Sunday, July 31, 2011

I found the wheat

I was reading The Idea of Justice by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, now in paperback, and he starts out with the following example.

Take three kids and a flute. Anne says the flute should be given to her because she is the only one who knows how to play it. Bob says the flute should be handed to him as he is so poor he has no toys to play with. Carla says the flute is hers because she made it.

Sen argues that who gets the flute depends on your philosophy of justice. Bob, the poorest, will have the support of the economic egalitarian. The libertarian would opt for Carla. The utilitarian will argue for Anne because she will get the maximum pleasure, as she can actually play the instrument. Sen states there are no institutional arrangements that can help us resolve this dispute in a universally accepted just manner.

I liked the thought experiment better when it was called 'The Little Red Hen'

“I found the wheat, I planted it, I weeded it, and when it was time to harvest it, I did that too. I took it to the mill to be ground into flour and at last, I baked it into bread.

“Now,” said the little red hen, “I’m going to eat it with my family.” And she did.

Nothing more universal and just than telling the cow, pig and cat to go f*** themselves and eating that bread with your family.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Which My Economic Illiteracy Is On Display

If the United States can't keep it's economic affairs in order then perhaps we don't deserve to have a AAA credit rating.


A solution for the problem

So some commentators have suggested that the Treasury create two $1
trillion coins, deposit them in its account in the Federal Reserve and
write checks on the proceeds.

I like it: if the government can wish money into existence then why can't it wish up more money, in really interesting denominations?

Time Passes

In a bag of tools at Dad's cabin was a hatchet. Looked at the sheath - BSA stamped on it. A thirty-year old hatchet, purchased for camping with the Boy Scouts when I was in middle-school. I never felt any particular attachment to it, but .. it went home with me.

The blade is still sharp. Gonna take care of that sucker. Perhaps my boys will find it in a bag of tools when I pass on.

My grandparents lived near here, for a while. Farming alfalfa [1] then selling / servicing irrigation equipment. Yvonne or Michelle took a picture of it - better than this one but from the same vantage point - blown up to poster size - and it hung on the wall at Dad's cabin. Now it's on the wall of my cube at work. The description of how a tuff ring forms caught my eye ...

... created when basalt magma rose to the surface and encountered the wet muds of a lake bottom. Powered by a jet of steam, molten basalt was blown into the air, creating a fountain of hot lava particles and frothy ash. The pieces and blobs of hot lava and ash rained down around the vent and formed a saucer-shaped ring of lapilli tuff and volcanic ash sitting like an island in the lake waters.

Kaboom. Nothing you'd want to stand around and watch.

That corner of the country is like that: a constant reminder of violent events in the not-so-very distant past [2].

Geologic calamity in slow motion.

[1] It does not make any kind of sense to pipe water to the desert for plants that one will turn into cow food. But there it is.

[2] And the not-so distant past. It was quite a deal, watching ash cover Vancouver inches deep.


Money cannot buy
The fuel of Love:
But is excellent kindling.

To the man-in-the-street, who, I'm sorry to say,
Is a keen observer of life,
The word intellectual suggests straight away
A man who's untrue to his wife.

-- W. H. Auden, "Collected Shorter Poems"

Who would hire any of these guys to do a job? They don't know anything.

"A guy increases the debt by 40%, GDP growth is on the way down, food stamps are up 40% and to accomplish this we spent four trillion dollars!"

He sounds upset. I cannot imagine why.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A distinction without a difference

...keep it up, GOP, and you'll have me voting libertarian next year.

"But!" You say. "If you vote for a libertarian, Obama will win again!"


The difference between Mr. Fungus and myself is that he's still got faith in the Republican Party and mine kind of flew out the window a while ago.

Going to vote for Gary Johnson.

If he doesn't get the nod I'm going to vote for whatever nut the Libertarian party cranks out.

Michaelis, what are tanks for?

"Michaelis, what are tanks for?"

