son of slither.io update

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I got my first #1 in quite a while tonight. Lately I’ve been trying to stay aggressive where I find a clear advantage and avoid little snakes otherwise. While it is tough to corner as a larger snake, boost is as dangerous an offensive tactic as it is at any size, plus you sometimes completely surprise someone and catch them flatfooted. This was also a very woke game, as I was holding off a snake named white power at the top of the leaderboard for quite a while and killed Trump Uber Alles right before dying.

Aquarium

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This is a 20 gallon aquarium my friend Erin gave me a while back. Last week, I cleaned the aquarium and put in some new plants. I have a ton of brown and green algae, so I got some snails, shrimp, and six otocinclus to help me clean the glass. Five of the otos have died. 🙁

I have dozens of guppy/Endler’s livebearer hybrids. They breed really fast and I must be feeding them too much. If anyone wants any fish, let me know. They’ve been having a bit of a die-off since the tank cleaning and additions as I’ve lost about a dozen of them in the last week. Not sure why, but I’m not complaining.

I’d like to get some frogs, but I think they’d eat my shrimp and make me mad.

slither.io update

I don’t get to play slither.io more than about once a week, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet.

slitherio_4_17993

My best game tonight was a 4th place where I was extremely assertive. I generally boosted aggressively at the first snake I saw and I tried to loop snakes more than normal. I ended up harassing the 2nd place snake and I had him in three-quarters of a loop before I hit an innocent bystander, who you can just see peeking out on the bottom of the frame in the above image. I think I could have had him, and it would have been glorious, like this:

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Ah well, it is a pity.

slither.io


After I killed the rainbow snake; before I killed the orange snake.

I’ve been playing slither.io ever since that rat bastard Rob Beschizza of Boing Boing posted about it in late April. I run in somewhat nerdy gamer circles so I’ve been surprised at how little mention I’ve seen about it since then. If Grantland were still around I would have expected a 5,000 word Ben Lindbergh article about it, but I’m basing that on how much I like the game, not any idea I have of how popular it is. (Well, I guess I have some idea how popular it is… 61.4K uniques and 21,241 US Rank as estimated by Quantcast today with a healthy Alpine growth trend.)

It is a very simple in-browser game where you drive a snake around eating magic glowy things that make you grow. Your snake always moves forward, and you control its direction with mouse or keyboard. You will normally meander along but you also have the option to boost your snake’s speed at the cost of some of its size. If a snake’s head hits any part of another snake, it bursts into super magic glowy things in proportion to its size. It is very similar in concept to the Lightcycles in Tron. You’ll be playing on a server with around 500 other people and/or bot programs, and the top 10 players in length are displayed on a persistent leaderboard in the interface.


Precursor.

I started out playing slither.io as a pacifist. There are magic glowy things all over the game board, enough to turn every snake fat and sleek, free for all. So, with the end goal of survival and growth at all costs, I avoided contact with other players as much as I could and made regular use of the turn-back-across-yourself move that makes a shield of your own body and turns you in the opposite direction, away from an aggressor. If you play the game defensively and try to stay out of trouble, it is fairly likely that you’ll live a long time. At the beginning I never boosted, telling myself that snakes who boosted got themselves in trouble as often as not.

I was able to make the Top 10 with that strategy, but I ran into a couple of problems with it. First, I found it really irritating when, despite my clear policy of non-violence and ironclad commitment to meekly yield right-of-way to any snake, some alpha asswipe snake succeeded in murdering me. I remember moments of vivid purple outrage, and I started learning how to boost myself just to get away from jerk snakes like these.

A more serious issue with non-assertion came into focus as I learned the same lesson Louis Bloom did in Nightcrawler: the best place to be is right next to someone important, right after the worst thing has happened to them. The magic glowy things scattered around the game will give you a few feet in length, but the super magic glowy things that a dead snake turns into are worth several times that amount, and they are packed together solid in the area the snake’s body used to occupy. And big dead snakes attract boosting live snakes, and there are often multiple waves of collisions as big snakes get greedy, die, and create another trail of goodies to bring the other big snakes to dash themselves into each other. You can loop yourself around a share most of the time, repeating as the opportunity presents itself, and you can gain 1000 feet in couple of seconds if you are in the right place. I found these situations, but as a slow defensive snake I wasn’t finding them often enough. There was misery out there and I was fixing to be a part of as much of it as I could.


