Friday, January 29, 2010

Link Love for Ace

If you haven't read it, check out Ace-of-Spades' ripping into Chris Matthews for his I-forgot-Obama-was-black moment. And don't miss his Jon Stewart clip on the same theme.

UPDATE: Also on a lead from Ace, it appears that Lori Gottlieb, who gained notoriety for her Atlantic article "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough", will be coming out with a new book of the same name.

UPDATE2: Okay, this is just DEAD ON:

Also from Ace.

Mental Health Break

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Memory Upgrade Follies

I upgraded the memory on my Dell laptop. The laptop had advertised, and Dell had confirmed, that the laptop could use up to 4GB, this limitation imposed by the “memory density”. The laptop has two DDR2 slots, each capable of using a 2GB memory card.

A BIOS blocks off some amount of the available addressing for its own uses. While in theory a 32 bit machine is capable of addressing 232 = 4G memory locations, in practice there will only be some 3.3G addressable locations left for the OS and programs.

But my laptop has a T7200, a 64-bit cpu, so with a 64-bit OS, I should be able to address all 4G, right?

No, actually. It turns out the computer has something called a "chipset". I'm not exactly sure what a "chipset" does, but mine is an Intel 945, which is 32 bits. This turned out to be the limiting factor.

Why would Dell use a 32-bit chipset with a 64-bit CPU?

Parenthetically, I have become less enamored with Windows 7:

  • I can't get hibernation to work. This is a fairly common problem. Most users claim to have fixed it with the right combination of power management settings, but I'm not one of them.

  • The multimedia playback stutters. Not often, and not for long: only a few times per DVD perhaps, but still: XP never does it.

  • It's a memory hog. Windows 7 requires over twice the memory at startup as XP.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Econ 101

An Easily Understandable Explanation of Derivative Markets

Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit . She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar.

Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit .

By providing her customers' freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as

AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi and then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since, Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%.

The collapsed bond asset value destroys the banks liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from their cronies in Government. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class,

non-drinkers who have never been in Heidi's bar.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Signs your Game is Working

Mrs. Φ [6 a.m.]: “I had a dream last night.”

Φ: “Mmmfff”

Mrs. Φ: “I dreamt you had an affair and the girl got pregnant.”

Φ: “Oh? How did that work out?”

Mrs. Φ: “We adopted the baby.”

Φ: “Wow! That’s . . . the nicest thing a girl ever said to me.”


Φ: “So . . . did your dream put you in The Mood?”

Mrs. Φ: “Oh, no! That was just a coincidence.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

Restaurant Review: TGI Friday’s

Mrs. Φ and I ate at TGI Friday’s one evening a while back.  We were returning from the hospital where Mrs. Φ had been admitted with potential complications from a surgery she had had a few days prior.  It turned out not to be too big of a problem, and she was feeling well enough to stop at a restaurant on the way home while Grandma and Grandpa watched the girls.  We are normally Chili’s people when we’re out as a family, but that night we decided to try something different.

Φ [as we took our seats]:  “You know something?  Take a look around the restaurant.  There are an inordinate number of groups of what appear to be unaccompanied young women.  They far outnumber the guys in the place.”

Mrs. Φ:  “Ladies night out, perhaps?”

Φ:  “Not that I would ever, you know, notice anything like that.”

Mrs. Φ:  “Ha!  You sound like a guy that hasn’t been laid in a while.”

Φ:  “Good point.  Tonight’s the night!”

Mrs. Φ:  “Mmmm . . . not yet, I’m afraid.”

Φ:  “I wasn’t asking you.”

Mrs. Φ:  …

Mrs. Φ:  “You are so going to get smacked!”

Φ:  “We can work that in.”

The Cajun Shrimp and Chicken was the best meal I had had in a restaurant in a good while.  Definitely add TGIF to your rotation.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Link Love for Ferdinand

Ferdinand has the right nuance on Roissy:

As for my opinion of Roissy, I view him as an absolutely brilliant thinker and writer, one of the best alive today. I also view him as a broken human being. I’d gladly buy him a beer, but I wouldn’t let him anywhere near my little sister.

Read the whole thing.

Ferdinand also inspires a new policy:

Roissy was an idiot for letting Lady Raine run wild on his blog.

Well said.  While I continue to tolerate – nay, encourage – disagreement and debate, I will no longer indulge trolls who parachute into a comment thread for the purpose of hurling random insults.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Outing: Is it really that easy?

Lady Rayne’s recent publication of Roissy’s real-world biography invites the following question:  is it really that easy?  In my case, sure:  my posts imply sufficient personal information to allow anyone with an afternoon on his hands to figure out my true identity (Professor Hale, I’m reasonably certain, has already done this).  But I’m small-fry in the blogosphere, so I doubt that the task would be worth the bother of anyone likely to publish the information maliciously.

But despite Roissy not having put out any personal information about himself (or none that I would actually believe), Lady Rayne was able to hack him simply by . . . deciding to do it!  How is this possible?  For instance, I know my IP address, but the most I can get from it is my city and state.

How do we protect ourselves?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Your Secrets are Safe with Him/Her/Not Sure

A friend applying for a government security clearance was instructed to fill out a form that would be required by the people who would take his fingerprints.  The form doesn’t have a number, but it otherwise looks official.  (And in any case, I doubt he has time to make something like this up.)

After the section on “Personal Information”, the form has a section called “Physical Description”, which I reproduce here verbatim:


Gender: Female
  Male Impersonator
  Female Impersonator
  Unknown Gender
  Male Name, No Gender Given
  Female Name, No Gender Given
Race: Asian
  Native American
Color Eyes: Black
Hair Color: Bald
  Blonde or Strawberry
  Gray or Partially Gray
  Red or Auburn

Even if we were to guess that the “physical description” section was intended to be completed by the examiner (and the form doesn’t say that) . . . does anybody else think that maybe a cross-dressing purple-haired vampire-eyed dude is maybe not the most mentally stable person to grant access to our nation’s closely guarded secrets?  Anybody?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Single Parent Subsidies

It seems that Georgia Tech has a scholarship called “Individuals Making Positive Achievements in the Community at Tech Single Parent Scholarship” (IMPACT):

$4,000 Scholarship to a Single Parent who is successfully balancing Georgia Tech classes and parenting.

No word yet on a scholarship for the young lady who is successfully balancing Georgia Tech classes and keeping her knickers on!

UPDATE:  I’ll burnish my old-fogey credentials by suggesting a connection between IMPACT and the fact that 33/43 of Georgia Tech’s dormitories residence halls are now co-ed.