Archive for October, 2008

Why STAR in new york is a bad idea

Friday, October 31st, 2008

The STAR program (I forget what it stands for, “Stupid Tax Assessment Reclamation” maybe?) is a great testament to the inefficiency of state government. I mean who really questions that, and does it really need to be brought up again? No, it doesn’t but I can’t resist.

The STAR program basically gives back money to property owners who pay property taxes.

Now most sane people would just organize it so that they’re charged less rather than charge more and then give back some of it. It’s a waste of time, and money.

Somewhere, greenburgh found a ton of money to rebuild the library. Now I’m all for libraries, so good for them. But while they’re building it, they’ve moved the books and other library materials into 3 satellite offices, one of them being in the also nearly brand-spanking-new town hall (you know, the place when you get ass fucked when you want to get a building permit to build a gazebo).

I go to the town hall nowadays to borrow DVDs from the library. I marvel that the library spends good tax money on buying the likes of “Jackass II” to put in the borrowable library materials, but that’s a rant for another day.

While walking to the back of the building where the library materials are, I always pass an office that says “STAR program. We will return 9am.”

They (I’m sorry, I mean WE THE TAXPAYERS) employ people and heat the space of an office to support the process of giving back money that they charged in property taxes when just a little more time could be spent in the existing tax office to make sure they charge me the right amount of taxes in the first place.

And for this extra expense, I’m sure my taxes have gone up.

We need a revolution. Just a little one.

And I’m sure that building a gazebo increased my property taxes.

Of which I will get some back from the STAR program.

How to become president in one easy step

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

A few weeks ago I had this idea that the way to get elected was to do something really loud media big and
noisy 3 days before the election. This is about the attention span of the average tv-watching american I figure.

I figure that’s also about how long it takes the media to ramp up to full steam over something really juicy.

McCain’s not doing too well, from what I hear, but I just figured out what he could do 3 days before election day to possibly stick it to obama (aside from blowing up a US building somewhere in the 50 states).

He could dump palin for somebody known to be competent.
That would get a lot of people to swing back right quick, just in time to vote before they had a chance to
rethink it.

I accept paypal payments for my brilliant ideas. Thank you.

A word on health and being lazy

Monday, October 27th, 2008

It seems to me that if our evolutionary ancestors were lazy sacks of shit like we are nowadays, we’d be a lot better off.

You exercise to stay in shape and keep healthy, because humans evolved doing exercise (hunting and whatnot). If we had evolved on a couch, our bodies would be most adept at staying on couches because we would have evolved that way and we’d be a lot better off now.

Why doesn’t anybody make an efficient heating system?

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I have a oil burning steam heating system in my house. The burner burns the oil, (it’s a rather cool looking flamethrower type thing) and heats up some water to turn it into steam, it floats through the radiator system eventually heating up the radiators and transferring the heat to the air around them. Wonderful.

Back when oil was a buck a gallon this seemed fine, but lots of people signed oil contracts this year at $5.00 a gallon or more and by now it seems to me the obvious failing of these boiler systems is becoming intolerably expensive. And that failing? All the heat goes up and out the chimney.

My oil guy tells me my boiler is 80 something percent efficient. He does this by sticking some testing sensor IN THE EXHAUST of my boiler. You know, where all the heat goes before it leaves via the chimney.

I can’t say how angry I get about this, and by now I can’t be the only one.

How hard or expensive is it to add a few well thought out heat exchangers to the exhaust of your boiler to transfer the heat somewhere more useful than outside your house?

I was at my parents house the other day. They have a gas fireplace. I was thinking of getting  gas fireplace insert to supplement the oil system in my house BECAUSE IT’S SO DAMN EXPENSIVE. I figure the dollar per BTU of gas and oil are not the same at any given point, so one of them has to be cheaper to run at any given time. But that would depend on the efficiency of the gas system, now wouldn’t it…

So I took a look at my parent’s gas fireplace. It’s genius. It’s got that franklin design where it pulls in the intake air from outside so it doesn’t suck the warm air from inside your house, drawing cold air in after it.

