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Sat, May. 16th, 2015, 04:40 pm
Shutting down crossposting

For the past several years, I've been using a crossposting plugin to post from my wordpress blog to my livejournal.

Unfortunately, for about the past six months, this plugin has only worked intermittently.

I really don't care to mess with it, so I'm going to call it done. If folks want to see my posts, either someone can RSS set up an LJ RSS syndication of my blog, or you can subscribe yourself. That blog lives at http://www.mattcaron.net/blog.


Sat, May. 16th, 2015, 03:18 pm
Turret thursday

As its name would suggest, this post is about turrets. Specifically, these turrets:


The one at the top is from a Predator Annihilator, and finds itself on the bench because, when I redid my army for 1p40k, I decided that the pintle mounted linked assault rifle (aka storm bolter) wasn’t worth it. Heck, I’m not sure it was worth it in the original 40k rules either. I also painted over the handpainted number on it, because I’m going to use a waterslide transfer instead.

Anyway, pulling that off required touching up the paint, which required mixing something which was really close to the old GW goblin green. For anyone who cares, equal parts Vallejo Game Color Dark Green (72028) and Goblin Green (72030) get you there.

The middle one I assembled from some bitz I had lying around. It’s a linked lascannon turrent for a razorback. This allows me to run the razorback with either linked lascannons or linked machineguns (another turret which is not pictured).

Finally, the bottom turret is the linked lascannon turret from my other razorback. The back of the seat broke off, so I glued it back on and repainted the joint because it took a bit of paint with it when it went.

I also fixed up misc dings and chips.

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

Wed, May. 13th, 2015, 08:04 pm
Broadband NY

So, the governor has been promoting a rural broadband initiative.

If I had been watching too many episodes of House of Cards, I could speculate that this is a taxpayer-funded give away to entrenched corporate near-monopoly interests (namely, Time Warner) while placating rural areas which he had recently pissed off with the SAFE act. But, let us submit for a moment that I’m not so jaded, and the intentions are pure and genuine.

On the one hand, the market oriented libertarian in me chafes at the idea of using taxpayer funds to pretty much do anything, for the standard reasons that taxation is theft and by condoning it, you’re basically saying that it’s okay to steal from people under threat of violence in order to obtain result X. This is not a peaceful, voluntary solution to challenges. This same libertarian realizes that entrenched anti-market forces have set it up so co-ops and regional governments cannot compete with them, so the idea that lack of rural broadband penetration constitutes a market failure is roughly like saying that not being able to buy certain beers in certain parts of the country is a market failure – it’s not because the market is so contrived by government intervention that it’s not really a market to begin with. Basically, you have to be a small company like Google to be able to come in and get stuff like that done and, even then, the rent-seeking monopolists try and block you.

Anyway, let’s ignore all of those things.

If you presume the principal function of government is to administer the commons and arbitrate differences between parties, and that part of the administration of said commons is to build infrastructure (bathrooms on the fairgrounds, roads, rest stops on those roads, etc.) then it is reasonable, at this point in history, to determine that access to broadband as much of a necessity of life as access to roads, electricity, and telephones. As such, like the rural electrification initiative, these rural broadband initiatives make sense. The ROI isn’t short enough for the business to do the infrastructure build-out by themselves, so the government gives them some money to build the infrastructure and then the company gets to reap the rewards over the long term, because now, instead of having to pay off a capital outlay in 5 years, the capital outlay is nil, so you start making profit immediately (assuming the government pays for all of it). Over time, those lines cost more to maintain (because there’s more of them to have trees come down on them vs. number of subscribers), but you can pass that line maintenance cost down to the people on their bills, which is reasonable.

So, business is happy because they make money. Rural citizens are happy because they now get access to a necessity of life which they did not have before. It’s good for society because it lets people live where they’d prefer to live, and start businesses in more rural areas which traditionally have been more economically depressed, so small business creation there is good. It also gets broadband to schools which increases distance learning opportunities, which makes it reasonable to have a class of 5 kids who want to learn Mandarin. You can’t justify having a teacher with that specialty in district, but you can do it when it’s county or even state wide and done via distance learning. If we assume that government education is good, then it follows that more opportunity in this space is better.

