Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Tuesday, March 29, 2011


    Quote of the Day

    "The 1911 pistol remains the service pistol of choice in the eyes of those who understand the problem. Back when we audited the FBI academy in 1947, I was told that I ought not to use my pistol in their training program because it was not fair. Maybe the first thing one should demand of his sidearm is that it be unfair."
    -- Jeff Cooper, Guns & Ammo, January 2002


    Posted by Tom, 3/29/2011 6:24:34 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Friday, March 25, 2011


    Thought for the Day

    Taxation is all the evidence one needs for the illegitimacy of government. If people thought government was worthwhile, they'd pay for it voluntarily.

    Posted by Tom, 3/25/2011 6:22:10 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, March 24, 2011


    Quote of the Day

    "[T]he three great virtues of a programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris."
    -- Larry Wall


    Posted by Tom, 3/24/2011 4:00:36 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011


    Thought for the Day

    Republicans seem to want a world that is Orderly.

    Democrats seem to want a world that is Safe.

    Jesus seems to promise a world that is neither.

    Posted by Tom, 3/15/2011 6:45:07 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, March 12, 2011


    Thought for the Day

    It seems to me that a disturbing number of folks who call themselves "Christian" share their god with folks like Fred Phelps and muslim terrorists: a god of hatred, violence, and wrath. It may be that the God I try to serve, the God of peace, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, is also the same as their god, but their reactions when I introduce Him say otherwise. According to them, my God is weak and stupid and has nothing of value to offer. It's a personal failing of mine that I feel the same way about theirs.

    Posted by Tom, 3/12/2011 6:47:57 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, March 10, 2011


    Flushing

    Senator Rand Paul recently took folks to task over low-flow toilets. (hat tip, Vortmax)

    "Light bulbs, refrigerators, toilets, you name it. You can't go around your house without being told what to buy," Paul said. "You restrict my purchases. You don't care about my choices. You don't care about the consumer.

    "Frankly, my toilets don't work in my house, and I blame you and people like you who want to tell me what I can install in my house," Paul said. He added, "I find it insulting.

    "I'm all for energy conservation but I wish you'd come here to extol me, to cajole me, to encourage," he said. "But you come instead with fines [and] threats of jail."


    The author then disingenuously remarks that at no time was the Senator actually threatened with jail, missing the larger point that this is the effect for those who would violate the bans.

    I am certainly no fan of government regulation, and the toilet thing has frustrated me just as it has Senator Paul. However, there are low-flow toilets that do a good job. It just took 20 years for them to be invented. The model we have in our house is the Champion 4 by American Standard. Follow the link to see all sorts of amusing video of their product testers flushing various turd-like items, from golf balls to banana peels. These things will flush a dead cat.

    We've got 2 of them, and will eventually upgrade the other 2 in the house. They're not cheap, but they are worth every penny. Perhaps the Senator should look into them.

    Posted by Tom, 3/10/2011 4:34:31 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011


    The Politics of Envy

    A friend recently posted the following joke, which I actually think is pretty funny:

    A union member, a member of the Tea Party, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across the table, takes 11 cookies, looks at the Tea Partier, and says "Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."

    The joke is funny, and I can easily understand the mindset from which it comes, but that doesn't mean I agree with it. At its core are two fundamental beliefs: first, that wealth is finite and its accumulation by one necessarily deprives others, and second that the pay of CEO's and other executive officers is disproportionate to their skills and responsibilities.

    The limitless potential of wealth has been demonstrated repeatedly over at Mises.org. I have in my own limited way endeavored to demonstrate it here. For today's purposes I will simply note that as a software engineer, I create new wealth on a daily basis, completely out of thin air. This "finite wealth" business is poppycock, plain and simple.

    The second notion, that executive officers are somehow "stealing" their pay, is equally ridiculous. The folks in charge of even a small company like my own employer are responsible for literally knowing the future. They have to anticipate trends in technology and business, the actions of their competitors, and the wants and needs of the customer base. They have to find new markets in which to sell products and services, and make sure the organization is producing something that will be seen as valuable by the customers.

    They are responsible for and to the entire workforce -- reading between the lines of every resume, divining how a person's actual skills compare to their sales pitch, and determining whether that person will be of value to the team. In a highly specialized business like mine, a new hire will be "in training" for 6 months to a year, and the decision-makers have to live with investing tens of thousands of dollars in that person for that time, before they can reasonably expect to see any return on that salary. Seriously, try to imagine writing a check for $50,000 to some boob you've talked to for a couple of hours at most, on the basis of the idea that only after that $50,000 is spent and a year has passed will you discover whether he is actually worth the risk.