It’s got that angled top (I forget the name) so that the rising heat behind the firebox gets pushed forward out the vent thus causing it to circulate even without a blower.

We turned it on, and within 20 seconds, the front glass was untouchably hot. Heat is transferred to the room via the glass, and via air that circulates around the firebox. Heat up the firebox and the heat transfers to the air circulating around it and into the room. Brilliant.

Then I went outide, where the exhaust from the firebox goes. I couldn’t stand near the thing it was so hot. Yup, you got it, far more heat leaves the outside of the house than stays in it.

To be fair this thing is designed to be decorative first, and warm the house second, but jesus christ, for a little bit of extra money, you could put some fins on the firebox to make it transfer the heat more efficiently.

This just kills me.

I’m an efficiency freak. Given the option to make something suck or suck less, I usually pick suck less, even if it costs a little more or takes more effort on my part to make. You usually get your time and money back by having the thing last longer or save you money in some way.

So then I found out about vent free systems. PURE GENIUS. Burn the fuel so efficiently that the exhaust is breathable, thus you get almost 100% of the heat from the burn being used to heat your house.

Sounds great at first. I’m no chemist, but it’s hard to imagine even ze germans making a gizmo that burns perfectly. After a little reading it turns out they do not. The end product of a natural gas burn is water and some nasty nitrogen dioxide type thing that you really don’t want to breathe in any quantity. So that’s out.

Somebody built a gizmo for suckers who want to save money and die young. And apparently they’re selling. Just not in california, they’re illegal there. Who’d a thought.

But Nobody Seems To Want To Build An Efficient Heat Transfer System On Existing Wasteful Boilers.

I just don’t get it. It can’t be that hard. We can land a fucking man on the moon (oh, wait, we can’t) but we can’t make more efficient heating systems?

Today’s lesson on economics.

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Today’s lesson on economics:

Economics 101 says if you (the government) print money it devalues very quickly because each bit is worth less because there’s more of it. Supply and demand, yada yada.

So our government is wisely not printing money. Yet.

Instead they are passing laws to spend Hundreds of Billions of Dollars on rescue programs and take-the-edge-off schemes to keep the hardest hit from getting hit harder. Okay. I’ll buy that.

But where’s all this money coming from? Well, we’re (again the govt) already trillions in debt, we don’t actually have this money. We have to borrow it.

Now we’ve been borrowing money for decades, and now we’re borrowing lots more mostly from asian countries from what I hear. They say if you owe somebody 10 dollars you’ve got a creditor. If you owe them a million you have a best friend. It’s in that person’s best interest to not let you fail so you can at some point pay him back.

Well, at this point, it seems unreasonable to assume that the U.S. will every actually pay off all its debts, and really, it should not (we need all the friends we can get), as long as we keep up paying the interest, everybody will be happy. (That only goes so far though because eventually you borrow so much you can’t make your interest payments.)

But since we have no realistic intention of actually paying back this money, how is it different from printing it?

Fascinating isn’t it.

Male Pattern Baldness

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

As I was lying in bed this morning I had this curious notion. People are so good at finding patterns where there aren’t any.

Male pattern baldness follows the pattern of where you lie on your pillow when you sleep. The place you put pressure on your hair is the same place where the hair keeps growing.

Something to think about.

I hate hypens

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

When I’m president, I’m going to outlaw hyphens, or at least seriously curtail their use. I imagine hyphens have their history in early printing with saving paper: if you can put half a word on a line then over the course of an article, you’ll save a few lines and therefore a bunch of paper. Surely you wouldn’t use that extra space to place a larger ad, no siree bob.

You see this mostly in magazines and newspapers, though I see it in books sometimes too. Newspapers and magazines have very skinny columns so there is more word breaking required whereas a book you can spread the extra space across many words. I imagine in publishing there are terms for all this. Kerning is probably not one of them. Neither is ‘ihatehyphens’.

