August 2007 Archives

Probably because of the caramelisation around the edges of the cake. I've decided that the best way to eat an angel food cake is to eat all the top crust first, then slice the rest of the cake into flat pieces. The flat pieces can be grilled on low heat to caramelize more of the cake for extra-tasty goodness.

Here are a set of images captured from books in a "Teens Only!" section of the Daniel Boone Branch of the St. Louis County Library District. I'm not going to display the content here, but my question to you is: should these books be considered pornography targeted at minors? The St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney's Office says they're "educational in nature"... which is the standard defined in the law but still begs the question: couldn't kids learn a lot from pornography? Regardless of the legal classification, I think libraries should stay far away from controversial issues and make themselves places where parents can feel safe leaving their children.

The title of this post is tongue-in-cheek, but I'm really not sure what to think about American faux pas that sink business deals and offend foreigners.

Globalization has made cross-border business deals more common than ever. But, every day, deals are jeopardized or lost when foreign associates are offended by Americans unaware of other countries' customs, culture or manners, etiquette experts say.

Based on the various mis-steps listed in the article, the main confusion seems to stem from America's flat social structure and culture of directness.

"Americans are way too informal in their dealings with their counterparts abroad, and they end up perceived as uncouth and even obnoxious," says P.M. Forni, a professor of Italian literature and civility at Johns Hopkins University. "Innocence, stupidity or arrogance make them behave in Cyprus the way they would in Cleveland." ...

"Americans often do not realize how dismaying their directness can be for people from different cultures," says David Solomons, chief executive of London-based CultureSmart Consulting. The company has a guidebook series for travelers, and it consults for corporations.

There are times when etiquette and protocol can be beautiful, unifying forces (at a wedding, for instance), but they become burdensome when enforced in day-to-day life. America the melting-pot has vastly reduced the suite of social rules that our immigrants brought with them, generally for the sake of efficiency. As American culture spreads, so will this phenomenon.

From near my old hometown: a Torrence, CA, man gets sentenced to six months in jail for repairing a city-owned fence. Yes, California is completely insane.

He built a fence, a retaining wall, a patio and a few concrete columns to decorate his driveway, and now Francisco Linares is going to jail for it.

Linares had been given six months to get final permits for the offending structures or remove them as part of a plea agreement reached in January, when he pleaded no contest to five misdemeanor counts of violating the Rolling Hills Estates building code.

If he failed to do one or the other, Linares faced six months in county jail. ...

Richard Hamar, Linares' attorney, said he has never heard of anything like this.

"We're talking about fixing a fence that was on city property," he said. "He didn't build a Las Vegas casino. You put a guy in jail for six months because he repaired the city fence?"

The 51-year-old bought the nearly 1-acre property in the 4600 block of Palos Verdes Drive North in 1998. After tearing down an adobe house on the site and building a 3,000-square-foot French-style home, he began landscaping.

When Linares asked the city to repair the white three-railed fence behind his house, he was told it was on his property and his responsibility. So he replaced the termite-infested planks. Then the city reversed itself and said Linares had illegally built the fence on city property.

In October 2004, the city charged Linares with three misdemeanors: for not taking down the fence, having a retaining wall built higher than a 2-foot restriction and for erecting stone columns without a neighborhood compatibility analysis. Later inspections found eight other violations, including a lack of permits for plumbing and grading.

Having lived in Southern California and had occasion to deal with the various city bureaucracies, I can only imagine the headaches Mr. Linares went through trying to comply with the regulations.

At the sentencing, Hamar said his client was a good Christian man who has never committed a crime and who worked diligently - 142 hours - to try to resolve the issues with the city.

And the only reason he was not able to complete the stipulations of the plea agreement, he said, was because of the city's confusing building codes and negligence in rendering a decision on his permit applications.

Jailing this guy is a severe injustice, not to mention all the legal fees he's racking up. Repairing a fence has essentially ruined Mr. Linares' life, and no just society should tolerate such capricious and pointless prosecution.

My car was rear-ended a couple of weeks ago and my car has been in the shop since then. I was hit in the right rear corner, and all the damage was localized in that area. They mechanics gave my car back to me last Friday, but when I got home my wife and I quickly discovered that the right rear wheel was making a strange noise. We took it back to the mechanic this morning and they're saying that the wheel's hub is bent.

First off, is a "hub" a rim? Is it the metal part of the wheel that the tire attaches to? I suppose it's what the "hub cap" covers.

