October 21, 2015

The myths of "the good life" and that work should be fun and happen in a fun place only serve to enslave you to the progressive's hedonic treadmill

Filed under: philosophy — Benjamin Vulpes @ 12:00 a.m.
The myths of "the good life" and that work should be fun and happen in a fun place only serve to enslave you to the progressive's hedonic treadmill

It's unreasonable to bear Michael Jantzi any particular ill will; to paraphrase Ballas, if it weren't that particular liberal running a company based on inventing metrics on which to evaluate his betters, it'd be another just like him. Jantzi runs (or is kept in a corner office as a trophy at) Sustainalytics, a company that offers all sorts of "metrics" purporting to evaluate the "Environmental, Social and Governmental" performance of public companies. The man and his plan came to my attention via HBR, and their Top CEO list. This year HBR changed the evaluation criteria from "stock price only" to an agglomeration of fuzzy metrics that include stock price in addition to Sustainalytics' proprietary "goodness evaluation" metrics.

The reason this is even in my face at all (HBR being a banned publication and sister propaganda organ to the famous Grey Lady, pushing the same rhetoric styled slightly differently for the "business-inclined" liberal) is because Jeff Bezos of Amazon has, according to HBR, toppled from #1 to #87 in their list of Best Performing CEOs. The message across social media, is that this is a glorious day for the world, this day wherein the HBR has toppled that meanie-pants Jeff Bezos! We know that Bezos is a Bad Person because there's this other article in the New York Times about the mythically "hard-charging" environment that is the Amazon workplace. Because social media is jamming this message on all bands, and the public at large is lapping it up, I can trivially deduce that there is an actual agenda being pushed, and would love to share with you what that agenda is:

  1. Work should be fun, and that the work place should be a wonderful, caring, cheerful place.
  2. People like Jeff Bezos are responsible for fostering unpleasant work environments and as such are bad peopleAnd, unifying points 1. and 2.:
  3. The world can be a better place if we all work together to make it so!

All of which is utter bull hockey.

Should is strictly disallowed as a lens for looking at the world:

All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see
All discord, harmony not understood,
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.

Alexander Pope

Teaching people to look at the world as a malleable thing is one of the foundations of socialist brainrot. In nearly all situations the world is the environment in which you are privileged to operate, and you do not get to question its tenets. Wouldst thou question gravity, and call it "inequitable", in that the rich can pay to fly and you cannot? The socialists would, and moreover insist that we all must walk in order to be equal together in the eyes of god. Once a people accepts the notion that the world is an improvable place, they are ripe for the next set of cons: convincing them that only their governments are actually capable of bringing about the envisioned utopia. Socialists revile the church not for its promulgation of irrational faith but because historically churches have championed the improvement of the world as a thing that the devoted do—not a thing which may (or even should) be outsourced to le etat. Once they effect the malleable-world sleight-of-hand, the state takes over the distribution of taxes to the poor in various forms, which leads in short order to an explosion of apparatchiks milking the state of salaries in return for "overseeing" the distribution of government largesse. None of which the "voter" has any control over.

And since we're on the topic:

Scrap the Welfare State and Give People Free Money

Take a good hard look at how socialism can rot a mind. Can you imagine the person who actually thinks that giving away money is anything other than the welfare state's final form?


…why not just give them cash? Doing so would not only cut down on the huge administrative costs of America’s welfare programs, it would also promote personal responsibility and abolish much of the humiliation and stripped dignity associated with the current welfare system.

Feeny, Reason

Bezos runs a company, not a playground for millenials. He runs it to make a profit, not to make people's lives better. The socialist state exists not to improve the world, but to extract as much from the gullible as it can by convincing them that it's making the world a better place, and in this time, not even a better place for the cattle it's actively milking, but a better place for literally anyone but them. Should it surprise anyone that the commies are taking off after people who run successful businesses that might not be the best place to work? The only reason that you don't hear this cant about Boeing, Intel or Microsoft is that those are all allies of the United States Government—Boeing makes the jets, Intel makes the diddled chips, and Microsoft pushes Windows into every possible concavity. Amazon has yet to cave, and so the USG must bring the full weight of…popularity lists to bear against Jeff Bezos.