"To kill, sir."

"Take your tanks to Suwon," Ridgeway said.

"Fine, sir," Michaelis answered.  "It's easy to get them there.  Getting them back is going to be more difficult because they (the Chinese) always cut the road behind you."

"Who said anything about coming back?" Ridgeway answered.  "If you can stay up there twenty-four hours, I'll send the division up.  If the division can stay up there twenty-four hours, I'll send the corps up."  That, thought Michaelis, was as the start of a brand-new phase of the war, the beginning of the turnaround.

From 'The Coldest Winter' by David Halberstam.

'To kill, sir.'  Korea was a disaster for everyone involved.[1]  The clarity of purpose and will shown by Michaelis and Ridgeway must have been a ray of sunshine to everyone involved.

[1] Except the Chinese government.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Situation - Getting Better

The day before we left for Oklahoma was a series of domestic problems.

The washing machine refused to drain - the pump was issuing an ominous an ka-klunk ka-klunk noise.  Then the computer would decide to shut things down rather than continue doing whatever it was doing.

The garage door fell apart: three rollers missing, a fourth was off the track.

Couldn't stay around to fix it - family called.  Things needed to be done.

Tied the garage door up so it couldn't get any worse.  Told the kids to leave the washing machine alone.  Did a load of laundry by hand.  Spent the next day driving to Oklahoma. 

And man, nothing feels as empty as US 169 south of Iola, Kansas after dark.  There may be stuff out there, but I don't think I saw a single light until I hit Nowata.

When I got back I put off attending to those chores.  Intellectually, I know that when one's father dies it's going to cause a certain moodiness - to say the least - but I was unprepared for how badly this hit me.

Couldn't put it off anymore.  I need my garage, and I was down to my last clean pair of underwear.

Laid the washer down. Prepared myself to find a dead pump.  Found a mangled sock coiled up inside.  Removed sock.  Washing machine is back in working order.

Got new rollers from Menards.  Couldn't find my 7/16 socket.  Used vise-grips to unbolt the hinges.  Spent 30 minutes on one hinge, realized that was insane.  Got a new socket set from Wal-Mart.  Thirty minutes later the job is 90% done, with one pesky hinge up in the upper corner that requires some minor adjust before it will fit.  It was dark, dinner was ready.  Enough for the day.

And I'm no longer quite so down-in-the-dumps.   Getting something, anything, done was a big help.

 It still hurts, but I can breathe and move and think again.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Out on the ranch . . .

Out on the ranch a cowboy is facing his horse.

Cowboy: Well, you're a pretty good hoss, I guess. Hard workin', that's a plus. You aint' the fastest critter I ever come across . . .

Horse: "No, stupid, not feed*back*. I said I wanted a feed*bag*.

Applescript to connect using SSH

Assume one has a Mac. Uses iTerm2. And that one spends a great deal of time managing a riot of Unix systems using SSH.

Now use this AppleScript to launch a new terminal window, then login to your remote host. Now - as the joke goes - you have four problems.

The interesting part were variables, which I did not know how to pass to Applescript. So I learned something: hey, hey hey.


$ hostname


on run argv
tell application "iTerm"

-- This causes script to operate on current terminal (window)
-- set term to (current terminal)

-- make a new terminal
set term to (make new terminal)

-- Open a new tab
tell term
set Lsession to (make new session at the end of sessions)
tell Lsession
set name to (item 1 of argv)
exec command "ssh username@" & item 1 of argv & " "
end tell
end tell

end tell

end run
#! /bin/bash
source $HOME/.conf/remote.conf
echo "-----------------------------"
echo "Take off, hoser"
echo "-----------------------------"
cd $HOME/bin
osascript $HOME/bin/s2.scpt $1

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tab Clearing

Gary Johnson calls family leader pledge 'Offensive and Unrepublican'. “Government should not be involved in the bedrooms of consenting adults. I have always been a strong advocate of liberty and freedom from unnecessary government intervention into our lives. The freedoms that our forefathers fought for in this country are sacred and must be preserved. The Republican Party cannot be sidetracked into discussing these morally judgmental issues — such a discussion is simply wrongheaded. We need to maintain our position as the party of efficient government management and the watchdogs of the “public’s pocket book”.