Second, last Friday they told me they aligned all the wheels before I took it home... is it possible to align the wheels without noticing that one of the hubs is bent at a 15 degree angle? This seems like shoddy work to me.

Third, I need to learn more about cars. How?


Apparently my Honda Civic has an independent read suspension and the hub was grinding against the swing arm of the suspension.

I talked earlier about a speech by Roy F. Baumeister about how society "uses" men, and one of Dr. Baumeister's central pieces of data was that we who are alive today have far fewer male ancestors than female ancestors. DNA evidence shows that we descend from half as many men as women, largely because of historical functional polygamy.

So, an observation: is the paucity of surnames caused by this disparity? If functional monogamy were more widespread historically, would there be a greater diversity of last names?

In addition to Dwarf Fortress, The Independent Gaming Source points to a slew of other entertaining and interesting independent games. I've enjoyed Flow and Warning Forever, and there are a few others I'm going to try this evening if I have a chance.

ThinkGeek is selling aluminum chain mail, bringing AC 5 to the masses (of geeks).

I don't see any reason why aluminum wouldn't be a good material for chain mail. Lighter and easier to maintain than teel or iron, even if not as strong. Where's the titanium chain mail?!

My brother also sent me an article about a Chinese couple who wanted to name their child "@" (to the consternation of the State Language Commission). Most interesting to me is the distinct likelihood that whether or not the authorities allow the unusual name, the record-keeping software they use probably won't.

More and more these days I've noticed that our choices, public and private, are limited by what our software allows us to do. Most software won't accept as input a name with strange characters, and none will accept arbitrary symbols like that formerly used by the Artist-Formerly-And-Now-Once-Again-Known-As-Prince. Using standards makes software development easier, but "simple to build into software" is not a requirement that human societies naturally conform to.

This phenomenon is especially noticeable when human interactions are mediated by software. For instance: wasting five minutes to get past an automated phone system to get a ten-second answer from a human; or ordering a computer from Dell and not being able to select certain components because they simply aren't on the list. Further examples abound, from data entry to transaction processing to borrowing a book from the library.

Once a computerized system is in place, human operators generally refuse to take any actions outside the boundaries prescribed by the software, giving the software's arbitrary constraints near-absolute power. No one wants to deal with software that's out of sync with reality because of some out-of-bounds activity, so no one breaks the rules and everyone endures their chains because at least their severely-curtained choices can be executed twice as efficiently.

My brother sent me a link to a speech by Roy F. Baumeister titled "Is There Anything Good About Men?" in which the professor explains that while society has "used" women, it has "used" men far more harshly.

Nor is this about trying to argue that men should be regarded as victims. I detest the whole idea of competing to be victims. And I’m certainly not denying that culture has exploited women. But rather than seeing culture as patriarchy, which is to say a conspiracy by men to exploit women, I think it’s more accurate to understand culture (e.g., a country, a religion) as an abstract system that competes against rival systems — and that uses both men and women, often in different ways, to advance its cause. ...

When I say I am researching how culture exploits men, the first reaction is usually “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.

One can imagine an ancient battle in which the enemy was driven off and the city saved, and the returning soldiers are showered with gold coins. An early feminist might protest that hey, all those men are getting gold coins, half of those coins should go to women. In principle, I agree. But remember, while the men you see are getting gold coins, there are other men you don’t see, who are still bleeding to death on the battlefield from spear wounds.

That’s an important first clue to how culture uses men. Culture has plenty of tradeoffs, in which it needs people to do dangerous or risky things, and so it offers big rewards to motivate people to take those risks. Most cultures have tended to use men for these high-risk, high-payoff slots much more than women. I shall propose there are important pragmatic reasons for this. The result is that some men reap big rewards while others have their lives ruined or even cut short. Most cultures shield their women from the risk and therefore also don’t give them the big rewards. I’m not saying this is what cultures ought to do, morally, but cultures aren’t moral beings. They do what they do for pragmatic reasons driven by competition against other systems and other groups.

That's just the intro, but I bet the rest will interest you too.

(HT: TierneyLab.)

I've still been playing Dwarf Fortress, and it recently got a nice spread in Games for Windows magazine.

I'm on my third fortress right now, and this time I decided to go all-out and head straight for the magma so I could easily make steel. Heck yeah. My fortress is huge and awesome, and none of the various monsters have been able to touch me yet. I'm still waiting for a goblin siege or some magma men, but so far nothing!

Here's my current fortress Ducimalis. This is the first time I've made it to the magma, and I dug straight for it, getting my magma smelter up and running during my first winter. So far the chasm and river monsters haven't caused me many problems, and I haven't seen any magma men. My economy is booming, and I really need more dwarves to help me expand further!

