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Thoughts of a meat popsicle Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "Matthew "Snuggie" Fleming" journal:

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9th January 2011
03:47 pm

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Gov't mandated minivan
I have three kids. So did my mother. I drive a minivan. She drove a hatchback. Why the difference? Car seats. Since kids 4 and up are required by law to use a booster seat, and shoulder belts became common in the rear seat, it's just not possible to fit three kids across even a wide car if they all have car seats. So I need a three row car, which means a minivan, to accomodate a piece of safety equipment that can't be proven to decrease mortality.

I'm just waiting for the backup cameras, which require a big LCD display, to become required by law too, in a vain effort to save lives. No one seems to compute the amount of money spent per life saved, which any engineer will tell you is a necessary part of design.

I'm not anti-government, unlike some of my friends. But I am anti-stupidity, and I'm still dubious about the efficacy of child seats and airbags, despite the fact that they're a done deal for which we all pay.

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3rd January 2011
06:14 am

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Why not?
Via bozotkutya, some New Years resolutions.

In 2011, mdf356 resolves to...
Give some politics to charity.
Drink four glasses of church every day.
Apply for a new austin.
Keep my sesquipedalianism clean.
Spend more time with my operating systems.
Connect with my inner god.
Get your own New Year's Resolutions:

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18th December 2010
06:33 pm

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Fuzzy math
I bought three paperbacks today for $7.99 each. That feels expensive, because I remember them being a lot cheaper in 1980 or so when I started paying attention. An inflation calculator shows me that $2.99 in 1980 is the same as $7.71 today, but I think paperbacks were actually $1.99 or maybe less back then. I don't really recall.

For a new release in hardcover on special at a national chain like Borders or Barnes and Noble, or at Costco, the hardback price is something just under $20, occasionally as low as $17. This makes the savings on a paperback not very large, especially given the time delay. I'm pretty sure hardbacks didn't cost much less than $20 even back in 1980 time period (someone a little older please correct me if I'm wrong), so the whole pricing seems a bit wonky, in that the paperback savings isn't near what it used to be.

However, I think this actually makes sense. Hardbacks are more expensive not only because of the better materials, but also because that's where the profit is made. I suspect that the relative increase in paperback prices is a way to keep making money off the material after it's no longer new. But if the premium for buying hardcover is down to $10 (assuming one can find the book on sale when new) then it no longer seems worth it to wait.

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18th November 2010
08:18 pm

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New laptop
I need a new laptop. The current one was obtained, used, two years ago, and it is having overheating issues.

I'm just not sure what to get. I kinda want a MacBook, since I can share software with the primary desktop which is a Mac. But I'm also contemplating a regular Windows machine so I can play Civ5, and because I'm not a big fan of trackpad surfaces; I like the little eraser-style mouse.

But I don't know much about the various Windows laptop options, to know what a good brand/model is.

I don't have any real requirements, but I'd prefer to spend less than $1500. The main uses for the laptop will be web browsing, playing Flash-based video games, possibly Civ5, and running FreeBSD in a virtual machine so I can do kernel hacking.

Suggestions?

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15th November 2010
12:59 pm

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I'm being bought!
My employer, Isilon, is being bought by EMC for around $2.3 billion cash. Since Isilon has around 500 employees, that means they paid $5 million for each one, including me.

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17th October 2010
04:37 pm

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Back in the 1950s no one put their kid to sleep on his/her back. It's not really a natural position. One indication is that the brown faton babies is mostly on their back; i.e. the place where they would otherwise be radiating heat. And my personal observation with my own kids is that babies sleep less deeply on their back. In fact, there's been several articles about parents ignoring this advice so they can get some rest.

There's no question that placing babies to sleep on their back reduces the incidence of SIDS.

There doesn't seem to be any debate that babies sleep better on their tummy.

We know that sleep is critical to brain development.

So I wonder if the lower quality of sleep with babies on their backs is affecting our kids in any way, long term. For example, increased incidence of Autism or ADD/ADHD, which are known to have both genetic and environmental components. Other environmental effects would be tough to tease out, like the fact that the youngest kids in each grade are diagnosed with ADHD 60% more often than the older ones. So it's not as simple as correlating decreased SIDS with increased incidence of other environmentally triggered disease in various countries/states/regions.

Still, it makes me wonder.

