While I've never been a big beer pong advocate, I can't help but post this Wall Street Journal article
describing the young entrepreneurs who are making money through creating and selling beer pong equipment. Not so much because there are young folks making beer pong stuff, but because the wall street journal actually posted this image alongside said article:
click for large version
From the odd but fascinating mapsforus.org
, Beer Excise Tax by state:
If you like maps as much as I do, the rest of the website is worth a quick scroll through.
Missed the lunar eclipse? Go oogle this composite
of the event, taken in Culver City, California. Sweet.
To be read and commented on later: Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal
- a diatribe on our over-regulated, highly bureaucratic government with respect to the small American farmer who is just trying to get by.
I don't have time to read the whole thing so I can't speak to the sincerity or content but I think most people I know would agree that the corporatization of the American farm is a travesty at best.
I weep daily for the hollow souls of mighty men:
World's biggest theater chain pressured prosecutor to charge a teenager for capturing 20 seconds of "Transformers" on her Canon Powershot, so she could share a video snippet with her kid brother.
Sometimes I think the MPAA and RIAA folks just don't get it because they get screeners and pre-releases sent straight to their door instead of having to download it illegally off of the internet. The law makes the most sense when you don't want to break it.
I feel bad for the lack of pictures, I really do.
But I've gone and lost my camera's USB cable so I've run out of good material.
Luckily, my friend got these pictures earlier in the month when we were out on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.
However, I'm off to a wedding in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia this weekend and I imagine there will be plenty of photo-ops there.
Until then, you're stuck with me looking "like a drowned rat," as my dad would say.
A fascinating essay (speech) by Roy Baumeister - Prof. of Psych at Florida State University - discusses gender differences and suggests that we are, perhaps, more equal than anyone ever stopped to think about.. equal in very different ways. It is entitled Is There Anything Good About Men?
and is worth the somewhat lengthy read:
“How can you say culture exploits men, when men are in charge of everything?” This is a fair objection and needs to be taken seriously. It invokes the feminist critique of society. This critique started when some women systematically looked up at the top of society and saw men everywhere: most world rulers, presidents, prime ministers, most members of Congress and parliaments, most CEOs of major corporations, and so forth — these are mostly men.
Seeing all this, the feminists thought, wow, men dominate everything, so society is set up to favor men. It must be great to be a man.
The mistake in that way of thinking is to look only at the top. If one were to look downward to the bottom of society instead, one finds mostly men there too. Who’s in prison, all over the world, as criminals or political prisoners? The population on Death Row has never approached 51% female. Who’s homeless? Again, mostly men. Whom does society use for bad or dangerous jobs? US Department of Labor statistics report that 93% of the people killed on the job are men. Likewise, who gets killed in battle? Even in today’s American army, which has made much of integrating the sexes and putting women into combat, the risks aren’t equal. This year we passed the milestone of 3,000 deaths in Iraq, and of those, 2,938 were men, 62 were women.
He goes on to discuss that, while there may be more men with extremely high IQs, there are also higher numbers of mentally retarded men than women.
The central ideas that he espouses are as follows:
- Today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men.
- In terms of the biological competition to produce offspring men outnumber(ed) women both among the losers and among the biggest winners.
- There are two different ways of being social.
It is that last point that is the heaviest hitter. It posits that females tend toward smaller, more intimate, communal relationships (sharing, one-on-one interaction, etc) - which is the sort of relationships emphasized in psychology discussions - whereas men favour larger and less nurturing group relationships. These are the sorts of relationships - networks, really - which comprise corporations, governments, war parties, and the like.
Culture, then, is not about an direct male-female competition against one another. The old feminist argument for a conspiracy theory in which men keep women down doesn't fit here either. Perhaps, Baumeister says, culture - and the men and women that live in it - developed organically based on our genetic dispositions for different kind of work.