(HT: Ellipsoid and the Wandering Pocket and Dubious Quality, two other DF bloggers.)

Despite our perception living in America, Christians are still the world's most persecuted group of people and face widespread violence and subjugation. It's hard to fathom this sometimes, but one of my friends from church pointed me to the website of The Voice of the Martyrs magazine that helps lend a little sobering perspective. If you're interested, you can also sign up with their affiliated site, PrisonerAlert, and get email updates about Christians who are jailed for their beliefs.

Around the world today Christians are being persecuted for their faith. More than 70 million Christians have been martyred for their faith since 33 AD. This year an estimated 160,000 believers will die at the hands of their oppressors and over 200 million will be persecuted, arrested, tortured, beaten or jailed. In many nations it is illegal to own a Bible, share your faith, change your faith or allow children under 18 to attend a religious service.

Anyone seen any episodes of Star Trek: New Voyages? Looks like it could be cool.

I've been playing this new-to-me freeware game called Dwarf Fortress: cracktastic. One of the most addicting and engrossing games I've ever came across, largely because the artificial intelligence endlessly engaging. Be warned: DF has an incredibly steep learning curve, but the Dwarf Fortress wiki will be of enormous help.

If anyone else plays, shoot me an email!

Here's a great business opportunity for some enterprising individuals: get paid to collect information for Google Maps! I bet the first-movers in a particular area stand to make a good chunk of money.

How much will I be paid? How will I be paid?

You can earn up to $10 for each approved, verified referral you submit. This includes $2 when a business referral is approved by Google; and $8 when an approved business verifies that the information you submitted is accurate. Referrals are approved by Google based on the completeness and quality of data supplied by representatives. Businesses verify their information either by sending us a response postcard or verifying their information online.

As long as your earnings total at least $25 a month, you'll receive a monthly check.

(HT: Nick.)

One thing I enjoy about marriage is always having someone to go for a walk with, and apparently moderate exercise can be more beneficial than a strenuous workout.

Scientists examining the relationship between the intensity and length of a workout and the duration of its benefits have made a surprising discovery: More isn't necessarily better, and none may be worse than we ever imagined.

"On the surface, it seems to make sense that the harder we exercise, the better off we'll be, and by some measures that's true," says lead author Cris Slentz, Ph.D, an exercise physiologist at Duke University Medical Center. "But our studies show that a modest amount of moderately intense exercise is the best way to significantly lower the level of a key blood marker linked to higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. More intense exercise doesn't seem to do that."

What may be even more remarkable, he says, is that some of the benefits derived from a modest exercise regimen appear to last much longer than those gained from a more rigorous program.

Even a little exercise can make a huge difference in your health over time.

But perhaps the most interesting finding was that a modest, low-intensity workout – walking just 30 minutes per day, for example, dramatically lowered triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are the particles that carry fat around in the body, and they're also a good indicator of insulin resistance, a marker for diabetes. Lowering triglyceride levels lowers risk of heart disease and diabetes.

"A proper exercise program appears to be able to lower a person's insulin resistance in just a matter of days," says Kraus. "We were also amazed to see that the lower triglyceride levels stayed low even two weeks after the workouts ended." Longer, more intense workouts didn't have nearly the same impact, they say.

While the researchers were surprised by the amount and duration of the benefits from a modest exercise program, they say they were not surprised by the results from the control group. "And they are alarming," says Kraus. Over six months, those participants gained two pounds and about a half an inch around the waist. "That may not sound like much, but over a decade at that rate, that would mean an additional 40 pounds and ten inches," he says. "So doing a little is a whole lot better than doing nothing at all."

(HT: FuturePundit.)

Jim Cramer has written an admittedly self-indulgent and utterly fascinating exposé of his methods and his madness that has provoked me to add Mad Money to my tivo asap.

There's a living Medal of Honor recipient with my same last name: Hershel Woodrow Williams. He sounds pretty incredible.


Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division. Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Entered service at: West Virginia. Born: 2 October 1923, Quiet Dell, W. Va. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machinegun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought desperately for 4 hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out 1 position after another. On 1 occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon. His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. Williams' aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

The Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System could save a lot of lives and hardware, but I wouldn't want to be the pilot assigned to test it....

