Bacon, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives

Setting the record straight: Mark Slackmeyer operated a PDP-112 in July, 1972

I was looking for a comic I remembered from my childhood – in fifth or sixth grade I bought a rubber stamp I was so inspired by it, so that bound the search a little. I searched the internet for possible publication dates, and it is widely reported that Mark Slackmeyer got a job programming (or operating, depending on which version you find) a DEC PDP 11/70 in May of 1971. I looked at every single Doonesbury comic from the start of publication until I found the actual set of strips – 28-JUNE-1972 (mention of the matchbook cover text), job starting 01-JULY-1972, continuing on 03-JULY (where he’s dealing with a PDP-112), 04-JULY, 05-JULY (mention of the matchbook and salary of $7300 a year as an operator, $41k inflation adjusted to 2015 dollars; he’s actually paid $1 an hour, or $2080 annually), 06-JULY, 07-JULY (in which Slackmeyer uses the still-common debugging technique of screaming), ending 08-JULY when Mark fights a threading problem with a tape drive. I’ll point out there was no PDP-112, but PDP 7 serial #112 is famous for being preserved. I don’t know the source of the widely (PDP 11, 1998) repeated (11/70, 1990 Usenet post) error, but I hope this post starts showing up higher in results than the wrong claim.

The strip for 02-JULY does mention a now-common technology. I’ll note Slackmeyer did have an undisclosed job at his dad’s brokerage in 1971 for a single day, and he does mention IBM in that story arc, but only as an equity, not a product he’s using.

I found a book review:

Throughout the book, the famous 
comic strip character Doonesbury 
and his friend, Mark, marvel at the 
many wonders of the computer. A 
newspaper ad for computer operators 
convinces them that they have found 
their true vocation in life. "Earn 
$7,000, impress your friends. MEET 

from September, 1976. repeated verbatim in the February, 1977 issue of BYTE.

I think:

"Earn $7,000, impress your friends. MEET GIRLS"

is my new motto.

Written by Ry Jones

3 April 2015 at 21:34

Domo arigato, Shikkoku sama

Shikkoku, named for the anime character, was put down this morning at about 10:30. I stayed with him until the very end – as he had been my nearly constant companion for twelve years, I could not leave him alone to die. He was truly more sinned against than sinning. His last day, I stopped the insulin injections and fed him full cans of cat food for every meal.

Shikkoku is annoyed
Picture 070


Written by Ry Jones

4 November 2014 at 22:56

David Fincher on copyright clearances

From Director’s Commentary track 1, Fight Club

00:25:35: The book takes place in Wilmington, Delaware, because that’s like a headquarters for a lot of credit card companies. We wanted to make the film take place in Wilmington, Delaware, but there’s some kind of clearance issues if it’s a specific town then you have to get clearances for specific names, streets, you know, apartment buildings. We decided to, in the interest of clearances, which has really become just the bane of my existence, the whole of legal clearances. I think there was actually a situation with Marla Singer. Where when they did the name clearance on Marla Singer, they went and they did this like global search, or at least, you know, continental United States they do a search for Marla Singer. Had they found five or six Marla Singers, or a thousand Marla Singers, it wouldn’t have been an issue because somebody says “hey, I’m being disparaged in this movie, I’m this chain-smoking person addicted to support groups, you’re disparaging me” but if there’s a thousand, you can always say “well, it’s not you, it was meant to be this other person” or whatever. “Prove that it’s you.” So you don’t have to get any kind of clearances.

00:26:50 But there’s only one Marla Singer in the continental United States, in Illinois somewhere, of course, as soon as attorneys get involved, the whole thing gets completely fucked up. Somebody called her and told her there’s this book, and we’re making a movie based on this character that had her name. All of a sudden, her attorneys are calling and we have to pay this person off. So it becomes this big issue, if you set a movie in a specific place you have to get specific clearances based on, like, the Pearson Towers. If they say it’s Wilmington, Delaware, then you have to go and get permission if there’s a Pearson anything in Wilmington, Delaware. So we just said it was any city, any city anywhere. But our homage to Wilmington, Delaware is that the, I believe the Delaware state motto is “Delaware: a place to be somebody”. So, we decided to put, on the Pearson Towers, their little logo on the brass sign is “a place to be somebody”.