Scared of Freedom. There are a lot of people who consider themselves freedom advocates, who, with righteous zeal and indignation, vehemently rail against the injustice, corruption and oppression "government" continually spews forth. However, many of those same people, when they hear someone suggesting life without the monstrosity called "government," will immediately go into turbo-backpedal mode, insisting that some "government" is needed, that we need to work to fix the system, and that we need a good "government," that just does good stuff, and protects us, and so on.

BYTE is back. It's too bad it won't live. But then again, what does?

The UN has a plan. Here is the world’s most powerful intergovernmental institution essentially arguing for the destruction of the global economy, enforced rationing, Marxist wealth redistribution, greater regulation, the erosion of property rights and global governance by a new world order of technocrats and bureaucrats.

Farewell To Space-Faring. The Final Shuttle Launch for Friday has been cancelled, but it’s still the end of an era. Actually it’s the end of several eras, particularly the America as a space-faring nation era inaugurated by John Kennedy. The twist is that Shuttle killed space-faring.

Eat our Peas: Command Economy. The President of the United States has spoken. It is time to compromise by giving in to what he wants. To the various Republican suggestions regarding the debt limit, he says: (click the link)

Beyond The Big City Blues. Racial problems in the US contributed to the particular history of the urban underclass and race can never be totally ignored in this country, but the inner city today is haunted by three serious problems, none of which is racial in nature: a lack of jobs, an advanced state of social disintegration and decay, and the presence of the illegal drug industry.

House-Wring Diagrams. One came with the house. It went god-knows-where sometime in the last few years. And it's now out of date, thanks to a new panel in the basement. Time to make a new one. And this is a big ol' barn of a house, built in three phases spanning decades: nooks and crannies and cruft everywhich-where.

The Node Beginner Book. More new crap to learn. I need to be twins.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reasons Why I Like Unix Part Umpty

Instructions at work to download a backup copy of our documentation wiki for

Windows users

8 line Powershell script
2 lines to explain how to set this as an automated task
2 lines to explain who to run an unsigned script

OS X users

curl -O

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... your mother.

Leon: My mother?
Holden: Yeah.
Leon: Let me tell you about my mother.

Same to you, Jerk.

From the movie 'Blade Runner' of course.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Wobbly World - Crisis Magazine

The funny part is, our culture’s growing allergic reaction to the Christian tradition — and therefore to people who, you know, actually know something about pre-Christian paganism — makes the Allergic ignorant of the debt they owe the Christian tradition for preserving paganism. For it is, after all, the Church that preserved the wreckage
of high pagan civilization after low pagan barbarians destroyed it. Indeed, much of the “ancient mystical” paganism our culture tends to enthuse about (think Mists of Avalon, druids, Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge, various Celticized bits of rubbish, Wicca, etc.) is not Greco-Roman (which actually achieved something creative) but Anglo-Germanic and northern European in flavor. The thing is, northern European pagan patrimony to us is a few phallic standing stones. That’s because they spent most of their time getting drunk and stealing from each other, until they finally wandered in a raging stupor down to the Mediterranean to do a bit of raping and pillaging of the decadent Roman Empire.

Our Wobbly World - Crisis Magazine

Monday, July 11, 2011

You can have any color whoozit as long as it meets federal aesthetic guidelines

Let this roll around inside your head for a minute:

We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.

That is Secretary Steven Chu.  Member of the Obama Administration.  A Nobel-prize-winning knows-better-than-you arrogant son-of-a-git who would prefer that the government waste your money instead of you.

The Obama Administration: knowing what's good for you better than you ever could.


