sticker on all that stuff, and selling it for 30% more. (Note: this blog episode is NOT filed under get-poor-quick.)

The idea scales. GMC Tundra Trump Edition. (Note to self: research what model of truck was used to commit murder by the “good people” in Charlotte.)

But in between those extremes is where the real money is. I’m sure most of this stuff already exists: Trump beach chairs. Trump shoes. Trump lamp shades. All that shit. Doorknobs, dildos, drapes. Trump condoms that are actually morning-after pills.

As I type this, I realize that all that shit is out there already. I’m not going to think of a new place to sell Trump’s face to his idiot idolizers that hasn’t been exploited already. But that won’t stop me from trying.

Froot Loops! Now with more Trump!

4

Optimization

Tonight it hit me, as I was giving advice, that I was dispensing wisdom I would do well to listen to myself. It was a question about optimization. Whenever you use that word, you have to know what you are optimizing for. Sometimes I forget.

One of the approximations of social media I engage in is a place called StackOverflow.com. That site and dozens of its sisters are an indispensable resource for programmers and tech folk in general. Some nights, like tonight, when I’m a little adrift, I will stop by over there and see if there are any questions pending I am qualified to answer.

When you’ve been around a while, you realize that there are almost no new questions, and in the major categories there are semi-pro question-answerers who can swiftly point the new question to the ancient answer. For php, you will see the name Barmar time and again, always helpful, always gentle.

But there is a category of question that in general is found to be annoying on Stack Overflow, but that I can answer well. These are questions that go beyond the nuts-and-bolts of a language to get to the heart of what programming really is. I will see the code they post, often a mess, and I can sort through it and figure out what is the actual question.

While others will downvote the question for being a mess, I find an opportunity to teach. I see someone who, with a little help, will see the mess also. My answers are long, and meticulous, but if I feel like I’m answering a homework question I leave out the key stones in the path.

A recent example: Someone had code that took the result of a database query and built an html table. But the result of the query didn’t directly match what was to go into the table. So while drawing the table, the code was also trying to figure shit out.

I suggested that while there was no way I was going to figure out what was wrong with the code as written, I had a simple concept to apply: Think, then Draw. Get all the information set up beforehand so that creating the html was just a brain-dead loop.

I have discovered that I have axioms. One is “Keep the guards close to the gate.” Another, apparently, is “Think, then draw.”

Tonight I came across a question asking for how to optimize a data manipulation operation. Massive data in, then a rearrangement of the data to be more useful later. The code to accomplish the data transform included nested loops, but was pretty tight and pretty clean. “How do I optimize this?” was the question.

I have come to realize that optimization of code is an economic judgement, not a technical one. The most obvious tradeoff: You can use more memory to make your process run faster.

But there is another, more subtle, economic tradeoff. Tonight I answered the optimization question with another economic argument: that Engineer Hours are worth more then CPU milliseconds. I told that person that if their code worked, and there wasn’t a specific problem caused by it, then it was perfect and they should move on to the next problem. I told that programmer to value their own time. Not just for personal reasons, but to better judge how their time could best help their endeavor.

Value your time, but also recognize the cost of your time.

My friends, this is something I do not do well. Where I work, I am moving our stuff from an environment where it was hosted for free, to a place where we will have to pay for the resources. I am, at heart, a cheap bastard. While that does me well at the poker table, it may not always serve the interests of my employer. I am constantly aware that all resources I request will now be billed.

So I spend time, hours of my time, trying to guess how small a footprint I can squeeze into on behalf of our group. I spend hours on elaborate schemes to do more with less. But I am not serving my clients well. I’m not including the cost of my time in the value equation. Things are too slow? I could spend a week doing clever stuff, at a cost to my company of thousands of dollars in my compensation while I defer projects that actually will make things run better, or I could just submit a form and get more RAM for the database, at an incremental cost for the department each month.

In my defense, I HATE filling out forms. I HATE the call that comes after while someone else re-enters the form into a different system, and invariably makes a mistake. I will take a week with the code over an afternoon of nonsense any time. But that is a weakness, not a strength. That is me allowing my own preferences to make decisions that are not properly optimized.

I am, at heart, a person who can take a problem and slice it and slice it and slice it until each part is a simple question, and I can take the answers to those questions and combine them to arrive at the solution. While I’m at it, I’ll make tests so that each part proves itself. When you see my code at the flea market, it will be on the shelf behind the table, where you will have to ask to get a closer look. I am proud of this. But it is not always a good thing.

There was a time I was VP of Software Engineering at a small company, and I did all right in that role. During the dot-com boom I held a pretty dang good team together. I didn’t have to fill out forms then, either. We were all just building something awesome. The calculus of the value of my time was different then; Engineer-hours — my hours — were a commodity; the value only to be realized if the venture succeeded. (Picture Facebook, before Facebook, only far more dynamic, with the fatal flaw of being private.)