00:27:48 We also had the Delaware state flag in the backgrounds, so the property department kept bringing the Delaware state flag and we would put it on the flagpole. In this scene, you don’t see it, because the camera never tilts up high enough to see it; but of course, all the Fox representatives were down there on the set looking, watching the monitors, making sure you couldn’t see the Delaware state flag because then you’d have to go and re-clear everybody’s names. “There might be a Lou’s Tavern in Wilmington, Delaware!”

Written by Ry Jones

28 January 2010 at 1:11

Posted in isms

Wait a second… you want to blame ME for the financial crisis?

Posted by “Austrian” on arfcom.

I currently manage a medium sized hedge fund (long/short equity).

The current populist uproar is absolute insanity. I don’t know how else to say it. You are never going to legislate away greed. Period. It is part of the human psyche. That’s all there is to it. You can either fight it, or use it. Incentives work. This is why.

Let’s step back a minute and think about why and how this happened:

1. Starting back in the 1970s Congress addressed discrimination in mortgage lending (which was really a serious problem) with the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975. This approach was to open lending statistics by requiring banks to disclose the details of their lending by geography and, eventually, demographics and income level. This was a stroke of genius. Large banks were shamed into good citizenship. The act did have the effect of elevating a number of “civil rights” personalities (Jesse Jackson, for instance) as they used shrewd public relations to expose some rather egregious practices by large banks when it came to mortgage lending. These same personalities, names you doubtless recognize, in some cases, adopted more aggressive tactics, some that borderline on blackmail and extortion today. I leave it to you to determine if this downside outweighs the upside of truth in lending practices. I, for one, think that forcing disclosure like this was enlightened. It was to be the last of its kind.

2. The Community Reinvestment Act really was a serious break with the legislative practice before the legislation. Suddenly, you have a small number of people determining where dollars will flow based on some political definition of who is worthy. The early definition could be right as rain in terms of who is deserving, needs a leg up, has been wronged, etc. etc. but once you go down this path, you are truly fucked. Once you start dictating capital flows based on political worthiness (an entirely subjective and whimsical standard) you have opened the door to all kinds of mess. Play stupid games…

3. …win stupid prizes. In the 1980s and 1990s Congress literally had a hornet’s nest up its ass with mortgage regulation. Almost 400 bills in the 101st Congress contained the word “mortgage.” This doesn’t seem like a big deal until you realize that the housing ranged from 7-20+% of GDP in a quarter. Absorb that. Something like 1/5 of quarterly GDP. Now put in place mechanisms to literally pour trillions of dollars into the system to encourage “The Dream of American Home Ownership.” Think of it. You have a small group of regulators/legislators (less than 100 people are making major decisions about how much Freddie or Fannie will lend, or what their capital ratios will be raised to, or what interest rates should be) controlling a massive portion of the economy. You suddenly have price fixing for a sizable fraction of the GDP. To compete with Fannie and Freddie, their subsidies, their tax breaks, their implied government backstop and their downward pressure on interest rates, you have to take on more risk for less money. Hello Countrywide. (Just a bit of history, Countrywide was explicitly founded to collateralize the only loans left to non-GSEs- those not already being siphoned by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae). GSEs held 1/3 of all residential mortgages by 2001 or so. ONE THIRD. GSEs were run by political hacks, installed there as a reward for political services rendered. These are facts.

4. Banking and Insurance regulation is, and always has been, daft. The blind focus on capital ratios, reserve ratios and the like, and the pedantic concentration on definitions of risk that results in notional insured figures being counted in capital ratio calculations but credit default swaps not counted in this way was insanity. Of COURSE massive capital is going to flow into the exception you, regulator, have explicitly written into the regs. Now you are shocked and surprised that people wrote Credit Default Swaps like there was no tomorrow? Incentives matter. Period.