And to recapitulate, no there will be no making of the world a wonderful place. Individuals may carve out isolated islands of not-horrible from the world, as they have always done and always will. The state, however, can do nothing but smear the experience of life into a great grey homogeneity. Since that's all it can do, you should expect to see more of these smear pieces against anyone who might be considered "great", and pieces from the New Yorker puffing up the reputations of those who kowtow to the party line. Musk, as purveyor of shiny, short-lifespan electric cars and a new launch option to the USG is not up for targeting like this. Jobs, as a tyrant of quality, must necessarily be destroyed: "Oh, he was selfish in bed. Oh, he was mean to his staff." A manager who wishes to not see poor quality works ensures that his staff are adequately incentivized to not bring him shoddy work, and yes this means going into code and design reviews nervous at what novel mistakes will get called out this time.

Work, I repeat, is not fun.


Which actually turns out to be a complicated topic. They claim to have:

…calculated three metrics: the country-adjusted total shareholder return (including dividends reinvested), which offsets any increase in return that’s attributable merely to an improvement in the local stock market; the industry-adjusted total shareholder return (including dividends reinvested), which offsets any increase that results from rising fortunes in the overall industry; and change in market capitalization (adjusted for dividends, share issues, and share repurchases), measured in inflation-adjusted U.S. dollars.


All of which sounds reasonable, but is not in my wheelhouse of expertise and so I cannot comment upon the quality of their work or even the validity of their approach.

The Harvard Business Review, numbskull. Do you really think that because it says "Harvard" over the door their jobs are to do anything but push the post-Soviet communist party lines? Russia imported communism from America—and the Red Scare notwithstanding it's not been purged since.

A good fucking is a selfish act—yes, someone besides the fucker might derive some pleasure from the experience, but I beg of you: consider what a good fuck is. Perhaps we mean to say that "he wasn't a sensitive lover", and that's fine and all but shouldn't we also say what we mean? And not cast aspersions on the things we do in the privacy of our own bedrooms? I have a hard time imagining a BDSM-inclined Steve Jobs not catching posthumous flak for beating women—even if it were consensual.

October 18, 2015

static compilation woes

Filed under: software development — Benjamin Vulpes @ 12:00 a.m.
static compilation woes

For lo, it is endlessly amusing to watch the staff rehash TMSR~ sagas:


October 17, 2015

links 2015-10-16 Fri

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 12:00 a.m.
links 2015-10-16 Fri

I don't know if I'm ever going to do this again, but here are some links and notes.

"I don't use frameworks, so I don't debug with them either."

I use frameworks. The law of leaky abstractions is real. Debugging shit's complicated. UI programming is expensive because the tools suck and are myriadly complex.

The rendering timeline trick is some nifty shit! One can use Chrome tools to slow a page's render down to support the "debugging" of HTML/CSS/JS presentation bugs.1

(hilariously, Microsoft's SSL certificate for that site appears bum as of 10/16/2015.)

I await MS Linux with all the baited breath I can muster knowing that the world is marching gleefully from one misery to the next. OS X wasn't bad, around 10.6 or whatever. It worked! As did 7.5 before it! Anyways, I'm trapped in a hell of forced upgrades, and at least I can try to console myself with running a Linux, even if was whelped from the Devil's own stables2.

Steve's dead, y'all! The whole edifice of Apple required that man be at the helm. Him and nobody else can wield that machine. Do you remember how every now and again Mr. Jobs would actually respond from How the responses were technical, witty, and glib by turns and as appropriate? Where is that in this new designer? Have you heard the rumors swirling that the company is working on a car?

Moreover, have you watched their software and hardware quality degrade phenomenally over the past decade? I certainly have. All of the old laptops, selections from the eMac and iMac line are total design and fabrication winners—solid and reliable. My ENTIRELY RECENT "Macbook Pro" is rotting as I watch: I've worn nearly entirely through the "command" key's black coating3, and the weird aluminum colored finish material on top of WHATEVER THE FRAME OF THIS THING IS ACTUALLY MADE FROM is CHIPPING on the front right edge, where my wrist lies4. ALUMINUM DOESN'T CHIP. WHAT THE EVERLOVING SHIT IS THIS THING MADE OF?! I've read that they're doing hilarious tricks with ceramic fill in their Watch product's "gold", so lord the fuck only knows what crimes against materials engineering and Steve's own ghost5 Ive's army of wreckers are committing over there.

