Greece Caves, and I’m Outta Here

Published at 05:48 on 10 July 2015

Because the austerity is continuing, odds are the depression there will continue, and so will a lack of ability of Greece to repay. Though the beginning of the process of writing off those bad loans is encouraging, the can has merely been kicked a few more years down the road.

And I’m outta here to for a few days to do botanical surveys in the Okanogan Highlands. It’s a part of the state I haven’t seen in about twenty years.

Software Quality (or Lack Thereof)

Published at 16:22 on 8 July 2015

For my paid work, I maintain a program which runs for a long time (essentially, indefinitely) making millions of socket calls per day and doing extensive amounts of text parsing (it’s a web crawler).

What impresses me is how often problems in my code are not really problems in my code: they’re problems in some library that my code calls. One time it was even a problem in the system libraries; socket I/O would work fine for a day or two, then some time from two days to a week in, socket calls would simply and mysteriously hang. Another repeated source of headaches was the LXML library, which tended to cause me all sorts of issues with memory leaks and indefinite looping and recursion.

This is in the open source (Linux) world, so it underscores a general lack of thorough testing. I consider it unacceptable that a program which makes about 2 million socket calls per day will fail due to a library bug after about 10 million calls on average. One should be able to make an indefinite amount of system calls (absent system quotas and limits, of course).

But apparently I’m somewhat unusual in having high standards like that. LXML has a (totally undeserved, in my opinion) reputation for robustness, and that faulty system library made it into a major CentOS release.

Or maybe I’m being unreasonable in expecting that a program which runs for an hour without running into issues should run for a day, a week, or a month without being cut down by memory leaks in the code it calls. (I assume it was a slow memory or other resource leak in the socket call case; it presents itself as a classic symptom of such.)

End the Euro

Published at 09:27 on 2 July 2015

Some basic points:

  1. Yes, there was irresponsible borrowing and spending on the part of past Greek governments, which ran up a huge deficit which caused the current crisis.
  2. It takes two to tango: Irresponsible borrowing is not possible without irresponsible lending. Part of the responsibility of lending money is doing the due diligence necessary to minimize the chance of lending it to a party who won’t be able to pay it back.
  3. Greeks has suffered greatly for their past government’s role in creating the current crisis. There’s an actual depression going on there. The unemployment rate is 25%, and public sector services like health care are collapsing.
  4. The capitalist class is suffering very little for their role in creating the current crisis.
  5. If the Euro didn’t exist, currency devaluation would have stopped this crisis from getting to the current point. There still would have been unpleasant repercussions from the significant devaluation of the drachma, but they would have been less severe and more equitably shared between the Greeks and the banks.
  6. Therefore the existence the Eurozone is responsible for turning a merely unpleasant crisis into a severe one.
  7. If Greece stays in the Eurozone, there will be further unpleasant consequences. Austerity and the associated austerity-created depression will continue.
  8. If Greece exits the Eurozone it will also cause further unpleasant consequences. Greeks will lose a big chunk of their wealth as Euro assets get converted into devalued drachma ones. But, the devalued drachma will make Greek exports and vacations cheap for foreigners, which will stimulate the Greek economy and end the depression. The humiliating status quo of having Greece’s domestic policy dictated from abroad by the “troika” will end.

Therefore it’s best for Greece to exit the Eurozone. Ditto for Spain, for basically the same reasons.

The Eurozone was a mistake. It created a tightly unified currency without a tightly unified governance structure, which spanned a region with significant cultural and economic differences. Such a thing was pretty much fated to collapse. Let it shrink to the point where it only contains the most affluent and developed European countries. Or let it gradually disappear entirely; the choice is up to the Europeans.

As difficult as the process is, it’s better to let it begin now than to dig the hole deeper and make the inevitable more difficult in the future.

Refrigerator Issues

Published at 10:39 on 1 July 2015

So, the one that came with the home I bought is starting to make strange noises in the present heat wave. It’s obviously on its last legs.

It was made in 1993. I did some quick research and it’s easy to find utilities that are offering low-income households to replace for free perfectly good refrigerators made before the year 1999. They’re that inefficient compared to current models. So it’s obviously not worth throwing money at trying to repair the refrigerator I have.

At this point, I start researching efficiency. A super-efficient refrigerator used to mean buying a SunFrost of a VestFrost. But efficiency of the normal big US brands in the USA has increased so much in recent years that you basically gain nothing (except a far lighter wallet) from purchasing a specialty, energy-efficient brand these days.

If you get an EnergyStar model, particularly a smaller, no-frills fridge without energy-wasting features like a built-in icemaker or an in-door ice/water dispenser, you’ll do as well as one of the specialty brands. Plus you’ll have one with standard US dimensions that fits in your existing kitchen without having to remove overhead cabinets (refrigerators built for the European market tend to be taller). So that’s what I did.

The rub is that smaller, no-frills fridges are not carried in stock these days. Everyone wants big and feature-laden. Not me. Not only do those features cost money and waste energy, they also reduce reliability; they are just something more to break. (That’s particularly the case for automatic ice makers.)

When one gets to reviews from Consumer Reports, it’s basically the same story. The smallest model (other than super-tiny dorm-sized fridges) they reviewed was 18 cubic feet. The largest size I am willing to consider is about 15 cubic feet.

So I’ve been compelled to order one sight unseen, despite my worries about noise. The model I chose only had one review I could find complaining about noise, and the noise was caused by for a factory defect and went away when the unit was repaired under warranty. By contrast, several reviews mentioned quietness. Plus, it’s a Frigidaire, and Frigidaire is owned by Electrolux, a Swedish corporation, these days. European brands tend to be better on noise than US ones.

So I’m cautiously optimistic about the noise aspect. We shall see.