5. The market for talent is global, and you can’t legislate it away. Like it or not there is a metric ass-ton of money in finance. The power to create, move or allocate wealth is very valuable. It always will be. You aren’t striking a blow for social justice by enacting the first salary caps in the modern history of the United States. You are guaranteeing that finance experts will flee. The hiring binge going on right now as the likes of UBS suck out talent is just amazing. UBS, with the support of the Swiss Government, is offering 10 year permits to execs and their families who relocate to Switzerland, not to mention the ability to negotiate your personal tax rate for the next 10 years up front in some Cantons. You can’t determine what finance execs will be paid, folks. You can only determined WHERE they will be paid. Who exactly do you think is going to pull the United States out of this mess. Big Auto?

So, let me get this straight, Mr. or Ms. Congressional/Executive Scumbag….

You’ve spent the last two decades pumping trillions upon trillions of dollars into particular segments of the mortgage market, a major portion of the U.S. economy, dictating what risks were appropriate, how much would be paid for assuming those risks and generally underpricing risk in the entire system for years and years. You’ve been inflating a bubble and assuring that the inflation passed to the riskiest portions of the economy. You’ve been passing the buck for four decades. Every time the economy tries to correct itself, you stall, pump borrowed money into the system, and grow the disaster the country will eventually have to face. You buy votes year after year by delivering graft now, to be paid for later (after you’ve long left office). In effect, nearly one third of the American economy has been run by central planning for the last five years. During this inflation, you happily collected taxes on everyone, effectively collecting tax on borrowed money and inflated assets (none of which you propose to repay- what luck would I have asking for the real-estate taxes I have paid for years on appraisals that were pure illusion?) I didn’t hear you complaining when you saw massive, record revenues to the Treasury thanks to the boom the finance community facilitated and delivered to you, year in and year out. I didn’t see you pointing fingers when we dug in and pulled your ass out of two recessions. Finance is a massive portion of the economy because it creates wealth. Period. Your social programs, state and local, are massive bloated vote-buyers because of our hard work, sweat and craft. (New York State, I’m looking at you). We work until mid-May for you and your vote purchasing juggernaut. I accept that. I have for years. This is because what I make from June to December is more than enough to, not just enjoy the American Dream and the promises of success and wealth, but to take the capital I collect over the years and invest it, again and again back into American business, start-ups, and even your fucked up GSE mortgage securities (which my taxes support). We carry the freight. 10% of us pay 70% of all income taxes. 50% of us pay 97% of all income taxes. We tolerate this because this is the promise of America. Work hard, pay taxes, and no one will second guess what you spend your money on in your personal time. No one will tell you how much is a “fair wage.”

Now, now that you have run out of delaying tactics, you want to point the finger at… me?

I came to this country for a reason. I spent 9 years in U.S. universities, which I busted my ass to get into. I didn’t borrow a dime to do it. I paid every cent myself. I’ve never so much as accepted a single unemployment check. I’ve never availed myself of any government largess that I wasn’t forced to take. I have repeatedly declined to challenge some of your more deluded tax claims against my income in court, as was my right. Two of these I clearly could have won, though expensively. What’s more, I consider myself a patriot. I consider it a great privilege to live in the United States and to be called one of her adopted children. I defend this country, and what used to be her ideals, to any European socialist moron who cares to engage me in conversation. I support the troops. Wherever they are. Unconditionally. I create jobs. Aside from two years where I broke even, I have made money for my clients and partners every year since I have been in professional life. This includes 2008 and 2009 YTD. You could house 50 families in reasonable comfort for 10 years on what I have paid in taxes since I’ve been here. Actually, now that I’ve actually done the calculation just now for this post, you are really pissing me off.

Now you want to call me greedy? Are you fucking kidding me? After you fucked this place up? You want to tell me that capitalism failed? What capitalism? You’ve socialized/centralized almost half of the GDP. Now, you want to use me and the paycheck I’ve earned year after year to deflect attention from the basic fact that you have been shoving debt on people who couldn’t hope to find within themselves the character to take responsibility for repaying it? They get a pass and I get… what… a sharp stick in the eye?

