Bailout redux

A continuation of my article one year ago on the bailout:

But in the late Nineties, a few years before Cassano took over AIGFP, all that changed. The Democrats, tired of getting slaughtered in the fundraising arena by Republicans, decided to throw off their old reliance on unions and interest groups and become more “business-friendly.” Wall Street responded by flooding Washington with money, buying allies in both parties.
—Mark Taibbi for Rolling Stone

Paul Krugman and Obama never will see eye to eye on economics. Liberals are not the same, and Obama’s people comes from the Chicago school—the part that was the mess Clinton made, not other half of the Chicago school that made the mess than Bush and Reagan created. No matter which administration it was under, this school of thought has held the econo-political power for the last thirty years in this country.

Given that, I find that the fact that Krugman says “this budget looks very, very good” very positive. The other shoe finally dropped, and Paul Krugman continued articles against the bailout plan is now engendering attacks on the blogs from the right and left.

But I find some of the reactions truly atrocious. Here is one example:

Does Krugman, or any of these media monkeys jabbering their opinions on the administration’s plan to resolve the biggest crises facing our nation since the Great Depression, have access to the inner circles and behind doors meetings regarding what’s really happening in the financial industry?
passerby on Balloon Juice

Careful there. You’re starting to sound exactly like some administration official that assured us that if we didn’t invade Iraq, “the smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud.” and we didn’t have the information they had to argue that the all those brains in the Pentagon wasn’t preparing for the aftermath of that war.

Obama was supposed to (and I believe is honestly trying) to usher a new era of transparency. But the amount of transparency he’s given us here so far has told nearly every economist worth their salt that the bailout plan has a good chance of being a very costly ineffectiveness.

Why not address those valid criticism without resorting to “trust us”?

Continue reading about Arguing from the left after the jump.


E-mail from a high school classmate:

Pretty crazy that our class has gotten it together enough to navigate through facebook. But something tells me you’d run circles around us all!

I doubt I’d run circles around anyone.

I probably could if you young ‘uns in the tech world didn’t keep stealing my walker. Did you know when I was a kid, I had to dial a phone to use the internet? And I had to push my bits through the line static uphill both ways.


The origin of my affinity with Asian culture, which is frankly superior

Reading a friend’s blog via vanity feed, I thought…

Whee! Me!

I don’t know how many times I’ve successfully argued a woman into dating me. Let me think about it…

I guess I’ll have to go with “None.”

I don’t know why I have bad luck. I’m very intelligent, I’m great in bed, I make great money. Believe it or not, I’m a complete catch. 🙁

Perhaps I need to be a little on the chubby side?

ladies of the internet
Clearly I need this t-shirt

Don’t worry, Ladies of the Internet (pref. Nihonese), I’ll wait while you look up passive-aggressive personality disorder. 😀

(Thanks to Andrei for alighting me to these gems over the past year, his kevorka notithstanding.)


Small little annoyance we found in the process of internationalizing the site for European locales.

setlocale(LC_ALL, 'es_ES.UTF8'); // Spanish from spain
$a = 1.2;
echo 'hi'.$a;

This prints hi1,2. Take out the first line and it prints hi1.2 as you might expect.

Not a big deal right? Well imagine if that is the index into a cache key of an object? Now when someone from Spain views the page, it thinks those objects aren’t in cache. Big mess ensues.

I noticed that I suggested object versioning to be integers in the documentation, but some of us were using floats and I wasn’t type-checking. Whoops!

Our solution is to only set the locale when rendering output from a template and then setting it back. It’s ugly and I’m a definite fan of using integers only for version numbers in my next life.


In a unrelated note, the people at work had a long discussion of how to render possessives when internationalizing. The key in the U.S. is to stop being clever and follow the first rule of the Elements of Style. This way it’s just,

printf(_('%s’s pictures'), htmlspecialchars($display_name));

Hopefully, the long argument I had trying to convince someone to do this will be returned in less neutered quotation marks on the site. I’m not holding my breath.

How much is your millisecond?

At Tagged, I’ve been working on the project for the last month. Basically it allows us to cache dynamic parts of throughout the site and keep the caches from having stale data. Since we call the APIs both externally and internally—over 20 calls to generate a user’s profile page alone—the caching is turned on at the API level.

The initial hit to the system was severe.

Basically, I was causing the profile page to take 30 extra milliseconds to render. The profile page accounts for 17% of all page views on the site where we do about 220 million “views” a day. This 30 milliseconds, believe it or not, was dropping profile page views by 5%. And it took about 20 hours of back and forth before I finally resolved to rewrite the whole thing so that it can be rolled out gradually without any performance hit.

That means I cost the company one and a half million ad impressions. 🙁

The second day’s cached piece is actually measurable on the live site with tools I wrote. I am saving between 17 and 900 milliseconds depending on the state of the backend and load on the server.

Since I can’t measure how much actual page views I’m adding back into the system, I was curious about how much extra server capacity these changes are getting me.