As in everyday life, sometimes I overestimate my own competence.

I’ve transitioned from slow and steady defensive growth to running with a somewhat more aggressive variant of Joel Johnson’s detailed writeup on his strategy, the only other place I’ve seen the game broken down. I’m usually driving toward the center of the map, where the highest concentration of snakes are. I boost a lot when I’m close to other snakes, and the larger I get the more I boost overall. I run north-south a lot, as that gives other snakes with standard aspect ratio displays about half the notice and reaction time once they see me. (If you’re playing slither.io on a computer, chances are you’ve got almost twice as many pixels horizontally as vertically in your interface. That’s almost twice as much time for you to take some sort of action I might not like.) And if you’re a large snake, or you’re shadowing me, or you act aggressive, I’ll probably attempt to kill you.

I’ve decided that if I’m pretty small, and I see a pretty large snake, it makes sense to try to kill and eat it even if all I’ve got is a low-percentage play. I fail a lot, especially if I’m so small that I can’t boost, but then I’m back in roughly the same state seconds later, after I hit the restart button. If I make an obvious and unsuccessful attempt without killing myself, there’s not much of a downside. The snake might boost aggressively, and they often end up doing something stupid when they do that. Or they might boost or crawl away from me, to which I say there’s plenty of fishes in the ocean, pal–I don’t need you. Meanwhile, if I can cut in front of a nice big snake and consume most of its body, I am at my sweet spot size-wise.


This is my happy place.

I love being a snake of three or low four figures in length. You still have a tight turning radius; you can boost for thirty seconds; and you’re big enough that if you stretch out, you can make it hard for a larger snake to circle you. I like to hang out right in the middle of a bunch of nice big snakes. If one of them miscalculates I can cut them off and kill them. Or if someone else someone else throws down and there’s a loser, the feeding frenzy starts anew. Sometimes you’ll find a single snake take everyone else out and crash right into you in the process, and you’re left sitting alone in a field of super magic glowy things.

I also like boosting to grab a portion of any glowy things I can. You’ll see players act possessively about the glowy things left behind after they kill a snake, which is understandable–they did all the work. You’ll often be able to bait them into making a hasty move and exposing themselves, and then you eat.


Always loop around the glowy bits when you can.

I disagree somewhat with Joel Johnson on the cross move; it is a low-risk approach, but if I’m going east-west I’ll usually boost on the trail of super magic glowy things with an eye towards turning off towards any other glowy things I see if I run into a snake going the other way. It is true that I sometimes run head-on into someone with better reflexes than me, but I’ve eaten lots of glowy things I wouldn’t have gotten to the other way around. As you get larger, you want to drag your body in a big defensive circle around any concentrations of glowy things you find, so you can eat them without interference.

One of the standard moves for larger snakes is to loop around smaller snakes so the smaller snake hits the larger snake’s body and becomes snake food. As I get to prime lariat size of 15,000 or more, I tend to do this less and less. I will try to encircle someone when I’m competing with them for the same corpus of glowy things; or if I see another snake that has encircled a snake–love punishing the dicks who live on this move; or if I can loop around a bunch of snakes at once. Even then, you’ve got to watch out for a larger snake doing the same thing to you, so I like to stay pretty stretched out and hard to encircle myself.


I ended up letting them go when another big snake started circling.

I’ll often boost towards other snakes, then turn at the last minute. I’m consistently surprised with how poorly even larger snakes handle that. And if I can ever cut another snake off, I’m happy to try it. I’m also easy to rile up and pretty willing to get in a race with another snake. If everything is going right, I’m at 20,000 length within 5 minutes, but I’ll probably die a half-dozen times in shorter games and at pedestrian length to get there. C’est la vie, I can watch an advertisement every so often. If I’m a larger snake and I try to attack another snake and lose, I’m much happier about it than if I’m trying to stay out of trouble and trouble finds me anyway.