It is a shame we can't all think with such diversity, removing ourselves from the predispositions and false notions we've developed over the centuries. Perhaps a lot of what he says is conjecture at best, but I think it is worthwhile to consider things from different angles - if not to attack the status quo, than at least to consider possibilities we haven't before.Update
: Not surprisingly, there is lively debate
The problem with being American is the ingrained sense of entitlement and the gosh darn it, I deserve it
attitude. This cuts directly to the matter - nobody actually thinks they are asking for a handout because, as far as they are concerned, it is owed
to them. Whether their great grandfather founded the town they live in (which means they should be able to park wherever the want) or their beach house has been in the family for two-hundred-million generations (which means they shouldn't have to suffer rising property taxes on their oceanfront home).. whatever it may be, they definitely know that it is their right
goddamnit! The plurality of that word has not been lost on me.
That is sort of how I feel about society and the human condition in general - like I could cry if I could just get up enough energy to care enough. Somewhere in there, in all those lives I've lived - the day to day ones, working mike, party mike, bored mike, sad mike - I just gave up thinking that I could make any sort of difference.
Don't get me wrong, I've never been what one would call an "activist". Yet I will stop and sign petitions, happily, and with a sense of some kind of accomplishment. Or I did anyway.
It might have something to do with the political climate, too. A buncha rich white fuckers making hand over fist and I don't feel like I could truly make any sort of measurable impact even if I spent every waking hour working on it. Somebody, somewhere, will always be suffering. Meanwhile, I'm the snot who is complaining about suffering because I can't do anything about the suffering. That isn't suffering, really, that is whining. I'm a whiner. At the end of the day, none of it seems very fair and - whether it is really
having a real
connection with someone for even the briefest of moments, or it is improving the US political system, or it is solving world hunger.. well, I'm not sure any of that really happens. Anywhere. Ever.
Except in fairytales.
And maybe Nader's wetdreams.
So what am I supposed to do? Who am I supposed to care about, and why? Here, all I can do is spout numbers and print statistics and try to identify and understand what I can about those who are suffering.. but I really really don't think that makes me any better of a person at the end of the day.
And I'm not: a good person. I suspect you aren't either, whoever you may be plodding along this backwater of the internet - no offense, really. It's nothing personal - but yet here you are maybe thinking the same thing I'm saying or building a anti-list in your mind to argue with me or maybe you're even balling your fist so that the next time you see me it will be strong and fierce and it will punch me in the fucking face.
Part of me wouldn't really be surprised. Part of me might even think I deserve it. Part of me probably does.
And I try and I try and I try but never really succeeding, always buying, always wrestling with the money - like I am a number in a crowd and the joker, some false idea of a leader
, has thrown us all bills in the streets and I'm bending over and crawling around on my knees and I'm grabbing at these little pieces of paper (or I'm actually throwing them up in disgust, I can't tell, it is all foggy) and then there it is. I see it. I smell it. Entitlement of some sort or another: A man arguing with a lady (let us make it lopsided - he a large stout man with pork-pie, her an older frail gentile lady with glasses and a want to look all the way down the precipice of her nose at you, and especially at stout mr. pork-pie). They exchange words, antiquated faces of disgust and resolve - two mimes mimicking what they have been taught their whole lives, barely living a whole of anything, more like many pieces of many jigsaw puzzles. You're always trying to fit them together and never - not one of them - ever do they fit together, not rightly so. Mr Pork-pie points in the other direction, grandma flinches, the cash is gone. She is livid, nervous, and looks around for someone. Anyone. A person a place an animal - even some inanimate object that might, in some way or another, experience or appreciate her pain, her suffering.
Nothing notices, nobody. Pork-pie man is half way up the block and rosy-cheeked, lips turned up at the corners and pursed in the middle, whistle ready to be wet with the inflow of cashola mullah greenback cash that, well, he basically deserved.
He works hard, feeds his kids, runs the store, cleans up on weekends, loves his wife, and is a drunk. Why wouldn't he deserve the money the joker threw to the ground for the gentile old lady to gather?
The old lady and I walk home, empty pockets out-turned to show the world our ugly fate. We've been wronged and the entire system is at fault. The lady is at fault, I'm in fault. We walk haughtily, deigning to even look at one another as if we were not both just on our knees - on our knees
folks -- Mr. pork-pie is at fault. The joker is funny, but he is at fault too and nobody is holding anybody accountable because we're all busy, you know (I leave the lady at the corner, she goes home).