Well, the U.S. Air Force's Air Combat Command is installing a system in its jets that is designed to keep future pilots from tying the record. Press Zoom reports that the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System is a software-based technology that has demonstrated a 98 percent effectiveness rate at eliminating aircraft crashes into the ground. The system is ready for operational integration on F-16 Fighting Flacons, F-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Auto-GCAS differs from other crash-avoidance systems in that it doesn’t create nuisance warnings and activates only at the last instant to take control and recover the aircraft when it determines collision is imminent. The determination is made when the aircraft is within 1.5 seconds of the "point of no return" and no action has been taken by the pilot.

Planets are getting bigger and so are people. There's got to be some connection.

On the radio this morning I heard some researcher from Washington University talking about how he studies factors leading to human aggression so he can figure out how to eliminate it. I'm not sure that would be possible, but even more importantly I'm don't think that eliminating aggression from the human species would be desirable.

What is aggression anyway? Physical violence -- and the threat thereof -- is major component, but there are also other forms of aggression such as social and economic. The key component of all forms of aggression is an attempt by one person to gain an advantageous position against the will and interest of another person. In order to gain this position, the aggressor signals that the aggressee's cost of resisting his action will be greater than the cost of submitting.

People tend to dislike aggression for two major reasons. First, no one likes having to choose between two bad situations: either you submit to another's will against your own interest, or you fight. Second, the aggressor's signal that he is willing to fight is much cheaper to him than an actual fight would be, but submitting is generally only a little cheaper to the aggressee than would be fighting; therefore the aggressee (rightly) perceives that the aggressor reaps the majority of the profit in the transaction by attaining a valuable position at the aggressee's expense for little cost.

Societal toleration for aggression varies from form to form. Americans tend not to put up with people who are physically aggressive, but we highly prize aggressiveness in our competitive capitalistic economy. Aggressiveness rules the roost in high school society, but adults tend to be less socially competitive and less tolerant of social aggression. Many sports and games foster tightly constrained aggression (physical and otherwise) that only rarely spills out into the real world.

It's certainly true that some people are aggressive in inappropriate or unwarranted circumstances, but as the examples above illustrate our social and economic systems tend to do a good job of punishing harmful aggression (though no one knows why it works.) Condemning all aggression and trying to root it out of human nature is a fruitless and counterproductive task, and reflects badly on the scientific process as a whole. The role of science is not to prescribe, but to describe, despite the fact that many modern scientists cast themselves as social activists or politicians.

That said, how aggressive "should" people be? Take the question two ways: what level of aggression is best for the individual, and what level of aggressiveness is best for society?

I'm always struck by stories like this interview with an Iraqi interpreter: Hammer is an American at heart who just happened to be born in the wrong country. I sincerely hope that his hero (Bill Gates) or someone else with the ability to sponsor his green card find a way to get him and his family to the United States. The interviewer is Michael J. Totten.

MJT: Why do you work with Americans?

Hammer: When I was 14 years old all I liked was American cars and American movies. America was my dream. It was a dream come true when the United States Army came to Iraq. It was a nightmare in 1991 when they left again.

Maybe someone will think I’m lying, that I’m just saying this. If my friends say something like Russian weapons are the best or German cars are the best I say, no, Americans are. Everyone who knows me knows this about me.

If anyone says Arabs will win against the U.S. they are wrong. The leaders don’t want to be like Saddam. But if the US leaves Iraq it will be a big failure, especially for me. I don’t want to see this. Never.

MJT: Do you like working with Americans?

Hammer: A lot. Especially when I go outside the wire. I feel like a stranger here. When I go back inside I’m home. I have no friends outside, only family. When I go home I stay in my house. I don’t go out on the streets.

MJT: Why don’t you have any friends?

Hammer: I don’t feel like I belong to this society. They think like each other, but they don’t think like me. I can’t continue with them.

I like to know something about everything, to learn as much as I can. In Iraq if you know too much they will laugh and call you a liar.

When I was 20 I liked American music. They don’t like it. (Laughs.)

I don’t like Saddam. I hate his family.

MJT: Why do you have to cover your face?

Hammer: To protect my family. My family lives in Iraq. If they go to the U.S. I won’t have to do it. But I don’t want anyone to know me, to follow me and see where I live and kill my wife and son.

MJT: How did you feel when the U.S. invaded Iraq?

Hammer: Happy. It was like I was living in a jail and somebody set me free. I don’t want Saddam ruling me. Never. I was just waiting and waiting for this moment.

MJT: What do you think about the possibility of Americans leaving?

Hammer: It is like bad dream. Very bad dream. A nightmare. Worse than that. Like sending me back to jail. Like they set me free for four years then sent me back to jail or gave me a death sentence.