I feel like you could do a lot of interesting things with the slither.io data that they most be compiling on players. You’d have a ton of data to work with, as you can play many games in an evening instead of one or two. I bet you could build a pretty sophisticated behavior and quality profile of a player based on their results. I’d love to see more public facing work in this direction. It is time for the slither.io sabermetric revolution.

slither.io is approachable, polished, and the best in-browser game I’ve ever played. Give it a try… and remember, if you happen to assassinated by Cobra Commander, it was just business.

Talk Talk

When you take a listen to today’s music you probably think to yourself “hm, seems like most of the great ones aren’t around anymore”, and you’d be right. There’s a lot of great music out there produced by bands who disapperated long before their time (while those fuckers in Third Eye Blind soldier on). On the one hand, it is sad to have missed the opportunity to see them in the flesh. You blew it! For a lot of 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s acts (depending on how old you are) you could have seen them if you’d have just known about them when. But take heart–this is a great time to look more closely at any pop act of the period as whatever audio and video they produced is easy to find and watch.

I’ve been on a real Talk Talk binge lately. I liked them ever since Allie got me Natural History in the early 90’s, when I was just becoming musically aware. It’s a great compilation, and you don’t have to take my word for it because you can stream it for free on YouTube.

The band had commercially ceased to exist by that point and I didn’t get any more of their stuff for a long time, but over the last few years I’ve gotten most of their albums, and seeing the band develop over time is something else. They started out pretty synth-y and drum machine-y, and if you squint they look a little like fringe members of the New Romantic set. But by the mid-80’s they’d become something else entirely. Songs got longer, more musically varied, more organic. For me, the peak was probably 1986’s The Colour of Spring and, wouldn’t you know it, it is also free to stream on YouTube.

After this the band got more adventuresome and less conventional. There’s beautiful stuff there but it is generally less accessible to me, and it drove the record companies crazy because they couldn’t figure out how to get a single out of it. I like them best right in the middle, at the peak of their career, like a slugging corner outfielder with a standard aging curve. I got Asides Besides, the B-sides and rare tracks double CD (what’s a CD?) set, a few weeks ago, and it has some more music from that period that I’d never previously heard. I think Disc 2 of the set would be my second favorite Talk Talk album if it were an actual album. The piano version of Call In the Night Boy is a lot better than the original, and if you look in the YouTube comments apparently the guy who played the piano on this track has showed up and made a few comments.

For What It’s Worth is like a really good Roxy Music Avalon-period song. You can’t have too much really good Roxy Music if you ask me. Singer Mark Hollis has a distinctive voice that might be expected to produce strong reactions; I really like it, and like Thom Yorke’s, the fact that I generally can’t tell what the lyrics of most Talk Talk songs are is probably a positive.

The whole back half of the set is really stunning. And you can stream that too.

I give all of these albums five Pochaccos and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Neiman Marcus Official Gourmet Cookie Recipe Policy

Sometime before February 1997, Andres and I wrote up this stupid webpage and put it on my server. One day my server was taken offline. I called my ISP, and they passed along this fun fax from a lawyer.

Nobody sent me a check. 🙁

cookpageJust like the poodle in the microwave story, certain urban legends have real staying power. This is not one of them. Our policy remains unchanged: anyone who has ever had in their possession an unlicensed copy of our Gourmet Cookie Recipe is responsible to us for the sum of $250.00 per copy.

Our recipe is not shareware or freeware. There is no 21 day trial period. However, while we wish to protect our intellectual property, we are not unreasonable. We understand that some people may have received multiple unsolicited copies of the recipe, and for this reason we have made site licenses available at a substantial discount off of retail price.

If your personal or shared e-mail account has received more than four (4) copies of the Neiman Marcus Gourmet Cookie recipe, you may gain legal right to them by paying the sum of $175.00 per recipe. Hopefully, this will provide some financial relief to those recipe piraters who were not aware that redistributing our intellectual property without our consent is a Federal crime.

logo2You may be eligible for additional savings if this is a corporate matter. Please inquire about bulk rate discounts if you feel you have an appropriate situation.

Thinking about stiffing the bill? If so, please be aware that Internic, the Internet Policing Service, keeps track of all e-mail transmitted over the Internet. We obtain copies of their frequently updated list bi-weekly, and will take legal action against people possessing or distributing illegal and unlicensed copies of our recipe.