Navel gazing in the bathtub of the soul, rolling over like great porpoises of hopeless thought, cranking the hot water no matter the frigid neighbourly yelps below of showering icicles of men. We're all too busy for it but we know with certainty - to a tee, to the farthest decimal point - the lengths that the whole world has gone to deny us our selves, our souls, our right to live, love,
All I know for sure - not in a measurable way but just deep down in my gut where odd parts gurgle after dairy doses and butterflies go to die - is that none of it is real. Not the entitlement anyhow. We've all made that up too.
I don't really feel like one who struggles with any internal god-like questions, though I have had my share of debates. No, down there in those quarters things are all snug and buttoned up and not even a hint of un-sure-ity can be smelt. That is not where all the hope lies. The hope crawls in my frontal lob like a cat between drywall - squirmy - and the whole time I am trying to drag it out so'as I can feed it and water it (and pet it in that way that I'd
like to - like the cat wants
me to and I am doing it a favour). It is this cat, freaky feline, all full with empty eyes that go on for miles and miles, that I am trying to catch and in my way, own it.
That I could turn off the higher order and make us who we are and not what we've made us - this is a great and endearing dream, a fantasy of the higher order. It is weak. It is selfish. And it is the greatest entitlement of them all - that I could control the world, that out there in some strange parallel, alternate, yet differential universe I could own it, buy it, and even sell the world.
I always try to keep a good attitude and an optimistic outlook because that is all you really have in the end. What we got, we were given or earned. What we don't have isn't here yet. What we do have is here, now, with little reference to future pursuits. Sure, a lot of life is preparation. A lot of it is planning and anticipation. But at the end of the day, what we really
have - what we own outright as a human being, and not because of some contract or piece of paper that says so - is our condition, sitting in the moment on a dirty park bench or in box seats at the opera or on a subway car or in front of the television or on the back porch or floating, face down in the swimming hole (momentarily, in an attempt to freak out your loved ones nearby). We all own the here and now and, by direct injection of physical motion or mental release, we have some mild form of artistic control.
When the world is bright and shiny and loud and all a little bit too much we can turn on the sunglasses and turn down the light. We can slit our eyes to the barrage of refuse and dross and all those other words that people love to use in place of garbage - as if it weren't garbage everyone were talking about - and we can personally control what comes into our little nest-like world on top of our pole-like bodies, swaying in the wind - our minds like little chicks peeping, wide-mouthed, at the entire universe: saying look at me, feed me, look at me, feed me
We can - each one of us - choose a course of bitter resolve or optimistic exuberance. We can pick fights or peace marches. We can deride every friend or paint them in a picture. When we finish these things those moments will have come and gone and all that will be left is us - that and a few vague reminders of where we were and a suggestion, perhaps, of where we are going.
Perhaps I'm starting to sound a bit like a hippy with all that here-and-now bullshit but that isn't my point at all. The present moment is just the only thing that is easy to concretely identify. Despite its ephemeral position, the moment is always here and always with us. All other things - ideas, thoughts, even people and places - things we think are more certain and substantial, things that we see and feel and touch, these are the things that aren't really there.
Okay, so I am not always optimistic and my attitude is hardly "good" all the time. I did say I try
. What happens is that I go into these little trances - 24 to 48 hours at a time on occasion - where I can't stop thinking about the immeasurableness of it all. I lay wide awake at night feeling disconnected, but in a bad way, as if anyone I could possibly find at 4 o'clock in the morning - whether in person or over the phone - would sound like an old record, far off and distant.
Every dusty stairwell and every faded photo I see makes me feel less attached. Each trash can and flickering neon sign, every bum on the street, and all the tiny pieces of litter on the floor - all of it piled up on top of me wouldn't be enough to make this vagrant float of mine go away. Close earth orbit is a thing of the past. Now I just drift farther and farther away. With a bad attitude.
And so I tether myself to all these non-existent things - the friends, the people, the thoughts. Even the ideas and the animals. Fervescently 'circling the wagons' so to speak, each item or person actually filling a chink in the armour of my soul, giving some small amount of warmth if only in the form of security.. security. Secure from what
I'll spell it out: I hope. So shoot me, this oxymoron of a blogger-come-crackpot. Tell me I am a hack and that there is irony in my warnings, that there is hypocrisies woven in my words. Say what you will. Tell who you want.. for we are all
It is this basis of thought that plagues the soul. The questions of why
having long since been passed over in preference for inquiries into state, position, being. What? Where? When? None of these questions can be answered properly, or at least not to my liking, for if the were right we'd be what and where whenever
we wanted.. wouldn't we be?
