Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ghost Fleet part 2

Halfway through - Still a pretty solid read.

The story has slowed down a bit but unlike some of the amazon reviewers I don't think it is moving at a glacial pace.  The action has shifted from the initial violent action of the attack on America to the slog of building up for a counterattack and grind of anti-insurgency warfare.  The pacing is appropriate.

Some things that are bothering me just a bit -

1.  The authors insists on referring to the USS Zumwault as a battleship.  It isn't.  It's a destroyer.  One of the characters even points that out and a paragraph later they are back to battleship.  I understand that they are trying to encapsulate a paradigm shift in naval warfare in the use of that word but it just doesn't work.

2.  I think the authors portray some of the tech in this books as far more mature that in is the vis (augmented / virtual reality) glasses for example.  While underplaying some other tech such as shipboard lasers and railguns.  I don't believe they are quite as problematic as portrayed in the book.
Oh also the augmented reality stuff sounds far closer to the Microsoft Hololens than Google Glass but Microsoft gets short shrift.

3.  I don't think the authors have been in the military or talked to military people as much as they should have.  While not horribly done a lot of the little things just don't fit together quite right.  Small piddling stuff that doesn't really effect the story but is still just a little distracting.

4.  The Russian spy tries to pass information in the stupidest way possible and then gets pissed when people don't figure it out in 5 frickin' minutes.  That was just bad plotting there.

Minor complaints.  The book is still a good read and America is getting ready to kick some Fascist post communism Chinese ass so that's a plus.

Windows 10 again

#Windows10 Fairly satisfied but finding little things that I either didn't notice during the technical preview or that didn't occur on the old crappy laptop I used.  This morning Windows Defender was consuming like 30% of my CPU cycles and 20% of my memory.  No scan was going on it's like it just didn't release the resources after the scheduled daily scan.  Yesterday it was Groove Music.  Both resolved with a restart which took about 15 seconds but maybe MSFT should work on making sure their apps release resources.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade

Upgraded to Windows 10 last night.  Mostly it was a painless experience but there were a few things that were a bit irritating.

1.  I ran the upgrade advisor on my PC to be sure everything was compatible and it gave me a clean bill of health.  Not so.  Once I started trying to upgrade I got an error telling me that my system reserved partition was too small. Fortunately I had some unallocated space remaining from when I had switched over to an SSD.  I googled to make sure that resizing the partition would work (apparently this problem goes back to the original Win 8 update) and was pointed to Minitool Partition Wizard  added the unallocated space to the system reserved partition and it worked like  charm.  This is definitely something the upgrade adviser should have caught.

2.  My NVidia driver didn't load immediately.  Windows did catch it and it upgraded it automatically but it required an additional reboot.

3.  Groove Music searched out an found my music automatically (Yay!!) but apparently 6000+ tracks was too much for it.  It was consuming 35% CPU when I got up this morning.  Also it stops adding tracks when reduced.  WTH, if you are on a desktop keep working.  If you are on a tablet or phone stop.

4.  CPU usage just seems higher overall but I will get that worked out I am sure.

5.  I didn't noticed this on the laptop I used the technical preview on but the new taskbar icons, like notification center, are butt ugly.

That's it so far.  Everything seems to be working but everything seems tweaked a little bit so it will take awhile to get stuff adjusted right.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ghost Fleet part 1

I recommended this book to a couple people last night via twitter, so maybe you'll get lucky and @xbradtc or @aceofspadeshq will read it and do a better review, but here is part one of my ongoing review of Ghost Fleet: a novel of the next world war.

Let's start with what this book isn't.  It is not a great piece of literature, but few of the books I read are.  It is enjoyable with a (so far) competently plotted story and interesting if not deeply developed characters.  That's OK I am reading this for enjoyment not for the solution to one of life existential mysteries. (like how the hell did Andrea Tantaros get so hot, more on that later)

What the book is (again so far) is a book that appears very much in the Tom Clancy vein of techno-thrillers, and in fact in a lot of ways this books so far reminds me of Red Storm Rising and Debt of Honor.  Well really it reminds me of the entire Ryanverse competent people doing competent things in a competent way.  So far no huge acts of heroics, and based on the setup at the beginning of the novel you can guess which way the wind is going to blow for quite a while.  Again I don't see that as a problem

Another way in which this book is like a Clancy novel is the concentration on the technology.  So far it appears to be pretty well researched and it's described in a way that makes it accessible and not off-putting.  One difference is that the guy writing the book is a futurist so there is a lot of forward projection of the tech.  Lot's of wearables and VR.  Still it is well done and so far his vision holds together even if I may not agree with every detail.