I know, I know: "if we wanted to read Hacker News links, we'd go read Hacker News". On top of which, Medium is just the latest incarnation of the Livejournal model, the proliferation of the like of which is going to nibble the most interesting people away from Facebook, and not in concentrations like Instagram that they can simply allow to metastasize and then make a good offer to keep the whole views pyramid scheme rolling. All of that aside, the link is to a short eyebrow-raiser of the kinds of hilarious hijinks people get into because all of their tools live in the Web, that bloated, miserable heap of accidentally co-executing text-as-sort-of-program.

xProblems of resource allocation are taking up a lot of my attention lately, and this one lands squarely in the quick/good/cheap tradeoff bucket. People of this country don't even hesitate to do the cheap and insane thing. On the flip side, at least there are still people in this country who are willing to try to weld experimental new wings on the jet as it takes off: "WE HAVE NO IDEA HOW FLYING WORKS SO LET'S JUST TRY A BUNCH OF SHIT WOOO". The Monte-Carlo approach to engineering, if you will, but with humans doing a really bad job of playing RNG.

Reputation automation again. This time with reputation pledges and costs and all sorts of other complex made-up non-solutions to a human WoT. Reputations are a function of activities performed in public and in private, and only actually exist as relationships between the counterparties. Encoding these very personal relationships in the blockchain is folly—folly, I tell you!



I was lying in bed the other night, failing to sleep, when some problems related to divs and various HTML input elements drifted across my mind. I found myself screaming somewhere, at an even deeper level "WHY IS THIS WHAT OCCUPIES MY MIND AND NOT THE NUANCES OF FASTER THAN REAL TIME TRAJECTORY PLANNING". Because HTML? At 3:30 in the morning, when I have a kid on the way and myriad interesting things to steer the office into accomplishing?

While the debugging technique is question is cool and all, it's still of the web stack. A million capital A's.


This working stiff is required to use all sorts of radioactive waste in the pursuit of his daily work. HTML, CSS, JS…functional programming languages that incomprehensibly compile from one AST to another in a vain attempt to keep my mind safe from the radiation of the underlying…

However, I don't have to like it, and I don't have to engage in the same behavior at home. In fact, I go to rather extreme lengths to keep the tools I use revved for a jump over to Linux. Which raises once again the spectre of the only question worth thinking really hard to answer eg that of resource allocation: how should one best balance costs of the eventual seamless (it won't be) transition to Linux against the costs of fighting my local computing paradigms?

Data point: when I reviewed most recently (~10 months ago) there were no acceptable windows managers for the Macintosh.


I use it as Meta in Emacs.


Let's not even get into the ergonomic horror that is working on a laptop.



October 11, 2015

dakota french toast, fried bananas and salad

Filed under: la vida pobre — Benjamin Vulpes @ 12:00 a.m.
dakota french toast, fried bananas and salad

She's what, 40 weeks pregnant at this point? Even so, this is what she makes for me of a sweet Sunday:


French toast made from Great Harvet's amazing Dakota bread, bananas lightly dusted with Muscovato sugar and cinnamon before frying, a salad and of course coffee.

October 10, 2015

Supply's down, demand's up, better get the state involved!

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 12:00 a.m.
Supply's down, demand's up, better get the state involved!

Or: "Let the dekulakization begin!"

Most of the many publications in town have bought the "Portland is in a manmade state of emergency because there aren't enough houses for poor people!" line. Pamplin's Tribune stands alone as the sole publication unwilling to repeat the line themselves, publishing such gems as:

The City Council officially declared a "housing emergency" Wednesday, even though most members admitted they didn't know exactly what they would do in coming months to address it.

Council declares "Housing Emergency"

The Trib: a pretty bad rag, but at least not outright communist sympathizers.

The Portland Renters Assembly and Portland's Community Alliance of Tenants are pushing the "housing state of emergency" line because under Oregon law:

Except as provided in subsections (3) to (5) of this section, a city or county shall not enact any ordinance or resolution which controls the rent that may be charged for the rental of any dwelling unit.

ORS 91.225

So of course the ever-growing and utterly indistinguishable mire of Sapiens who want to be treated well for the grand achievement of having been squeezed through some woman's birth canal have latched onto the notion that if they can just get the municipalities to declare a state of emergency, they can also get rent control passed! No, it doesn't make sense, and the rallying-behind of ideas like this should be all the evidence a thinking man needs that these people deserve their lot in life and everything that will downhill to them over the next decade as their handout system flies apart under its own inertia. Not that the idiots couldn't get 91.225 repealed, and some abomination instated in its place, but those efforts are doomed to fail, and the idiots believe that if they all get together and believe really hard that their dream solution of free food and housing for everyone is viable, they can have it! What they'll get instead are more of the classic American "projects", and a replay of the whole "white flight" saga that plays out in this country let's say just about once per generation or two.