Read the whole thing, and if it doesn't prove to you that Iraq can work, nothing will.

(HT: Instapundit.)

I need to build one of these.

I'm working on a side project and getting to do some fun stuff with databases that I haven't gotten to work with in a while. I forgot how much fun it is to design database schemas and normalize them. I'm OCD, so the whole process of normalization is like a game to me. Writing SQL queries is also pretty fun, and Visual Studio 2005 is an awesome IDE.

My brother Nick sent me this New York Times profile of Silicon Valley millionaires that shows exactly why enough money is never enough.

“You’re nobody here at $10 million,” Mr. Kremen said earnestly over a glass of pinot noir at an upscale wine bar here. ...

Taxes have devoured about 40 percent of his stash, Mr. Barbagallo said, knocking that figure down to $2.2 million. Over the years, he has tried to live off his salary, but not always successfully. To limit their monthly expenses, he and his wife Catherine bought a ranch house far from Silicon Valley, in the town of Moraga, for $750,000 — by Valley standards a modest sum.

But they spent $350,000 on extensive remodeling — causing them, not for the first time, to dip deeply into their nest egg.

Today, he has roughly $1.2 million left in savings and another several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of home equity, Mr. Barbagallo said, with one child in college and a second on her way.

So he works as hard as ever, logging more than 70 hours a week at a San Francisco start-up.

“Poor Tony, he’ll never be able to retire,” Catherine Barbagallo said.

There are plenty of poorer people who seem to be much happier, no? At least the article mentions one guy wise enough to know when to quit.

That is what Mark Gage, 51, an engineer, and his wife, Meredith, did when they left the Bay Area in 2005 with $3 million or so in assets. They bought a house in Bend, Ore. — “a bigger, much nicer home with dramatic views” — and now Mr. Gage works only when the perfect consulting job presents itself.

The problem seems to be lifestyle inflation -- that is, a cost of living that rises faster than your income.

Silicon Valley offers an unusual twist on keeping up with the Joneses. The venture capitalist two doors down might own a Cessna Citation X private jet. The father of your 8-year-old’s best friend, who has not worked for two years, drives a bright yellow Ferrari. Temptations loom everywhere.

“You see how much money you have in the bank,” Mr. Koblas, the computer programmer, said, “and your eyes get really big.” He described it as “upsizing your life to your cash flow.” ...

“You look around,” Mr. Barbagallo said, “and the pressures to spend more are everywhere.” Children want the latest fashions their peers are wearing and the most popular high-ticket toys. Furniture does not seem up to snuff once you move into a multimillion-dollar home. Spouses talk, and now that resort in Mexico the family enjoyed so much last winter is not good enough when looking ahead to next year. Summer camp, a full-time housekeeper, vintage wines, country clubs: the cost of living bloats.

To Mr. Milletti, it all looks like a marathon with no finish line.

“Here, the top 1 percent chases the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent chases the top one-one-hundredth of 1 percent,” he said.

That's no way to live, and I won't do it. That's why I moved to Missouri! (Not that I'm a millionaire, heh.)

The Department of Defense is interested in modeling human behavior in an irregular warfare scenario.

The agent-based model will incorporate the effects of individual DIMEFIL actions at a lower level of resolution than the strategic/campaign level and work out their implications, so that patterns emerge in the PMESII (Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure and Information) environment, on the level in which strategic and campaign decisions are made. Lower level rules and strategic level patterns will both be in accordance with social theories agreed upon with the government. The agent based model will include and make use of a database of the infrastructure, political, economic, and social states and relations between agents, so as to work out the implications of actions in a particular instantiation of a PMESII environment, g iven the rules of relations from micro level and macro level political, social, cultural, psychological, and economic social theories agreed upon with the government. It will use this data in concert with the application of social rules to give a plausibl e outcome of DIMEFIL actions in the PMESII environment. The simulation will be transparent: analysts will be able to access a complete description of the state of the simulation at output and during processing. The simulation will have a causal tracing tool to aid in finding the patterns of behaviors which ca use the emergent effects. After a preferably automated calibration process, the data and social theory should support the social models at the individual relation level as well as the level of groups of relations and sequences of relations.

As good as magic given the current state of artificial intelligence, but worthwhile research nonetheless.

(HT: DangerRoom.)

The one thing I hate about carrying piles of dirty clothes clothes is that the small pieces never adhere to the large ones that I've got a proper grip on. It's frustrating to leave a trail of socks as I walk to the washer... there's got to be a better system.