Holding an unlicensed copy of the recipe is a Federal crime with a maximum sentence of six months in prison and/or $50,000 in fines. Distributing the recipe without the protection of a site license is defined as Mail Fraud by the U.S. Government, an even more serious charge. Please think about the possible repercussions before you decide not to pay.

You may pay for a license by stopping off at any of our convenient nationwide locations and referencing item number CR1000250, or by mailing a check to:

Andres Phippard and Dave Pease
Vice Presidents of Debt Recovery, Neiman Marcus Inc.
(For the convenience of
our accounting department,
please do not reference
Neiman Marcus on the check)

6415 Cleeve Way
San Diego, CA 92117


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[ Shop the Legend | Home | Locations | What’s Happening | Lounge ]
Comments/questions to Dave. Do not send attachments to this address.

Very truly yours

I got this fax from my ISP when they took my server offline in early 1997. Neiman Marcus was unhappy about the Neiman Marcus Official Gourmet Cookie Recipe Policy page that Andres and I created. And in case you weren’t on the net 20 years ago, we made that page because the $250 Neiman Marcus cookie recipe urban legend was taking AOL email boxes by storm around that time. …and also partially because we’d probably been drinking and had too much time on our hands.

“Mr. Pease is fraudulently representing that he is an employee of Neiman Marcus and demanding money from innocent members of the public in the Company’s name, all to the great detriment of the Company and in clear violation of federal and state criminal laws.”

neiman_marcus

Breaking News: JesusH, Resurrected (However Briefly)!

OK, calm down everybody. I know longtime JesusH fans have been on tenterhooks wondering where I’ve been. To make a long story short, I’ve been busy making this:

hilda's fashion parade 5of5, handspun handknit with ❤️ cardi by mom 💕🎉😻 !

A photo posted by 👊🏽💥 (@vaquera) on

give or take a few years.

So I was looking around for some good, solid, reliable kid-rearing resources to ensure I don’t accidentally raise a complete moron when I stumbled upon the JesusH Book Reviews! What a treasure trove of information I can trust! Callooh! Callay!

A thought occurred to me as I was perusing these reviews: JesusH is absolutely *loaded* with smart people with lots of experience and who write interesting things–albeit not at JesusH lately.  And why not at JesusH?  Oh, I imagine you are all so super busy with your engaging work and your child-rearing and your family nurturing and all.  Or maybe you’re like me and in this text- and chat- heavy world you haven’t managed to construct a grammatically cogent and acronym-free sentence in ages.  But I’d like to coax you back into visiting JesusH from time to time.  Read a little, post a little.  I know it can be a challenge to fit one more thing into your day or week.  In fact, I know I find the prospect daunting.  But what I lack in confidence I have in hope; whereas once upon a time I might’ve tossed a disdainful gauntlet, now I just entreat you to a modest enterprise: post occasionally.  Something amazing might happen!

And I know that I’m late to the reproduction circus but I know you all are loaded with interesting kid things that, frankly, I think would be a shame not to share.  I know because I’ve already seen a glimpse of it (have I mentioned those awesome book reviews?) already.

I give JesusH the rare and coveted five Pochaccos 

Let’s keep the flame alive!

We’re Back, Part 3

JesusH had gotten way out of date and crusty and full of spammer assholes in the comments. WordPress makes updates easier and easier as time goes on, but we were hitting an error when trying the easy update of the blog software, so I had to touch some files by hand, and clean out spam comments directly in the database. Ew.

Everything has been updated and we’re now at WordPress 4.4.2. And dIRE sTRAITS is back in the header, for those of you that missed them earlier today.

Finally, if you case the term WordPress incorrectly in the body of the blog, WordPress will correct it for you transparently. That’s a little creepy.

Related:

We’re Back, Part 2
We’re Back

Eurotrash Music of the Day

Until Jeff gets off his ass and fixes whatever’s wrong with Productivity Radio, you should listen to all this music. It will make your life more full and happy.

