Card Game: Sum War

Anya and I came up with a new card game — sum war. It’s a bit like war, but you throw two cards. The person with the higher sum wins all of the cards & puts them on the bottom of their stack. Keep going until someone has all of the cards. There’s obviously lots of addition involved, but the game uses estimation too (I have a 5 and a 7, you have a 5 and a 9 … you win without actually adding anything).

Debate Edition: Nevada

I put Warren at the top of my performance ranking too. She had a good bit of speaking time, finally. And she had good attacks against Bloomberg prepared. Noticed that she turned an opportunity to attack Sanders into an attack on Bloomberg. She seemed particularly fired up by Bloomberg.
Bernie in a strong second. “Socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor” – I’m glad to see Bernie start to differentiate boogie-man Commie socialism and “things that benefit the unwashed masses” socialism. I think this is going to be a big thing as we go into Super Tuesday as the moderates try to make Bernie seem unelectable. And a decent line against Trump — they’re both socialists, but do you want socialism where billionaires benefit or socialism where thousand-airs benefit?
Biden third – not so much for any great performance (and he had some noticeable stumbles) but he didn’t stand out either positive or negative for most of the debate. Having the second lowest speaking time helped him here.
Buttigieg fourth. He had some good attacks, but he doesn’t do much to convey a policy beyond “can’t we all just get along”. Which, pragmatically, may well be answered with a resounding “no”.
Kobluchar fifth. She is lucky they didn’t go more into her Telemundo interview. Don’t remember the name of a foreign leader? Whatever. Yeah, everyone has brain farts. Don’t seem to have any clue about the policies of Mexico when you head to an interview with Telemundo prior to the primary in Nevada? That’s pretty astonishing given (1) her positions in the Senate and (2) the situation she was in. She didn’t seem to have much of an answer for her record as a prosecutor either – curious that no one seemed to ask Buttigieg a similar question about issues when he was mayor. Buttigieg had a well prepared attack against her on her voting record too. “I wish everyone was as perfect as you” isn’t much of a response. And she set him up for another obviously well prepared line about Senators feeling they are more important than Mayors and that “the arena” isn’t just Washington.
Steyer, Yang (who got name-checked even if he’s not running anymore), Booker and Harris (also name checked, also not running anymore), some dude who thought about running for president this year but thought the better of it. They all scored better than Bloomberg for me. Bloomberg had basically the debate I expected him to have – an easy last place finish. It’ll be interesting to see if this changes his polling trajectory. And I’m really looking forward to see if he adjusts for the next debate. And seeing if he had answers about red-lining, stop and frisk, changing party affiliation, etc is why I was hoping he’d qualify for some of the debates before he’s on the ballot. He had the lowest speaking time — which was a bit of a surprise given how much taking *about* him seemed to dominate the debate.
The “I’m the only one who is not a millionaire” spiel from Buttigieg is tiresome. “Millionaire” is someone with a million dollars in assets. I’m 43 and a millionaire. Half of that is retirement account, half is real estate (not literally, I’ve got like 20 bucks in my purse too). That’s not because I’m raking in Bloomberg money. It’s because I’ve been able to save a few grand a year since I was 20 – had a kid late in life, got lucky getting into IT. The fact that people in their 70’s have a mil or two … yeah, it means they’re probably part of the upper middle class. They’re probably not skipping lunch so their kid can get shoes that fit. But it’s sure as hell not true that anyone with a mil or two is “three Veyron’s in the garage so your personal shoppers don’t suffer the ignominy of showing up at Heinens in a Chevy” out-of-touch rich. And I’m surprised that someone doesn’t pick this thread up and go on about how Buttigieg’s own net worth would be significantly higher if they’d been able to take advantage of free public university tuition. Or how much do you need saved up to help pay for your kids’ college tuition(s). How much you need saved up to ensure decent health care as you age.
At that, use Buttigieg’s not-a-millionaire status to refute the “worked hard for that money” trope from the super rich. I have a friend who worked hard for a few years, sold a company to HP, and never worked again. I have another friend who worked two low-level retail management jobs and a part time gig with a cleaning service for a decade, took out massive loans to get a Uni degree, and works as a nurse now. I’ve got a friend who worked as a cop for a few decades, got shot on duty, and collects some disability payment now. They’ve all got about the same net worth today. I’m not saying Steyer or Bloomberg didn’t work hard for their money. But Bloomberg’s net worth is 64 *billion* dollars and my friends each have about three quarters of a mil in assets … did Bloomberg really work 85,333 times harder than any of these people? I’ll even spot him an order of magnitude – did he work 8,533 times harder? I think Mayor Pete’s net worth was estimated in the 100-200k range. Did Bloomberg work 320,000 times harder than someone who served in Afghanistan? And that’s not trying to play “I worked hard” with someone just scraping by who has two fifty in assets.
It’d be great if the moderators would have buttons to kill mic’s – there were a few times where we couldn’t follow what was being said because of others talking. Instead of trying to talk over the candidate to cut them off, just drop their audio.