Let us examine the causes for high rent in the Portland area:

For at least a decade, Portland's been the Mecca for over-educated (and equivalently debt-burdened) individuals lacking marketable skills beyond the completely fungible knowledge of how to make coffee a few different ways1 (visit Col. Summers Park of a Monday in August2, and you'll actually see people orbiting the central box thing clockwise!). The influx of overeducated and debt-burdened has been a downright boon to the area! It's allowed landlords to stack bodies in ancient, poorly-maintained houses, to continue to defer maintenance, and to charge market rates even in a market with a household formation rate of very nearly nil! The "service economy" of the place has benefited tremendously as well, with new trainees bearing all the proper work permits entering the dishwashing and bar-backing labor force at unprecedented rates. All of which translates into excellent coffee, delicious food, and a sea of fetching young ladies dismayed at the near-complete absence of men with life goals beyond renting a room in a house, working at the café, and burning what little savings they have "on tour" once a quarter.

The Urban Growth Boundary is the funniest part of the whole "rent's too damn high!" saga: it and it alone is responsible for the high human density of the metro area relative to its surrounding farms and forests, and the failure of our little polis to degenerate into untamed or limited sprawl as in the suburbs of our neighbors to the north and south. It is also the driving force keeping the Masters of Shot Pulling living 5 to a house—without it, the homebuilders would simply crap down more house-shaped pressed-shitboard edifices until even a shot-puller could theoretically afford to rent one (or buy if the individual were exceptionally thrifty)3. The UGB is also responsible for the excellent quality of life in this town! Because it keeps people so tightly packed, street-level business can rely on foot traffic in this town in a way they cannot in the rest of the auto-centric States. Remember, for all of its apparent density, Portland is a large town in small city clothing.

The final piece of the puzzle is a bonkers fiscal environment driving capital misallocation on a scale that tiny shot-pulling brains simply cannot wrap themselves around. Take Adam, Bill, and Charlie: three young men who all attended Harvard together, and went into finance seperately. Adam works for a massive retirement fund, Bill works for an investment bank, and Charlie is a full partner at what Americans call a "venture capital" firm. Adam has great big huge piles of money to swing around, and is tasked with at least matching market returns on it. Bill's job is to manage the investment of piles of cash that companies like Adam's stick with them, because Adam and co. simply have too much money to actually invest themselves for all sorts of reasons4. Charlie has what the mainstream American considers the most "interesting" and "exciting" job: he's tasked with taking a much smaller pile of money than Adam or Bill and turning it into 10x or 100x returns by betting on early stage companies.

Because Adam and his peers are such brilliant individuals (they graduated from Harvard, you see, and now they all work at a highfalutin financial operation, immune somehow to mean reversion by dint of coming from the blessed class or some other self-delusion) that they couldn't possibly just index the market, or take a set of positions that is relatively conservative (as a retirement fund should be investing) and have a good shot at matching overall market returns without shooting for outsize returns (this is a criminal simplification, but bear with me). No, they're smart, and they have to make the odd forex bet, the odd oil bet, the odd blue chip investment, and while by and large they come out ahead on these individual trades, a few of them are reeeheheheally expensive. So expensive in fact, that Adam finds himself compelled to call up Bill and ask Bill to trade a couple hundred million of the umpty-billion under Adam's management5. Adam finds himself so compelled, because to impress his bosses he needs returns that he cannot actually achieve on his own, and so he must turn to someone that he knows to be a quality trader (or run a quality trading desk, or have access to insider information, or whatever it is that Bill does to maintain his lead in the great information-asymmetry wars).

And some of the time, this works! In the same way that betting on Satoshi Dice works—sometimes! Just enough to convince the players that a) they know what they're doing and b) that they're doing it correctly. Bill got great statistics for the past three years! Let's all put a pile of money with Bill and ruin his operating procedure. Anyways, Bill now has this giant pile of money that he has to trade, none of his regular markets or players can really handle the volume that Adam wants him to push, and so he makes the same mistakes that Adam made, just at a smaller level. And maybe not immediately. But you can bet that handmade leather corset you never got the gumption up to squeeze your wife into that Bill will eventually want some more of that precious 'alpha' that he was originally contracted to provide on his own.