    Every mistake, every misstep, every miscalculation costs the company money. Any one of these that is large enough can destroy the company. Steering a corporation through the competitive market is like steering a multimillion-dollar ship through stormy seas in which the rocks and reefs are constantly changing position. If I owned such a ship, I would not be paying the captain the same amount as the guy swabbing the deck. It would be foolhardy to do so. And the bigger, more expensive the ship, the bigger the salary I would expect to pay the guy whose ultimate responsibility is keeping it on course.

    I don't begrudge my boss his pay, whatever it is. He has daily headaches that I gladly avoid. The same goes for his boss and on up to the CEO of our company. These men are responsible for making sure the company has work for me to do and money with which to pay for my work. They are responsible for making sure I have a job, and by everything I am able to ascertain, they are doing a great job at it.

    I've been talked up as a potential manager in a few places of employment, and I have always worked hard to get out of it. I don't want the responsibility or the power. I'll take it if it is forced on me, but I'll stay away as long as I'm able. It's just not interesting to me. I'm paid very well for what I do, as near as I can tell without the "benefit" of a union ever having been involved in my industry. I provide value to my company, and I receive value in return, without anyone holding threats over anyone else's head. If I ever thought I was being underpaid or unappreciated, I would seek new employment, new training, a new career path, or all three. I honestly don't understand why anyone would wish it otherwise.

    Posted by Tom, 3/8/2011 5:50:00 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, March 7, 2011


    An excellent summary

    The competition for iPad (which includes Xoom and other Android tablets, the PlayBook, whatever WebOS tablet comes out from HP, and, in the distant back-to-school market of 2012, the Windows 8 Tablet OS) is so fragmented, so confused, and so disjointed (aka "flummoxed") that they will never even come up with decent offerings on their own, let alone "close ranks and come up with something spectacular."

    PC makers (and that includes all of the manufacturers listed above) think it's all about the ports, features, and bullet points they can cram into their ads. (SD Card slot! Open OS! Video Out Port! Cup Holders! Seating for the entire family!) Good design is not about adding cruft, it's about carving it away. Why would people pay a premium price for a luxury item that does things more elegantly? Because those functions are done well, work flawlessly, and have no strange work-arounds to allow for other things that are hung on just to meet a bullet list. Look at any tool or device that you really enjoy using, and think about how the design of the device "just fits" with your use. I'll bet most of them are elegant solutions to the need at hand, rather than a "does everything sorta good" solutions to a variety of tasks.

    -- commenter "Smitty" on this post over at TUAW


    I've seen countless posts by Apple haters about the iPad and iPad2, and why they are "bad" products. The desire for more and more crap to be glommed on so that the device can be "useful" is incredible. It truly is a mental illness among Windows and other PC fans, this reflexive "need" for options out the wazoo.

    Some of my pro-Apple friends will doubtless remember when I made exactly the same arguments. I was wrong then, as these people are wrong now. Apple does not just crap out shiny gadgets and charge too much for them. Apple actually takes the time to understand people who don't understand computers, and then they design and build devices for those people so that they can accomplish computer-aided tasks without having to understand computers.

    Posted by Tom, 3/7/2011 1:08:45 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, March 6, 2011


    Thought for the Day

    The Skyline Trail in Beaver's Bend State Park down in southeastern Oklahoma contains a perfect metaphor for life itself: You climb up a long, hard hill, and when you reach the top you find that someone has stacked another, longer, steeper hill on top of it.

    Posted by Tom, 3/6/2011 6:55:52 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, March 5, 2011


    Mission Accomplished



    Man, somebody needs to clean that mirror...

    ...and shave...

    ...and get a haircut.

    Heroically, of course.

    Posted by Tom, 3/5/2011 9:45:42 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, March 3, 2011


    Quote of the Day

    "Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."
    -- Terry Pratchett


    Posted by Tom, 3/3/2011 7:23:36 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011


    I totally need this shirt

    It perfectly summarizes the way I think life ought to be lived.



    I don't think I've ever fallen in love with a garment before...

    Posted by Tom, 3/1/2011 8:37:06 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    "Who told us we'd be rescued?
    What has changed and
    Why should we be saved from nightmares?"
    -- Natalie Grant, Held


    Posted by Tom, 3/1/2011 8:10:33 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...