In other words, how much is a millisecond?

Continue reading about Measuring milliseconds after the jump.

Vers mini-review

In 2000 I asked someone to pick up an alarm clock from Target—something simple, stylish, and loud. Of the three, it was only the latter. Now you can’t unset the alarm! Argh! And I’ve since learned to wake up to much less noise. In my life I’ve averaged about an alarm clock every decade.

I purchased the Vers 1.5R clock radio from Feel More Human.

I’m hoping my desk and bed won’t be next to each other forever

Continue reading about mini review after the jump

Traffic Lights

I noticed the red light on Bay and Jones is out. The reason why is it’s one of the only incandescent traffic lights left in the city. I like to call it my reference light because it reminds me of what traffic lights used to look like: dim and a slightly different shade of green and amber. We’ll not see them anymore.

I remember the excitement when the first LED traffic lights came up. Back then they only replaced the red bulbs because nobody had perfected the p-n junction blue LED. But soon, those were mass produced and soon all lights in the the traffic lights were LEDs. You recognized them because LEDs were so small that the lights were composed of an array of them with little lenses in front of them. Imagine what a change we’ve wrought!

A typical incandescent light lasts just under a year—8000 hours. This means that for every 110 traffic lights in the city, one is in need of replacement every day. Maybe your entire job is to replace street lights alone. An LED run correctly will last between 50,000 and 100,000 hours—almost 10x longer. Imagine that. Add to that the LED light uses between 6-20x less power depending on which generation and that’s probably a huge power savings for the city to boot.

Maybe about a half million dollars a year in labor and power for a medium sized city!

Another thing I miss is the heating time. LEDs turn on instantly, incandescents take a fraction of a second for the filament to heat on and start emitting light. In the early days that was how they tried to convince car companies to replace your red tail light with LEDs because that fraction of a second would make the car safer for rear end collisions. It didn’t work.

Finally they just pointed out that with LEDs you could make taillights in almost any shape and they started to sell like hot cakes.

I’ll miss the old traffic light. But it won’t stop me from e-mailing the city

Request for service

Time marches forward.

Tire swinger

Reading the comment rage on this article makes me smile. Michael Scherer’s career strategy is not a good one. But a piece of political vocabulary passed me by. 🙁

“What’s wrong, Mikey? The White House won’t provide you with a tire swing, like Uncle John did?”
donovong comments on Swampland


“DougJ, I think the simpler explanation is that Michael Scherer is a ‘Tire Swinger,’ and he’s still pissed that Obama rumbled his man McCain in the election.

“Look back at Scherer’s loveletters to McCain during the 2008 campaign season, and you’ll start to see a pattern of resentment against the “new guy” reformer that Obama was perceived as.”
cfaller comments on Balloon Juice

Does anyone know what this means? It probably has something to do with this:

In any case, it’s an amusing image, even if I don’t understand how it got from there to here.

Continue reading about Rush-Obama game theory after the jump

Kindle hits the iPhone

One of the iPhone updates I downloaded last night was the New York Times app. Trying to figure out how it was better than the previous version I was hit with the announcement that there is a Kindle app for the iPhone.

Here are some screenshots with commentary:

Kindle on the iPhone

The Kindle icon is nice. I put the app next to Stanza which is, by far, the best free book reader for the iPhone. Yeah, my battery is running out.

Startup screen

This screen is the same as the Kindle 2’s UPC symbol.


All my purchased books are synced and the covers are in color. Nice.

On the other hand, none of my sample chapters synced, none of my documents synced, and my magazine subscription The New Yorker didn’t sync. I was hoping to see the latest cover in color on the iPhone. 🙁

Where's the color?

Kindle app wirelessly synchronized my page position from my Kindle 2. Slick! You flick tap to change the page, tap hold to pull up the menu. They’ll probably have to change the navigation UI to be more in line with other iPhone readers.

For some reason the scroll is too slow for page flipping. You flick to fast you just get a white screen. You can change the font size but you cannot rotate the display.

Images on Kindle books are supposed to be color. Not for me! Maybe it depends on the book, but the print version of this book is clearly color, while the Kindle version is black and white. Also you can’t pinch zoom or tap zoom any of the images. So much for using the Kindle for my pr0n needs. Argh!

Go To…

There seems to be a bug where both “Beginning” and “Cover” jump to the cover. Beginning is supposed to jump to the first readable area.

Note that the app syncs my notes and marks from my Kindle 2.

The jump menu is the only thing clearly better on the iPhone. I can jump to the section with just a flick and tap. Those of you who take a lot of notes know how frustrating it is to navigate the Kindle 2’s eInk display.

BTW, there is no text-to-speech. This is disappointing. I know the iPod has spoken menus and there is a way sync high quality voices to it. I’d love for a high-quality voice like Alex read my books while I’m driving (and then sync my book position back to my Kindle 2.
[If I have time I’ll archive my notes later in this article]