Saturday, July 09, 2011

The right to keep and arm bears

Six months after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, the White House is preparing to propose some new steps on gun safety . . .

Gun safety. For the children, no doubt.

Dumb motherfuckers.

(Pardon my French.)

Guns are safe.   Keep your fingers off the trigger, they don't go bang.

Problem solved.  Next?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Farewell Shuttle


A gorgeous spectacle on launch.  Poetry in air gliding home.

Too complex, too expensive, not very good at any one thing.

But she was a by-God spaceship: such a sight to see.

War On Libya Day Mumblety

This just in: The War in Libya is

Still a disorganized cluster-fuck
Still illegal
Still a bad idea

This news flash has been brought to you by the Nifty News Fifty Info team and your local 'That's Obvious' mega-store.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled krep.

Gadhafi, like Hitler, is serious about attacking Europe

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned on Tuesday that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is "serious" about attacking European cities in order to pressure European officials to cease their airstrikes against Libya.
"He actually means it," Graham said of Gadhafi. "Hitler meant it. He means it."

He broke out the H-word.  He meant it, he really did.

How stupid does he think we are?  What is that, five, six, a dozen petite dictators who have been compared to the Austrian Corporal in the last generation?  Don't you think that, by now, comparing anyone to Hitler has gotten so devalued that it's lost any meaning whatsoever?

We might be charitable and assume Graham has got some secret-squirrel data from the Cee Eye Ay: hard intel, solid data on terrorist cells, dates, times, plans, hordes of shadowy fifth columnists sneaking about in the night ...

Fuck Europe.  If they're so damned supine and disorganized that an ass-fart of place like Libya represents a viable threat, then they deserve what they get.

A Personal Note

There are some things I just don't talk about on this blog. They are just none of your business.

Unless those things are funny. Or weird.

Mostly it's because a) that's not what this blog is for [1] and b) I don't do 'feelings' in public. Remorseless repression of emotion until a culturally-approved means to blow it off is the way I roll.

[1] If it can be said to be about anything.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The art and craft and science of software

Software: art, craft, engineering?

... we've only been creating software half a century. We've only had academic departments devoted to it for half of that. And many of those still haven't figured out whether they're applied math departments, or electrical engineers who don't like bothering with all the soldiering and other messy stuff, or whether they want to teach students how software works so the students will be good at their future jobs, or because knowledge is its own reward. We haven't been making software or training programmers very long, so let's not throw in the towel on making coding into engineering yet.

SB7: Stack Exchange

It's only in the last century or so that the art of 'building stuff' has progressed from rule of thumb to engineering. And people have been building things for how long? A few thousand years. Software as engineering might happen.

But: Mike Mulligan does not have to deal with the mess made by some guy who built the old town hall on the rule of thumb method while digging the basement of the new town hall in Popperville. Nope: somebody else knocked the old building down before he even got there. [1]

Mr. Software Developer is - and will be for quite some time [2] - building his works on the foundations, if not right inside of, software developed by the rule-of-thumb craftsman method.

[1] I'm stretching a point: the site chosen for the new town hall was clearly a brand-new site: no prior construction.

[2] Thousands of years, if Vernor Vinge is right. In 'A Deepness in the Sky' the skills commanded by a programmer archeologist are very valuable indeed, guys who can dive into code hundreds or thousands of years [3] old and hack something up that works on existing problems.

[3] They use the Unix epoch as the basis for keeping time.


“I came here to hunt whales not my commander’s vengeance.  How many barrels of sperm oil will that vengeance yield?  What will it fetch on the New Bedford market?”

Starbuck - Moby Dick.

"It has been said an engineer is a man who can do for ten shillings what any fool can do for a pound...."

Nevil Shute - Slide Rule: Autobiography of an Engineer.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Long Week

90% of what I do professionally can be done by a chimp.  I earn my salary for the other 10%.

This week I earned my living.

Component isolation: learn it, love it, use it.