I think the politics displayed so far are pretty believable, I definately agree with the unspoken threat assessment of the Chinese.  I think a lot of the real hardcore military buffs may disagree with some aspects of the story, but those are points that can be argued.

So 25% in I am enjoying it, and I think it presents enough interesting ideas at this point that people who want a good summer read that will make you think a bit should pick it up.

OOPs almost forgot Andrea Tantaros who is one of the best looking women in TV news posted a picture on instagram today that has forever sealed her in my pantheon of pretend future ex-wives

Unintended Consequences from the $15 / Hr Minimum Wage

I know this is the third day in a row with something on this subject.  What can I say, there is nothing else grabbing my interest at the moment.

Some workers across the city are left telling bosses to give them fewer hours at the higher wage because a full week’s earnings now puts them past the threshold for some welfare payments such as food stamps and assistance with rent.
Of course, one of the things that supporters of the higher wage said was that they wanted to help lift min. wage workers out of poverty and welfare.

Now this is Breitbart mind you and I don't usually find them to be a super credible source but this has happened before when programs are implemnted and people get pushed just above the line so I find it believable.  The question then becomes is the wage increase ctually accomplishing what was intended?  In every case I can think of that answer is always - No.  No one gets moved out of poverty,  the line just moves up, and some end up worse off.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Economists have no idea what the $15 / Hr minimum wage will bring. Oh, and men still suck but maybe not as much - What I am reading 7/27/2015

NY Times - Raising Floor for Minimum Wage Pushes Economy Into the Unknown -

  the sheer magnitude of the recent minimum wage increases sets up an economics experiment the country has rarely if ever seen before.
“There could be quite large shares of workers affected, and research doesn’t have a lot to say about that,” said Jared Bernstein, a former White House economist now at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who generally favors higher minimum wages. 
The closer the minimum wage is to the median wage — the amount earned by workers in the middle of the pay scale — the greater the likely impact, for better or worse, though the effect of singling out one industry is unclear.
Based on projections from government data, the proposed $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers could represent more than 60 percent of the wage of a typical New York City worker 
Such a ratio lies at the outer limit of the country’s historical experience with the minimum wage, at least before the recent increases in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles, most of which have yet to be fully phased in.
Even when they don’t lead to job losses over all, minimum wage increases can be disruptive, driving a number of operations out of business even as they give rise to a largely offsetting increase in new businesses and jobs.
The businesses best suited to the higher-wage world often lean more heavily on machines than their competitors or derive greater economic benefits from paying their workers a higher wage.

The upshot is that a minimum wage increase of this size is unprecedented.  As the Economist pointed out such a rise could well lead to job losses due to increasing automation or just plain business closure.  Having worked minimum wage jobs myself I am sympathetic to the idea of wanting the wage raised but it does no one any good if paying workers becomes so economically burdensome that it leads to layoffs instead.

Wired - Clinton: The Tyranny of Quarterly Earnings Hurts Innovation -

Throughout, the former Secretary of State pushed for a return to the kind of long-term strategic thinking that yielded breakthrough technologies like the transistor and the PC. “What if Xerox had decided its Palo Alto research park wasn’t doing enough to boost share prices in the short term?” Clinton asked. “A young Steve Jobs would never have visited, and the personal computer revolution might not have happened.”
I rarely agree with Hillary Clinton on anything but this is something I have been railing against for years, and there are examples scattered throughout Kurulounge. (To clarify, I agree with her on the dangers of short term thinking, I don't know enough about her solution yet)

The Register - New study into lack of women in Tech: It's NOT the men's fault - 

No, the reason that young women don't train in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) areas - and thus, don't find themselves with jobs at tech companies, in IT etc - is quite simply that they mostly don't know enough maths to do those courses.
Our own Tim Worstall chipped in recently on this subject, suggesting like Ginther that girls perhaps get steered out of maths - and thus out of engineering, tech and the tough sciences - well before any STEM people get a look at them.
"Really it happens a lot earlier than college,” says Ginther.
I don't know what the answer is to this.  I do know that the authors of this study are in for a hell of a backlash as soon as it gets widely publicized.  On a personal note, my niece is a whiz at math I think she is taking classes two grade levels above hers in school and she does well in science but whenever anyone tries to talk to her about any sort of STEM field she has absolutely no interest, and believe me she has been encouraged about those types of fields her entire life.  