So in place of all of that we're left with some vague idea of hope or destiny or fate or or.. or. Nothing, not even the best journalist, can fill in the blanks following these five double-yous and so I am stuck with this stop-gap, bootstrap, dun-it-yerself solution; the figurative four-letter word, the idea that this moment could possibly be any
other moment if we just try hard enough (and the moments that follow and even those that follows those that follow, all coalescing into one - for what is reality but awareness of now
And that is hope for you, folks. That things could be better. That things would be better. That things should be better.. somewhere out there.. down the line. The concept that things now
will somehow transform and mutate into a whole different set of things then
In the end I at least try to keep a good attitude and an optimistic outlook because that is all you really have.
These pictures I found of some dude flying Alaska in a supercub
are pretty damn good and magnificent portrayals of the wide-open expanses that exist in that state..
South Freeport to South Portland, Saturday, August 11th, 2007All photos courtesy of my pal Mark - I was too busy sailing.Hope Island
Saturday was "the boat day"
and despite best intentions we had a late evening on Friday to celebrate. Nevertheless, we rallied it together and ran all the errands we needed to do in the morning, getting all the screws and cotter pins and safety equipment we needed along with some food and water to sustain us along the way, then we drove up to South Freeport to get on the boat.Eating a burger as we leave South Freeport
We spent a solid hour on the mooring trying to figure out a few piles of block and tackle that were supposed to make their way onto the booms as the mizzen and main sheets. As I'd never rigged this boat before it was a crap shoot. We finally figured out some sort of workable system and then, after we got underway and headed out of the mooring field it was discovered that two completely different sets of sheets were hidden in a storage compartment and, clearly, were the lines meant for the mizzen and main. In the end we had blindly devised a system of pulleys and blocks that matched the real lines quite well, so we left what we had made and got on to sailing.The new (old) dinghy came with us and didn't cause us any problems. You can see what is most likely Bustins, French, and Lower Goose Islands in the background.
It was about 5:15pm when we cleared the mouth of the Harraseeket river - a bit late in the day to start a 15 mile journey, but what the hell.. While it was
a beautiful day there wasn't a whole lot of wind. It was probably about 5 knots. We got the rear sail - the mizzen - hoisted up and sheeted to the mast without much trouble. The tracks are a bit gunked up with varnish and that could certainly use a little work but it is usable. The crew insisted I hoist the main, so my buddy Mark could get some action shots. I didn't even bother to bring my own camera since I knew I would be busy trying to figure everything out.Despite what the pictures here suggest, we had a mostly cloudless day. We watched one formation cruise in from West Falmouth to the South West of us and pass in front of our bow but it was long gone by the time we caught its track.
The mainsail went up just fine, though you can tell from the picture that I need to figure out what is going on with the bottom of the sail. There is a rope adjustment at the bottom leading edge of the sail and it was a bit loose. Oh well, like I said.. we had little wind to waste in the first place - what difference did it make?
We spotted our first seal among some lobster pots on the northwest side of Hope Island. Then we got out into Luckse Sound on the ocean side of Chebeague and Long Islands, got the 150 genny up, and shut the motor off. Earlier in the week I had my roommate pick up some jibsheets from the marine store but I bobbled the specs and she got 3/16" instead of 3/8".. so we picked up the right size on our errand run in the morning.
We probably made 3 knots at best, but we were sailing under our own power at the end of an amazing August day in Casco Bay, watching the sunset over the twinkles of the Portland city lights. For a second all that sweat and work was almost
worth it.Peaks Island
Mark brought cheap champagne along but I couldn't bring myself to smash it against anything and, at the end of the day, it wasn't a real traditional launch - more just a maiden voyage of sorts. I shook it up real good and popped the top over the gunwales anyway.