Talk Talk – Living in Another World

Radiohead – Lotus Flower

Peter Schilling – Major Tom (English)

Elbow – Any Day Now

Jonathan Johansson – En hand i himlen

New Order – Subculture (Substance). Much better than the original album version

Thomas Dolby – Screen Kiss

Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence. some weird music video someone made to a remix, since the cocks at Universal don’t like embedding.

Jesus Jones – Who Where Why?

Francesco Schettino for Admiral in 2012

Here’s an entertaining piece about Captain Francesco Schettino, the incompetent who crashed his boat and then was the first guy off of it.

Utter command stupidity, horrendous behavior on the part of the captain, sloppy evacuation, and the vessel settling there and becoming an in-your-face icon of what can go wrong. And, the problem of transient crews with little experience in emergencies. They are simply not steeped in the lore and traditions of the sea – how can they be?

If you haven’t read the transcript of Schettino’s call with the coast guard, it is also excellent. Wow, the obfuscation and hem-hawing on the part of the dashing Schettino… truly a bravura performance. I’m going to remember some of these lines.

Michelle: “Honey please take out the trash.”
Dave: “Wife, let me tell you one thing…”
Michelle: “Yes?”
Dave: “I am here to coordinate the trash removal…”
Michelle: “What are you coordinating here? Take it out to the trash bin! Coordinate the removal by taking the trash out. Are you refusing?”
Dave: “No, I am not refusing.”
Michelle: “Are you refusing to take out the trash? Can you tell me the reason why you are not going?”
Dave: “I am not going because the other trash cans in the house are not yet full.”

Unfortunately, he’s probably headed to the clink, but maybe he could get a work release and a visa so he could come to the United States and run for Congress–he’d be an All-Star there.

I wonder what Jeff’s gCaptain friend thinks of this whole thing.

We Are BACK

After years of foundering in the digital wastelands and shedding PageRank like a long-haired dog in the summer, we have moved JesusH to a new server, updated the software, cleaned out the spam locker, and are again ready for business.

Let the lack of updates commence.

2010 Voting Guide

Well, I didn’t end up doing anything particularly fun with my Mac, which is what most Mac users do with their Macs, and the Kids Book Review series kind of petered out (though I’ve got plenty more if anyone was reading them). But there’s nothing like an election to bring the news poster back out at JesusH, so in traditional pumpkin format, here is your JesusH 2010 Voting Guide.

Yes on 19
Still fits on a pumpkin.

American drug policy is one of the most screwed up things in the Western world. (I hesitate to even use the term “drug policy” because of the absurdity of a catch-all phrase that encompasses everything from marijuana to crystal meth.) Despite the obvious takeaways from Prohibition, we have forgotten that criminalization doesn’t accomplish anything of value. We are imprisoning our fellow citizens for victimless crimes in record numbers and enabling assholes with guns from South Central to the US-Mexico border and beyond.

Prop 19 might not be perfect, but decriminalization is absolutely a step in the right direction. Please vote Yes on 19 tomorrow.

Dude, You’re Getting a Mac

(8:57:18 AM) peasejay: You are getting a mac just to be a jerk. I KNOW THIS.
(8:57:24 AM) landolf10000: what?
(8:58:12 AM) peasejay: You are going to start making grand anti mac proclamations as a mac owner.
(8:58:16 AM) landolf10000: you mean so i have more firsthand knowledge of the platform so i can make more observations like ‘building the computer into the monitor is really fucking stupid?’
(8:58:26 AM) peasejay: YES
(8:58:29 AM) peasejay: EXACTLY
(8:58:35 AM) landolf10000: ok, then maybe i am.

Reshuffle the Deck, America -or- The Healthcare Speech Obama Should Deliver

It has been painful watching the healthcare reform movement die a slow death through the battle of attrition in the Senate, but the most frustrating part has been watching senators of all persuasions run roughshod and hijacking the process to try to further their own political gains. Adding to my frustration is the fact that President Obama, the guy who spearheaded this entire thing, has appeared mostly powerless to intervene in the proceedings.

