Thursday, February 18, 2016

Twas the Night Before Go Live

'Twas the night before go live and all through the house,
   Not a program was working, not a keyboard or mouse.
The programmers stared at their tubes in despair,
   With hopes that a miracle soon would be there.
The users were nestled all snug in their beds,
   While visions of QIOs danced in their heads.
When out of the basement there arose such a clatter,
   I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
   But a super programmer (with a six-pack of beer).
His resume glowed with experience so rare,
   He turned out great code with a bit-pusher's flair.
More rapid than eagles, his programs they came,
   And he cursed and muttered and called them by name,
On Update/ On Transfer/ On Build/ On Delete/
   On Batch Jobs/ On Closings/ On Functions Complete/
His eyes were glazed over, fingers nimble and lean,
   From weekends and nights in front of a screen.
A wink of his eye and a twitch of his head,
   Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
   Turning specs into code; then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger upon the "ENTER" key,
   The system came up and worked perfectly.
The updates updated; the deletes, they deleted;
   The transfers transferred, and the closings completed.
He tested each whistle, and tested each bell,
   With nary a bomb, and all had gone well.
The system was finished, the tests were concluded,
   The users' last changes were even included.
And the user exclaimed with a snarl and a taunt,
   "It's just what I asked for, but not what I want!"

So yea. Today is likely the last day I will see the sun for a couple weeks. The lodge is going live on their new Point of Sale system tomorrow morning, which means I will likely be living at work for the next several days, at least.

I think we are ready, but something like this you never really know. I do know there is going to be push back from some employees as well as some of the patrons. The pricing of certain items has been, shall we say, flexible to the point that many of the members shop around to find who will sell them what they want the cheapest. Or give it to them for free. There is a lot of that as well. The system won't fix that completely, but it will make it much easier to spot and to put an end to it one way or another.

So that will consume my life for the next week or so. It's going to be worth it in the long run, but getting there is going to be interesting.

In other news, Debbie is back at work half-time after a three-week hiatus due to pain, numbness and tingling all down her right arm. The current theory is that there is some sort of nerve issue going on in her neck, but of course just confirming that means endless visits to multiple doctors and money pouring out in every direction like water. The worst part is we already know there won't be any real solution; once again the pain will subside on its own with no help from the Medical-Industrial Complex until the next time it flares up for no apparent reason. (This the third time this has happened since we moved to Florida. Each time it's a little worse and lasts a little longer.)

Assholes. Have I mentioned lately how much I loath healthcare?

In any case, she will be back to full-time work on Monday. The only place she has been that has any idea what to do or seems to help is The Frank Clinic of Chiropractic & Natural Health Care. Each visit costs us a fraction of what any of the "mainstream" "health providers" charge, and they actually do something rather than just talk about endless tests and visits to talk about the tests. Or if we are talking about the local ghetto clinic, charge for the tests then never give the results until we've nagged them for a couple weeks.

Shifting gears over to solar electricity for a bit: Back in January, John Michael Greer predicted that grid-tied utility-scale photovoltaics would be the new fracking now that the air is whooshing out of that particular bubble. He posted a follow-up last week. It seems things are moving even faster than he expected:

Climate activist Naomi Oreskes helped launch that new tone with a diatribe in the mass media insisting that questioning whether renewable energy sources can power industrial society amounts to “a new form of climate denialism.” The same sort of rhetoric has begun to percolate all through the greenward end of things: an increasingly angry insistence that renewable energy sources are by definition the planet’s only hope, that of course the necessary buildout can be accomplished fast enough and on a large enough scale to matter, and that no one ought to be allowed to question these articles of faith.

You really need to hit the link and read the entire article. Once again, here is my take on solar in general and photovoltaics in particular from the perspective of someone who has actually lived off-grid. It can be done. It is impossible. Depends on what "It" is. If "It" means living in less than 500 square feet and making modest amounts of electricity to run a laptop, a couple lights, a small high-efficiency 'fridge and a small TV used only on sunny days, then yea. It can be done. If instead you define "It" in the same way that the typical environmentalist does, meaning a 3,000 square foot McMansion lit up like an airport runway, with central air, a half-dozen 100" TV's, at least one computer, gaming system, tablet and smart phone per resident all running flat out 24/7, with enough juice left over to charge up a couple electric minivans, then no. It is impossible. Not even if you covered every square inch of the state of New Mexico with PV panels bought with money waved into existence with the Fed's magic QE wand.

Not that solar is useless. Some people use renewables for their entire energy budget. But they don't live anything like a typical middle-class American lifestyle. The idea that utility companies can just take their coal-fired plants offline and slap up a few solar panels and no one will ever know the difference is completely absurd. There is a Duke Energy ad that runs every once in a while down here in Florida. The basic message is that there are all these smart, hard-working people with all the latest high-tech gear that keep the power on so I don't have to even think when I reach for a light switch. First, anyone who has ever lived off-grid will never again take for granted flipping a light switch and having a light come on. Trust me on that. There is no colder cold or darker dark than the cold and dark when the batteries run out of juice at 3am when it is -20F, and you are outside trying desperately to get a cranky generator to start so the water pipes don't freeze. Been there, done that, ain't goin' back.

But more importantly, that unthinking switch flipping attitude does not work when your power is being supplied by intermittent renewables like wind and solar. Electricity from fossil fuels is essentially unlimited. (OK; not really, as a hundred or so households find out every Christmas when they plug in too many lights and burn their house down. But so abundant that it takes real effort to hit the limits.) It doesn't matter what time of day, or what the weather is like, or the time of year. If you want to plug something in and turn it on, you just do it. Renewables don't work that way.

And that's leaving aside the insane notion that the massive amounts of money needed to build out significant solar and wind electrical generation will just fall from the sky. For many years, there has been a large (taxpayer-subsidized, of course) build-out of windmills with the average year-over-year increase in capacity running more than 25% for a decade, and yet wind accounts for a measly 4.5% of electricity generated in the United States. Photovoltaics, at less than on-half of one percent, are a rounding error. Boosting those number up to a significant fraction of current electrical generation would involve an unimaginable increase in manufacturing and installation capacity over anything that exists today.

None of which will make any difference. After all, if there is anything left of your pension after the fracking bubble gets done with it, it will need to be invested in something, so why not put the last of your life savings in some nice, safe debt used to build out a bunch of solar farms so Jamie Diamond and the boys over at Goldman Sachs can make a few more billions while you take yet-another hit to your net worth when it all goes spiraling down the drain in a few years?