SANS - The Era Of Cyber Liability: Appeals Court Overturns Neiman Marcus Dismissal (July 23, 2015)  - 

On Monday, July 20, the US Court of Appeals reinstated a liability case against Neiman Marcus for potential damage to consumers from the data breach that exposed data for 350,000 Neiman Marcus customers. The company acknowledged that at least 9,200 of those accounts were later used for fraud. This appears to be the first time an appeals court has recognized the actual damage associated with consumers having to research and repair credit card accounts after data breaches.

Good.  This is what it will take to get business to take protection of customer data seriously.  Make breaches cost the company far more than properly securing the data would have.

Reasons to be cautious about the $15/Hr Minimum Wage

Mr Sorkin crunches the numbers, using a model of the American restaurant industry in which companies choose between employees and machines. He investigates the effect of a permanent (ie, inflation-linked) increase in the minimum wage and shows that the tiny short-run effects on employment normally seen are fully consistent with a long-run response over 100 times larger.
(In a second paper Sorkin shows) An increase in the minimum wage seems to push some restaurants out of business. The eateries that replace them are more likely to be chains, which are more reliant on machines (and therefore offer fewer jobs) than the independent outlets they replace. This effect has not been picked up before because the restaurants which continue to operate do not change their employment levels, so the jobs total does not shift much in the short run.
(In a third paper Jonathan Meer shows) Their results suggest that a 10% increase in the minimum wage, made permanent by linking it to inflation, could cut job growth by 0.3 percentage points a year. Over a long period, this could amount to a very large difference indeed
Conservatives have been saying this for a long time.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hmmm, I had never heard this about Marion Zimmer Bradley

I was born into a family of famous gay pagan authors in the late Sixties. My mother was Marion Zimmer Bradley, and my father was Walter Breen. Between them, they wrote over 100 books: my mother wrote science fiction and fantasy (Mists of Avalon), and my father wrote books on numismatics: he was a coin expert.
What they did to me is a matter of unfortunate public record: suffice to say that both parents wanted me to be gay and were horrifed at my being female. My mother molested me from ages 3-12. The first time I remember my father doing anything especially violent to me I was five. Yes he raped me. I don’t like to think about it. If you want to know about his shenanigans with little girls, and you have a very strong stomach, you can google the Breendoggle, which was the scandal which ALMOST drummed him out of science fiction fandom

Most of the article is an attempt to tie opposition to gay marriage to her experiences, but I can't remember ever having heard this type of thing about Marian Zimmer Bradley before.  Color me naive I guess.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

So I am feeling a little guilty

In our Friday night Hackmaster game we have both an MVP award and a GM award that give extra XP for good play.  MVP is voted on by the players and the gM award is obviously awarded by the GM.  I feel like last night I may have pressured the GM for an award that he may not have wanted to give to me -

Here is the scenario.  We are doing a dungeon crawl, which I despise, seeking out a specific item: The tears of a Demi-Gawd (Hackmaster doesn't have Gods they have Gawds).  My preference would be and has been to get in, find the tears, and get back to the main storyline.  Others in the party disagree.  We have argued about it a few times and I finally just said fuck it and I have pretty much just been sitting back following passively until combat.  This has been my M.O. for a few weeks now, not that my character was particularly gregarious before, but I think it's noticeable.

That kind of shows you where we are in the game overall, now last night we had a couple incidents of combat.  First against and animated statue and then against a bunch of Drow Elves who were basically suicide bombers with fireballs.  In the second fight I took a buttload of damage. First from the fireballs (70 pts after some successful saves) and then from the monk in our party who fumbled and hit me (13 pts) that left me with one hp and the healer wasn't healing at that point, I don't remember why.  The Drow on the side of the room I was on had retreated into a cell and it was my attack.  The cells had solid walls so I am thinking if I can follow him into the cell and kill him he wont get to fire his fireball and I will be protected from the fireball coming from the other side of the room by the solid wall.  I started to carry out this action and the GM messaged me and said, "if you go into that cell you will eat a fireball and die" the mage was already at -8 hp so I changed my mind and retreated.   Two more fireballs went off, everyone who hadn't retreated took more damage, the Drow were killed and the game ended.