It’s understandable that Obama wanted to give the Senate a chance to resolve this for themselves, but now that it appears that they can’t (or won’t), I think the time is right for Obama to re-insert himself into the proceedings with the following simple message:

America, are you as frustrated as I am about the lack of progress the Senate has made developing a meaningful health care reform bill that reflects your values? If so, here’s what I suggest we do: when the 2010 senate elections roll around, I want you to vote every single incumbent Senator that is up for reelection out of office and elect someone new to fill their seat.

I don’t care what health care policy your current Senator supports or their political party or if you replace them with a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent, just vote for someone new who’s willing to come to the table to actually pass a reform bill in whatever form you believe is most prudent. You like single payer healthcare? Vote for the single payer healthcare guy. Tort reform and interstate competition? Vote for that guy.

Bottom line, let’s reshuffle the deck America, because, what we have here? This is some BULLSHIT. Seriously, fuck all these guys.

Sure, such a move is probably fraught with all sorts of political peril, but so was bringing up healthcare reform in the first place. And who knows? Maybe if Obama is able to redirect the full ire of a frustrated public directly onto the Senators who are causing the impasse, they might suddenly discover a newfound sense of decisiveness and spirit of compromise?

CFL Oddnesss

Submitted to the collective wisdom of the JesusH readers, most of whom are much better at the home improvement/electrical circuitry stuff than I am.

We have a weird problem in the second room of our two bedroom condo (the “baby’s room”, as it’s recently been branded) – the electrical outlets will not operate lamps that have CFLs in them. I can sense that you have follow-up questions, but it really is that simple. Take a lamp, put in an incandescent bulb, and plug it into one of the outlets in the room, and it will work (as will other devices, such as my laptop, radios, etc). Take that same lamp and put in a CFL, and… nothing. Take that same lamp, leave the CFL in, and move it to any outlet in any other room in the house and voila – eerie flourescent light.

Some basic Google searches turn up nothing that would seem to explain this. Though I’m a budget conscious, Inconvenient Truth-watching liberal, I’m willing to just use incandescents if there’s a good, innocuous explanation for why this would be so. However, I’m more concerned that it may indicate a problem that could cause other problems like damaging electronics.

Any theories or suggestions?

So You’d Like to Buy a New Computer?

I originally posted this as a note on facebook, but then I thought that jesush could use the content. The computer I link to is no longer available, but deals of its ilk–fairly powerful refurbed machines–show up on a woot site at least once a month lately.

Some of my friends have been in the market for a new computer.

I recommend you go get a Gateway Media Center PC with Intel Core 2 Quad Processor right now. Here is a solid post outlining the reasons why. Then go visit 23″ LCD Computer Monitor, Logitech Wireless Keyboard/Mouse and buy that too.

When you get the computer screw around with it for as much as you can for a week. If something breaks, return it. If nothing has broken by then, your machine should essentially match the reliability of a brand-new machine over its life. For $650 you have a very future-proofed machine with premium monitor and wireless keyboard/mouse. Delete all the stupid crap the manufacturer puts on the system, install avg free for antivirus, upgrade to windows 7 (this machine may qualify for a free license–I’m not clear on that) when available, and don’t do anything dumb like run Microsoft communication products and you’re golden. If you decide you want to game, the upgrade path to gaming rig is a better power supply and a recent video card. Both are simple to install and have many reasonably-priced options to choose from at any time.

If you are a Linux Bigot, you are my spiritual brother (or sister) but I think it’s time to admit the configuration and operation of a Linux machine for desktop use is not an efficient use of the average person’s time.

The Windows UI is better, and it’s also much more widely known. There’s a ton of built-in familiarity with the Windows interface in the market and those people shouldn’t learn how another OS works if they don’t have the native interest to do so. They’ll be wasting their time deciphering the differences in behaviour from what they’ve been conditioned to expect with Windows when they’re not scouring the net for drivers.

As far as I can tell, Linux is not an efficient use of my time either. I am a computer geek who uses Unix and Linux most of the time at the day job. I recently had to re-install the latest build of Ubuntu five times on a machine before it ran stably. I would expect a more sensible computer user would have considered the value of their time and decided to stop wasting hours and drop a hundred bucks on a Windows license by that point.

There’s a lot of good free or cheap software on Windows these days. I don’t have a penny of Microsoft product on this machine other than the OS.

