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April 26, 2009

Less beneficial thought patterns learned in grad school

“Hey, I need to invoice for my Boston Marathon work. I should start by reinstalling TeX!”

Posted by pjm at 2:46 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2009

The tight credit market trickles down

Today’s mail included a notice from one of my credit card issuers, telling me they have “adjusted” my credit limit based on “the way [I] have historically used [my] account”. (All previous noticed about my credit limit were explicit about how they had “raised” my limit, so I am forced to conclude that “adjusted” is bank double-speak for “lowered.”)

The new credit limit, approximately half the previous limit (sound familiar? Same lender) is still 15 to 20 times more than I generally use the card for in a given month. I can still buy a car with the credit card, just not as ridiculous a car as before. Put another way, this new credit limit is more appropriate than the last one… so what business did they have offering me the previous amount of credit?

As another victim put it,

It’s kind of emotionally painful to be told that yesterday you were considered dependable to pay back up to X$, but today you’re only good for 0.5X$, for no reason. …

But what pisses me off the most is that a few months ago, when the bank itself was having a spot of financial trouble, and needed a loan to hold them over, I sent them $146.92. I did, and so did every other living U.S. citizen. That was money I really could’ve used for something else. They haven’t paid me back for that yet, and I kind of doubt they ever will. So they really have a lot of nerve, after taking my helping hand, to write me a letter saying they’re cutting my credit.

Posted by pjm at 1:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2009

Baby steps

It has taken me ages, but I have finally started remembering to use pushd and popd at relevant times. It’s like sticking little bookmarks in the computer file system.

Posted by pjm at 5:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2009

Spare change

Every time I count out the found money I remember the biggest found money haul we ever turned up.

Several apartment moves ago, for complicated reasons, we found ourselves moving in to a unit less than 24 hours after the previous tenant had moved out. We promised that building manager that we were not distressed by the lack of a full-unit clean-out, and so when we started loading in we discovered plenty that the previous tenant had left behind.

Any worries about cleanliness, for example, were put to rest by the massive overstock of cleaning supplies left behind. (We’re still using some of it.) There was an ancient Macintosh SE which was eventually recycled, a half-closetful of nice clothes which fit neither of us and got donated. And a cookie tin with so much change in it, I initially thought it was painted to the windowsill because it was so hard to lift.

I finally got it out and on to the floor and started counting, which took the better part of an afternoon. After sorting out various foreign coins (the Netherlands was well represented, for some reason, and there were plenty of Asian coins I later learned had been yen) I tallied up the American change and reached a total on the close order of $125.

One of the sacrifices of that particular move had been trading our own laundry in the basement for building-wide coin-op laundry. (This accounted for the sheer weight of the tin: the bulk of the mass was high weight-to-value-ratio dimes, nickels, and pennies.) Therefore, once I’d counted out and rolled as much of the haul as possible, I took it to a local bank and swapped it for roll after roll of quarters, which lasted us for several months of laundry.

Posted by pjm at 6:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2009

What recession?

The national and global economy have taken a beating in the last year. (I know, this is hardly news.) I therefore have proof that my annual found-money tally has no correlation with the wider economy. This was a banner year: Not only did the total haul since we started counting (four years, now) pass $100, counting interest, this year, but it was an all-time high on almost every number I count.

  • Total value: $32.74
  • 60 quarters, more than ever
  • 110 dimes, quite a few but not enough to outweigh the quarter haul in value
  • 36 nickels, still the rarest coin
  • A staggering 494 pennies
  • Three foreign currencies: 0.05 € (not found in Europe), 0.05 NZD (a first) and 0.25CDN

For previous years’ reports, see 2008, 2007, and 2006. If I wanted to be really geeky I’d make gnuplot graphs of the numbers of various denominations over years, or the relative income from “new cash” vs. interest earned. But I should really automate that instead of spending the time…

Posted by pjm at 9:25 PM | Comments (2)

April 10, 2009

Tweaking the formula

Years ago, I admitted to having the most painfully nerdy playlist ever. This was in the days before Party Shuffle (now mercifully renamed to “iTunes DJ”) and the basic idea was to get all my songs out, but to play the ones I liked more, more often.

I wound up making some tweaks—exceptions, essentially—to account for things like playing and rating new music. (This tweak, for example, called for unrated songs to always be available on the master playlist; I also made an exception to treat songs in the library less than two months like five-star songs, so they wouldn’t get buried.) I suppose ultimately I wanted to be able to weight every song using an equation that takes into account rating, time since last play, time in the library, and maybe a few other things.

Moving in to the office meant I was essentially sharing the library with Noah, and we needed to make some more changes. My trick for music in this situation works like this: my library, your control. Noah has a remote for my computer; I play the tunes, and if he doesn’t like something he clicks to skip it. (The idea is that if it’s in my library, by definition, I like it.)

That led me to adopt a new rule: if a song is skipped, it gets treated like it’s been played but is rated one star lower. (For example, if I’m holding five-star songs out ten days and four-star songs thirty, then if I skip a five-star song it doesn’t come out again until thirty days have passed.) This is as close as I can get to adjusting ratings with the remote.

We also adjusted the office list to exclude all songs rated only one or two stars. This led to such an improvement in the overall quality that I considered how to apply it on the home list. The only point to playing a one- or two-star song, I concluded, is to give it a chance to earn a higher rating from me. If it has played a fair number of times and is still rated low, it’s probably going to stay low.

So I adjusted the one- and two-star lists to exclude any song played more than ten times.

It’s still painfully geeky, but then again, so am I.

Posted by pjm at 4:38 PM | Comments (0)

April 1, 2009

It gets worse

After this afternoon, I have another thing to add to the discussion about IE6. And that is: if you think it’s hard trying to develop web pages for IE6, try developing HTML for Word. Because that’s the rendering engine Outlook 2007 uses, which means that’s how millions of emails every day get viewed.

It’s not quite 1998, but it’s pretty close.

Posted by pjm at 6:44 PM | Comments (0)