Good times, good times. The sleep-optional days of youth. But if I’m going to justify that little walk in the past in this ramble, I have to tie it to the present.

Back then, I was paid well enough but there was never doubt that Engineer Hours were the currency we were paying to make our name. Our data center was a few racks in a room that had once been a bank vault (AWS was decades away yet). Everything, everything, was optimized for minimum CPU.

Tonight, while I was (very gracefully I’m sure) reminding a young coder about the relative value of CPU cycles relative to neuron flashes, I realized that I have not been very good at making that judgement myself. I need to do better. Not just for my team, but for myself. I need to fill out the goddam form, bluster my way to 4x the resources I actually think we need (magnificently tiny, in the scale of my company), and recognize that my time is better spent making new things, rather than helping the old things go.

2

The Bitcoin Plunge is not a Market Correction

It drives me batty to read respected people in national publications talk about the nosedive of Bitcoin and other crypto as a “market correction.”

A market correction happens when the price of a security or a general market of securities overruns any sort of historical baseline for value. When you talk about stocks, there are the simple metrics of how much money a company makes or the value of that company’s assets. There are metrics like that for real estate, municipal bonds, and even manufacturing.

A correction comes when the market realizes that the price has been bid up far past what the underlying value of the asset is. This happens fairly often: people buy stock based on what they expect the performance of the company to be. Sometimes people get excited.

When people say that crypto is no different than the stock market, they are either lying to you or to themselves. There is no P/E report on Bitcoin. No debt-to-asset report on Etherium. Because there is nothing there. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, supporting the value of those tokens.

The price is based on blind faith, sell-shaming, and billionaires spinning a story that ends with them having your money.

The tower is crumbling now; we have been on a roughly monthly cadence hearing about the failure of some sham company that banked everything on crypto always going up. The market plunges, then holds steady for a while, cryptobros in their executive suites sweating as the scam crumbles until they rush for the doors calling back over their shoulders “#HODL!” and another crypto company based on the “always-up” model craters, unable to even tolerate the market that is merely steady.

A true market correction would reduce Bitcoin to just a little bit over zero. I will grant the little bit because Bitcoin is just a little bit useful for things besides being a store of value. Oligarchs have to shift their cash, after all.

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Hot Times in the City

The temperature went over one hundred degrees here today, as it does sometimes (more often lately, but we all know that). At about 2pm the guys who messed up our ducts came back and fixed out ducts, and life was good — the best cooling this house has ever known. Until about 4pm. That’s when the AC shut down entirely. Hopefully it’s just a matter of replacing (again) the ridiculously huge fuses on the unit. (Although huge fuses mean huge power and BLOWING huge fuses means maybe it’s time to replace the damn thing.)

It’s warm in here right now. Warm enough that my laptop, already prone to run hotter than one would think necessary, essentially shut itself down to prevent it from burning itself up.

My laptop is a MacBook, and they are not generally considered good gaming machines for two reasons: one, the hottest games don’t run on Macs, and two, because Macs aren’t built to dissipate the heat that comes with the massive processing in a modern computer game.

But today I wasn’t running any graphic-intensive game. I did play NetHack for a while, but that is the opposite of graphics-intensive. And because I was playing on NAO, even that processing was happening in a data center somewhere (or perhaps, a linux box under someone’s desk).

MacBooks, when overheating, use a process to simply block out all other programs part of the time, to reduce the load so the computer can cool down. I reached a point today where the safety program was taking up all the time.

I quit any program that was even using the slightest CPU and the situation did not improve. I shut down the machine, waited a few minutes, and started it back up to the slowest reboot since DOS was on floppies, because the kernel task went straight to maximum protection.

Finally, I went to the freezer and pulled out a cold pack I use on my knee. I put the computer to sleep, and set the thing right onto the cold pack, and when I woke it up the machine was happy. For a little while, at least.

I have now used a second cold pack, which is why I’m able to write this right now.

If you search for “Refrigerated Laptop Cooling Pad” or any of a hundred permutations, you will get lots of hits, but none of them are actually refrigerated. They just have lots of fans. And while I’m sure that helps, I’m a little surprised that there’s no active cooling. The top-tier game machines have liquid cooling built directly into the enclosure. It doesn’t seem a stretch to extend the heat sink of a metal-hulled laptop with a refrigerated system to take the heat away.

I’m filing this episode under Get Poor Quick because this is such a golden opportunity for the right person. Get on that, right person! Make the Chill Spot. I’m tired of my laptop shutting itself down!

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