Alternately, you could spend a lot more and buy a mac.

Overdrafted

As if I needed an additional reason to detest financial institutions: Overspending on Debit Cards Is a Boon for Banks [New York Times, h/t @kingkaufman]

“Everyone should know how much they have in their account and manage their funds well to avoid those fees,” said Scott Talbott, chief lobbyist at the Financial Services Roundtable, an advocacy group for large financial institutions.

Hey, Scott, how about you just fuck off with that nonsense? You’re providing to users a service that most of them probably don’t want by default. You’re obviously making a ton of money on loaning someone five bucks to buy lunch when they miscalculated and slightly overdrafted with that very reasonable $34 overdraft charge or you wouldn’t be complaining about the government turning their eyes on debit card legislation similar to recent credit card law overhaul.

Banking industry mouthpieces in the article warn that there are institutions which make more in overdraft fees than they do in profit, and that any such institution would be in danger of going under. Good! That means there are banks that either don’t make most of their money ripping their depositors off or aren’t afraid of making their overdraft policies palatable enough to be described up front so they’re not concerned with everyone opting out, and I’d like those banks to win please. I’ll no more mourn the loss of a bad bank than I did the telemarketers who lost their jobs after the Do Not Call registry was created. Get employment with an outfit that’s actually making the world a better place, people.

Banks also warn that they might have to do something like start charging for “free” checking accounts to make up for the lost income. No problem! Checking accounts are a legitimate service provided, not a scam, and charging for them is reasonable. It’s also more honest than running your business with usurious short-term loans, paid in large part by the segment of your customers least able to afford it.

Later in the article:

“If you think about when you swipe your card at, let’s say, Starbucks or at the Safeway or the Giant, there is no real sort of interaction there,” said Mr. Talbott. “It’s just approved or disapproved. So how logically would that work? Would a screen come up? Would someone at the bank call the checkout clerk and say, ‘That customer is overdrawn?’ Logistically that would be very difficult to implement.”

Oh come on. Ballistic Terminal Services provides a quick overview of how credit and debit card processing works. Here is an excerpt:

2. The processor will then pass that information onto the bank that issued the credit card. The issuing bank will then check the validity of the card and see if the requested amount is available. If it is the bank will set aside the amount of the purchase for the merchant.

3. The card issuing bank will send back either an approval number or a decline message back to the processor.

4. In approximately 12-15 seconds the information will be sent back to the credit card terminal which, if the transaction was approved will print a receipt for the customer to sign.

and here’s how the process would work with a notification step:

2. The processor will then pass that information onto the bank that issued the credit card. The issuing bank will then check the validity of the card and see if the requested amount is available. If it is the bank will set aside the amount of the purchase for the merchant. If the card is valid but the requested amount is unavailable, the bank may choose to extend an overdraft offer to the cardholder rather than denying the transaction.

3. If overdraft offer is generated, the fee amount and total transaction fee will be sent back to the credit card terminal in approximately 12-15 seconds. The user has the option of accepting the offer by pressing “Yes” or “Accept” or similar. The processor will then pass that information onto the bank that issued the credit card.

4. The card issuing bank will send back either an approval number or a decline message back to the processor.

5. In approximately 12-15 seconds the information will be sent back to the credit card terminal which, if the transaction was approved will print a receipt for the customer to sign.

Was that so hard? I’ve never seen a credit/debit card terminal anywhere that accepts debit payments that didn’t at least look software-upgradeable–push out a software update and send out a bunch of individual pieces of paper describing the very simple and easily-understood change. You can even print this post and use it if you like. (And for the terminals that can’t be made to work this way, buy better stuff next time.) And by the way, I’m sure phone number portability was a technical pain in the ass too, and once we all decided it would make our life better and demanded it, it happened quite quickly and easily.

At Bank of America, you can’t even opt-out of overdraft protection unless you’re granted an “exception”. That’s just another in the series of reasons I’m really glad I don’t bank at Bank of America any more. There’s simply no good reason to not allow someone to opt out of such a practice by calling unless you’re just intent on ripping them off.