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2nd September 2010
09:56 am

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P/E ratio
I was talking with M on the way to work about the price of ISLN responding more to market news now that HP/Dell are bidding for 3Par, and Isilon is now on investor's radar more. However, the yearly EPS for Isilon is -0.03 cents so the P/E ratio is infinite. And even looking at the last quarter where IIRC EPS was around 0.06, the P/E ratio is pretty high. So the stock price of $21 reflects an expected EPS for some time in the shorter-term future, like in the next year or so.

We then got to talking about historical P/E ratio for the stock market, which IIRC is around 15 to 18. This number seemed familiar to me; as new landlords and renters we've been looking at housing prices versus rental prices. The historic P/R ratio is also in the 15 to 18 range.

Well, perhaps someone who has taken economics classes would not be surprised, but I'm sure this isn't a coincidence. In both cases, the historical ratios indicate the amount of money the market feels needs to be returned on an investment to be "worth it", and it doesn't matter if the investment is a stock or a rental home. In both cases, historically, one wants to see the investment made back in 15 to 18 years (when you don't account for interest, inflation, etc.)

The S&P500 is still above the historical P/E ratio, and ownership prices in the Seattle area are also well above the historical P/R ratio. So we're renting a house. Stocks aren't really different so I suppose if I was being an active and savvy investor I wouldn't have so much wealth in the stock market, given that the share prices appear over-valued.

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29th August 2010
09:32 am

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Comfort
This will repeat a little of a link I shared earlier on Facebook.

"Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks, grinning at the funeral." -Kahlil Gibran

There's apparently several retirement towns that have made it illegal for children to live in the community. I fully support the right of people to live how they want, but it makes me sad that they choose to live this way. Continued adaptation to trying circumstances isn't "fun" but it does keep one young and flexible.

"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it's not for the timid." -- Q (Star Trek: TNG episode "Q Who?")

I think we as humans have a desire for comfort and safety. This isn't entirely a bad thing; we don't have nearly as many children mauled and killed by wolves in the city as one would have on the frontier a few hundred years ago. But despite everything we do to civilize our world, impose order, and make it safe, it's never going to be completely safe. And a pursuit of comfort and safety will never end. Watching my kids play at gymnastics, it wouldn't be any fun if they only did the things that had no possibility of injury. There's always a possibility of being hit by a bus while walking to work. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, volcanoes will continue to strike. We mitigate the risks, but we cannot eliminate them.

So as much as my children frustrate me, they keep me flexible and healthy. As much as my Libertarian, Republican, Evangelical Christian, and Atheist friends disagree with me, being friends with them keeps me flexible and open minded. I truly hope that the internet tendency to only read viewpoints with which one agrees doesn't continue t spread. Groups with differing philosophies aren't my enemy. They are my brothers and sisters.

Here's to more brotherly and sisterly love in the world. And to discomfort.

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22nd August 2010
02:56 pm

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School anger
Modern kindergarten in Seattle is complete crap. They (like many places in the U.S.) are trying to teach first or second grade things to kindergartners in order to get them "ready" for third grade proficiency tests for No Child left Behind. The basic problem is that most 5 and 6 year olds aren't really ready for this instruction; in fact the school is actively harming the kid's brain by forcing it to learn what it's not ready for.

Crisis in Kindergarten (pdf) is a good, but long read. 17% of kids are red-shirted now so they won't be considered a "failure" early. Kids who are the youngest in their class are mis-diagnosed as having ADHD for the crime of being young.

The race to "compete" is absurd on several levels. First, it is ignoring actual scientific evidence on what works for young kids. Second, the countries we're trying to "compete" with don't treat their kindergartners this way. We're trying to get Japanese results using a non-Japanese curriculum. It's just crazy.

So, to answer the question publicly, no, William will not be going to kindergarten next year, unless we magically get off the wait list for Salmon Bay (the alternative school that actually seems to be a correct experience for kids W's age). There were three times as many applicants for this year as there are slots. But the superintendent of Seattle schools is anti-alternative-school, so there's not much hope of this situation changing any time soon. I suppose next year I'll be coughing up for private school in order to prevent brain damage.

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16th July 2010
09:10 am

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NYT article about the Marine Corps Combat Art program.

On days like today I'm in a more human, artistic mood. War sucks, but I'm a big fan of the military as an organization dedicated to service and sacrifice (though I'm not necessarily in favor of all their missions). The idea that some service members are also full-time artists rendering the human experience makes me kinda tingly.

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