24 October 2016

I Have Something I Know That You Want

John Oliver is strong to very strong.
5 minutes of video, but you will need sound.

23 October 2016

Nightmare Fuel: Spider Eats a Mouse

This is all over the interwebs (HONK!) but it's worth revisiting here.

Photo shows a huntsman spider carrying off a small mouse that he, you know, killed, and is going to go eat. A bit of take-away, if you will. Take out? Whatever they call it down under. Who cares? Australia is terrifying. Everything there is poisonous. Even the mammals.

16 October 2016

Your "Smart" Watch is Disposable Trash

Do You Know What Time It Is?
Let's get this out of the way up front: "Smart" watches are trash. I understand that this is a warm to hot take but I feel good about it. Let's unpack their disposable trash-ness.

Some context: In 1992 I bought a stainless steel (unusual for that time, when most Casio cases were resin) Casio Pentagraph DW-7200. I think I paid the princely sum of $120, which is about $200 today, so it was at the high end of the Casio range, mainly because of stainless case and screw down backing. Browsing the internets it seems that most people bought this thing because it looked cool: they liked the dials on the front (hence: 'pentagraph').

Since then I have replaced the band four or five times, and the battery once(!). It is no longer waterproof to 200M but it has served admirably for the past 20+ years. The only threat to its continued service is my own negligence. At this point it's the most reliable object I have ever owned. If everything else I bought lasted this long then the glorious consumer engine that is the American economy would shudder to a screeching halt. And it looks pretty good for what is now officially a 'vintage' Casio.

Contrast this functional, robust instrument with whatever 'smart' watch you like. This device has almost none of the features you can find on your Series 1* Apple "watch" (no retina display, no bluetooth -lulz, no wifi- lulz, no heart rate sensor, no 'watch os2' - whatever that is). It also doesn't have "up to 18 hours of battery life", which is a very interesting feature to offer in a device that is supposed to report the time and date, and also: are you fucking joking? What kind of asshole buys a 'watch' that can't even tell the time for at least 18 hours?

There are other watches that perform marginally better, but for the most part the pattern is the same. It's a micro-computer that integrates with the mini-computer in your pocket or purse, and in that role it is barely adequate. It does do some things, but you can get all of those things from your phone and a fitbit.

Also, let's be honest about what a 'smart' watch is: it's an excuse for someone to check their email and text messages without getting out their phone. So it gives you a new and novel way to be that asshole that is constantly checking your phone. Congratulations?

Will anyone be using these 'smart' watches in 20 years? Hell no. 10 years? No. Five years? Umm, no. In two or three years they will all be obsolete. And you will buy a new one, and then you have a growing collection of junk watches that won't even be as useful as the early-gen Ipods, which were at least viable as external hard drives.

Please don't buy a 'smart' watch. They are bad and dumb, and you are neither of those things. Right? Right.

* Note that the Series 1 is the old, even more trash version than the new version - Apple loves selling you overpriced disposable consumer items more than anyone. Don't people get tired of planned obsolescence?

15 October 2016

Trolley Problem: Solved

Bit late to this but if you are familiar with the Trolley Problem then you will probably enjoy this creative solution. Kid gets a perfect score for fairness; empathy score is, ahhhh, somewhat lower.

Short summary of the Trolley Problem - a runaway 'trolley' is barreling down tracks towards five people. The resulting, inevitable crash will kill all involved. You can intervene by pulling a lever so that the trolley switches to a different track, killing only one person. What would you do?

14 October 2016

Trump Sandwich

Much like the man himself - we know it has terrible taste.

Signboards are kind of a theme this week.

This Will Make You Feel Better

If this doesn't make you smile then I can't help you.

13 October 2016

Microservices: Culture -> Strategy -> Skills -> Tools

(This post is related to a presentation I gave about two months ago on microservices tools. If you don't know what that means and/or aren't interested in it then just ignore. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming shortly.)

I was asked give a talk at a microservices seminar. My job was to cover/demo  the tools used for 'typical' microservices deployments. ('Typical' is a generic term and does not lend itself well to this kind of talk, but whatever.) The tool-specific section of that talk is less important than the overarching themes I explored when I introduced the tools. Specifically, I outlined a hierarchy of dependencies that will enable (or derail) any microservices initiative.* They are, in descending order of criticality:
  1. Culture
  2. Strategy
  3. Skills
  4. Tools
Any organization that attempts to adopt a microservices initiative without alignment in all of these key areas will never reach their full potential. At best they will fumble along with intermediate or haphazard success; at worst they will fail spectacularly.

No strategic microservices initiative will succeed without a culture shift. No amount of brilliant developers and their concomitant skills can overcome a weak or antagonistic strategy. And the best tools cannot help you if you don't have the requisite skills.