We found the new mooring without much trouble and as we battened down for the night we watched a ginormous tanker trudge slowly through the channel. It was all a little surreal at the end of the day, sun-stroked and tired as I was. It was a long row back to the beach and a long walk to the car.Cushing Island
Sometimes I tell myself that I am going to get up early in the morning and go do the chores I gotta do with the freshness of a new day. Sometimes I convince myself that I am going to go through my whole closet, room, apartment.. even my entire town - clean the whole goddamn thing up in a single swoop, or a sweep of the broom. Sometimes, when I'm feeling motivated and positive, almost optimistic in a way that is unexplainable, I find all of the answers to all of the questions just lying there right in front of me. Sometimes, I lose them.
Sometimes I just do a horrible job at cropping.
Losing an answer is like loosing anything else - there is a possibility that you can find it again but it all has a lot to do with how hard you want it, how hard you try.
Sometimes I tell myself that I want it: real bad. I tell myself that I sometimes have to try hard to get it.
Sometimes I don't.
Toilet, New York City
If you buy the stuff that this graph
is selling, you'll believe that caffeine and marijuana are closely related in addictive qualities and, in fact, caffeine is worse. You'll also note how nicotine and alcohol have much higher dependencies - up there with heroin and coke.
For those interested in oddities like the virtual world Second Life and economics, this article might pique your interest - Money Trouble in Second Life
Matthew Beller, who works for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and, as a hobby, writes about Second Life, says that the current growth in Second Life is "an unsustainable boom." Because the Linden dollar has no commodity backing, he says, the Second Life economy is in danger of crashing when provoked by any sufficient shock. Although the recent shocks may not necessarily cause a run on the Linden dollar itself, Beller says, the danger remains, should additional shocks occur.
Anyone who reads this blog should get a good chuckle from how closely that paragraph resembles.. the US economy. To wit:
Xxxxxxx Yyyyyy, who works for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and, as a hobby, writes about [the US economy], says that the current growth in [the US economy] is "an unsustainable boom." Because the [US] dollar has no commodity backing, he says, the [US] economy is in danger of crashing when provoked by any sufficient shock.
Is it all doom and gloom though? No.. Matthew still thinks there is sustainability and growth potential (again, read this with [US] replacing [Second Life]):
In spite of the turmoil in Second Life's financial sector, Bloomfield says, he thinks the game's economy will survive as long as there is continued growth in the demand for virtual goods and services, as well as for real services, such as programming in-game systems. "That, to me, is far more important in determining the future of Second Life's economy than little hiccups in the world," he says.
Arguably, no matter what sort of recession or slow down might come, the US will probably be providing goods and services for a long time to come. Even the dark clouds moving in over the subprime debacle will likely blow over - eventually. The question is how much will stay standing and how much will need to be rebuilt?
Proof that lawyers really are
robots! Law is code
used the patterns in various "libraries" of work to derive visualizations. One group was Project Gutenburg
- 17000 free books. The second group was kernel32.dll
- a large part of the Windows Operating System binary code, and the final group was the U.S. Legal Code
Follow the Law is code
link to see the visuals but I'll tell you up front: the legal code looks even more structured/patterned than the windows code.
Y'all know I mostly avoid the politics here on the blog and stick more to the economics of things.. but I ran across this presidential candidate opinion chart
which I think it worth sharing with everyone. Information is power, afterall. Is it not? Go check it out and make some decisions. November '08 is right around the corner!Update
: If you're too lazy to read a chart you can always just fill out a survey
and it'll rate the candidates for you - looks like it uses the same data as above.
How long will China last? I've been asking this question for awhile now, pointing out all the major problems inherent in a ginormous, growing economy where huge gaps in inequality, poor working conditions, and even worse environmental conditions prevail. Well, I'm not alone. The Chinese Deputy Minister of the Environment tends to agree
How great are the effects of [the] environmental degradation on the economy?
[Deputy Minister]: It's massive. Because air and water are polluted, we are losing between 8 and 15 percent of our gross domestic product. And that doesn't include the costs for health. Then there's the human suffering: In Bejing alone, 70 to 80 percent of all deadly cancer cases are related to the environment. Lung cancer has emerged as the No. 1 cause of death.
I wrote earlier about government corruption in China (China is weaker than we think and the west has misunderstood the threat
The Chinese economist Hu Angang.. calculates that over the late 90s the cumulative annual cost of corruption was between 13.3% and 16.9% of GDP and is still around that level today..
add that to the 8 to 15 percent effect coming from their enviromental problems and you've possibly hit 30%!)