I don't normally link to TMZ because it's often not safe for work, but they're reporting that Mexico may drop its extradition of Dog the Bounty Hunter because the statute of limitations has passed.

The group had been charged by a Mexican court with deprivation of liberty, after their 2003 capture of convicted serial rapist Andrew Luster in Puerto Vallarta. Chapman had traveled to Mexico to retrieve the Max Factor cosmetics heir, who was wanted in the U.S. on rape charges. Luster is now in jail, serving a 124-year term.

The Chapman crew was jailed for a brief time after the incident as bounty hunting is considered a crime in Mexico. While TMZ could not immediately confirm the ruling (because nosotros hablamos espanol only a little), Dog's attorney told us he "has received a favorable ruling from the people in Puerto Vallarta. The extent of that ruling is unknown as we are still in the process of translating it."

The Mexican prosecutors may appeal that ruling, but I pray they don't.

Ward Farnsworth writes about the difference between those who build and those who bicker.

The idea, to oversimplify only a little, is that there are two general ways to increase your wealth: by creating things people want, or by fighting over prizes that already exist — things other people have created or found. Either strategy might be more successful than the other, and perfectly rational to pursue; it depends on the circumstances. Which do you prefer as your own method of choice? Which do you spend more time doing? Why does it matter?

The difference between these methods of gaining wealth — between, say, competing to build a better restaurant and competing to get to the treasure first (rent seeking) — is that the first one creates wealth, or better-offness, for the world. Customers are made happy, and restaurants gradually get better. Fighting over who gets the treasure isn’t like that. The treasure doesn’t get bigger as a result. In a sense it gets smaller because wealth is eaten up in the effort to lay hold of it.

Think of this on a larger scale and you can see that the more a society spends on rent seeking — on quarrels over who gets what — the poorer it becomes. If that’s all that anyone did, everyone would starve in due course.

As Eric at Classical Values points out, this sort of fighting over treasure is why many people hate lawyers.

This reminded me of a life changing event. After spending years running a very popular but commercially unsuccessful nightclub, I was advised (by some attorneys who meant well) that the ideal career change for me would be to sue business owners for non-compliance with the ADA.

"Attorneys fees are there by statute!" I was told.

Great. Now that I was out of business, I could be born again as a despicable parasite and help ensure that other business owners would be put out of business. It struck me that if I became a homeless derelict, I'd be doing more for the world than if I helped ruin other people's businesses. (It didn't help much that one of the many reasons my business failed was that the building was cited by the fire marshall for inadequate handicapped access, and there was no way to remedy this without major alterations to the building, which I did not own, for patrons in wheelchairs who never came.)

However, it's important to note that competition among builders is not similarly wasteful. Yes, some businesses will fail, but when they do it's because their products were inferior to the others in the same niche The wealth of the losers is lost, but the wealth of the winners is multiplied and society benefits. This phenomenon is known as "creative destruction" in capitalist economies.

What is to be avoided is competition over existing treasure; it is much more efficient for competitors to work together, as cheaply as possible, and distribute the treasure amongst them.

(HT: Instapundit.)

Italy's understanding of Christian values seems a bit wanting. Presumably this is the sort of Christianity that Democrats would endorse?

An Italian politician whose party represents Christian values has been embroiled in a scandal involving two prostitutes, a hotel room, and a large amount of cocaine.

Cosimo Mele, 50, a Christian Democrat UDC MP, was caught out when he had to call an ambulance to the hotel in Rome after one of the girls suffered breathing problems. ...

Mr. Mele said, "I did nothing other than go to dinner with a friend who introduced me to this girl. Since it was late, she came to bed with me. How many politicians go to bed with young girls?"

He said he had nothing to do with the other girl who had "taken drugs or something else." She had felt ill, and he had called reception.

He added: "So politicians in the UDC do not make love? Of course, I recognize Christian values. But what has that got to do with going with a prostitute? It is a personal matter. This affair has nothing to do with family values. I cannot be branded a bad father and a bad husband simply because after five or six days away from home, an occasion presented itself."

Hey, what's the big deal? I only had sex with a prostitute because it was so late.

(HT: James Taranto.)

I've got TiVo so I don't see these on television...

Levitra football tire ad.

Any more fun ones?

(HT: GeekPress.)

Is there a financial instrument with the following two properties:

1. The value of the instrument goes down if a major market index changes very little day-to-day.

2. The value of the instrument goes up if a major market index changes a lot day-to-day. Ideally, the value should increase by the same amount whether the market goes up or down.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2007 is the previous archive.

September 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info