If you are considering a microservices strategy and aren't sure what tools to use then it is very likely that you have other, more serious challenges. Is your culture in alignment with microservices principles and best practices? Is your strategy in alignment with your culture? Does your team have the skills to execute your strategy? If so, what tools are they most comfortable with?

Of course there are a great many other issues to consider - that's why Amundsen, et. al. wrote a book. Go there for more information, or use the google. It will not take very long to find more information than you ever wanted to know. If that's not enough then I will unpack each of the component dependencies in a later post (get excited!), but if all you take from this is the four key elements then you are off to a good start.

Thanks for reading.

* None of this happens in a vacuum. I adapted the work of the authors of this book along with some interesting and useful strategic thinking from some other hobby interests of mine.

12 October 2016

Costa Rica is Nice, You Should Go

Click to Embiggen
Liked my trip to Costa Rica well enough. Had some good experiences, and the yoga was great. I took hardly any photos so the only photo record I have is from my friends that were there at the same time. This is one of those photos.

Having my picture taken is a sadness so as soon as the camera came out I made sure to try and get out of the way. Limited success on the photo-dodge but the result is a good example of how I spent most of my non-yoga time in Santa Teresa and surrounding environs: out hiking or at the beach or on the quad to get to different hiking or beach or lunch spots. Good times.

11 October 2016

Van City Beers and Van City Bears

I'm Risk Averse
This is from a couple months ago when I was in Van City. Enjoyed the sign so much I went inside to see what they had in they way of beers. Plus bears are dangerous, and you never know. 

(I didn't see any bears in Van City - I saw a lot of heroin addicts and able-bodied homeless and general street trash but no bears. Go figure.)

10 October 2016

I Am an International Financier! But Also: Diversify Your Portfolio - Kiva Loans Defaulted :(

I submitted my first loan through Kiva in July 2007, right about the time they blew up on Oprah and got all their loans 100% funded. Since then I have circulated the money to 16 different people, which is quite a few more than the 'average' kiva lender, although this is probably down to the fact that most people loan once or twice and quit out. That's a lot of people to contribute to and help in some some small way.

Kiva provides some useful statistics on your account. Turns out I have been mostly lucky in delinquency rates and default rates, because until recently none of my loans had been delinquent or defaulted.

Now for the less than good news: my luck ran out and I went from a default rate of zero to way past the average when a single organization that was managing a couple of my loans went under and I lost about $100. Sad faces. Per Kiva the average default rate is 1.33%, and my default rate went from zero to 8% overnight. This is disappointing but what can you do? Nothing is guaranteed, life is uncertain, etc and so forth. I'm about to re-lend the money I have in my account now. Let's do this!

03 October 2016

Fix That with Gum

Turns out you can fix high-pressure hydraulic seals with chewing gum! This fun fact would be a lot more interesting if chewing gum and o-ring seals commonly used in this application were not comprised of the same material.

This man is a hero. "We'll use the old saskatchewan socket on it - we know we got it just the right tightness because it's rounded right off'. 

28 September 2016

Brian Anderson is Awesome

Brian Anderson came out publicly.

This guy is a legend, and although it was more than a little sad to hear how hard being in skate culture was for him at times I'm pumped that he is out now and living his best life.

Brian Anderson should be your favorite skater, even if you don't like skateboarding. The guy is rad. And not for nothing: he's fucking awesome at skateboarding.

27 September 2016

Story of Your Life (Not Actually Arrival)

I read Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang many years ago. According to the helpful receipt I saved to use as a bookmark I bought the book on 2 Sept 2002 at around 9 PM. Details are fun! What was I doing at a (now defunct) Borders bookstore at 9 PM on a Monday? No idea. Buying books, obvs.

The story is a masterpiece, and it stuck with me over the years. The premise is deeply affecting, and the story itself is very well written. I loved it so much that when I heard they made a movie I dug the book off the bookshelf and re-read it again after over a decade.

You should read it if you like words, and books, and reading. The movie trailer outlines a much different narrative than the one described in the book. Also the story will probably take you less time to read. Even though the movie is getting great reviews they should be considered separately. The payoff of the story will be a lot better if you haven't seen the movie. So buy it, and read it. Think of the rest of the anthology as an excellent bonus.

As an aside: made a rare appearance at the local bar last night and a girl approached me and asked me if I was watching the football game on the tv. I said, no, not really. She said, 'oh because this time of year all the guys I know are obsessed with football'. I said, that's not me. She said, 'what do you do?' I said, 'I read books.' She would have been less surprised if I said "I kick puppies."

25 September 2016

You're Doing it Wrong: Trick or Treating

Originally published this on 2 Nov 2015, but since IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN (GET EXCITED FOR HALLOWEEN) I'm reposting it. You're welcome(?).