Luckily, even if it is only a Deputy Minister, at least someone in China seems to be reading the writing on the wall. Interestingly, some of his discussion could almost apply directly to the U.S. as well:
The faster the economy grows, the more quickly we will run the risk of a political crisis if the political reforms cannot keep pace. If the gap between the poor and the rich widens, then regions within China and the society as a whole will become unstable. If our democracy and our legal system lag behind the overall economic development, various groups in the population won't be able to protect their own interests.
The key take home message here is that fast economies need fast policies and income gaps make for potentially uncontrollable issues down the road. A democratic society - even one in which capitalism rules - can only become so weighted with oil hungry monopolistic glad-handing millionaires before the whole thing just topples over.
I have a sneaking suspicion of my own, too. True capitalism is not being performed in the U.S. today. Certainly, there is a degree of financial freedom available in this country that allows for anyone to potentially become the next millionaire. However, that is not to say that everyone's chances are the same. As long as our government is pro-big business, they will have some sort of advantage and power over us. As long as it is prohibitively expensive to create a local phone company, Verizon will not be our elective service but our necessary one - it is, essentially, a tax. As long as AOL is allowed to give the run around to its users and make it almost impossible to cancel their service (something that has been happening for well over a decade now) and as long as the government does nothing about this, then we do not operate in a real capitalist society. If the RIAA is still around, still harrassing grandmothers without the technical know-how to even play
an mp3, we do not live in a true capitalist society. In this respect, contracts of any sort are - in some ways - anti-capitalist devices. They tie you into a service which you are unable to terminate without getting the run around from the company and which give you little recourse when the service you are paying for doesn't work
. Why should I not be allowed to charge my cell phone company for time when the service is unavailable? Why shouldn't I be allowed to get a bill reduction if my time warner cable is on the fritz for a weekend? Why should I be required to wait 6 to 8 hours for the installation guy when my
time should be as valuable as theirs?
The danger here (and I may be crack-potting) is that of a false economy. Perhaps China is loosing 30% of its GDP to corruption and environmental concerns but how much are we loosing in "ethereal" financial transactions (defined as any time you spend money for nothing - like when you cable is out for the weekend)? Sure, that extra money makes companies like Time Warner stronger but is that truly a good thing? Competition, innovation, and creativity is what drives true growth and much of that is stifled by the current climate of big corporation control.
Meanwhile, the technology sector is one example of an area where big corporations don't quite exist yet. Certainly, there are Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, and the like but they are not in a position to create the new and innovative services that are popping up on the web all the time. Why? Because they are large behemoths and less likely to create new off-shoot divisions. Instead, they buy companies and claim lowered running costs
. This is not
creativity or innovation, it is cherry picking. I would argue that the truly worthwhile services that come from small companies could, in fact, support them as growing and eventually profitable entities and that this would be a better and more natural way for things to progress.
There is something to be said for a narrow income gap and this can be seen in much of Europe and especially Scandinavia. They may not have as strong an economy but they, as people, are happier, more satisfied, and (as a sad excuse for an armchair historian) a lot less likely to solve their problems with aggression and military action.
Household Income Inequality in the U.S.A.
As income gaps widen here in the states so does unrest (does Larry Ellison need a yacht with 8,000 sq. meters of living space at an annual running cost of $13 million?). I won't say that he shouldn't deserve
it in some respects because we would all like to believe we can strike it rich. However, what is rich and what is richdiculous?
I've been busy as all hell - or at least my wind is wound up tight with all the to-dos, projects, dirty laundry, and chores I need to do.
It wears me out but if not this then what? Sit still in one place, don't move, keep your eyes closed and your head in the sand? I suppose that would be easier and cheaper but I keep pushing myself to do things because, well, if I don't I know I'll be complaining when I'm old and feeble and not able to do anything but
stay in one place with my head in the sand.
It is out there, in the world, that you see interesting things and hear crazy sounds and form perspectives and opinions on things. Knowledge is power, sure, but a book can only teach you so much and, eventually, you just gotta go out and try it - even if that is tougher or riskier or more tedious.picture stolen, but edited and cropped by me
Shit, man.. Getting older every minute.
And I'm going right
out to do it.