6 Jul 2004 Bram   » (Master)

60 cycle per second trailers

I noticed an interesting phenomenon in my bathroom the other night. The light on my toothbrush is very small, and cycle at 60 cycles per second (or maybe 120, I'm not sure), and, due to the way human eyes work, when the room is a completely dark leaves a very brief afterglow. As a result, when your eye scans over it a distinct trail appears for a split second. The distribution of the dots is interesting. Some acceleration is visible with the dots at the beginning being closer together, but the eye movement appears to stop pretty much instantaneously.

Financial Hijinx

For a while after I started work on BitTorrent I had no job and lived off savings. Eventually the savings ran out and I started living off of credit cards (don't worry, they're all paid off now).

Living off credit cards is an interesting experience. To do it for a while, you have to keep getting ever larger amounts of credit while keeping your interest rate low. Fortunately credit cards offer low introductory rates, frequently 0%, especially when you take out money on them as a balance transfer from another card. They particularly like doing this for people who have a history of paying off credit cards. For example, people who have been paying off cards completely by transferring to other cards when they get an introductory rate. Yes, this is completely gameable and insane, but it's also standard practice.

When undertaking to get credit cards, it's important to have as few inquiries in your credit as possible. Credit granting formulas are quite arbitrary and erratic, so to keep people from simply applying for credit until they get it, the credit agencies keep records of when you apply for credit and count that heavily against you later on. The types of inquiries aren't differentiated, so for example getting a cell phone counts against for getting a mortgage. Yes, this is also completely insane. To avoid having dings against your credit, it's a good idea to do as little applying for credit as possible. You can keep credit cards from seeing each others's applications by letting 'pre-approved' applications pile up for a while, then sending them all out on the same day.

If you have a very old collections for a very small amount of money and pay it off the payoff counts as 'recent collections activity', so if you need to get some credit in the near future you should hold off on paying it. This policy goes beyond insane into completely nuts, but it continues to be the case.

Once a very low rate on one card is about to run out you should, of course, transfer the balance completely over to another card. It's a good idea to do this later rather than sooner because there's frequently a fee for doing a balance transfer. It's always a good idea when given a new offer of a low rate to call and ask what they can offer you, because the people on the phone can frequently offer you a lower rate and waive balance transfer fees.

Some financial institutions let you transfer money into and out of your credit line via online banking without getting a cash advance charge. You should of course use this if you have it. Making a minimum payment this way is fairly amusing - you transfer money out of the credit card, transfer it back in, and presto, your minimum payment has been made.

Interviewing

Studies of interviews yield a very discouraging result. Interviews are practically worthless for screening candidates. In an interview you can tell if a person is a pleasant conversationalist, and you can give some technical questions to rule out the truly inept, but beyond that you might as well be rolling dice. This is counterintuitive in the extreme. Of all the different things you can say about a person, you'd expect there to be at least some correspondence with one of them. There's a whole long list of criteria, most of them completely illegal - pick candidates who are male, female, black, white, young, old, married, single, thin, fat, tall, short, blond haired, brown haired, etc. None of these have ever been shown to have any correlation with job performance, although I'd like to note that in an all-male work environment hiring an attractive female is probably good for morale.

If I ever have to hire someone from a few candidates, the first thing I'm going to do is call up their schools and employers listed to find out if they lied about degrees or dates of employment. Even though work history doesn't correlate with job performance, being a lying sack of shit almost certainly does. A surprising number of people lie on resumes, mostly because nobody ever checks them. One thing I most definitely will not do is ask former employers what they thought of the person. I've seen those calls get answered, and the quality of responses is dubious, to say the least.

Next I'm going to pick the person, if any, who I've already heard of, since they're likely to have done something worthwile. By 'heard of' I mean in a professional context. Being someone's cousin or loose acquantance doesn't count.

If I'm stuck in the end with several candidates none of whom I've heard of I'm going to pick based on the only criterion I've come up with which seems likely to have some correlation with job performance. I'm going to pick the one with the shortest commute time. Employees who can get to work quickly are going to have less incentive to switch to another job.

Bohemia Redux

For a while now I've been attempting to find an interesting two-player game of no chance which is based on the very special square board topology of viewing sets of four spots which form the vertices of an orthogonal square as being somehow connected. I think I've figured out how to do that now.

Players alternate placing pieces of their color in unoccupied squares. Every time a player places pieces of their color in all four corners of an orthogonal square they get a point. In the end, the player with the most points wins. The game can be made fair with a swap rule, and draws can be eliminated by giving either the first or second player to move the win in case of tie score.

This is essentially a territorial game at core, sort of similar to go in that you have to evaluate which parts of the board are most in dispute. The topology of the board is quite mind-bending, even calculating the score is a chore without a computer. But that mind-bendingness might be quite interesting.

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