And, you want to tell me that $250,000 is “enough?”

I will tell you what is “enough.” Me paying for your power grab for the last decade now. That’s quite enough.

Let me just tell you, Congressional/Executive Branch Scumbag, Esq., if you do this… if you take this turn… I won’t even think twice. I will move my firm to Switzerland, or to London before the year is out. Those employees who do not follow me, I will have to fire. The corporate taxes I pay will no longer be yours. Instead, they will go to something useful, like a nice tunnel through a mountain for high speed trains that actually work. Further, I will dedicate a substantial portion of my personal time, effort and capital to frustrating your every attempt to collect personal taxes on me thereafter- given your draconian anti-expatriation laws. But that’s not all. My job is to make money for my clients, in whatever way I can. I will short your flagging financial firms mercilessly and remorselessly. I will buy QGRI puts to bet against any firm that took bailout money. I will buy credit default swaps on every firm you put your greasy paws on, because I know your fingerprints are laced with poison. For every boneheaded centralist move you make, I will be there, profiting from your lunacy. I will never again take a client who pays taxes in the United States. I will not permit any capital or profit to be diverted to any such. I will do this because in the same way you believe it your divine right to punish “greed,” I consider it my duty to punish the stupidity and arrogance that is central planning, and because I believe in economic freedom. I will divert as many of your resources to my new home and its relative economic freedoms as I can. I will promote free markets in this way, and I will never look back. You will have made it clear that you are my enemy, and I do not forget such declarations.

I take no pleasure in this fight. I did not ask for it. I only asked for liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Deny me these at your peril. In the end, I can only hope I’m not alone.

Once the “flight to quality” takes place, I wonder where the new center of financial power will be. Certainly not the US.

Written by Ry Jones

22 March 2009 at 3:47

Why I shop at Pilot Oil

Pilot Oil, Ellensburg, WA

Long story short: they are (or were in the early 90’s) a good company; they treated us well when we made a mistake.

Longer: In the early 90’s, I worked for my dad; my office job was bidding work. One of the jobs I bid was Pilot Oil’s new location in Terre Haute; one unusual point in the bid document was that the brand and color of the exterior finish was explicitly specified. As it wasn’t a brand we usually dealt with, it wasn’t in any of our product notes; Dad called the manufacturer to get the MSDS and product info sheets. They either couldn’t or didn’t fax them over; instead, they gave us the bare minimum data: the coverage rate.

For finishes (paints), the rate is specified in square feet per gallon for each surface type (pdf). For a CMU finish like this, the specs usually include smooth-faced CMU, rough-faced (split) CMU, and the like. The number we got was so many [‘]/g; I remember it seemed really high, but I also remember Dad asking the guy on the phone if that was the rough-faced CMU coverage; the number we worked from was, of course, the smooth-faced CMU number.

The guys on site had no idea about the coverage rates, but they knew the first coat was wrapped up and there was not enough finish to get the second coat done.

There are a couple options here. One is to paint up to a line, say a finish change, and forget the rest. Pilot Oil buildings used to have a band of smooth CMU about eight feet up; paint to this line, and if the customer notices the color difference, you just say it’s a trick of light. Another would be to cut the finish (over-thin it). The risks are leaving too thin a finish; also, the tints and binders will come out of solution at different times, and the paint will streak. Another option is to buy more paint and finish the job correctly.

We chose the third course. While we didn’t need much paint, it was expensive, an odd lot, and we had to have it rushed instead of taking the slow boat; all custom touches that meant the cost of the finish was greater than the profit on the job. These things happen.

Dad wrote a letter to Pilot explaining what happened, and what the cost delta was. I don’t remember the content of the letter much beyond that. The next two events happened in close proximity; the dust of time makes it impossible for me to tell you which happened first.

One, we got a check from Pilot for the overage on paint; two, the roof on Pilot leaked.

That they paid us when they didn’t have to is why I shop there; Pilot Oil was under no contractual obligation to us, yet they treated us well.