I guess this is a real thing that happened. A parent posted these around their neighborhood in Philly or its environs.

Someone forwarded it to me so who knows? The internet is full of things that are not true. But it is funny and sparked a discussion amongst the peeps. I mean a discussion beyond the gross helicopter parenting and projected sadness on display in the flyer. (It is hard to decide which part is the most lame. Is the the 'don't exclude anyone part'? Or is the part where you should hand out candy that is gluten free, dairy free, and nut free? Lord have mercy on this poor kid because his parents are failing.)

What is the lamest halloween trick or treat you can put in someone's bag?

This list is a very strong summary of utter garbage. Let's rate them on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a full size snicker's bar, and 1 being an apple or whatever.
  • Carrot sticks? Go f yourself. (Not Rated)
  • Smarties - Not good but they will do the job. 4 out of 10 wrappers in your pocket.
  • Necco wafers - have only seen these in movies about the apocalypse because they are the last thing left to eat. 1 out of 10 zombies.
  • Lifesavers - Could eat it if you were dying. 2 out of 10 red tongues. 
  • Brach's Lemon Drops - My favorite, except that they ruin your mouth. 8 out of 10 cold sores. 
  • Raisins - You are a troll. 0 out of 10 opportunities to be socially well adjusted.
There were some other options suggested by my friend Eames:
  • Pennies. This was definitely the worst thing I remembered. 0 out of 10 pieces of garbage you rescued from your ashtray, adjusted for inflation.
  • Homemade popcorn ball -  Depends on if it is caramel corn or not. If it is homemade caramel corn then that is actually good. 8 out of 10 pieces of popcorn stuck in your teef. If it is anything but caramel corn then it sucks. 1 out of 10 balls of sadness. 
Hope you had a good halloween. Mine was quiet. I loathe dress up, if you hadn't heard.

Jose Fernandez is Dead

Sad news out of Miami this morning as Jose Fernandez died in the early morning hours in a boating crash. Baseball is boring and lame - too much baloney about playing the game the 'right way' - but Jose Fernandez was neither of those things; he was the antithesis of boring and lame baseball. He was really good, and he was a joy to watch.

I'm reminded of something Shea Serrano wrote in a series he did on coaching middle school basketball (which I cannot recommend highly enough; read it here in its entirety). In describing one of his immensely talented, handsome, and charming players he said something like, "I don't know how it would feel to be a master of the universe, but it looks like a hell of a lot of fun." That's how I felt when I watched Jose Fernandez.

He was 24.

12 September 2016

I Went There: Vancouver

(One in an occasional series.)

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging is that I have been on the road. First there was a lot of domestic travel (covered that in a previous post), and then I was visiting The Northern United States Provinces of Socialized Medicine Canadia and then a couple cities in Central America (more on that in a bit). 

Vancouver is a lovely city any time of year, but particularly so in the summer. I had to go out there for work (poor me), and one afternoon I had lunch down at the seawall. The great thing about Van City is that it is pedestrian friendly, the people are mostly nice, and there's a lot of cool neighborhoods to visit. If you like to shop while you do your sightseeing then you will be in heaven. (I'm not a big fan of shopping when I travel because there's nothing in other cities you can't buy in Costa Mesa, but if that's your thing, cool.) If good food and walkable areas and the occasional beer is your thing then you will enjoy Van City quite a lot. It is a very popular vacation destination for a reason.

A downside to Van City is the large drug addicted and able bodied homeless population. I had not seen anyone shooting up or nodded out in the streets in a while but all of that was a part of some minor sightseeing in Gastown. It's pretty sketchy down there in spots! Liberal cities are great until you see so many people completely uninterested in any kind of work. Again: there's no shortage of drug addicted and mentally ill homeless in my neighborhood but Vancouver had hundreds of young, able people sleeping in the streets. It's a fine line between lazy and addicted, and Van City seems to encourage the former while enabling the latter. Overall a fun visit. Recommended. 

11 September 2016

Go to a Show: Sam Outlaw

Went to a Sam Outlaw show last night. It was great.
He wrote this song for his mom, which is also great.

Full disclosure: Sam and I have been friends for a long time. He has popped up in this space a few times over the years. Funny thing about Sam is that he was always a star, even when he was a 21 year old kid fresh out of college. He wasn't famous, but he was always a star. Some people are like that. Anyway, his music is good if you like melodies with some twang. It probably has more in common with the Eagles than it does with modern prototype 'country' music, but that's a credit in my opinion. And if you aren't here for my opinion then what are you here for?

Sam is touring now. Get out there and see him in person. If you're lucky he will do a live reading of the letter someone wrote his manager because they felt Sam was going to hell because he wrote/performs a song called Jesus Take the Wheel (and Drive Me to a Bar).