On Socialism

“People like things that socialism gives us, but as soon as you *call* it socialism, a lot of people stop liking it.” — this is one of the biggest problems I’ve seen in modern politics. Medicare recipients, for instance, demanding the gov’t keep its ‘hands off’ *their* Medicare. Not sure if that’s ignorance and people actually don’t realize these things are government-provided or the whole cognitive dissonance thing where someone just cannot reconcile decades of anti-Soviet fearmongering with “it’s not a bad thing to ensure old people don’t go bankrupt dealing with an illness”.

The Democratic party has a serious branding issue — Republicans manage pithy phrases that make people who don’t bother digging into the details support awful ideas — one of the Bush’s Clean Water Act, which was more or less legislation to avoid clean water. But how are you *against* clean water?!? Abolishing the “death tax” that you only incur on multi-million dollar estates. But you *want* to tax grieving kids!?!? The masses don’t want to get into nuanced details, great. Seems like the Democrats could spend some time with a few marketing guys and come up with catchier names for populist socialist ideas. Compassionate capitalism — are you against compassion? Or capitalism? The horror!

Let’s be forthright — those who disparage socialism promote their own type of socialism. It’s the difference between corporate socialism where capital is transferred to massive corporations (oil subsidies, agro subsidies, bank rescues) and populist socialism where capital is transferred to individuals (Medicare for All, free public Uni tuition, incentives to install personal electrical generation facilities).


Cleveland Scene provides an interesting look at the bail process — something I think a lot of people don’t have any experience with — and an organization that pays bail for individuals who cannot afford it. I didn’t realize bond had fees. Which is, I admit, because I’ve spent more time watching some guy on A&E chase down fugitives than I’ve spent thinking about the bail bond business model. I’ve bailed a few friends out – it’s been years, but I think I had to swing by the bank and get actual cash instead of a cheque. But that’s the sum of my experience — friend did something silly and illegal, spent a few hours between the courthouse and jail, and I swung by with cash. They go to the trial, get their fine / community service assigned, and the gov’t posts me a cheque.

Now, I realize bail bond providers are operating a business. And there’s no way that my model where I hand over a grand and get a grand back six weeks later is a valid business model. But it’s always been in my head that bond is like 10% of the bail, so for a 5k bail, you temporarily need to come up with 500$. You need to come up with 500$ today, which may not be possible. But you also get back 90-95% of that five hundred bucks. And that’s how the bail bondsman earns money.

Composer Hangs

I don’t use composer often, and it generally just works … so I don’t know much about it beyond “another package manager”. But every once in a while, it just hangs. Nothing happening, nothing instructive in strace. Fortunately, composer has several levels of verbosity on the output. While the default output is minimal and offers absolutely no clue that it’s doing something … adding -vvv is a nicely verbose output that lets me see that the package install isn’t actually hung. It’s just going to take a long time.

Debate Qualification

A day or two ago, Bloomberg had 3 of the 4 required national polls to qualify. While I appreciate how unfair it is for him to be on the debate stage under modified rules that may have allowed other candidates to appear in previous debates. I get that the new rules make it a lot easier for super rich people to buy their way into contention. But, as a voter, I want to see him in a debate. Low-information voters exposure to him is a bunch of TV spots about how awesome he is and how much Obama loves him (at least, that’s what I’m seeing in Ohio). Even voters who put research into it … looking at any of these candidate’s web sites or listing to their stump speeches provides a one-sided view.
It was informative to see Buttigieg side-step questions about policing during his time in office. It was informative to see Sanders explaining his early votes against gun control (and, personally, I’ve always wanted to see a candidate say “I have new information, and I’ve changed my view”). It was informative to have known the whole context of Buttigieg’s “switch to cartoons” comment and how Kobluchar misrepresented his statement — and to see how ineffective he was countering the misrepresentation because I *know* Trump is going to do a lot of misrepresenting in the run up to the general election. It was informative to hear Castro’s position on foreign policy/aid as it impacts immigration policy.
Bloomberg is going to show up on my ballot as an option. The latest average I’ve seen for Ohio has him 5 percent above Warren and 4-5 percent behind Sanders and Biden. It’s not like he’s some random dude expected to get a couple hundred votes. I hope I’m able to hear him respond to questions he’d probably rather *not* have to answer. To hear him respond directly to other candidates. And, honestly, to help highlight why campaign finance reform is such an important topic. It’s not like the process will be made ‘fairer’ by disqualifying self-funded candidates from debates.