And so he sticks 10 million gen-yew-ine American Greenbacks into Charlie's next fund. Charlie's just the bottom of the chain of accidental sports-touts scammers: while some investors in small companies actually know what they're doing and reap a fortune by being right a few times, Charlie instead had the fortune to graduate from Harvard a really smart and sociable cookie right at the beginning of a rager of a bull market. He went into a venture capital firm as an associate, made friends in the firm, shepherded a few good deals through that were "good" in the sense that investors got out at a premium by selling the "startup" to some "enterprise" for a pretty penny while hosing the staff and founders, and over time achieved the vaunted title and position of Partner (see for details). Now, while his returns don't match Sand Hill's finest, he never has a problem with procuring subscriptions when he's putting a fund together, because while Charlie's Sweet Fund rarely returns 100X, it has on occasion yielded 10X and can be relied upon to provide 2X.

It does this by dumping money into local economies. These "investments" must hit some actual economy at some point and buy some actual turkeys at some point. The trouble is that there are a bunch of Charlies out there, all doing the exact same thing: placing 100K-2M with some nerds to build an app.

Those nerds live in Portland. All of a sudden, a very small number of young (because who else would throw their time away on mobile moonshots), uneducated (because if you're educated in America, you can't throw it all out and "learn to code". How would you justify all the money you wasted on your college degree if all it took to get an entry-level job doing webdev was…three months of dedicated independent study?), people are now making 5-8X what the typical shot-puller (or other "service sector economy" employee) could ever dream of making6. And for what? Nothing that the service sector economy can really understand.

The touching down of the financial system's risk probiscus in your neighborhood means that rents are going to go up. Smarter, cuter, and more sought-after individuals than you are moving into your neighborhood (if they didn't grow up there scheming to buy the neighborhood), and you're just going to have to deal. These increased rents (and the increased prices I expect to see once there's no more steak to substitute ground beef for) are an entirely predictable side-effect of all of the statal interventions that you've asked for over the past hundred years: state control of the monetary supply, a staunch commitment to bailing out incompetent organizations that metastasized into a countrywide inability to let Bad Things happen, the Urban Growth Boundary's oh-so-pleasant distortion of the local housing market. All of the above is the fault of people who demand that the world recognize housing as a "human right".

It's all your fault, and it's going to go away. Frantic activity to the contrary notwithstanding, Bitcoin exists.



People are by no means fungible. If your contributions to an endeavour are fungible, you are also fungible and ipso facto not a person in that context. That your boss and superiors at work are too nice to make you deal with this fact of life is not because they are "nice" and "fun to work with", but because you were so unfortunate as to be born in a time when improving people is the state's responsibility—not their masters' (consider how the word "master" makes you feel). That you haven't found a boss who thinks you're worth improving should tell you that you're not worth improving, not that you slithered forth from your mother's amniotic sack unblemished and unimprovable.


Before Burning Man, of course. During the 'Burn, the only people left at CSM are those who are so broke and poorly networked they can't even get into Burning Man. Which is of course turning into a great party for the elite and well-networked and a miserable exercise in coping with personal failure for everyone else.

The opacity of the Burning Man ticket market is an excellent example of how transparent markets that anyone can access are bullshit and to be avoided. The BORG retains a vast number of tickets for distribution to their friends and family (the "theme camps" and "mutant vehicle" groups, various other volunteers), and then effects a "sale" of the remaining tickets to the public at large. This leaves the general attendee with no inside information absolutely no way to get in but by refreshing a web page and praying that the shitshow takes their card this year.

Net result: all of the cool kids and their hot friends get in trivially, and Joe Public has to sweat it out in the public ticket queues. Another triumph for the hidden power structures!


Of course, this doesn't account for the increased costs the Master in question would have to bear in terms of a car and gas to get to and from work, or the costs of running busses out to all of those suburbs that someone would have to bear, or any other hidden costs that come from living away from nice walkable neighborhoods.


Two examples: most arbitrage opportunities couldn't soak up a noticable fraction of their pile, and any trades they make naively on their own accounts are going to show up on the ticker and impose slippage (price going up as you buy, price going down as you sell) costs.


And while the story starts with the boys being friends, there's no actual need for that! They select each other through their networks of brahmins, accidentally, with the sports tout! Nobody has to be any good at anything for this particular failure cascade to kick in—in fact, it's a prerequisite that everyone have grown up in an inflationary environment, starved of actual education. Otherwise, they'd know how crazy the whole thing is and not be participating in the first place.


Even if the local socialists push through the increase of minimum wage to $15, the nerds are still going to be making at least 3X that. Whether or not they keep more of it is unclear.