The only losers in the bargain are urban taxpayers who are being forced to pay for a give away to businesses and rural citizens, but we’re ignoring that because it’s a “taxation is theft” argument – in reality, the amount of money given to the internet companies divided amongst the whole tax base is pretty small – I mean, the population of New York is like 20 million people, and if you assume half of them pay taxes, the stated $1 billion government pledge is a one time $100 from each of the stated people, which is not unreasonable.

So, as much as I want to hate this initiative, the only way I can do so is by my general disdain and skepticism for politics and government.

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

Sat, May. 2nd, 2015, 09:44 pm
This is not a test released

That game I played at Cold Wars is now out. You can find it at the World’s End Publishing Shop

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

Sat, May. 2nd, 2015, 09:36 pm
New link for photos

So, the old gallery was getting full, and I figure people want to see the most recent pictures, and not have to scroll through a lot of old ones. So, I’ve made a “2015” gallery and moved a few pictures from the old gallery to there, as well as added a pile of new ones. Enjoy!

Max and Miles – 2015

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

Sat, May. 2nd, 2015, 11:22 am
Firing friends

It should likely come as no surprise to anyone who knows me (though perhaps readers of this blog don’t know me outside of it) that I tend to form very few deep friendships while having many more casual friendships. In school, it was hard for me to make friends, and I was often lonely. This got better as time progressed because I accumulated like-minded individuals. On the one hand, this means that I’m very comfortable around my close friends, who I treat as family. On the other hand, it means that, for the more casual friendships, I basically take a more actuarial approach. Friendship maintenance has an overhead to it – it takes time and effort. If both parties get benefit from the relationship, then it continues. If I do not benefit, then I fire the friend. I expect the same from the other party.

On the one hand, you could argue that this makes me a horrible person, viewing things in such stark terms. I think this is especially likely if you take into account the Geek Social Fallacies.

The flip side to this, and the reason that I bring it up, is because, some months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend, who was very drained because a friend of hers was having more drama in her life. Now, my friend was not without her own tribulations – her mother was ill, there was sibling drama, all of those things. However, she was even more drained because every time she has lunch with her friend (or whatever they do) my friend ends up feeling drained because her friend unloads on her about how bad things are in her own life (which are largely situations of her own making and the result of decades of feelings of entitlement, unrealistic expectations about life and a lack of understanding about how the legal system handles divorce). My friend never gets to reciprocate and talk about her own problems. I told my friend that she can either avoid her friend, claiming that she’s too busy with her sick mother or flat out fire the friend. Either way, she gets a toxic energy draining person out of her life. I think getting rid of toxic people is important, because their toxicity spreads. It’s one thing to try and help them, but there comes a point where you need to declare people unfixable and move on.

A corollary to the toxic person is “the annoying person”. You know, the person who wouldn’t be invited to parties because no one really wants them there, except that they’d feel like jerks for not inviting them, because they’re well-intentioned. So, you invite them, and then they leave and everyone is glad they’re gone because they’re just so annoying. You can’t talk to them about it, because they’d, at best, take offense, or, at worst, blame you for being a jerk because you don’t understand something about where they’re coming from, and why they behave the way that they do. The thing is, while they may be justified in their own mind, that doesn’t change the fact that, after the party, everyone is getting into their cars and says “man, X really gets on my nerves, I’m glad we only see them once a year”. Yeah, perhaps it’s best to just not invite them period.

What do you think? Does firing friends make you a horrible person?

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

Wed, Apr. 29th, 2015, 07:49 pm
So, yeah, that happened…

So, back in Rhode Island, I used to game with a group which included my mom, and we played a lot of 40k. Soon after I left, Flames of War became the new hotness, and they switched over to playing that.

Fast forward 5 years, and the group is losing some players. One guy is moving to one of the Carolinas this year, and my folks are moving to Florida next year. As a result, everyone is downsizing and reorganizing. My mom gave all of her FoW stuff to one of the guys in the group, because she was always meh on WWII. When she mentioned that she and I were going to be playing 40K again (and, as they will be doing the snowbird thing and spending summers up with my family in New York, we will continue to do so for the forseeable future), he said “well, why don’t you take all my 40K stuff, because I don’t want to play it anymore”.