Baby, Part Deux

I recently discovered we hadn’t told everyone we thought we’d told, so: things are working out so well on the kid front we decided to have another one. Here’s an ultrasound of him looking right at you.

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It’s a boy. His working title is Arquimedez (as in Arquimedez Pozo, the most awesomely named player in baseball history), but I doubt that’s going to stick.

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They’re doing some crazy things with ultrasounds lately. We had a really good tech working the machine last time we were in the hospital and she made some 3D scans for us. In this one Arquimedez is a little shy and is hiding his eyes.

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Here’s a sharper one, where he’s rubbing one eye. He might have got some trail dust in it.

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Michelle just had an amniocentesis, on account of you can never be too careful these days, and we got the test results back today. Everything is straight normal and healthy, which made this a very good day.

The due date for the youngster is Nov 21.

Barbecue Time

The days are getting nice and warm and long and we’ve been doing a lot of barbecuing the last month or so. It had been a while, so last weekend I got out the grill cleaner, 409, rags, and shop vac and cleaned my barbecue.

Holy cow, what a difference! Steaks before were an adventure. When I had the fire all the way up, I couldn’t close the lid for more than a few seconds without getting flareups and charring things. On Sunday, I brushed them with some olive oil to avoid sticking and still left them long enough to get those pretty grill marks and some texture on the surface, while remaining nice and pink inside. (If you like your steak well done, you might as well start ordering hamburger and saving yourself some money. That’s like actually using steak sauce on steak, for Christ’s sake. What a horrible misallocation of resources.)

I give barbecuing with a clean grill Five Pochaccos.

(image from Evolution of BBQ shirt at shirt.woot. I’ve been buying a lot of woot shirts lately.)

The Price is Right

I was on the elliptical today and someone had The Price is Right running on the TV. Which reminds me, when did Drew Carey decide to turn into a John Candy cosplayer?

Anyway, as I started they were doing one of the product bidding things, where the four possible contestants submit bids for an item and the person who is closest without going over gets to play a pricing game onstage. Product is ping-pong table. One contestant bids. Then contestant two bids $600. Then Contestant Three bids $599.

“Now that’s about the dumbest fucking bid you can make,” I think to myself, and I begin to weep for America.

The next product–an electric fireplace (snazzy!) comes up. Contestant Three bids $1999 this time, and the next bidder bids $2000. “Not her fault this time, but she’s an idiot so she deserved that,” I says to myself.

But wait, John Candy says, we have an exact match! The electric fireplace runs $1999. Contestant Three gets the fireplace, and $500 cash for hitting the price exactly. Then she goes on to win a car.

In retrospect, it’s obvious that Contestant Three intentionally avoided winning the ping-pong table because it wasn’t luxe enough for her, and she’s a hell of a lot better at The Price is Right than I am.

California Budget Crisis

All those fancy propositions (except the funny one that kept lawmakers from getting raises if the state’s in a budget deficit) failed to pass yesterday, even though I didn’t get my no votes to my polling place until right after it closed. My bad.

From the article:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa predicted that the city’s budget could take a hit — but he vowed a fight: “I’m going to do everything I can to protect the city coffers.”

This is why we have these problems–because people say “hey, cut their services, not my services.” Antonio, you cunt, look at Los Angeles’ budget and cut what you can. Everyone else in California, do the same thing. Budgetary governance doesn’t need to be this hard.

Wanda Sykes Limbaugh OUTRAGE OMFG!!!2!?

There has been an amusing backlash against Wanda Sykes and Barack Obama for her standup routine at the Correspondents Dinner on Saturday. You know, where she said she hoped Limbaugh’s kidneys would fail. Obama then laughed at this, which is essentially the same thing as him giving tacit approval for wanting Limbaugh murdered! FOR SHAME.

I don’t understand why we aren’t hearing backlash against the suggestion (at 4:00 in the attached video) that Obama shouldn’t go out for burgers with with Biden in case he gets assassinated and Biden gets killed in the crossfire (“Who thought that was a good idea, Nancy Pelosi?”). Obama laughed at this as well, signaling his tacit approval for someone to assassinate him at a burger joint. FOR SHA… wait, what?

It was a stand up comic giving a comedy routine, jackasses. Laughter sometimes ensues.