But what about the people, you know, us humans. Let’s take the words ‘economist’ and ‘economics’ for example. Both common use words but they read completely differently based on the last 2 letters of the word. If these words were hyphenated, those last two letters would end up on the next line. So you’d have a 50-50 chance (depending on the context I suppose) to get the word right the first time, and if you were wrong, you’d read the next line realize you got it wrong, and it would ruin your train of thought reading the sentence. At least it does for me. So I get a lower quality of reading from the newspaper because they want to save a tiny bit of paper which, lets face it, they’re not really saving anyway.

It’s just another example of cases where people have forgotten that the tool exists to aid the human and not the other way around. Why do people go out of their way to make things harder for no good reason.

If there were good reason, like there was when mass printing was first invented, I can see it, but nowadays, there’s really no justification for annoying the human, because nothing substantial is gained. They’re just annoying.

I hate hyphens.

The marvel of T-Mobile

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

I used to work for AT&T for a short time, and I very quickly learned why people say most of the things they do about the phone company, large buisnesses and other negative things in general.

But then there’s tmobile. They’re not really a phone company, they’re a cell service provider. But my they seem to have their act together. Most technical people know that given a few pieces of good technology it doesn’t take long to click together to create a truly cool or innovative product. All of the pieces are there, you just have to put them together. This is a prototype, and proves the concept. Rolling it out as a reliable service to a huge userbase is quite another thing. Which is why nothing all that useful ever comes out of the phone company. But tmobile truly outshines the rest (at least in the united states).

If you think about it all the other service providers have great networks and don’t drop calls and offer you more minutes than are physically possible to use in one month. Brilliant. Marketing at its finest.

But tmobile actually made a gadget that lets you make ‘cell’ phone calls using the cell network or a wifi hotspot. How genius is that. Not that the idea is so remarkable, or that some hacker even sat down and got it to work. But THEY DID DO IT, and they rolled it out to a real customer base and it really works. Meanwhile all the other cell companies are selling more minutes. Yay.

And now they’re rolling out service for google’s gphone or whatever it’s called. Granted this isn’t as cool as wifi cells from a tmobile engineering point of view, but it shows that as big a company as they are, they are nimble enough to produce and roll out real interesting new products while everybody else can’t even start to play catch up.

In 1999 I got some x-10 gizmos and the computer interface, and in 2001 I swiped a voicemodem from somewhere. So I was able to write some software that plays my answering machine messages for me when I walk in the house and turns on the lights, and when I get a message, it emails me the wav file to me at work so I don’t have to call home to get my messages. Not a terribly brilliant set of ideas, but all it took was a couple of programs and some really really cheap hardware. It’s not that hard, but now they sell this for hundreds of dollars as home automation.

I know if I were to try and sell my setup I would fail miserably, it’s set up for my house because that’s all I wanted it to do, but I can just tell that the engineers over at tmobile are just as into getting things done as all the other hackers in the world, and they obviously have a management team that allows them to really make products based on their cool work.

Everybody tells me I’m doom and gloom pessimistic all the time, and I am, so every once in a while when I see something truly GOOD, I like to say something nice about it.

Nomenclature

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

In the good old days of writing software we used to ‘reorganize’ it, now we ‘refactor’ it.

The conspiracy of the eights.

Monday, October 6th, 2008

You notice something funny about the signs at gas stations lately?

And by lately I mean like the past year or two. Maybe three, I’ve certainly noticed this for quite a while.

The eights are upside down.

When I was a kid I was taught that a eight is drawn as two circles one on top of the other, and the one on the top is the same size or a little smaller.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8_(number)

But if you look at any eights that are posted on gas station signs, either on the pump or on the big billboards, more often than not, the eights are upside down.

One? An accident. Two? Two accidents, but MOST of them are upside down. So either they’re all learning the wrong thing from each other, or there’s a conspiracy.

I think the conspiracy is more interesting. But what could it be? “This gas station permits the disposal of used motor oil.” Somehow I doubt that’s it.

And what if there’s no eight in the price, then you couldn’t reliably communicate your intentions (Whatever the meaning of the upside down eight is) unless the price had an eight in it. Unless…. THEY’RE PRICE FIXING so that there will be an eight in the price.

What are we in for that we don’t know because we can’t decipher the meaning of the upside down eights?