To finish the roof leak, story, though:

The leak caused somewhat of a production; the roof shouldn’t leak on a new building. The owner calls the general contractor; the general calls any sub that got anywhere near the roof. Everyone calls lawyers.

When finish schedules are written, they’re written in mils; as in, this surface will be covered with this finish for this many mils. In practice, you look at the product guide; this tells you the number of mils per coat, you find out how many coats you need, and it’s two coats of finish. This sounds risky, because you don’t really know if a finish is so many mils over the entire surface; however, in practice, it works well enough. Nobody checks mils.

Until the roof leaks.

Meeting day, everyone shows up; we all go up to the roof. It is every sub’s ass on the line; someone is paying for this roof, and it isn’t the general. We all carry performance bonds (insurance) on each project; this means the bond agents are there. Having to pay $50,000 for water damage and a new roof would dwarf the profit on an $8000 paint job; if the failure is our fault, we will never get bonded at an affordable rate again. Our ability to be bonded, and therefore bid commercial jobs, is on the line.

The lawyers for the owner brought in an inspector that said “the leak is on the south side. There aren’t any mechanicals in the area (the HVAC guys all sigh relief and leave). There are lights, flashing, roofing, and finish.” That leaves, basically, the electrical contractor, the roofing contractor, and us.

The schedules come out. The roof is to be so thick and of this type material. Up on the roof everyone goes; the inspector cuts out a small section of roofing material from the backside of the CMU. The calipers come out. It passes. It is to be bonded with a failure load of so many pounds. He attaches a spring scale and a clamp and pulls. It does not fail at the design load. This is repeated along the bonding area. The roof passes.

The fixtures (lights) are pulled apart and checked; they’re dry inside, which means water is not passing through them. The seals against the CMU are dry, so they aren’t leaking. Electrical is off the hook.

A drill comes out; the inspector drills into the CMU. A depth gauge comes out. Mils are read. This is repeated along the roofline. The finish passes everywhere. We’re off the hook.

The end of the story was the flashing was installed incorrectly along the cap of the roofline. This, along with heavy rains and driving winds, let enough water in to seep in to wreck stuff.

If we had gone for option 1 or 2 originally, we would have been boned; even though the finish may not of been at fault, we would have been financially culpable for some percentage of the damage caused by the failure.

How often are mils checked on a finish? Only when it really matters.

Written by Ry Jones

27 December 2008 at 5:08

Posted in Life

For want of a nail…

The building I work in, the CUE, was flooded last week. At first it seemed like a boneheaded failure lead to mass destruction – but it was actually a subtle design fault exposed by rare circumstance that led to the flooding. A steam event happened in the basement. The entire campus is steam heated, so these are common. A pop off valve either opened or was broken and allowed the steam to vent through a chimney-like structure to the roof. This is as designed. Due to high winds, however, the steam was blown under the fascia covering the HVAC equipment on the roof. The steam heated the underlying ceiling of the penthouse to the point that a sprinkler head in an air plenum popped off, dumping ~4000 gallons of water into the plenum. At this point the fire alarm went off due to the sprinkler dump. The water was trapped in the plenum, and the sprinkler head was not on any of the maps the firefighters had access to. A firefighter broke through a wall and discovered the flooded plenum. Once the determination was made that there was no fire, the sprinklers were shut off. By then, it was way too late. I do not fault the firemen for waiting so long to disable the sprinklers; had there been a fire it was clearly the right thing to do to let them dump. At this time a lot of the water had escaped through the walls and floor of the plenum, flooding the elevator shaft, the penthouse, parts of the fifth floor and parts of the fourth floor. The ceiling in the main conference room failed and a lot of AV equipment was damaged or destroyed. Sheetrock walls were destroyed as were lots of carpet. The true costs will not be known for some time,
but it was an amazing cascade of co-incidence that allowed this failure to happen. They’re going to extend the steam vent above the fascia to prevent it from happening in the future.

Written by Ry Jones

18 September 2003 at 7:00

Posted in WSU


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