Part 3 of what is turning into a long saga - So, the game ends XP are awarded and the thief announces they have made 13th level; with the XP from this game I just made 10th.  I know that different classes advance at different rates but this seems a bit out of whack so I ask how many Xp each person has.  Huge discrepancy between the thief and my character.  Not necessarily an indicator of anything wrong but the monk is very close to the same number of XP I have so it indicates that I am in the ballpark on my count.  While trying to reconcile I say "OK, I haven't won GM or MVP in a year" but even that doesn't account for a 300,000 point difference.  UNFORTUNATELY - the GM hadn't announced the GM award yet.  When he did he gave it to me, because he had to talk me out of a suicide run.  (The GM award is awarded for stuff that the GM finds amusing or really good game play).

Here's the problem(s): First, I feel like I may have put some pressure on the GM with that remark.  It wasn't my intention.  I was just trying to figure out how the hell the thief was up at 700K XP.  Second I feel like the GM may have misinterpreted my actions.  I wasn't planning a suicide run.  I was just trying to get my character out of the line of fire and kill that damn Drow.  Third, when I thought about it this morning I realized I had misspoke.  I did get an MVP award a couple weeks ago for killing a gollum like character, and I think I got a GM award a few months ago.  

Don't get me wrong - I am happy I got the award and I have no intention of giving the XP back, but this has been bothering me all day; mainly because I feel like I should have said something when the GM gave me the award.  It's a small thing yeah, and it's just a game, but there is a principle involved (not enough principle for me to give back XP but still principle).  Also like I said I feel like I may have come off like I was bitching about the awards and that really wasn't my intent. That isn't to say there haven't been quite a few times when I felt like I deserved one or both of the awards and got neither, but I recognize that kind of thing is subjective so I congratulate the other guy and move on.  If people (and by that I mean me) are just going to bitch about awards then the game stops being fun.  I want to avoid that.

So now I am on paragraph 7 of describing what was basically a 5 minute slice of life last night.  Kind of telling on how pathetic my life is isn't it?  On the other hand this is truly a first world problem and gives starving villagers the world over something to aspire too.


So on twitter I see a tweet by Maggie McNeil (The Honest Courtesan) reading;

Whenever I see one of these tweets I chuckle a little bit because the argument they are making is basically the same argument 2nd Amendment supporters have to make on a daily basis.  If I register my guns (or vagina in this case) the government can come and do evil things to me in the name of some public good.  Usually the people making the argument would poo-poo it coming from an NRA member but because it is their ox being gored suddenly it takes on great validity.

No particular point, just one of those things that make me chuckle.

BlackHat 2016 Bound

Back in April I was thinking about going to BlackHat; I gave it serious thought but it just wasn't in the cards this year, but next year baby I am BlackHat bound.  I calculated it out and the conference, a training class, travel and a hotel should run me about $8500 with a cushion for unexpected costs.

Now I need a savings plan to make sure I squirrel away $160.00 per week.

Of course  if some of my friends wants to go also we could split some costs and bring prices down.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

On @aceofspadeshg #cuckservative post

Post is here  I am going to agree with Gabe and Ace, I am suddenly seeing a lot of racially motivated posts from people who I wouldn't have expected it from.  Not just anti-immigrant but flat out white supremacist, and not just on twitter - much more on facebook.  I haven't seen the #cuckservative hashtag but I haven't been looking and honestly once you display that attitude I block you so I probably wouldn't see it.

I may not be the most racially correct person in the world, I may use the wrong terms or inadvertently give offense, or honestly I may just disagree with a particular premise, but I do believe in the innate equality of all people.

On the same note I am a supporter of immigration, but that doesn't mean I support unrestricted immigration, or that I support H1-Bs (I don't because of the way employers abuse them) or illegal immigration (I don't for a number of reasons, among them the damage it does to the labor market for people on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, the leverage it gives employers over all employees, and the lack of assimilation into the culture as a whole), but in general I believe in the promise of America and I believe it is something that should be shared so yeah I support immigration.

OK I have rambled around the point - Yes I think Ace and gabe have identified a trend. It is an ugly one.  I think it needs to be confronted and stamped out now.