Equations: The Card Game

We came up with a new card game today — something to practice adding and subtracting (and mathematical thinking). Deal x cards (we’ve had five and seven to start). The remaining cards are the ‘draw’ pile. Flip one card over. Try to come up with an equation using the cards in your hand that combine with the flipped card to make an equation. Aces are 1, jacks are 11, queens are 12, and kings are 13.

There’s a King up — you’ve got 2, 5, 8, 9, and Q. 12(Q) + 9 – 8 = 13(K). You select one of the cards in your equation to place on the top of the face-up pile. The next person then tries to create an equation using the card you laid down.

Zero is a little special — there’s a some card up, x. If you have two cards of the same value, y. X plus Y minus Y equals X … and you can discard one of the cards you used in your equation.

If you cannot form an equation, you draw a card. The game ends when the face-down pile is exhausted. Add the values of the cards in your hand, and the person with the lowest value hand wins. This means you probably want to discard the highest value card in your equation (unless there’s a strategy to having the card — if I have an equation with 5 and 10, but have another 10 in my hand … I might want to hold on to the ten because the two tens are a 0 and are a guaranteed play).

Excel – Setting a Cell Value Based on Background Color

I need to programmatically parse an Excel file where items are grouped with arbitrary group sizes. We don’t want the person filling out the spreadsheet to need to fill in a group # column … so I’m exploring ways to read cell formatting so something like color can be used to show the groups. Reading the formatting isn’t a straight-forward process, so I wondered if Excel could populate a group number cell based on the cell’s attributes.

While it is possible, it’s not a viable solution. The mechanism to access data about a cell cannot be accessed directly and, unfortunately, requires a macro-enabled workbook. The mechanism also requires the user to remember to update the spreadsheet calculations when they have finished colorizing the rows. While I won’t be using this approach in my current project … I thought I’d record what I did for future reference.

We need to define a ‘name’ for the function. On the “Formulas” tab, select “Name Manager”.

Select ‘New’

Provide a name – I am using getBackgroundColor – and put the following in the “refers to” section: =GET.CELL(63,INDIRECT(“rc”,FALSE))

Now we can use this name within the cell formula:

Select the rows for your first group and change the “fill color” of the row.

Repeat this process to colorize all of your groups – you can re-use a color as long as adjacent groups have different colors. Notice that the “ColorGroup” values do not change when you colorize your groups.

On the “Forumlas” tab, select “Calculate Now”

Now the colorized cells will have a non-zero value.

Insurance, pt 2

We finally got around to calling Progressive about the difference in my quoted price v/s their renewal price … ugh! The first person we spoke to started out with ‘just cancel the old policy & open the new one’. Which, great — except it’s a pain. And we lose the ‘perks’ that come with being a long time customer. Including some 250$ off the deductible. Start a new policy, have the bad luck to get in an accident, and saving 150$ just cost me 250$. Not a great deal, that. Plus our home insurance is tied in with the car insurance. And the only reason I didn’t just buy insurance from GEICO (who had the lowest quoted price) is that I didn’t want to screw with the home insurance right now.

Luckily, she transferred us to an insurance agent for help. He checked and there was no way they could price the policy we had at the price quoted under my name. He was able to move the reduced deductible over to the new policy (although it’s still a pain that they have no provision for just swapping the names … and it’s even more of a pain that the person listed first makes such a difference in pricing!). Final price was 164$ for more coverage than the policy they wanted 321$ !?!?! Only took an hour and a half to get there! And I’ve got a really bad feeling the same thing can be done with the homeowners insurance. 🙁