Again, since my mom is leaving for Florida, she’s downsizing, so all of that stuff came to my house. He wanted the figure cases back, so I unpacked it all on to a table until I can make up more figure cases for it myself. So, I took a picture:

A lot of minis.

A lot of minis.

There are large forces of Eldar, Dark Eldar, Imperial Guard, and Orks. There are smaller forces of Chaos, Tau and Necrons. The Necrons are about 1500 points, and the IG list is going to be somewhere in the ballpark of 4500 points once I finish writing it up.

Not pictured are my Dark Angels (6000 points) and Tau (4500 points, though I’ll likely move some of my Tau to the other Tau force to balance them out), as well as my mom’s Sisters of Battle (approx 3000 points, IIRC) and a box of Blood Angels from that same player that didn’t fit in my Mom’s car.

So, yeah, I have some painting to do.

All points are 1p40K values, not GW, BTW.

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

Mon, Mar. 16th, 2015, 07:46 pm
On Cold Wars

So, I went to Cold Wars last weekend (the 6-8, I mean, not the immediate last weekend), and, aside from the weather totally wrecking one of the games I wanted to play in and causing several vendors to not make it and delaying a lot of other things, but the one real standout there was Joey from World’s End Publishing and their This is Not a Test(TNT) rules. (The classes he taught were good too, but I’m not really going to talk much about them here aside from saying that he makes roads from shingles, with awesome results).

So, anyway, the game.

As most folks know, I like Post-Apocalyptic stuff, and Zed Or Alive(ZoA) was a recent find, using the Savage Worlds Showdown engine, which is basically an RPG light. They added some factions, and bolted on a campaign system, and made a skirmish campaign game for the zombie apocalypse. If you wanted a Walking Dead minis game, this is it.

Now, TNT is a skirmish campaign game, and, like most skirmish games, is also an “RPG Light” type system (your guy has different stats for shooting, fighting, strength, toughness, and then a general stat for “everything else”). In that way, the systems work kind of similarly, though ZoA uses your collection of RPG dice and TNT uses a D10. However, the initiative is a lot more streamlined and predictable than the Savage Worlds system, because the activating player picks a guy and rolls for initiative. If you pass, you get to do 2 actions (generally move and shoot) and if you fail you only get to do 1 (so move or shoot). Now, I don’t generally like “roll to activate” systems, but this one really works and doesn’t piss me off because you still get to do something. Anyway, if you succeeded in your activation, you roll to activate another guy and proceed on. If you fail, after this guy’s actions, the activation passes to your opponent. The turn ends once everyone has activated all of their models once.

The other major difference between TNT and ZoA is that where ZoA is focused on zombies TNT is more generic. Think more Fallout, Wasteland, Rage, or Deadlands: Hell on Earth. There are tribal guys, mutants, military guys, dudes in powered armor, and all your standard radiation storms, etc. The mood is whatever your table evokes – you can pull a more Mad Max aesthetic, or more of a 1950’s future, a-la fallout, which is what Joey did for the game in which I played, given the presence of all the 1950’s style cars rusting into oblivion.

TNT Game

TNT Game

In this scenario, half a dozen warbands were going after the old world lost tech McGuffin in the center of town, but the device had called the attention of a bunch of man-eating worms (but there was no sign of Kevin Bacon or Kyle McLachlan) with which we had to contend in order to seize the objective.

All in all, an excellent game, and I’m looking forward to the rules coming out. When I talked with him at Cold Wars, he was just getting the proofs back from layout, so I would expect them to be released in the next month or so. He says they’re going to be sold as PDFs via Wargame Vault, and that there is a miniatures line to follow shortly after via an online store at the main site. I’ve seen some of the miniatures he’s going to have up, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Anyway, that’s all, I have some airbrushing to do before bed. Night all.

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

Mon, Mar. 16th, 2015, 07:17 pm
Reflecting on my previous post….

So, I was looking at [http://www.mattcaron.net/2015/03/04/and-the-hits-just-keep-on-coming/|raising the minimum wage]] all wrong. It’s freakin’ brilliant… Think about it..

First, you get a whole lot of people to like you for raising the minimum wage. In the case of Cuomo, who is angling for the White House, this gets you some serious political capital if you want to run on a populist ticket.

Then, once all these people are priced out of the market, not only do you take no blame (because you can always blame “technology” or “management” or “the one percent”), but you can ride in and save them with social programs that help them retrain or just flat out support them because, remember – they weren’t priced out of the marketplace by poor economic policies. No. they were let go because of evil bosses who replace workers with machines because, you know, they’re mean and hate people, or some other weird nutty crap.

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

Wed, Mar. 4th, 2015, 10:33 pm
And the hits just keep on coming

So, the day after I post about crazy NY, the governor ups the ante and starts a program to raise the minimum wage. There’s even and handy fact sheet.

Now, because economics isn’t taught in US schools (I had to learn it from reading and podcasts in the last 5 years or so), let me explain some fundamentals that seem to be lost on our dear governor. I’ll do it as a story.

Alice and Bob work for BigBoxCorp, and they make the minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. Now, Alice is a rockstar, and generates $15 in value for the business, resulting in $6.25 in surplus. Bob is kind of average, and generates $10 in value, resulting in $1.25 in surplus. The minimum wage is raised to $10.50, which means that Alice’s surplus is now $4.50 in surplus, but Bob is now generating -$.50 in surplus. So, what happens? Bob gets laid off, and is replaced by either a better worker or a robot. So much for helping to raise folks out of poverty.

Meanwhile, the surplus Alice generates is reduced, which means that the company has less extra capital to use. One could naively assume this means “less profit”, but that would fail to realize that profit is what is left over *after* other expenses, such as (to name a couple of choice ones) research and expansion.

If a business has extra money they can expand into new markets, open up new branches, expand operations or otherwise get bigger, hiring more people and generating more jobs. Slow down their surplus, you slow down their growth.

Similarly, if they have extra money they can do more research, which means development of new products. Stuff like our computers, iPhones, etc. don’t come out of thin air, they come from research and development which is either funded by outside investment (which is surplus generated by one company which an investor takes and puts into another company) or by internal investment (surplus generated by a company’s existing products which are used to finance research in new products).

Now, if you assume that a company will not compromise their surplus (often called a “margin”), then they’ll have no choice to raise prices, which means that the extra $1.75 that Alice is now making suddenly doesn’t go as far because all of the things she’s going to by suddenly cost more!

The above is also true of people looking for jobs – if Carla and Dave are looking for jobs, and Carla is, say, a high school dropout and Dave is a high school graduate, and you have to pay them both the same, who are you going to hire? Based on the data given, most folks would pick Dave, due to his greater education. On the other hand, if Dave wants $10.50, but Carla will work for $9, then you may hire Carla, because you can pay her less and that compensates for her lesser education. Carla takes the job, goes to night school, gets her GED, and improves her lot in life. However, the minimum wage prices Carla out of the market, so now she’s unemployed and can’t improve her lot as she would have been able to do if she had the freedom to negotiate.

Going a bit big picture for a moment – prices and their cohort, wages, are a way for the market to signal what is of value – what is needed, where resources should be spent, etc. all wrapped up in this one thing. People command a low wage because their skills are generally either common (not specialized) or simply not in demand. You can be the world’s greatest performer of cartwheels, but if that is not a skill in demand, then it will not command a high wage. Similarly, you can be a great bagger of groceries, but so many people have that skill that you will also not command a high wage. Forcing companies to pay more than the market rate for these skills does not change this underlying reality, and eventually this will cause companies to investigate other options, such as automating those skills or eliminating them all together. Witness the proliferation of self checkout systems in grocery stores. Even though customers generally don’t like them, they’re still becoming more common, because grocery stores can’t afford to keep prices where they are while increasing their operating costs by $35/hour (assuming a $1.75 increase for a 10 lane supermarket with a checkout person and bagger on each lane) unless they have a corresponding increase in volume (which there’s nothing to suggest that they would). If you can eliminate 4 lanes by having them be a self checkout, with only 1 person watching over them, then you go from $70/hour ($8.75, the old minimum wage * 8 people (4 lanes, 2 people per lane)) to $10.50 an hour (the new minimum wage, for the attendant) + the additional overhead of the machines. As soon as that “additional overhead” is less than $59.25/hour, you get yourself some automated checkout machines and lay off 7 of your people.

Originally published at The Caffeinated Penguin. You can comment here or there.

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